Emily Lozeau recounts planning BikeMaine as a newbie in 2019— and crushing it!
2019 marked a lot of changes for me. I moved to Maine from Washington state, I adopted my first pet, and, upon taking my job with BCM, I was thrust into the middle of planning a cycling event that I had never seen before. I started as the BikeMaine Event Coordinator at the end of last April, already near the middle-to-end of the 14-month planning cycle. My first week was one of catch-up and learning the routes for the ride, while also learning the software that came with editing said routes. By week two, Will and I were already doing site visits with Town Coordinators, and I was taking notes to match names with titles and drafting a site map with imaginary tents and vehicles I had never seen.
By the end of the summer, we had our second (and final) meeting with the Host Communities, to prep logistics. I finally put names to the faces that I had cold-called back in May, asking if their group would be able to host us for lunch, and before I knew it, September had arrived. There were new faces (our lovely volunteers) helping to pack truck after truck with supplies, (don’t forget the bullhorn!). And suddenly I was climbing into a U-Haul, ready to drive the biggest truck of my life (I did practice reversing it once first!).
The evening before 450 eager BikeMaine riders arrived, while we stood in a circle at Head of Falls in Waterville introducing ourselves, I met all the weeklong volunteers for the first time. I was to lead the Village set-up crew. I would be the first truck to depart in the morning, and facilitate the process of erecting the pop up tents, directing traffic, staking signs, fielding logistical queries, and directing wayward porta-potties until the rest of the staff and volunteers on the break-down side arrived.
Once again, I was setting up something I had only seen on paper, which could have been terrifying, but I was beyond amazed at our volunteers, and so lucky to have them. With Scott, Pam, and Mike (to name only a few!) helpful and calm with the setup, anything electrical, and all the odds and ends, anytime I didn’t know what went where, they were right there. Our funny and quick tent and porter luggage team- Craig and Ken, not to mention the Katahdin Learning Project kids and leads- Kala, Carilynn, and Tyler, who set up the Tent and Porter area like pros, had my back the entire time.
By the third day, in Damariscotta, I was feeling in the groove. I knew what to pack up the evening before to make the morning more efficient, we had solved the two-Emilys-with-a-walkie-talkie problem by dubbing me Lozeau, and I had signs set up to direct incoming volunteer vehicles, so I could slow to a jog instead of a sprint. My throat was a bit sore from all the talking, and my lips were chapped, but the camp director at Alford Lake had filled me with tea and honey the evening before, and I was ready for it. The week ended as quickly as it came on. I judged our success by the feedback all around the Village, for even though I was there every day, I felt like too much had happened to be able to process it.
I could go on and on about our volunteer team, about how they made me feel welcomed, took my directions, lead when appropriate, and were always up for the next thing, but I think you all know that already. It’s why so many people return year after year, and it’s why I feel an obligation to make our events the best they can be. With so much change in just the last year, and so much still changing due to Covid-19, BikeMaine may not look exactly the same, but I know that with the support we have, and my new-found truck driving skills, we can pull off any event that we dream up.