Half-way to $7,000

Day -84 (Mar 20, 1999)

I'm starting to get quite a number of 'polo-shirters' ($100 donations) supporting the ride. I've now collected $3,500 in contributions and OXY's $1000 check, I've been told, is coming at the end of this week. Whew! I feel that the pressure valve has been released a bit and I've gotten the fund-raising monkey off my back. When I committed to the ride, I was afraid of the fund-raising, thinking I might only be able to raise $1,500 or so. I'd have to cough up the rest and the ride would end up being a hugely expensive, non-paid vacation. Assuming that OXY's check does come in, that'll make my fund-raising total $4,500. Now I can concentrate more on training, though I won't quit fund-raising until May sometime.

I've got a ton of questions about the logistics associated with this ride. The flyers and newsletters that I've received from the ALA Big Ride office have helped to answer some of them, but I was excited when I was assigned a "Big Ride Mentor" (someone who did last year's ride). Unfortunately, the mentor that I was assigned hasn't contacted me, nor has she responded to any of the emails that I sent to her. Doesn't she remember what it was like before her Big Ride? All the questions, worries and concerns? What a jerk. Why did she sign up to be a mentor if she wasn't going to follow through?

I suppose that there is some good news in not having a mentor. It has made me more self-reliant and I've sought out other forms of mentorship. I joined a local road biking club "The Kern Wheelmen". I've attended a couple of their monthly meetings, even getting up to introduce myself, the Big Ride and my fund-raising efforts. The meetings are attended by 20-30 members each month. I've also been going on training rides with them and many of their members have been very helpful, though most are pretty hard-core cyclists. They don't cotton to my riding mentality - a 'heavy' touring bike with panniers? They're all in the 'light as you can', 'fast as you can' mind-set. This is fine for my training, however, and I've learned a lot from them. I am glad, however, that drafting is not allowed on the Big Ride. I don't like having to concentrate on staying a foot from the rider in front (your focus is on the guy's wheel and you don't get to look at the scenery ... not that there is much around Bakersfield). I also don't like feeling the pressure when you're the lead cyclist, to maintain a high MPH pace. I'm not a terribly fast rider and I always feel that I'm holding the whole group back.

I've also attended a couple local mountain biking club "The Southern Sierra Fat Tire Association" meetings, at the urging of Mike Scott, a co-worker. Their club president, Dave Moore, has been very supportive and even promised a club donation to my fund-raising efforts. (It was a pleasure to see Tim Strem, my old childhood bike riding buddy, at both of the meetings). They're all trying to get me out on my mountain bike, but I had to decline, citing my need for road training, not single-track training.

I've also hooked up with another rider from Nevada, Ted Ralphs. He and I are working on the Ride Gear stuff together and bouncing ideas off each other. It sure helps to have someone to talk to about the BIG RIDE. He even has a web site that promotes his ride and fund-raising. I decided the other day, "gee, if he can do it, so can I!" I went out and bought Microsoft Front Page software and have been fiddling around with it to see how all this website stuff works. Soon I hope to have a prototype web-site up and running. Maybe it can help me to raise the remaining amount! (This site is the result of that effort and it kicked off my illustrious career in web design. It has been a great way to unleash some creativity and journal adventures. And meet people too, it turns out.)

It turns out that there is quite a group of riders at work. Mike Rosa and his wife, who have a tandem, often go for rides on the weekends. They have a regular group of people that ride with them and I've gotten to know quite a few of them. They have an informal "Bikes, Beer, Liars and Cigars" club. I'm not sure what sort of hazing is required to join (nor am I certain that I want to 'officially' belong), but their ribald and often offbeat sense of humor has made for fun rides! Mike Scott is a hard-core mountain biker, his specialty is big, heavy downhill racers. (He competes in the Sport class). He's been trying to convince me that a mountain bike is the only way to travel cross-country! He won't let up until I take my mountain bike on the BIG RIDE (jeez, and his office is right across the hall from mine, so I get to hear about it every day)! George Butler, an engineer (boo, hiss) and strong rider, has a rusty, old Italian bike and is another of the OXY bike clan. He's only got 10 speeds and a really tiny cluster, but he chugs up hills with amazing speed and powe - in direct contradiction to the condition of his bike! (Proving once again, that equipment doesn't make the athlete) Dennis Wyatt, Caren Chaika and now, Misty and Pat, make up the rest of the OXY bike clan. It doesn't take long, when you mention that your on a BIG RIDE, for closet bicyclists to come out and openly admit their penchant. A whole little community within a community and every one a great set of eclectic folks.