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Finding Strength On The New York AIDS Ride

I met Julie B. on a rainy Tuesday morning at her home in Milton. The story she told me sent shivers down my spine. She spoke about the time she biked from Boston to New York on the New York AIDS Ride, and how close she came to giving up. But it was the kindness of one stranger who gave her the strength she needed to push on.

featuring music by
The Novel Ideas


It was 1996 and I was doing the Boston to NY AIDS ride. Hurricane Edward came the second day, and while we didn’t have a hurricane where we actually were riding that day, we had hurricane force winds and rains. So it was very, very dismal, it was cold it was wet, it was dark. We had to do about 8-0 miles that day. I was not a born athlete – I had to train every single day for the 6 months up to the AIDS ride. It was very, very challenging for me, I didn’t know if I could do it. At this one particular point, I just felt like I can’t do it, I can’t do it. And all I wanted was a real bathroom – not an outhouse – and a cup of coffee. So I’m really, really crying, I’m ready to dump my bike on the side of the road and just give up. When there in the middle of the road stood a woman and she had this long, flow-y skirt on and this peasant blouse, and she stood in the middle of the road with her arms held out and said “Free coffee for all the AIDS riders!” I made it across the highway and got into the Dunkin Donuts and said to the man at the counter, “You don’t know what this means to me. This is amazing that you’re giving coffee at this particular place at this particular time.” And he said, “I didn’t give the free coffee. That lady in the road came in and handed me $500 and said ‘the $500 is for all the riders, and if you run out come out and I’ll give you some more’” It just – I want to cry when I think about her. It meant such a huge thing. I was ready to give up. I had made this goal, I had worked really hard for this goal, and I didn’t think I could do it. She gave me the hope and the sustenance to keep going. And anytime I would start to get tired, I’d smile thinking of this woman standing in the middle of the road screaming “Free coffee for all the riders!” and I just thought yeah I have to keep going. And I did the Boston to New York AIDS Ride. But I might not have done it had it not been for her.