Some may wonder whether the Tahoe Queens are playing with a full deck as they prepare for their 545-mile, seven-day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Others know that the deck is stacked purely with hearts, and that they can’t possibly lose with so much love and compassion powering their mission.

Four local women, Karen Kucharski, Carla Jourdan, Cassandra Sharpe and Naomi Suskind, have formed a mighty fundraising team, the Tahoe Queens, to help fight the continuing battle against HIV/AIDS. On June 1 the team will embark on the formidable and inspirational journey of a lifetime. Each rider must raise $2,500 in contributions to participate in AIDS/LifeCycle 2008. Last year 2,300 cyclists and nearly 450 ‘roadie’ volunteers raised a record $11 million. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center co-produce the event to advance their shared interests to end the pandemic and human suffering caused by AIDS.

These women are riding not only because they love biking, but because they are deeply concerned that people seem to have stopped talking about HIV/AIDS. We are less affected by HIV/AIDS in Tahoe than we are, say, by drunk drivers or the lake’s clarity, so we’re not focused on its prevention or treatment.

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‘If someone in the Tahoe area needs thorough services for their treatment, they have to go out of the area to receive them,’ said Cassandra.

We seem to have swept the subject under the rug, perhaps because of the many advances in HIV treatments and therapies that have dramatically improved the quality of life and life expectancy of persons with HIV/AIDS, both in the United States and in other developed countries. There is, however, still no cure for HIV/AIDS. These four courageous women want our community to start talking about this global affliction again and to take action where we can.

Karen and Carla, who met at one of the many themed rest stops on the ride last year, shared inspirational stories and poignant memories about their adventures along the way to Los Angeles. Karen experienced an unusual double flat tire somewhere near King City. Carla groaned audibly as she recalled ‘quad buster,’ a 1.5-mile long hill they encountered on day three, but beamed as she remembered the encouragement from a ‘roadie’ who stood hilltop, megaphone in hand, rooting for the riders. She described the ‘Positive Pedalers,’ those living with HIV/AIDS, as ‘guys in phenomenal shape who were amazingly positive and so very, very thankful for all of the people giving so much of themselves to support their cause.’

When I asked what they are doing to train for the event Cassandra said, ‘Ride. Ride. Ride, ride, ride.’

The women are confident that training at altitude will be a boon for them, and feel lucky to have challenging terrain like Highway 40 and 267 on which to prepare for ‘quad buster.’

‘What is the most important thing you are bringing with you on the ride?’ Naomi, whose father constructed her bike using a frame that Lance Armstrong once rode, answered the question certainly, ‘Shammy Butter, to lube your tender parts, and a spark plug attitude.’

Give The Queens A Hand
The Tahoe Queens are suiting up for this ride and are adrenalised about the fundraising events they have planned. Give them a hand.
• On Saturday, April 19 they are hosting a Spin-a-thon at Elevation Fitness, 10775 Pioneer Trail Road, in Truckee, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are asking for a contribution of $10 per hour to participate and support their courageous endeavor. The Tahoe Queens and their friends will take turns teaching, and invite you to come enjoy the tunes and get your spin on.
• On Wednesday, April 30, Emily Williams will teach a yoga class from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Veterans’ Hall in Truckee, 10214 High Street. The $10 minimum donation goes toward the ride.
• Join the Tahoe Queens’ for a huge fundraising party at TRIO Wine Bar in downtown Truckee on Friday, May 2, with music, raffle prizes, and more in the historic Kruger White House at10292 Donner Pass Road. The $25 entrance fee includes a glass of wine and food. They are looking for raffle prize donations. tahoequeens@gmail.com, 530-386-6902.
If you are unable to attend one of these events but want to make a donation, you can contribute directly to the women at aidslifecycle.org. They each have rider numbers: Naomi is 2299, Carla is 6324, Karen is 1343 and Cassandra is 6905. If you know someone who is HIV positive, you could even ask the ladies to carry their name on them during the ride.

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