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AIDS LifeCycle - the Recap

2009-06-07 28 min read Tours marco

halfway_to_la.jpgSunday morning in San Diego. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the neighbors are getting annoyed at the 217th time they have to listen to Lily Allen sing The Fear. I woke up a few hours ago, dreaming I have to get my pretty-bag together, rush to the showers to stand in line with hundreds of people for a meager cup of thin coffee. None of that, today, though.

ALC 8 – AIDS LifeCycle – is over. We triumphantly entered Los Angeles, the most unlikely place in the world to end a bicycle ride, hugged and kissed each other good-bye, and laughed and cried with friends and family that had come to pick us up. We were promised the experience of a life time, and it certainly was.

Here is my recap of the event – take it as a primer for first-time riders.

For the total n00b, AIDS LifeCycle (from now on, ALC) is a charitable bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Anyone can participate, but you must pledge a minimum amount of donations (in 2009, $3000). You will receive help in logistics, ideas, and organization – but if you don’t raise the minimum amount, you are not allowed to participate.

Funds go to the two sponsoring organizations, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. This is, of course, after the marketing, planning, and execution costs are taken out of the budget. Tip: if you don’t want/can’t raise funds, think about joining as a volunteer – it’s the same amount of fun, but no money to raise.

The event has been running for over a decade, by now. It used to be called simply the Tanqueray AIDS Ride (after the main and only sponsor), but then somehow changed its name. It used to have a terrible reputation because so little of the money raised actually went to the sponsoring organizations – that’s all fixed, now.

You can join online (at or using one of the many fliers available everywhere. Volunteers swarm to parties and cycling clubs to attract more participants, and in the course of the runup, it’s hard not to get in touch with a sign-up form.

You start up by filling in the details of your participation: who are you, how much are you pledging. Tip: you can always RAISE the pledge amount later, so start as low as you can.

2009 was one of the worst years for fund raising, and it’s hopefully going to be much easier when you get there. Still, you should plan on starting to raise money as soon as you can, since the later it gets, the more you’ll hear people tell you they already gave to others that came sooner.

The site has a pretty decent fundraising section, and it guides you through the process pretty well. Your main activity is going to be to talk up the ride to your friends, coworkers and family. Tell everybody what you are doing, why you are doing it, and why it matters that they contribute. Tell people how much you expect them to give to your cause, and don’t buy excuses.

You will be assigned a coordinator who will be helpful with ideas. Some people get the money in through donations easily, others need bake sales, auctions, parties, etc. to make their commitment. You can donate to your own cause, too, and if you are afraid you can’t raise enough funds and still want to go, just make sure you’ve got enough credit (the site only accepts credit cards, for some strange reason).

If you live in one of the two ride cities, you’ll get a chance to participate in a lot of training rides.If you don’t, you may have to organize your rides with buddies or other participants.

Training for the ride is infinitely important. You will have to ride an average of over 80 miles for seven days, the longest day being a full 108 miles. If you go to the start without having done much training, you will fail miserably and potentially injure yourself badly. Ride as much as you can, as far as you can, and with as many experienced people as you can find. Group riding is its own challenge, so make sure you learn the basics before you get to your first day.

Also of extreme importance is that you learn the basics of cycling: how do gears work, how you shift, and – bless your soul if you don’t know it – changing tires. You will more likely than not have a flat (I had four in seven days) and waiting for someone to help you takes longer than you want.

Before you get to San Francisco, you’ll have to pack. You will need mostly two kinds of things:

  • Cycling gear
  • Camping gear

First of all, you’ll need a bicycle. ALC doesn’t care much about your ride, as long as it’s safe. You certainly want to go for something that carries you through the day, though – which means light weight rules! Road cycles are the norm, and the few mountain bikers and single-speeders have a hard time keeping up.

Once you settle on the bike, get the necessary equipment:

  • sunglasses
  • night glasses (for cloudy days)
  • helmet
  • multi-tool
  • patch kit
  • spare inner tubes (<- plural!)
  • air pump (and if you know what that is, cartridges)
  • water bottles
  • sunscreen
  • chamois cream
  • at least two changes of cycling clothes, and many layers!!!

You will be able to buy some of the equipment either on the ride or in San Francisco, but keep the list handy. ALC will NOT let you ride if you don’t have all the items on the list (and if you are missing one or more of them, you are a risk to yourself and others, anyway).

You will need a lot of layers, since the rides start in the early morning. It gets really chilly, especially on the coast, and you’ll be more than happy about leggings and arm warmers.

I would recommend a bike computer, preferably with GPS, since the ride sheets give directions in miles from the start (not particularly useful if a turn is just a few feet from the last, but such is life).

Unless you reserve hotel rooms in advance (which is called “princessing it” in ALC lingo), you will stay in a tent on the ALC grounds, which is the finish line on each day. Tents are provided by ALC, perfectly square, and will be laid out in a tight grid with only an inch or so between tents. So, forget about BYO.

The contents of the tent, though, are your responsibility. You will need:

  • sleeping bag
  • air mattress (queen size fits, not sure about king)
  • waterproof toiletry bag with assorted toiletries (hehe)
  • tent stakes!!!
  • games (cards, scrabble, etc.) or something to read
  • “civilian” clothes for the afternoon and evening
  • EAR PLUGS!!!

Tip: After my first ride, I’d recommend princessing it at least once during the ride. Any day is good, especially Day 2 (the 108 mile ride to King City), Day 4 (long ride on hills to Santa Maria), Day 6 (you’ll be exhausted in Ventura).

After you got all your gear and your funding, turn your attention to the planning for arrival and departure. You will need to get your bike to SF and back from LA, and you’ll need to get your own sorry butt over to the start and off from the finish.

If you are a local to San Francisco, getting to the start is simple. Since so many come from San Francisco, ALC facilitates for bike transport back from LA (you can arrange during the ride).

If you are not a local, you have to get your bike to San Francisco. Check-in is on Orientation Day, the day before the ride starts, so you have to organize at least one night in town. (Note: at other events, the organizers provide a room matching service, but ALC doesn’t do any such thing.)

As far as transportation is concerned, you can either (a) join a group of people from your area that ship their bikes together, typically by truck; (b) ship your bike using UPS, FedEx, or other individual shipping service; (c) carry the bike with you on the plane. Costs for options (b) and (c) vary greatly, and you want to check prices before you arrange for a ticket.

While you must have overnight accomodation in San Francisco, you get to LA early enough that you can leave on the same day. Many, though, like staying a few extra pamper days, and ALC provides a list of hotels (on both ends) that have ALC rates.

Remember that you are allowed only ONE piece of luggage on the ride. ALC volunteers are usually generous as to what constitutes ONE piece of luggage. Rroutinely, sleeping bags attached to a suitcase are ok. Backpacks and shoulder bags are, too – as long as they are fastened. Don’t push your luck, though – the volunteers will have to move your luggage every day into the truck and every day out of it.

Show up during the Saturday before the ride starts. Orientation Day at Cow Palace has you perform a basic set of tasks:

  • Check-in with ALC
  • Drop off your bike
  • View safety video
  • Sign medical forms
  • Complete donation
  • Find tent mate

Tip: Make sure you print out the e-ticket that is offered on the main page. Getting to the Palace without will make your life more complicated.


The check-in process will match you up with your number, will get you signed off on a master roll, and will get you an envelope with incredibly important contents:

  • a map of the day in five easy steps
  • a wrist band with your participant number and an emergency phone number
  • a sticker to be placed on the left side of your helmet (so security has an easier time tracking you down)
  • a sticker for your bike – of vital importance, because it allows you to park your bike in ALC spaces, and because it will get scanned at the end of the day to ensure everybody is accounted for)


Next, you’ll apply the sticker to your bike and drop it off in the first of a hundred bike parking areas you’ll see over the next week. That’s a bunch of wooden triangles that support a bunch of pipes. You are to place the saddle/seat on the pipe, so that the bike is suspended.

Make sure you remember where you left your bike, because you are the only person that will be able to find it come next morning! Write down where you left it (the areas have numbers to identify them).

Safety Video

Once you drop off the bike, your next step (according to the chart) is the safety video. THEORETICALLY, all the other steps depend on this one. Since the video is offered only once every 30 minutes, though, and since you can’t join the ride without the wrist band that comes with the video, you can fulfill the other requirements first. As long as you remember to watch. Because, really, without the wrist band you can’t go on the ride. Really.

The actors in the video are real people: volunteers, police staff, medical staff. I know that for sure because they are so stiff and uncomfortable in their delivery, they would have never been put in those places otherwise. The unfortunate side effect is that the whole video is dull and turns you off almost instantly. Even the two leaders of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, great guys and incredible organizers, really don’t show their best side as public speakers.

Fortunately, there is the CEO of the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. She should have her own show on Comedy Channel, and she comes to the rescue at the end of the video, getting you out of the coma of the past dullness. Note: staff knows very well how boring the video is, since they threaten everybody with a repeat viewing if you lose your security video wrist band. You lose it, you watch it again.

Sign Medical Forms

One of the things that ALC is amazingly good about is medical preparedness. Every stop has medical staff on hand, there are several ambulances that run with the team, there are even massage tables and chiropractors all over the place.

It is not surprising you have to fill out a form that asks about pre-existing conditions. That’s not as much because of coverage, but because the ridership is so varied, medical staff needs current information about you. Remember: there are lots of people that have never really been active, as well as plenty of HIV positive riders in all stages of infection.

Please take that form seriously and come prepared: fill it out online if you can, and come with the names and numbers of your primary care physician if you can’t get to the online form.

Complete Donation

If you didn’t manage to get all your money in and didn’t already sign a pledge, you will be asked to do so now. That means you will have to fork over the missing money, typically with a credit card. If your donation is all done, skip this step entirely (your e-ticket will say so).

Get a Tent Assignment

Three options:

  1. You already have a tent mate, and both of you met the (invisible and unannounced) funding deadline – you can apply for tent-mate-ship online and don’t have to go through this process
  2. You have a tent mate, but you didn’t sign up online. In this case, you both have to show up before the ALC volunteer, who will assign you a tent right then and there.
  3. You don’t have a tent mate. One will be randomly assigned to you. Don’t even begin to hope you might get lucky and be in a tent by yourself: if there is another person without a tent mate, you’ll end up in their tent.

As far as the choice of tent locations: go for the lowest letter first, which means line up at the far left (letter A), and go for the “lowest” number, which is the numbers closest to 01 and 99. That’s because A01 is the reference point staked out first, and it’s usually closest to everything. If your tent is K50, it’s most likely to be in the least desireable spot: close to the freeway, the latrines, and farthest from the showers and breakfast.

Groups of people can ask for tents close to each other. Volunteers are typically pretty nice and accommodating.

Organize your transportation to the Cow Palace in advance! You have to get there at an ungodly hour, when the hunting packs of cabs of the night are already gone, but the business trippers are still not in town.

I find the Night Owl service of MUNI (route 90) to be particularly good. It gets you from Union Square to Cow Palace in 40 minutes, and you don’t have to deal with parking at all. You just board in your cycling gear and with your single piece of luggage at hand, and you get dropped off at the end of the line (which means you can safely sleep on board).

Once you get in, you can check-in with your bike. I recommend going back and checking tire pressure, since later it becomes highly stressful. Knowing where your bike is makes it much easier to find it once you get going, too.

Next, the Opening Ceremony. I confess I find the spectacle particularly lame, especially because participation is enforced and the speakers not so exciting. Still, a good chance to connect with people.

After that’s over, you walk to your bike, put on the helmet, and leave. Watch out, since many of the cyclists around you aren’t too comfortable on their bikes at the early hour – if there is a crash, it’s more likely to happen in the first tenth of a mile than during the rest of the day (the FDA didn’t evaluate this statement).

Your neighbor on the ride can be anyone, from the semi-pro who thinks the $3000 minimum donation is a steal for a ride this well-organized to the grandfather of 6 who hasn’t touched a bicycle since leaving junior high school. Safety rules are trying to bridge the gap, erring on the side of safety for everyone.

The salient items are:

  • stop at all stop signs and red stop lights unless otherwise directed
  • call out sudden changes in speed or direction: slowing, stopping, rolling, turning
  • announce that you are passing, and do so only where it is safe and always to the left; always look to the back to ensure you are not passing right into a moving vehicle
  • always ride where it is safest – as far to the right as possible on the shoulder, at least a car door width away from cars to your right, never ever into freeway lanes
  • ride single file
  • always wear a helmet when you are straddling your bike
  • never wear anything that prevents you from hearing (MP3 player, phone, bluetooth headsets)
  • always keep both hands on the handle bars; remove one hand only when it’s safe
  • always keep at least a bicycle length between yourself and the next rider, and try not to ride directly behind their rear wheel

There are trillions of zillions of other rules: never eat anything on the bike, don’t ever draft anyone, never pass more than one bike, etc. They are frequently ignored and can cause risk, but the ones I listed above caused accidents in my real life experience on the ride.

Your first duty on each day is to get yourself a ride sheet and to familiarize yourself with the route. Initially, I didn’t take enough time, and I got easily lost or missed that there would be a huge hill. The information is really important, so take the two minutes it takes to absorb. You particularly need the following:

  • how long is the day going to be in miles?
  • are there any particular features, like hills or windy areas?
  • how many rest stops are there, and how far are they from each other?
  • are there any turns closer than .5 miles from each other?
  • can you memorize salient street names?

After you memorize the sheet, stow it away. Tip: Many experienced riders use a clip-on, waterproof display into which they mount the sheet. Excellent idea! Get some water or energy drink into your water bottles and get started.

Rides typically start at 6:30a and everybody has to leave camp by 8a. That’s so that support services and safety teams have a defined area to patrol, and ALC is quite strict about those time limits. If you get there early, you won’t be allowed to leave. If you get there late, you will be driven to the next destination (or SAG-ed, in lingo).

Each day has one lunch stop, around the 45 mile marker. If you are a fast rider, you will experience a strange time warp, since lunches will be some time in the early morning. If you are slow, it may take you more than half a day to get to lunch. If you don’t make it in time, ALC will assume you won’t be able to finish the ride in time and will SAG you.

Typical days will have 4 rest stops – two before, two after lunch. Each rest stop comes with snacks, drinks, port-a-pits, and medical as well as mechanical staff. Rest stop volunteers are assigned as a team, and they try to outdo each other with shows and costumes. It’s always worth a stop – you might just get the funniest show of the day!

If the distance is great, a water stop will be added with reduced facilities. Since many of these water stops are results of complaints about riders urinating in the fields, they will typically have port-a-pits, too.

Each day comes with its own set of highlights – scenic, athletic, emotional, amusing, or otherwise. I won’t list them, but find someone who’s done the ride before and ask them to help you figuring out what’s worth watching out for on each day. The highlight of Day 3, for instance, is officially the hill called Quadbuster – but the ride on the shoulder of Freeway 101 is in my view a million times worse, with the roadway crossed by deep furrows and the semis roaring at 80 mph inches from you.

Once you get through the finish line, with more and more volunteers and riders cheering latercomers, you get organized for the night. Your first task is to get to the luggage trucks, line up in front of the one that carries the letter of your tent square, and get your luggage and the tent. Typically, the faster rider gets the luggage for the slower tent mate and sets up the tent.

With luggage and tent, you look for your assigned square and set up tent. The grid is laid out with long rows of tents separated by narrow corridors, so your square tent will be surrounded by three tents and you have to remember to align the door with the corridor.

Winds are typically fierce in these locations dominated by oceanic influence, and you must weigh down the tent with your luggage as soon as you lay it out. That’s why tent stakes are so important (besides, they way almost nothing and make setting up the tent so much easier). You can easily set up the tent by yourself, but asking someone for help is always a good conversation starter.

After setting up the tent, you probably want to take a shower. Showers are warm, inviting, and crowded. Make sure you get there early (or late). Sinks are provided, but no power for electric razors.

Nothing is planned at this point, since you’ll be waiting for the latecomers (or be one yourself). The next item on the agenda is dinner, served starting at 5 (typically, for those that had lunch at 9 😉 ). The lines tend to be manageable there, and the food is pretty good (unlike the uninspiring sandwiches you’ll get for lunch).

Tip: the vegetarian selection is branded upon you with yet another wrist band. Vegetarian food tries to be as vegan as possible (without ever being so). Together with cost constraints, that means you end up getting way too few proteins. Make sure you have some extra proteins with you, in whatever form you feel comfortable.

At 7:30p, there is the one formal part of the evening, which is a presentation by ALC and designated speakers. The day is recaped, the next day presented, and some other topic discussed, depending on the day. Sometimes there is a show at the end. Then it’s bed time.

Lights out is at 10p. Since the tents are thin, the light is really out – unless you have a lamp or flashlight, you risk running into other people’s tents if you need to get out at night. Also, at night all tents look the same, so many people choose to decorate theirs with something that makes them visible at night (but not obnoxious).

The proximity of others is, well, loud. You hear snoring, farting, and the other sounds of humanity at night. Ear plugs are your best friend, believe me.

The most horrifying moment of the day in my recollection was breakfast. As such, it deserves its own page.

Breakfast is served at 5a. You’d think that’s early, considering that you have another 90 minutes before the ride starts, but it isn’t. People line up in the hundreds before 5a, and volunteers take pity on you and open as soon as they can.

The problem with the lines is that most people just aren’t able to function at 5a. One morning, I saw a guy spend 2 minutes (I was waiting for a friend at the end of the line, that’s how I know) in front of a basket filled with identical single-serve portions of strawberry jam. He just couldn’t choose which one he wanted.

The drama is annoying. I wished ALC would simply prepare plates with the different options on them and allow a little of the food to go to waste, especially considering that some volunteers make high drama when you ask for a double scoop of anything. Since the morning eggs are the only copious source of vegetarian proteins, I didn’t have the option of going to an outmeal-and-cold-stuff express line.

Next on the drama show is the beverages section. Ok, I’ll confess, I am a morning caffeine addict. I need my 10,000mg of caffeine before I board my bike. For some reason, though, ALC provides a double whammy of barely brown water passed off as coffee, and the tiniest cups short of the gargle cups at the dentist’s office.

Ah, the days of Marco walking around with a teeny cup filled with steaming brothy brown stuff. It is a mile (so it feels) from the beverage stand to the tables, plenty of distance to have half the content spill over my fingers while I hold the plate with the food in balance on the other hand. By the time I got to the tables, I had half the coffee in the cup, half on my fingers and sleeves, and a few breakfast items dropped in the grass. Easy solution? Move the beverages to the other end of the mess hall, so that you first drop off your plate, then retrieve the drink.

The next thing I found out was that I was not the only one exhbiting an interesting pattern. Turns out that the more you eat, the more you, well, excrete. On a typical riding day, I’d spend twice the normal calories, which means I’d eat twice as much, which means… mountains of fertilizers in the port-a-pits. Bon appetit!

Don’t forget to pack your bags, at this point, put the tent back in its own bag, and march the whole thing to the trucks. Nobody is going to do that for you.

At this point, it’s all back to the bikes, as described in the section above.

As I mentioned before, the riders come in all sort, shapes, and sizes. To grossly overgeneralize, these are the major categories present, in descending order of ridership:

  • riders from previous years, that come back for more and more
  • gay people that want to do a good thing, work out a lot, make new friends, and have a good time
  • (amongst those above, the ones that are HIV positive and want to show their own support for those doing their best to support them)
  • straight friends of the people above, out for support and to experience something new and unique
  • people that see this as an athletic challenge, that want to prove to themselves and others that they can survive the regimen
  • athletes that join because this is a well-organized ride and the good they do ends up being cheaper than paying a professional outfit

All in all, existence between the various groups is very harmonious. Everybody wants to have a good time, and it shows. You can talk to anyone, and much of the discomfort that comes with a group of people that don’t know each other well quickly dissipates or doesn’t form at all.

That’s most easily seen in places where the ride is close to a sizeable destination – like Ventura, or Paso Robles. You should see the flash of community that goes through people’s faces once they see each other’s wrist bands in a crowded street. It’s wonderful, really.

If there is disagreement, it’s usually during the riding. The most egregious offenses I noted are:

  • people riding side-by-side for miles, blocking others’ ability to pass; particularly annoying when combined with the strange tendency of some to ride as close to the car lanes as possible; I wish ride leadership did more to curb that
  • people not calling out when passing, stopping, or moving into the cyclist stream; that easily caused three incidents I heard about
  • people not stopping to help despite being flagged; everyone has their excuse, from “I wouldn’t know what to do, anyway” to “I didn’t want to spoil my average speed”; people that don’t stop to help, no matter what the reason, are really awful

I was particularly annoyed at people that wanted to race me, only to “die” right in front of me. Passing is the most dangerous act you are typically confronted with, and forcing someone to pass you just because you wanted to prove to yourself you could pass them (but not really) is dumb.

I have never seen such a small number of bad apples sour my impression of a group as a whole. The volunteers on the ride, who don’t have funding commitments and don’t ride bicycles, are some of the most wonderful people I know. Some ride their motorcycles to exhaustion to ensure that you are safe; some load and unload hundreds of heavy suitcases every day on the giant luggage trucks; some prepare food; some clean up. Almost all of them are so caring and helpful, they make your heart melt and wished you could wrap them up and squeeze them tight whenever you see another hill looming, such is the strength of their commitment to cheering you on and up.

But then there are some… I don’t know, they seem to be on a strange power trip. Whenever I encounter one of those, I have a hard time remembering all the other amazing people that work so hard just for me and the other riders – self-effacing, always with a smile, even after seeing thousand beat down faces stream into camp.

I am talking about the guy that yelled at me because he didn’t like the way I parked my bike at the end of Day 2. I was amongst the first 20 to reach the finish line on a 108 mile day, we had to put our bikes on temporary racks, and they would get transfered to a permanent location later – and he yelled at me not to put the handle bars on the pipe, but the saddle.

I am talking about the girls that made me ask three times for a second scoop of eggs at breakfast because, as a vegetarian, I wouldn’t get any of the sausage that was offending me right at the next station. Did she really have to sigh before she smashed a minuscule second amount on my plate?

I am talking about the guy who threatened a friend of mine with suspension because he had moved his bike from one spot to another in the parking lot without putting on his helmet.

I am talking about the prevailing prison camp attitude, where you felt guilty for not doing the standard thing. I recall hiding the Starbucks mug I had bought under my sweater, to avoid anyone noticing I was using an illicit container.

What is a shame is that this was really such a minuscule minority of volunteers that it shouldn’t put a blemish on the role. I would certainly think that voting for Volunteer of the Year would be a good thing, putting emphasis on the service.

One of the most important services is geared towards ensuring that the riders can, actually, ride. Medical staff is plentiful, professional, competent, and friendly. If feels like being in a private hospital, at times, with so many tending to pampering your health, I found myself more than once thinking that a fall with injury might be better than riding the last 20 of 100 miles (just kidding!).

Same is true for the mechanical staff, which seems to be provided by sponsors of the ride. Those guys, in addition, don’t charge an arm and a leg for replacement parts (tires and inner tubes, for instance, are cheaper than at the local store), and they know their bikes.

Every rider has, in addition to all the medical and mechanical treatments required, a free chiropractic session and a (somewhat laughable) 15 minute massage session. I didn’t get either one of mine, and seeing the line at camp, I understand the 15 minute limit.

I loved the ride. I hated the ride. Depending on the last person I interacted with and the last thing I’d done, I’d always give you a different answer. The one thing I am sure about: the ride never left me indifferent.

You are promised the experience of a lifetime, and it is that for sure. You’ll make new friends, challenge yourself, see the most stunning places, almost die of exhaustion at least a dozen times. You’ll learn how to change a flat. You might learn that you do, indeed, have limits, and you will see your body shape up and get stronger.

I have the utmost respect for everyone involved, and all and any criticism I raised and raise is noise on the background of a feat of human ingenuity that never ceases to suprise. Creating a city that moves from San Francisco to Los Angeles on two wheels is by itself a logistical marvel – to do so in a smooth and safe fashion, as this ride always did, I’d call it a yearly recurring miracle.

Actually, the one time when things didn’t go smoothly, ALC surprised by improvising the impossible. Faced with a road closure on Day 6, in the drenching rain at the top of the hill before Ventura, our organizers organized transportation for 3000 people from one town to the next without a hitch. I don’t know how they did it, how much it cost, who they had to bribe, but they got us all carried over the mountains and fed, as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary.

More than an ungrateful person, it would take an idiot not to bow to these folks and acknowledge their competence and commitment. They are amazing, some of the best organizers I’ve seen, putting the military to shame. What they do with the few resources they have is unfathomable. Big kudos, thank you-s, congratulations, and compliments.

I should mention two little points at the end, though, since they troubled me and could be addressed fairly easily. These two items should be seen as what they are: suggestions for incremental improvement of something that is already far beyond anything I’ve witnessed (or would be able to organize myself). Here they are:

  • More Democracy and Transparency: We were asked whether we approved of placing a political statement on the agenda of what was in essence a celebration of our accomplishment: excoriating the state government for the massive reduction in AIDS funding at the Closing Ceremony. The acclaim was near universal, and proved that there is nothing to fear from opening up the dialog with riders and volunteers. It would be important to include riders and volunteers in the process of the ride – voting on rules and regulations, for instance, or deciding on menu items and choices.
  • Charging Cell Phones: It’s 2009. A cell phone is not a luxury any more, but a tool. That’s particularly true on a century ride, where people can get lost or injured and the cell phone is their main way of communicating distress. Not only doesn’t ALC provide power for chargers, it threatens to confiscate any equipment found to be attached to generator power. That’s simply irresponsible, and people should have the ability to charge at least their phones on camp.