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The ALC bubble

When we begin our ride to Los Angeles just three weekends from now (aieeeeee!), one of the most amazing aspects of the ride will be how it gives us the opportunity to disconnect from our everyday world. With everything carefully planned and scheduled for us, all we have to do is ride and sleep for seven days. In fact, it's common for participants to lose track of the day of the week; everything is referred to in terms of "Day 3," "Day 4," and so on.

In recent years, however, the growth of social media and wireless networking has changed the way that many of us ride. Facebook updates from the ride have become commonplace. Photos (and even videos) are posted online all day and all night. Participants use social media to stay in touch with their friends, both on the ride and elsewhere. This sense of connectedness is great for some folks, and it can help foster our sense of community. But it also can slowly drag us out of our "ALC world" and back into the real world.

And for those of us who do the Princess Plan, the hotel room offers an all-too-tempting TV to stay in touch with the world ... if only to watch the local news for coverage of our ride. Even an action as innocent as going to a local pizza parlor can break the bubble of the ride. And again this year, with a statewide primary election taking place during the ride, there's a temptation to learn the results.

What to do? The answer is different for everyone. The true purist -- if one exists at all -- would never leave camp and use a cellphone only in emergencies. The "global citizen" would transmit live wireless video 24/7 and continuously track their location with GPS. For most of us, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

In my first years on ALC, I was mostly ensconced within the bubble, and I think that contributed to my sense of amazement about what ALC can be. I've gotten away from that in past years, and I think that's been to my detriment (if not to your ongoing entertainment from my status updates while riding). This time around, my current thinking is that I'll try to disconnect more completely from the real world and the online world until I get to Los Angeles, choosing instead to focus on the ride and more intensely experiencing my role in it. This will mean you won't get the ongoing all-day updates like I've provided in recent years, but it also means that I'll have more opportunity to focus on why we ride.

Photo: Tents at Paso Robles, 2009

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