By Andy Simek
HORTONVILLE August 22, 2206 Six nights. Seven days. 60 bicyclists. $300,000.
No, this isnt a new reality television show; its the 2006 Empire State AIDS Ride (ESAR).
Riders from all over the state, and a few from around the country, congregated at Niagara Falls on Sunday, August 13 to start the seven day, 560-mile trek to lower Manhattan. On Thursday, the riders began their day in the Delaware County hamlet of Downsville. They rode 40 miles, with one rest stop, until arriving for a lunch break at the Hortonville Firehouse.
Following lunch, the riders made their way to Barryville before moving into Orange County.
The cyclists come mostly from New York State, but a few came from Michigan, Cincinnati and even as far away as Seattle.
The eight- to 10-hour days began at 8 a.m. and spanned an average of 80 miles a day, but the ride really isnt about the distance or the long hours.
This country screams about community values, said Long Island rider John Dobbs, who is took the journey with his daughter, Lila.
Lila, he said, is involved with the gay community in Massachusetts. The sense of community you get at something like this is really wonderful.
To do this is really very great.
Paula Silverstone, who works for the AIDS Rochester Institute, greatly feels this sense of community.
I get to meet the most amazing and inspirational group of people, and spend an entire week with them, she said.
Allen Payne of Manhattan is making the trip for personal reasons.
My best friend had AIDS, Payne said.
I really like riding for the cause, now, and you meet a lot of good people.
Payne does many rides similar to this one, but says that this may be the toughest one.
With all of the mountains and stuff, it definitely wears you down.
The ride, now in its fourth year, is hoping to wear down what ESAR organizer Marty Rosen called an epidemic.
Rosen said that the number of AIDS cases is increasing while federal funding for research is decreasing, a situation which makes benefits like this all the more necessary.
If anything is certain, it is that the participants are doing their part to fight the disease.
Each rider, prior to starting the tour, had to raise a minimum of $3,200. Everyone was required to do this, but some went above and beyond, with a few individuals raising as much as $7,000.
All in all, the run is estimated to have made over $300,000. This sum will be split between four New York HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment agencies.
The agencies benefiting from the ride are the AIDS Rochester Institute, and AIDS Community Resources in Syracuse, Buffalo and the Hudson Valley.