At the age of 68, Anne Stacy of Houston, Texas, isn’t the oldest rider on this year’s AIDS/LifeCycle (that honor goes to an 86-year-old cyclist).
Nor did she travel the farthest (several people ventured all the way from China).
However, Stacy may be one of the sweetest and most endearing mothers to do the 545-mile fundraising ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
“When my son did AIDS/LifeCycle last year, he called to say he wanted me to ride with him this year. I said ‘You’re nuts!’” Stacy recalled. “We had done two-day rides together, but I couldn’t imagine doing a seven-day ride. Well, he signed me up anyway and once they sent me the shirt, I figured I needed to do it.”
Her son, Gavin Houser, who finished his second AIDS/LifeCycle soon after moving to Los Angeles from Texas last year, has been living with HIV for eight years. He said he’s more fortunate than many other openly gay, HIV-positive guys.
“My mom has been there to help me through some of my darkest moments,” said Houser, 39. “Through it all she has never been anything but loving and supportive of me.”
To which Stacy replies, in a southern drawl, “How can a mother have anything but love for their child?”
Gearing up for the 2015 Ride
Of course, loving a son or daughter doesn’t typically extend to completing a seven-day bike ride with them.
“There were a few years that were tough for Gavin and me, before he got into recovery,” says Stacy, a grandmother to her daughter’s three children. “It was the two-day MS ride from Houston to Austin that helped us reconnect. There’s just something about the shared experience of biking that helped make our relationship even stronger. We did that ride for seven years before Gavin moved to L.A.”
This year, though, it’s not just the two of them riding together. They’re joined by Houser’s boyfriend, R.J. Pena, who is HIV-negative. All are members of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s team “Centerions.”
“We’re riding to support the center and [the] San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s work to fight HIV stigma,” said Houser, “and to educate people about the value of PrEP. Before I met R.J., I faced the same kind of horrible discrimination many HIV-positive guys face. It’s tough, especially when you’re newly diagnosed, to read some of the [things] people write on apps like Grindr.”
The trio are part of a community of nearly 3,000 AIDS/LifeCycle participants this year from nearly every state and 21 countries who have raised $16 million to help end AIDS and care for those living with HIV. The riders finish in Los Angeles today.
Third Day of a Long Grind
On Tuesday, the third day of the ride, the threesome celebrated after finishing the longest hill of the route, an incline affectionately known as “Quadbuster.”
“We made it!!” said Houser. “Not only do we still love each other, we all still like each other. Though, for a few minutes after riding into camp today, when we couldn't find our gear truck, that was touch and go. But we were all really pumped to ride into camp today and are excited about Red Dress Day on Thursday!”
Houser and his mother wore matching red dresses, designed by his nieces.
With this year’s ride completed, plans are already in gear for next year’s event.
Organizers have announced that Healthline readers can save $55 on registration for next year’s AIDS/LifeCycle by using the discount code RIDEWITHUS at www.aidslifecycle.org.
This story was submitted to Healthline by Jim Key, the chief marketing officer for the Los Angeles LGBT Center as he traveled along with other participants in the 2015 AIDS LifeCycle.