Bike rallies seem to be designed to pose the question: How many people does it take to have a fun party, and how many more till it ceases to be any fun at all? The answer isn't all that clear cut, as most of the people I talked to had a good time at Love Ride 13, unlike yours truly.
The Love Ride is an annual event held in late autumn by Glendale Harley-Davidson. All proceeds go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Harley-Davidson's pet charity. Last year the run raised a little over a million dollars. Jay Leno has been the grand marshal for as long as anyone can remember, and numerous musical celebrities have been known to take to the stage in impromptu performances over the years, no doubt adding to the popularity of the run. A freakish thing that has happened in latter years is that some people go on it to see what its like to ride with 40,000 people, thus adding more people to the mix. But I digress...
Being up at the dark hour of five a.m. on a Sunday morning will do remarkably bad things to your attitude.
"Hey Bill, running a little late aren't we?" our intern Gord stated.
As fate would have it, we met up with the group at Bartels Harley-Davidson a half hour before they left. After a quick stop for gas, we headed out to Glendale for the start. In the breeze at 6:30 a.m. in November is a bit chilly, even in Southern California. But after a quick half-hour ride through the eerily-uncrowded downtown L.A. freeways, we arrived at the very-crowded streets of Glendale.
I was originally offered VIP passes by some relatives that work at a local Harley dealer. These allowed you to ride to the front of the pack and park closer to the venue in Lake Castiac. I assured them that, representing the press, I would be given nothing but the best passes by the Love Ride folks, and you just keep those VIPs for someone that really needs them. Upon arriving at the starting point in front of Glendale Harley-Davidson, two of my boys with the VIP passes flashed 'em to security and went straight to the front of the line. I showed them the stylish orange tag we received in our press kit (which turns out looked like everybody else's stylish orange tag) and they pointed to the end of the line, five blocks away.
I looked through the press kit to see if there was some missing slip of paper we may have overlooked that allowed us any kind of privilege, and there was nothing. "Oh well," I sighed, "we'll just see the ride like everybody else. That'll make a good story!"
I wandered around the cordoned-off street checking out the tens-of-thousands of bikes, taking pictures, looking like a tourist, and finally going back to my bike to wait. And wait. It turns out that up in the first group there were three accidents. Made me a little glad that I was back here. Then someone turned up the heat. It went from a very seasonal 40-something in the early morning to 80ish by 10:30, and still we waited. Around 11:00 our block (the last) left.
For us the ride up was uneventful. Just one long stretch of freeway all the way there. Somewhere about halfway to the lake we lost Gord. Turns out the camera he had strapped to his neck came loose and almost went bouncing down the asphalt, and by he time he got the bike back under control with camera in hand he had lost us in the huge crowd of iron stallions.
Once off the freeway we waited in yet another massive line to get into the park, baking in the 90 degree heat of the day. Half an hour later we are let in. We park on the grass by the beautiful man-made Lake Castaic, and walk about a third of the way around it to get to the event site. All this waiting in line and walking around makes a body hungry. So I sauntered over to the food stands, surprisingly not that crowded for the size of the event and asked, "How much?"
The girl behind the counter looked puzzled and asked me for my meal ticket. This was followed by a few minutes of frantic searching by me through the press packet only to come up with nothing. She told me to try going to the ticket booths. After waiting in another line at the ticket booth, I was told by the functionary there that if I didn't have a meal coupon I could get no food, and that I couldn't buy a meal ticket. I was starting to think they wanted me to write bad things about their ride. Maybe its all just a ploy by the organizers to turn this into an intimate little ride, yeah, that's it!
I realized my hunger was getting to me so I marched around the crowd taking pictures of pretty girls and begging for meal tickets until I couldn't stand it anymore and headed for home. As I wandered around looking for my bike I was saved by an acquaintance from my days as a parts counter guy. He gave me a couple of drink tickets, which I turned into a large lemonade. Running on sugar, I was able to snap a few pics of the vendor areas (filled with a large assortment of aftermarket companies as well as Harley and Triumph), and make the trek back to where I parked the Hog.
Turns out the Love Ride folks gathered another cool million for Jerry's Kids, and Gord, the intern, had a good time. So did everybody I went with. Maybe I just don't like crowds, or hunger, or waking up at five a.m. . . .