Tour de ❤️

Let’s start at the finish.

I was met with one of the biggest hugs I’ve ever received. But I wasn’t sure who it was. As he pulled back, I recognized his face from the day before. It was the race’s director, Prentiss Douthit. He embraced me and asked me how long I rode and how I felt. Surprised and tired, I didn’t have much energy to craft a response. So, I told him exactly how I felt…

“That was one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.”

A ton of people ride bikes in races and tours every day. I’m not special, but this particular race, the Hill Country Ride for AIDS, is special—here’s why.

This is AIDS Services of Austin’s CEO, Paul Scott. When I heard his personal story and what ASA did for Austin’s community, I knew I had to ride.

I didn’t ride in a group, but I never felt alone. I didn’t have a connection to the 10 organizations it serves, but I was welcomed in to the community by every person I met. Every volunteer thanked me for riding, in spite of the fact that I was usually the one thankful for the water, food, humor, or directional help they were providing.

Starting from the pre-race dinner on the night before, I met wonderful people who were friendly, encouraging, and hilarious. I happened into one of the most positive, heartfelt communities I could ever hope to find.

The course was beautiful and fun. There were people in chase cars playing music and shouting encouragement. Signs dotted the course with great encouragement (“Hope is the heartbeat of the soul”) and pun-tastic mileage reminders (imagine a poster with a photocopied cover of the Sister Act movie starring “Whoopi,” and handwritten “there’s a pit stop ahead”).

Fortunately, I haven’t faced AIDS directly or indirectly in my life, but the cause became more personal during the ride. The most memorable section was very emotional. A mile or so from the toughest (12.8% grade!) hill, the roadside wildflowers were joined by a steady cadence of red flags. Each flag had the name of someone who passed away from AIDS. Their struggle was over, but ,as the signs reminded me, their spirit was not forgotten. Even if only on a tiny flag, each person was remembered and alive within this community. I’ve heard it said, We don’t die when our body dies. We die when people stop remembering us. If this is true, then this community is keeping hundreds, if not thousands, of people alive with this ride.

That’s Race Director, Prentiss Douthit on the far left cheering us on. These were probably the least-costumed volunteers throughout the day.

I couldn’t be happier that I happened upon this ride when I did. Kudos to the committed team who organizes it each year, to the volunteers who support it with their own time and energy, the sponsors who lend their goods and services, and to the riders who raised over $400,000 for 10 deserving AIDS organizations in Central Texas.

This ride is truly a Tour de ️Heart.

If you’d still like to donate, it’s not too late. Click here to donate via my fundraising page.

The race started at Krause Springs—a campground tucked away in Spicewood, TX—with decent bathrooms, beautiful live oaks, and a natural spring pool for post-race cool down!

There was over 1500 ft of elevation gain on the course. That’s taller than Chicago’s John Hancock Center. It feels pretty amazing to have “climbed” a skyscraper.

If you’re curious, you can view my route on Strava.

FWIW, this is the most I’ve pedaled since NYC’s 5 boro bike tour. But that was 10 years and ~35 pounds ago!

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