Cycling to cure the world

At the end of this year´s L.A. ride (A.J. Bates)

At the end of this year´s L.A. ride (A.J. Bates)

From bustling boulevards to verdant landscapes, imagine exploring the best of California’s charisma with nothing but a bicycle and a sole cause to save thousands of lives. The Aids LifeCycle is a cycling event co-produced by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. With the event’s mission statement to “advance their shared interests to end the pandemic and human suffering caused by AIDS,” the LifeCycle entails volunteer cyclists to gather a minimum of $2,500 in sponsorships and cover 585 miles between San Francisco to Los Angeles. Although many may consider this a grueling journey, Skyline’s very own Professor, Alec Bates, has participated in this fundraising event for his fifth time, and counting. He was 1 of 2000 participants who raised a record $6.8 million in this year’s AIDS LifeCycle.

As an Associate Professor of Chemistry, Instructor Bates came a long way from his hometown in Indiana. He moved cross-country in 1998 with prospects of “living in a more open and liberal place.” In contrast, he loves the bay area’s liberalism and that he can “go cycling in the hills or along the beach.” Professor Bates took his passion for cycling to a new level when he first participated in the Aids LifeCycle in summer of 2000, declaring that “it’s an experience you will remember all of your life.”

Other than describing that he was able to strengthen old friendships and explore California’s major cities (a few of his favorites being Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz), he emphasizes the impact of the LifeCycle in smaller communities. Professor Bates distinguishes how a small town known as Bradley, located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, considered the LifeCycle more than a major fundraiser for AIDS, per se. As riders glided through their roads, the Bradley community, especially the children, sold small meals and snacks to the famished cyclists. In addition to literally “nourishing” the LifeCycle, the Bradley community also earned enough money to supplement a great deal of the town’s school curriculum.

Applying Aids activism to a personal challenge, Professor Bates admits to the hardships of the fundraiser. Other than the physical obstacles of the first day, especially departing from the bay area’s renowned hilly terrain, he illustrates why the most emotional challenge of the ride was sharing such an experience with participants personally involved in Aids and the HIV disease. Along with participants who lost loved ones from AIDS, Professor Bates emphasizes why most of his inspiration derived from determined riders infected with HIV. He recalled how difficult it was to see infected cyclists burdened with the disease’s side effects, including constant intake of medications and listening to their life stories of struggle. Yet, he states that due to their amazing and uplifting courage, “some of the physically strongest riders were HIV infected.”

Professor Bates encourages all to support the AIDS LifeCycle, exemplifying how his sponsors varied from old high school teachers to his students. When asked how long he will be participating in the annual event, he quickly answers with a mere, “indefinitely,” and that he will, “…keep riding until AIDS is no more.”