Before I did the Toy Ride I wrote about my preparations. I never wrote about how the ride went. So I'll do that today.
First, the basic skeleton of the trip: I got a late start, making sure I had all my raingear, etc, and forgot to buy a toy. So I had to stop at Rite-Aid, which had a line. Then I hustled downtown to meet the contingent from Long Beach. I was late, but luckily I got to Long Beach Blvd and Broadway right when they were headed up Long Beach Blvd. We basically went all the way up LB Blvd to Santa Fe, to something or other, to Olvera St. Then we met the hundreds of other riders and rode around downtown, and then to the party in this lot around 4th St east of the river in this industrial area. I left before midnight to ensure I'd get the train on time.
The main theme of the trip: Lee brings up the Rear. I was riding the bike my sister had been loaning me, a 2003 Gary Fisher Napa, which is a perfectly good bike, but it has these kind of knobby tires (Hutchinson Acrobat) and it's not a bike meant for speed as set up. This became apparent as I quickly fell behind and had a hard time keeping up. Partly, this was because I just wasn't used to riding fast, at night, in the rain, with raincoat on, on LB Blvd. (Afterwards, I'd figure out it was due to the bike, but at the time, I figured it was cuz I was a wuss). Anyway, I'd catch up to the rest of the folks at rest stops, and John was nice enough to hang back with me for a while, and then Alan had the bright idea to have me go ahead with him so we got a headstart on the rest of the pack while they waited from the Downey contingent to meet up with them at Firestone and LB Blvd. We pulled pretty far ahead of the group, as it turns out, because of some delays on the part of the Downey folks, but we gave up all our lead when Alan got a flat. Watching Alan fix his flat was instructional, as I had no experience in such things.
Weather: On the ride up, it would stop raining, then sprinkle, most of the time. There were some downpours, but it wasn't continuously heavy rain. This was irritating. I had a poncho sort of shell but didn't want to have it on if I didn't need it. Plus, I had a cold, so I was feeling hot the whole time. So I didn't have on my rain gear the ride up, and didn't really need it that much. Once we all left Olvera street, then it started to really pour. By then, I had on my rain jacket, but I was having so much fun in the huge gaggle of cyclists, ringing our bells and running reds as a huge group while guys blocked cross traffic, that there was no way I'd be stopping to put on my rain pants. So my pants got soaked, and my helmet, so well-ventilated, allowed my head to get superwet. Plus, my glasses would get thoroughly covered in raindrops, and I'd have to keep wiping them off, and then they even got fogged up. Riding downtown in a huge throng of cyclists and not being able to see that well? Oh, it was exciting.
Interesting sights and sounds: On LB Blvd we passed a couple groups of working women in very skimpy dresses who were plying their trade in the rain. They appeared confused when we went by. A bit later, when we were around Vernon, we had some awful smells that are par for that area... then the weirdest thing happened. Suddenly we had the smell of the yummiest coffee replace the rendering plant/whatever smell, and up ahead appeared a coffee shop in the middle of the industrial area. Should have stopped. That was neat. And when we all rode around downtown, it was exhilarating being part of the huge group -- cars honked at us in a good way, people partying at nightclubs leaned out of the windows to wave and whistle and cheer us on... it was exciting to be a part of hundreds of bikes all lit up and tons of us ringing our bells....
Party: At the party, being soaked detracted from my willingness to mingle and meet new people.Here you can see a photo with Alan in the foreground, and me scowling in background, wet, confused, and anxious to get back to the train. The party went on all night, and folks who like to party seemed to be having a great time.
I wasn't too sure of where the nearest Blue Line station was, so I left the party early and biked downtown to 7th and Metro, then went to the Denny's on 8th and Fig and got a t0-go coffee and hit the facilities. Then I went to the Pico station and got the next train, which came after ten minutes or so. The next stop, Alan happens to pop into my car, which was funny, so we spent the ride home getting to know each other a bit.
The folks at the East LA Women's Shelter ended up getting a huge amount of toys, and that was the purpose, after all. The toys I donated: Mr Potato Head and an art set.
This is the spoke card that the Long Beach riders got (I think designed by Leslie). Everyone got the LA Midnight Ridazz spoke card as well. I am not one to put spoke cards on my bike, but I will keep those cards forever -- they are as important to me as my marathon medals, marking an important milestone in my cycling life, and hopefully the first of many fun rides.