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Red Ribbon Ride Was Challenging, Inspirational and Rewarding

By Gabe Skelly, Team YES Co-Captain
July 25, 2014
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What would it be like to live your life with a deadly and debilitating disease? Would you be able to live the same life you do now? The truth is that life would be much harder than you now know it, and it would be much more challenging. That is why we do the Red Ribbon Ride. We ride because we can, and because we want to help those affected by AIDS. We endure scorching heat and beating winds because we know that those living with AIDS battle much more on a daily basis. AIDS is right here in Minnesota in places we would not expect to find it, and we must do all we can to fight its spread and educate others about it.

This summer, 12 YWCA members embarked on a four-day, 300-mile journey to fight AIDS in Minnesota. Team YES (YWCA Endurance Sports) consisted of bicycle riders, crew and volunteers, and played many crucial roles on the ride. As of this post, the team has raised more than $12,000 for the 2014 ride.

The author, somewhere along the 300-mile ride

Day 1: We met at Mall of America at 5:45 am for check-in and a little send-off. This year, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cheered us off. We also heard the powerful and enchanting words of the late Dr. Maya Angelou. Then we were off, headed for Belle Plaine. It was the hardest 85 miles many of us have ever endured. We encountered headwinds so strong that if we stopped pedaling while going down hills, we would stop. Many of us could pedal no faster than 8 miles an hour on the flats. It was a day that will go down in history as one of the hardest of the Red Ribbon Ride. We were greeted in camp by an Asian stir-fry, hugs of friends and quiet hallways to rest in.

Day 2: We woke up in Belle Plaine and headed for Mankato with the promise that we may not have as much headwind. Distance for the day was a measly 100 miles. The route opened at 6:30 am, and most of the riders head out on the dot. The first pit stop was Le Sueur, 20 miles away. On the road, we saw carnage of the recent flooding around the state. The first 20 miles were not windy, but the hills were hard. The wind kicked up, just as strong as the first day after the first pit stop. By the time we got to lunch at 60 miles, many of us were exhausted and did not want to talk. A ride in the “sag wagon” — the team van that provides a bicyclist a bit of rest if needed — seemed like a nice choice to get through the day without burning out. We spent the second night at the team hotel, with a little relaxing in a hot tub.

We rode on with the thoughts of air-conditioned rooms and ice water. It was 82 degrees and we were sweating profusely, but were dry to the touch because the heavy wind evaporated all sweat from our bodies. We made it to camp, and everyone was drained. The last riders made it up the mountainous hill to camp at almost 7:00 pm — more than 11 hours on the road. Scott Dibble spoke, and many of us rejoiced at what we had done and registered to ride again next year. Team YES headed back to the hotel and enjoyed dessert in the bar and a dip in the pool.

Day 3: On the morning of the third day, as we turned to head north, we had a tailwind and cool temperatures, and we rejoiced. The ride trail opened at 6:30 am and we headed out for Waconia, helped by a steady tailwind that got us in to camp easily and much faster than the day before. The third night was Friends and Family Night, where we enjoyed visitors and a Mexican dinner before we heard from some of the people who actually receive aid from the money we raised.

Day 4: The last day of the ride! We were excited to be back home and to have completed the ride, but not without a slight feeling of sadness. We’ve coined a term for the Red Ribbon Ride — we call it the Traveling Bubble of Love. We wore red in honor of those we have lost and for those fighting AIDS. We ride in elation to the steps of the State Capitol. The words of Maya Angelou and Scott Dibble bring tears to our eyes, and our hearts burst with emotion. We have all made friends and memories that will last a lifetime. Most of all, we have made a difference and we will be back again next year.

The words spoken on the second night remind us why we ride: “It does not matter how much time we have here on earth. What matters is what we do with the time we are given.”