Cow Palace, Daly City, CA: From the perspective of the individual rider, not much actually happens on Orientation Day (“Day 0” in ALC parlance). Take a shuttle or an Uber to Cow Palace in Daly City, stand in line, watch a safety video, stand in another line, check in, find your bike in bike parking. Easy – or it would be, were it not for the fact that ~2500 people are doing the same thing, at more or less the same time.
For a day whose activities are essentially bureaucratic, Day 0 is surprisingly emotional. After months of training solo or in relatively small groups, this is our first glimpse of the sheer magnitude of the event (and of most of our fellow riders). The logistical virtuosity required to pull it off is mind-bending. ~2500 riders, pulling up camp every morning and making camp every night further down the coast, and in between needing food and drink and medical attention and mechanical assistance.
Getting us and our bikes and bags safely from SF to LA takes a fleet of gear trucks and a small army of roadies and other volunteers, all organized, brilliantly, by the ALC staff. Given the scale of the operation , it’s impossible not to feel like part of something bigger, even when just standing in line.
Given the purpose of the operation, that “something bigger” has a higher meaning, and the sense of a shared purpose creates an energy that’s electrifying and inspiring. As we step out of our routine to do something extraordinary, together, I can feel the fabled ALC “love bubble” already forming.
As in past years, the increasing sense of community over the course of Day 0 reaches a peak when I walk in to Bike Parking. The sight of 2000+ bikes is almost beyond my ability to absorb – that each bike has a rider, that each rider has logged hundreds of miles in training over the previous months, and has raised thousands of dollars, and has shipped or ridden their bike here, and that tomorrow at dawn all that effort and preparation will come together as we begin our ride to LA – it’s a lot to take in. And, holy cow, it’s a lot of bikes.
But that’s tomorrow. Tonight, we eat.
Here’s the story of why Jeffrey Statler Cain, one of my Trudging Buddies team members, rides.
All Photos by the author.