Reaching the Finish Line, One Rickshaw Run at a Time

By Danny Gottlieb | May 23, 2013

The Sitar Wars Rickshaw Race team (Danny Gottlieb, Steve Stenholt, and Lindsey Wanner) at Coronation Bridge in West Bengal, India.

Sitar Wars

On April 6, the Sitar Wars rickshaw team began a 2,400-mile, two-week race across the entire Indian subcontinent to raise money for EGPAF. Read Danny’s final installment in his blog series about the journey!

The Finish Line

I had many new and surprising experiences during the two week Rickshaw Race, but the most surprising thing of all was how I felt once the race was over. I spent years wanting to be a part of this race and I finally accomplished my goal. Looking at the map after our first day of driving, I thought, "We've done nothing. This country is huge. We'll never make it." The feeling of undertaking an impossible task stayed in the back of my head for the majority of the Run. It was only in the final two or three days that my optimism grew and I thought we might actually make it to the finish line. But the feeling as we actually crossed the finish line was indescribable. Even today, it’s difficult to believe that my teammates and I accomplished such an amazing feat. Looking at our whole route still boggles my mind. We drove all of that? In a rickshaw?! India now feels like both the largest and smallest country in the world.

The Aftermath

Rickshaw Run was two of the best and most challenging weeks of my entire life. It tested all of us in ways we never anticipated, and today, we are all slightly different—and better—people because of the Run. The Rickshaw Run made all three of us more confident, in areas of life in which we'd never expect to have any sort of self-assuredness.

But if you had spoken with me during the Run, I would have probably felt differently. After almost two weeks on the road, we just wanted to go HOME. We hadn't showered in days; we were bruised, cut, and covered in five different layers of grime. We dreamt of pizza and bacon.

There were three things kept the team going during the hard times on the Run:

  1. Our stereo system—it was absolutely essential to team morale and somehow managed to survive 13 out of the 14 days.
  2. The knowledge that, no matter how bad things got, we signed up for this! Even when things got tough, I knew I was simultaneously supporting a great cause and realizing a longtime dream (and driving a rickshaw through India is still better than sitting in an office).
  3. The team—I can count on one hand the people in my life that I could do the Rickshaw Run with and still come back as friends, so I'm very pleased Steve, Lindsey, and I made such a fantastic team.

Home still feels a bit surreal. A couple weeks ago we were pushing a rickshaw up a mountain during a massive downpour, and now I'm back in an office. It’s nice to be near my friends and family and have access to all the modern American amenities such as clean water, showers, and food that isn't some variant of rice and curry. But, I really miss the adventure, excitement, and sense of purpose and self-reliance we had during the Race. I also really miss our little rickshaw. I still haven't accepted that I'll never see it again.

In the end, all of the emotional highs, lows and feelings in between were well worth it! Our experience did more than change our perspectives on life, but supported a great cause and raised $2,178 for EGPAF. We have been absolutely blown away by the generosity and support shown to us from our friends, family members, coworkers, and even strangers. And we still can't believe that just because we went on this goofy little adventure, people across the world will receive life-saving help. "Warm and fuzzy" doesn't begin to describe how we feel.

To read part 1 of Sitar Wars’ adventure, click here.

Feel inspired by Danny, Lindsey, and Steve’s story? You can help continue the fight against pediatric HIV/AIDS by organizing any type of event and fundraising for EGPAF.

To get started, contact events@pedaids.org and ask for our Community Events Toolkit. This Toolkit is filled with the resources you’ll need to host a successful event – EGPAF facts, and event tips and tricks.