When Emily Martin first heard about the bicycle ride from Houston to Dallas, she said it sounded ludicrous. She couldn’t imagine who would ride 350 miles on a bicycle.

It was the last thing she ever thought she could do or would want to do.

“I have to admit I laughed out loud when I first heard the idea,” Martin said.

She understood it was for a good cause—the Tanqueray’s Texas AIDS Ride. But still, somehow the idea of riding that far on a bicycle … .

As Martin found out more details about the ride, it started to have a certain appeal. It was beginning to sound like an adventure. A daring adventure. Martin loved the outdoors, meeting new people, and maybe she could even lose a few pounds she had acquired since hitting her 40s.

A typical mom, Martin has always liked riding around her Lakewood neighborhood with her two children, 11-year-old Jett and 8-year-old Lily, as well as her husband, John Thompson. Occasionally she would venture to White Rock Lake for a leisurely ride, but that was the extent of Martin’s bicycling career.

In April it all changed. Martin signed up to enter the second annual Texas AIDS Ride and made a commitment to raise a minimum of $2,300 (the entry fee). It was the thrill of a great adventure and the thought of becoming physically fit that originally motivated her. But once she started training, her motivation quickly turned to a devotion and commitment to do her part to help those afflicted with HIV and AIDS.

Martin says her life has changed forever.

“I have only known a handful of people who died of AIDS, none of them close friends,” she said. “Unlike many of the riders, my emotional involvement is relatively low. But I am very moved when I think about the individuals and families who deal daily with HIV and AIDS.

“What would you tell your children or your family members? How would they know how to care for you or how to cope with the illness?How would it feel to be shunned by friends, neighbors, employers and even churches because of your illness?” she asks.

“I remember hearing about the heart-rending journey the family of young Matthew Allen endured as they moved from community to community, church to church, until they were at last welcomed right here in Lakewood,” she says.

Martin has met many people she calls her new-found Texas Tanqueray friends.

“I’ve met dozens of people who will either ride in October or help out as volunteers. We all have a personal story about why we’re doing this. We’ve become a tight group, providing mutual support and encouragement.”

This is the second year for the Texas ride. Tanqueray, known for fine gin and vodka, is the presenting sponsor of six American AIDS Rides this year: California, Washington D.C., Twin Cities Wisconsin Chicago, New York and Texas. This year’s effort will benefit the largest number of AIDS service organizations in the history of the Rides. These organizations focus on ways to battle HIV and AIDS : prevention education,emotional counseling, food and housing for those infected, medical services for those without insurance, vocational rehabilitation, legal aid, financial assistance and research to help find a cure.

The Texas Ride will be held Oct. 14-17. It will start at the Astrodome in Houston, wind its way over back roads, and end up at the Dallas Convention Center.

Martin said that at first it all sounded nearly impossible “until I learned that I’d never have to ride more than about 15 miles at a stretch before I’d come to a pit stop. Each pit stop is like a party. The riders will be fed and entertained at the tent cities where we will spend the nights. And best of all, at the end of each day, each rider can have a free massage,” Martin said.

Last year about 760 riders raised $2.8 million in pledges for the Tanqueray Ride. The goal this year is to double the number of riders and multiply the amount of money raised.

The first AIDS ride was in California in 1994 when 468 cyclists rode from San Francisco to Los Angeles. They raised $1.6 million. A year later, 1,900 riders made the

same trek, raising $5.5 million. Since then, the American AIDS Rides have raised about $90 million for AIDS service organizations around the country.

“In addition to my family, I’ve also found incredible support from my Lakewood friends. Almost everyone I’ve asked has been willing to share in the adventure with me by making a donation or pledge. I’m hopeful that I’ll significantly exceed my $2,300 minimum commitment.

“This is my chance to do something to make a difference in the lives of real people. If I can raise some money to make available help, counseling and comfort to those who need it, then I can be proud,” Martin says.

Anyone can share the adventure of the Tanqueray’s Texas AIDS Ride. To make a donation on behalf of Emily Martin, Rider #742, or any registered rider, or to find out how you can be involved as a volunteer or rider, telephone the Tanqueray’s Texas AIDS Ride office at 214-219-1819.

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