It is 9 a.m., and another 100-degree day has arrived.|
Sleeping bags and small tents litter the garage floor of the brick Bettendorf home. Seventeen of 22-year-old Augie Lindmark's newest and closest friends are scattered about the house and yard, some still wiping sleep from their eyes, others munching on cold cereal. Bicycles have overrun the backyard.
Mr. Lindmark, a Bettendorf native fresh from graduation at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, is alert and far too prepped for what would be a day of rest.
"Contrary to popular belief, Iowa is not flat,'' joked Mr. Lindmark, who is taking part in Ride Against Aids, a 68-day, 4,000-mile bicycle ride from Half Moon, Calif., to Boston, Mass. "Despite the fact I am awake, that does not mean I will not be taking advantage of the day of rest.''
Ride Against Aids is a project of FACE AIDS, a group of young people dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS, and Partners in Health. It is designed to gather college students to share presentations about FACE AIDS, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the role of students in promoting social justice.
Mr. Lindmark and his Ride Against Aids partners stopped Monday to visit his brother, Jeff, and his family in Bettendorf. After Tuesday's break, the group planned to travel today to Chicago, where on Friday it will be introduced at a Chicago Cubs game. After the Windy City, the riders and their two support vehicles will work to reach Boston by Aug. 23. First undertaken in 2007 by two friends, the ride is now an annual program embedded in FACE AIDS culture.
"Unique, diverse, enlightening and one of the best things I've been privileged to do,'' said Mr. Lindmark, a top pitcher on the Luther College baseball team, of his three-month cross-country journey. The riders average about 80 miles per day on the road. "People have been great to us, willing to hear the message we are sharing. And I have even managed to miss a few potholes along the way.''
Mr. Lindmark plans to pursue a career in medicine and public health, and an introductory sociology course brought home to him the problems of inadequate health care. It was the impetus to his current cross-country journey.
"The book 'Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer' (penned by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder) started all this,'' Mr. Lindmark said. "I had a front-row seat to the challenges some face in providing adequate health care in Haiti and the plights of HIV-affected individuals. The HIV-affected individuals in Rwanda supported by FACE AIDS are connected to the patients I met with limited health care in Haiti. Both mirror global health inequities. ''
When the group jumps into the Boston Harbor to signify the end of the journey, Mr. Lindmark will begin another phase of his life with a better understanding of the world around him.
"It's impossible not to be affected by this experience,'' he said. "From the application process, being selected, making the ride, getting to know so many amazing people and sharing the message, it has had a profound impact on my life.''
Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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