3/25/11

Ride to the Beach 3/23

For those of you who don't look closely at the title or don't have calendars, this is a description of my ride from a few days ago when I was I was not in Washington.


On occasion, I’ve seen pictures posted of riders triumphantly straddling their bikes on the sandy beaches of the Pacific, having accomplished riding there from some distance out, sometimes even a whole continent out, like from Rhode Island or wherever. Since I covered most of the continent (like pretty much all of it) by airplane, I thought that I could cover the last few miles to the ocean by bicycle. That's just as impressive, right?. My accomplice in this endeavor (and actual instigator of what I’m calling “Ride to the Pacific From Our Hotel That Wasn’t Especially far Away but Still a Little Far Away 2011”) was the official wife of this blog, my wife.
The hotel had a few bikes for rent cabled-locked out front. We chose two of the more crusiery types out of the all cruiser selection, but not the most crusisery with the super-swept back handlebars.  Big fat tires, chain guard, three speed  grip shifters, a color that can best be described as reddish brown- they were some sweet rides. I like California bike style because it’s so wildly different from the all-hybrid, all-the-time DC commuter bike scene that I encounter pretty much every day.
We set off from the hotel and rode the first about 2 miles solely on the sidewalk. We would have taken the bike lanes but there weren’t any. We would have ridden in the street, but that would have hastened a condition known as getting hit by a car. To say that where we were riding was bike unfriendly would be charitable- to say that it was downright hostile would be accurate. I don’t think that even the sidewalks were especially bike friendly. What a waste for a place that has great weather and is flat. Maybe this will help.
We took something called the Ballona Creek Bike Path, which ran next to a dried out canal which I guess is the creek, but it looked more like what they  raced through in Grease, albeit less monumental, all of the way to the ocean. It was a pleasant ride and the trail was lightly trafficked. I got the impression that we weren’t really near anything (like places of employment),  so there weren’t that many commuters coming through. A few recreational cyclists dressed in cycling get-ups were availing themselves of the beautiful morning. Would that I could go for a nice recreational ride on a Wednesday morning (I’d go through the Navy Yard, since that’s basically the only time I could get in). Anyway, it was probably about 6 or 7 miles to the first beach we went to, which wasn’t exactly the beach we were aiming for. Our intention was Venice Beach, where I guess there’s “stuff.” This was a beach where there wasn’t stuff, unless you count sand and water as “stuff,” which as far as a beach goes should count as “stuff” but that's not the kind of “stuff” that Venice Beach allegedly has to offer. (Did I "overuse" scare quotes there?)
Inferior beach meets inferior photography
We turned our bikes around (take that inferior beach!) and biked along the assigned path, a mix of separated trail and on-road marked routes. On the marked routes, we were told to bike in single file. God forbid cyclists take up more than 3 feet of the two lanes of road. That would be anarchy. In the marina parking lot we saw lots of parked boats. The High Cost of FreeParking indeed. 
Traffic engineers either think people read bottom to top or just love Yoda.
We eventually got to Venice Beach, but our bike trail ran out before then. We biked along a pretty busy thoroughfare that had a one block gap in bike infrastructure right before you got to another separated bike trail that runs along the beach. Seems like poor planning.
At Venice Beach, the “stuff” didn’t seem to be open, where it even existed. Again, let me clarify that it was 9 AM on a Wednesday (PS- we’re not industrious early birds- it’s just the time change had our sleep schedule all screwed up). We biked along a serpentine trail that was often covered in what amounted to more than a patina of sand, but less than a dune. I was glad for our fat tires. I don’t know why the path couldn’t be straight. 
Though it was allegedly reserved for bicyclists exclusively, there were many, many walkers, joggers, and tired joggers walking/jogging/slowly jogging on it. At one point, we were passing a group of people walking on the trail slightly before a cyclist passed them in the opposite direction. My wife said that he said “this is a bike path” with both hauteur and derision to the gadabout tourists. She also said that he (the cyclist) was “my people.” I still don’t know what to make of that.
We wended about Venice Beach, past the skateboarders, homeless, dispensaries, souvenir shops, tattoo parlors, and beach front houses, all the while looking for the Venice Beach that maybe has ice cream carts and Annette Funicello. You know, the one advertised by the Hog Dog on a Stick lemonade stand. Maybe we were there too early.
We took some pictures. Here’s one of me. It’s my “Everything I know about posing for pictures I learned from John McCain” pose. There’s not even water or palm trees in the background. Lame. 
This is what I was thinking as I posed.
We never quite found the elusive “stuff” we were looking for on Venice Beach, but at least we biked cruisers along Venice Beach, which is probably about as bike cliché a thing you could do in LA. We biked back to the hotel along the same way we came, including the last mile plus on the sidewalk. The street only had a sidewalk on one side.
On the cruiser: this is not a practical bicycle for someone who lives anywhere other than near the beach. But it was super fun to ride. It was comfortable and easy to handle and did everything that we asked of it. Cruisers are cool. And they were ubiquitous- aside from the few “roadies” that we saw, almost every single person we saw riding was on one.All in all, I’m glad that we got to bike a little while we were on our trip. This was definitely the longest outing that I’ve ever done with my wife and the longest bike trip she’s ever done. It was definitely a great way to spend the morning and take advantage of the nice weather in a fantastic location and I recommend it to anyone who's ever jet-unlagged in LA.

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