Longtime partners Smith and Mussler say training together for LSR has strengthened their bodies and their relationship
M.M. ADJARIAN | Contributing Writer
Michael Smith and Benjamin Mussler are just entering their 30s, in peak physical condition and with bright futures ahead of them. They have it all: youth, health and success.
But these two Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS cyclists also have something else to envy, and that’s a loving, longtime relationship with each other.
The men joined LSR as a couple in 2007, starting out as pit crew members. On the first day, both were part of a Bachelor-themed pit stop.
“There was one ‘bachelor,’ and everybody was fighting over him,” Smith, a Dallas-based Farmers Insurance agent, says of the pit stop theme.
The second day, the pair got to live out their fantasy of going back to school at the Hogwarts Academy, the school for young witches and wizards from the “Harry Potter” books and movies.
Those manning the pit stop all donned their witch and wizard robes and grabbed their wands to help keep the cyclists hydrated.
The two men say they enjoyed every minute of their time “in the pit,” refilling water bottles and cheering cyclists onward. But as they tended to the sweat-drenched riders, Smith and
Mussler say they felt the road — and ultimately, LSR — calling to them to make a deeper commitment.
“We saw what a great cause it was and wanted to help out more,” says Mussler, a marketing manager for Sabre Holdings. And so, they registered to ride.
But to be able to experience the event on two wheels rather than two legs meant training — and lots of it. Both have dedicated many hours every weekend to preparing for the event, on their own and through LSR-sponsored training sessions.
But neither of the two has any complaints about the loss of free time. If anything, they say, becoming cyclists for the ride has actually drawn them closer together.
“It’s something that we can do together that’s healthy for us; it’s definitely exercise!” remarks Mussler. “[Cycling for the LSR] is also just something that challenges us to keep up with each other.”
The two men’s commitment to the event mirrors the even deeper one they have to each other. They are family, and proud to share that fact with their community. Smith and Mussler are even more proud that their efforts on behalf of LSR have brought their nearest and dearest into the larger “Ride family.”
Says Smith, “ Last year, my mom became part of the medical crew. This year, 10 of our friends — including my mom — are part of the event.”
Born as they were in the early 1980s, Smith and Mussler did not experience firsthand the devastation that the early days of AIDS caused in the gay community. But they are still keenly aware that they are part of the first generation to benefit from those who struggled through the epidemic and who fought for the greater social freedoms both now enjoy.
“I feel like the gay and lesbian people that came before me paved the way to making our lives a little easier,” Mussler says. “I don’t want to paint HIV/AIDS as something that only affects LGBT people because it definitely [affects others, too]. But I do feel like [I am] giving back to the community, and I take pride in who I am. It’s a real motivating factor that I can do this with my partner through the Ride.”
Smiling his assent Smith adds, “It’s important for the community to have positive role models of people [like us] who do things together.”
Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Sept. 24-25. For details or to donate to a specific rider or team or to the ride in general, go online to LoneStarRide.org.