One Rider’s Reflections

“Who’s the geezer riding at a slow pace up a hill – sweating and grinning? That’s me – enjoying the fact that I still have enough power and determination to push this body up the hill – and zoom like a banshee down the other side.”

Jim Thompson, a long-time supporter of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW), reflects on his personal experience on the annual AIDS Ride Wisconsin bike ride.

Two people, including the author.

The author, Jim Thompson (right). Photo: AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin

“As I approach my 16th AIDS Ride Wisconsin bike ride this year in July, this seems like a perfect time to reflect on how this all got started for me. As a father, I raised my daughters to always follow their dreams and to not be dissuaded when bumps in the road come along. So when I heard about this bike ride back in 2004, I toyed with the idea of participating for weeks. My initial worry was how to raise money and ask people to donate to my ride. Eventually, I asked myself which would be worse: attempt and fail to raise enough money, or immediately give up and not even try? I certainly couldn’t allow the FUD factor (fear, uncertainty and doubt) control my decision while telling my daughters to be courageous in their own lives. So I signed up for my first ride in 2004 and I haven’t missed a ride since!”

“The reason I continue this ride year after year is simple. While the AIDS Ride Wisconsin community is very diverse, we all have one thing in common – the desire to do something to help others in need. Many folks are dealing with things that make riding a bike up a hill seem trivial. They may face hill after hill after hill in life – but they keep going, and I keep going to help them continue. The need for HIV services and support is real and ongoing. This issue knows no boundaries, and nobody should suffer from stigma or lack of treatment. This ride is a fun and worthwhile endeavor with a remarkably great group of folks. If you have to pick one common bond, I can’t think of a better one.”

“To those who are considering signing up for this year’s AIDS Ride Wisconsin – do it! Don’t let the FUD factor make you miss out on this unforgettable experience.”

“Each year on the ride, more friendships are built and more memories created. Some of my best memories include: the empowerment I feel when I realize that I actually can traverse 100 miles of road using nothing but my own muscles; seeing other riders’ faces light up with joy when they reach goals they’d never achieved before; feeling the unrelenting support and kindness from ARCW staff and crew; the homemade sweets and snacks provided by church groups at rest stops; seeing a pool float (maybe a shark, octopus or alligator) rising up and coming toward me from the other side of a hill before the crew vehicle it’s attached to appears; and, as the miles tick on, feeling an inner glow that comes with being surrounded by an amazing extended family who fully appreciate and care for you. It is a pleasure to share the road and miles of smiles, jokes and stories with others on this ride.”

“To those who are considering signing up for this year’s AIDS Ride Wisconsin – do it! Don’t let the FUD factor make you miss out on this unforgettable experience,” reflects Jim. “In total, I’ve reached a few personal milestones: 15 rides, 60 days, 4,500+ miles, 0 hills walked, and raised $41,000+ in donations – all to support the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

Cyclist riding against a background of farm and sky.

Today, approximately 8,300 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Wisconsin, with an estimated 1,200 people who are living with the disease who are not diagnosed.* The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin houses the HIV Medical Home – Wisconsin’s largest and fastest growing HIV health-care system. Due to quality health care and services provided by ARCW, people diagnosed with HIV in Wisconsin live longer than those diagnosed in any other state in the country. Patients gain high quality health care and support they need to live long, healthy lives through the HIV Medical Home’s integrated medical, dental and mental health services; pharmacy; and, social services that include food pantries, housing, legal representation and case management.

This is made possible in part due to the funds raised by AIDS Ride Wisconsin participants. Designed for all levels of riders, this bike ride will challenge, energize and inspire. Now in its 17th year, AIDS Ride Wisconsin is a three-day, 275-mile bike ride in Southern Wisconsin that supports people living with HIV. While this event’s primary goals are raising awareness and funds, AIDS Ride Wisconsin also offers countless memories, support and energy to continue on in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Ride Wisconsin is set to take place Friday, July 26 – Sunday, July 28, 2019. To learn more about the ride and to register, visit


*Source: Wisconsin Department of Health Services

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