April 24th, the day everyone on the LA2DC team worked tirelessly for, arrived under cloudy skies. As cyclists of all ages on all types of bikes arrived at the Armenian Consulate in Glendale to get final instructions and last minute bike adjustments, we were greeted and sent off by friends, family members and even a motorcycle group. The Ride for Recognition was underway.
Only minutes into the ride, people on sidewalks and in cars waved, cheered and honked as dozens of cyclists took over the right lane of city streets from Glendale to the La Brea Tar pits. Athletic director Artin Shaverdian took over the role of enforcer, making sure everyone was riding together and pushing us all through intersections with the shout, ‘ROLL!’
Arriving in Los Angeles, we regrouped and made our way to a closed down Wilshire Boulevard, where we watched from a distance as the more than 100,000 March For Justice walkers completed their six-mile trek. News helicopters, crews and journalists captured our ride through the streets. Then we joined the crowd outside the Turkish Consulate and listened and watched the celebration from the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee, with Los Angeles city lawmakers and Congressman Adam Schiff calling on Turkey and the US to recognize the Armenian genocide, and also reminding the crowd that on this day, “we are all Armenian.”
At the conclusion of Congressman Schiff’s remarks, LA2DC was announced and represented on stage to more than 100,000 people as the congressman joined us on a 26-mile ride to Santa Anita racetrack.
Leaving the March For Justice location was the most challenging element of the day as cyclists weaved through narrow corridors of traffic. But once we broke free, the ride, with more than 100 us now, made its way through Los Angeles with no incident.
At one point, riders caught up to those brave souls running the marathon, a huge boost for everyone. All along the ride, cyclists who’d never met before this event paired up for conversation, new friendships were made, and stories of why we were riding were shared.
When we entered Glendale, we were greeted by a host of motorcycle escorts who cleared the way for us to ride pretty much without stopping. They handed us off to Pasadena police, who provided their clearance for us up to Arcadia. Riding like this was pretty awesome, by the way. Then we were off for the home stretch and arrived in Santa Anita where families and friends and food were waiting.
A light drizzle was falling as we stood together to mark the end of this first bicycling leg, hearing words from LA2DC’s Greg Aghamanoukian and Artin and Congressman Schiff, who reminded everyone that when it looks like the uphill climb is never going to end, remember who you’re riding for and what they went through, and you’ll make it.
From this point those riders set to continue congregated, and the rest of us dispersed, talking of future legs we’ll be riding, or urging others to do their best, everyone grateful for what it meant to share this day together with a call to stop future genocides by recognizing past genocides. LA2DC day one is in the books.