Jonathan Garza and Isaac Dolido will celebrate their eighth anniversary together on June 1. The following day they will leave on a 545-mile, seven-day bike trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, participating in the 2019 AIDS/LifeCycle ride, a fundraising event.
Of the upcoming challenge, Garza said the bike ride “is a great time. This is my third time doing it.” The first two times, Garza and Dolido were part of a team, which last year was made up of 15 people. This year, they are doing it together, but not as part of a team. They will join an estimated 2,300 others riding their bikes and another 600 volunteers, called “Roadies.”
Why three times? Garza said the second journey was better than the first, because “we were so relaxed, we knew what to expect, knew the route and we had such a positive experience because of what they call ‘the love bubble.’ We had such a great experience the second time, my partner and I couldn’t resist doing it a third time.”
Garza and Dolido live in Rincon Valley, and Garza is a registered nurse and the heart and vascular unit manager at Adventist Health St. Helena Hospital. He started in that unit after graduation, and in August he will have worked there for 11 years.
“Caring for other people is part of my job and I feel that I was raised to care for people,” Garza said. “This is another outlet to do that. At the same time, you ride your bike and see California in a unique way.”
Garza describes the “love bubble” as a culture that is created on the ride among riders, support volunteers, and the people in the communities where they stop for the night.
“Sometimes in the morning, family members who either had loved ones or friends who have died from HIV or AIDS are lining the street, applauding us as we go,” Garza said. “That sense of community of love and support to me on the ride is just an example of what we can all do, what we can all accomplish, when we have one goal.”
The AIDS/LifeCycle event is sponsored by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Garza said both organizations’ goals are to reduce transmission, provide education, reduce the stigma of AIDS, perform research and find a cure.
In the late 1980s and early ’90s, HIV and AIDS was such “a devastating epidemic,” Garza said, although since then, “amazing progress has been made, especially in the last couple of years. We’ve heard of some cases of people being cured, although worldwide, there is so much work to be done,” he added.
Currently, Garza has raised $4,438 or some 88 percent of his $5,000 goal. (Each rider has to raise $3,000 to participate in the event.) He said it is the most he’s been able to raise in three years.
“Just to give a little bit of perspective, just $50 will provide a cell phone to someone living with HIV or AIDS to be able to contact their health care provider and support network,” he said. And $500 covers medical supplies for 40 HIV or AIDS patients for a year, he said.
“For me being LGBT and part of that community, it is something I want to do and something I want to support, because I believe in it and I believe we can accomplish so much if we have a singular goal,” Garza added.
If you’d like to donate to help Garza, go to aidslifecycle.org, click on the “Donate” button and type in “Jonathan” and “Garza” and then click on the “Donate Now” button. To reach his individual page, click on his name.
The first day covers 90 miles from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. The second day, from Santa Cruz to King City is the longest day at 110 miles. Garza said it will take some 10 or 11 hours to ride the 110 miles, which includes four rest stops and a stop for lunch.
The ride is “highly organized and very doable,” he said. The riders have “a wide range of fitness levels, are all shapes and sizes and ages,” he added. Some are parents who lost their children to AIDS, which is “very inspirational.”
In the following days, the riders wind their way through the Salinas Valley to Highway 1 and go south to Santa Barbara and Ventura and end up in downtown Los Angeles.
Part of the route is on Highway 1, which is very narrow, and thinking about putting 2,300 bicyclists on that narrow highway “can be a little scary,” especially getting out of San Francisco, when all the riders are bunched together, Garza said. The organizers stress safety, riding single file, and the riders use certain calls to tell each other of cars, either coming from behind – “Car back” – or heading toward the riders in the other lane, “Car up.” They also tell each other if they’re passing, “On your left,” for example, or if they’re stopping for a stop sign, “Stopping,” which Garza said is mandatory.
One of the biggest challenges has been this year’s lovely winter, rainy weather, which has not left Garza or Dolido time to do much training.
“We start our training in February, and usually we have some dry weather, but this year has been solid rain, as you know, through March,” he said.
But the pair rode from their home in Rincon Valley to Geyserville on a recent weekend and had planned a couple of long rides for the following weekend.
Is Garza ready? “I think so,” he said. “I did fall a couple of weeks ago on one of those rides. I was a little nervous about my arm, but it healed up and I’m ready.”