The club picnic, which is nigh upon us, is one of the oldest extant club events with the first one taking place in October 1983. Considering that the club formally “opened business” in November 1982, the picnic appeared just before our first birthday. It was held in Lindley Meadow in Golden Gate Park, which is just east of this year’s picnic site at West Pioneer Meadow. At that point the club’s membership was probably about a hundred yet the turnout was huge—60 people! Perhaps it was due to the shrewd marketing, which in those days consisted of posting flyers in local businesses and bike shops. There was no email or Internet then. It’s possible that we posted an announcement in the local gay rags but it must have been a freebie. Or, you could look at the large turnout as a sign of the prolific thirst for a club like Different Spokes.
One of the organizers of that first picnic was Shay Huston, one of the first women members of the club. Shay wasn’t one of the founders but she almost certainly was a member before we formally announced our existence in the ChainLetter. Shay was, like many of the key early members, an avid bike tourist. Shay participated in the club’s very first official ride, the overnight tour to Santa Cruz and back over Thanksgiving 1982. The others who planned the picnic were Tom Chalmers and Ed Fitzgerald. I don’t recall Tom but I have a vague recollection of Ed. It was in many ways a ‘trite’ event: it had all the standard picnic things such as grilled burgers and dogs, picnic tables, volleyball, and a treasure hunt. Feeding that many people was a task but people brought a lot of food to share. The club was pretty broke in those days so we asked for donations of food!
The following October the picnic was held in Elk Glen picnic area, which is just south of Lindley on the South Drive side of the park. Then followed a break from 85-87 where we had no picnic for some reason, probably because no one stepped up to organize it. By then several key members were either gone or dead even though the club was continually growing due to Bike-A-Thon.
The picnic returned in 1988 and 1989 also at Elk Glen. I recall these more clearly because I helped organize them. In September 1989 Bob Humason had just died and secretly left a bequest of $700 to the club. Bob was an early member and later became President and was instrumental in the very first AIDS Bike-A-Thon in 1985. By early 1989 he was fading fast due to AIDS and was gone in what seemed like a flash. Anyway, part of that $700 was put to good use in buying plenty of food for the picnic only to turn out to be an extravagant waste when hardly anyone showed up!
With this year’s picnic taking place in late September it’s returning to its roots. Originally the picnic was conceived as a farewell-to-summer-and-riding, which is why it took place in October. Not coincidentally that’s a good time to hold a picnic in Golden Gate Park since late summer/early fall usually has less fog and we get an Indian [sic] summer. That said I recall the picnic in either 1984 or 1988, although not frigid, was a tad windy and the fog rolled in later in the day. That’s probably what encouraged the club to look for a venue with more reliable weather and that would allow it to be held during mid-summer rather than just in the short window of balmy weather we get in SF. I don’t recall whose idea it was to move it to Samuel P. Taylor State Park but I do recall at least one picnic there that was absolutely broiling. I remember panting in the heat despite sitting beneath towering redwoods. Perhaps it was like being stuck between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea. I’m speculating but in later days I suspect that’s why it was moved again, this time to China Camp, which being on the Bay is sunnier than GGP and although it could be warm there the bay waters provide such an ameliorating influence.
Moving the picnic out of SF may have been a blessing weather-wise but the logistics became more complicated. Now folks had to get to the picnic site by car unless they wanted to do a significant bike ride. That didn’t seem to hurt attendance much as pictures in the club photo gallery show that for many years Sam P. Taylor and China Camp had good turnouts. Moving the picnic back to SF makes it easier for most folks to get to the picnic (although it’s debatable for those of us who live outside of SF that getting to SF can still be called ‘easy’!)
See you Sunday September 22!