Day Zero officially began for me at 6 am, when the first of my two alarms went off (anal? me?). It continued when the second one went off two minutes later, and I rolled out of bed and headed for the shower. I was showered and ready to go (and dressed in the shorts and shirt I planned to wear on Day One, planning to wash them in the sink and let them drip-dry overnight after Day Zero was done) by 6:45, so I ate a blueberry pop-tart and watched the morning shows until 7:30.

Let’s do the math, shall we? The park & ride at DeVry was 15 miles from the hotel. Surely I’d not only get there in time, I’d have tons o’ time to spare. leaving an hour early, right?

Ha. Not.

I pulled in at 8:35. Lucky for me, the bus didn’t leave ’til 8:40. Whew.

The drive from Alpharetta to Lake Lanier took about an hour on the slow, lumbering bus. I passed the time by chatting with my seatmate, Melissa (or perhaps Michelle), from Kentucky (or maybe it was Louisiana). The bus driver missed the turn where he was supposed to drop us off and had to turn around, but he made little comments the whole while and had us laughing.

Some people are just too happy that early in the morning.

So we were dropped off at – believe it or not – the "drop off area", and got to walk down one hill and up another. First was check-in, where they pretty much checked your name off a list and looked to see if you’d sent back your medical form and made your minimum fund-raising ($1900, if I hadn’t mentioned).

Next was registration, where I signed a basic "If I’m a dumbass and fall face-first onto concrete and break my face, I won’t sue you or your mother or your mother’s poodle’s uncle’s sister" form. I got my laminated card with my walker number and an envelope with the tent assignment form and luggage tag.

After paying $8 for a towel service wristband (2 towels for each day provided by the towel crew, so you don’t have to bring your own towels), I headed off to stand in line to see the Safety & Orientation video. The line was probably 300 people long, but luckily they opened a second tent to show it. The tape was 50 minutes long, and was both funny and tear-provoking, and started off with Dan Pallotta reciting this poem.

People standing in line to see the Safety & Orientation video

Even though everyone was told at the beginning to turn off their cellphones, more than one went off during the tape. Grrr.

After, we filed out and got our orange wristbands to show we’d seen the tape.

The Pledge office.

Last, I was off to drop off the rest of my pledge forms and to stand in line for my tent assignment. Since I was without a tent mate, they assigned someone else who was alone to be my tent mate. I got my luggage tag and a couple of chips with my tent plot number on them.

Purple – towel service. Orange – safety & orientation video. Pink – identification wristband. Blue – shuttle. I also wore my watch on this wrist.

Altogether it took about 2 hours, and about noon I headed back to the dropoff area to board the shuttle back to my hotel. There were only 7 of us on the bus, and 4 of them were all kinds of peeved ’cause they’d thought the bus would bring them back to the park & ride at DeVry. "Very misleading!" one of them sniffed. Personally, I’d thought the literature was very straightforward – you were to leave your vehicle at the park & ride, catch the shuttle to Day Zero, catch another shuttle to your hotel, board the bus to Day One at 5 am Friday, and then after Closing Ceremony, catch yet another shuttle back to your vehicle at DeVry – but didn’t volunteer that.

At one point on the ride back to the hotel, one of the other women glanced over at me, and then her eyes got all wide.

"Oh shit!" I thought frantically, "It’s a reader I didn’t know was going to be here!", and my heart did a flip-flop.

Just so you know, I’d be perfectly thrilled to meet any of you guys, but when I’m taken by surprise my instinct is to turn tail and run.

"Ah shit!" I thought again, knowing that it wasn’t reader Susan from North Carolina, who I did know was around somewhere, since I’d seen a picture of Susan, and this blond chick wasn’t her.

Anyway, it turns out that she was eyeballing my Harry Potter Hogswart tote bag.

"Hogs…wart?" she said doubtfully. I launched into the explanation of how on Tuesday, all I’d wanted in this world was a plain tote bag, and couldn’t find one anywhere and then I’d stumbled upon the clearance section of Target and found the Harry Potter tote for $4.20.

They were spellbound, lemme tell you.

The bus is going to be here at 5 tomorrow morning. Bleh – that’s Atlanta time, even, which is an hour ahead of Huntsville time, so that’s just too freakin’ early. I’m going to go watch TV and read ’til dinnertime, when I’ll call the local delivery place and order me some food from Hooters, or maybe the chinese place. Then I’ll watch some trashy TV ’til bedtime, and maybe try to finish what I’m reading (Seduction in Death, by JD Robb, also known as Nora Roberts. Not a bad book to pass the time, but not addictive or anything).

Damn, I can’t wait to start walking.

I have no explanation for this picture, and don’t know why I’m grinning like a fool. It was in the hotel room, so I guess I snapped it when I got back from Day Zero. Notice that it’s once again a bad hair day.

4:20 pm, Fairfield Inn, Duluth, GA.