Ah, a night’s sleep on a real soft bed does wonders. The 6:30 alarm was a little on the early side, but Andrea had an early class and I wanted to get going very early in order to power through LA.
Andrea & I had pie for breakfast. It was invented as a breakfast food, don’tchaknow. Rhubarb pie and very tasty, plus a nice big latte to start the day off right.
I stopped at a highly recommended bakery across the street to stock up on goodies and went a little overboard–a cherry Danish, a chocolate croissant and an almost croissant. I ate the cherry Danish plus a cappuccino there, while reviewing my route for the day. I’d printed out Google’s bike route from Andrea’s house here to Doheny, and it came out to 7 pages of twisty, turny directions. Google’s bike routes tend to stick to low-traffic, more scenic areas, which sounded about right for attempting LA.
Then I was off and navigating LA roads wasn’t so bad. I think San Francisco was harder, though that was rush hour. (Getting through Laguna, later in the day, was trickier.)
The route started by navigating Santa Monica down to The Strand, a bike bath right along the beach, along El Segundo and Manhattan Beach. There was still a lot of fog that early in the morning, and I saw huge construction equipment moving the sands of those beaches around into their perfectly level lines. I got a little unsure about the route and stopped to consult the iPhone and two older gents stopped with unsolicited but actually extremely useful advice. I’ve learned how valuable the knowledge of local cyclists is and payed attention, despite the strains from that part of my brain that continues to scream “I can figure it out myself!” Also they would not take seriously my protestations that I knew where I was going. They advised a simpler route than my maps had, sounded like a good plan to me. They also asked if I was going to the Mexican border and I said yes, and if I was planning on going into Tijuana and I admitted I was thinking about it, and oh, the warnings. “Murder capitol of the world!” they said. “You have no rights there!” I’m certainly having significant doubts about the whole night-in-Tijuana idea since everyone I talk to says what a dangerous place it is, and from what little I’ve read, it sounds tricky to navigate a path, especially on a bicycle, from the border into one of the safer areas. Anyway I took the old gentlemen’s route advice and it worked out pretty great, meeting up later with my original plan of sticking to little neighborhoods instead of just cycling along the busy, though direct, Pacific Coast Highway. I got a little lost again, pulled over again to consult my phone, and ended up chatting with a woman out walking her dogs, full of questions about the trip. I love these chance encounters.
Similarly, an unexpected surprise was the bike route leading me right into a farmer’s market in a decidedly Hispanic section of town. Besides the fruits and vegetables there was a papusa stand and I simply could not resist. I used sign language and the limits of my Spanish to get a pork & cheese and a bean & cheese papusa and a large strawberry agua fresca. Delicious! The whole time a guitarist played ranchera music, ending, of course, with Cielito Lindo. I tipped him on the way out and he asked me about my trip and wished me luck.
After that my route through LA became pretty light-industrial, trucking and shipping and I passed near the port, amused to see big cranes again like those so-familiar icons of Seattle.
There are long sections in LA where the “bike lane” is synonymous with the gutter and/or parking strip. Debris or parked cars force cyclists into traffic. In one section I was zipping downhill and hit a ramp of pavement. Thankfully I saw it in enough time to break a little bit but still ended up, all 250 lbs of me + bike, vaulted into the air for maybe two feet–not really much of a jump, but really jarring with that much weight and momentum. I stuck the landing though–not a perfect 10 but no crashes.
I got a little uncertain about the directions somewhere in Long Beach (I hesitate to say “lost”, as “lost” implies I knew where I was to begin with) but found, and decided to stick with, the PCH for a while.
I picked up a beachside bike trail again through Huntington beach which was lovely, but disappeared at Newport beach. I ducked down onto Balboa Island for a look. One very touristy shopping street, where I did have to stop for the local ice cream delicacy, the Balboa Bar: a rectangle of ice cream on a stick, dipped in chocolate and then your topping of choice–I stuck with the traditional peanuts. Pretty tasty, if messy. I wandered the island for a little bit, down to the water and the endless private piers.
Nearing Laguna I met an older, though speedier cyclist (I caught him at stoplights), who warned me about the narrow, difficult streets ahead & highly recommended an alternative route, said he used to work in a bike shop and heard all the time about accidents and the odd fatality regarding this stretch of road. Sometimes you don’t know if these are just people who aren’t used to dealing with traffic in the same way as I’ve become accustomed to, but I heeded his advice, especially after getting down to the turnoff he told me about and seeing how truly scary it was. Rush hour traffic, four-lane 40 mph road, no bike lane whatsoever–just a full parking lane, with cars eager to enter or leave or just open doors willy-nilly. Cars whizzing past with inches to spare. Not fun. I heeded the advice and got off the main drag for a parallel, if hillier, road.
Not much longer ’til I hit Dana Point and the state beach here. I think I did the happy dance, reaching my distant goal (78 miles) before sunset. I got in in time to walk down to the (very nearby) shore, take my sandals off, and wade into the ocean ’til my shorts got wet and watch the sunset. It was another indescribably beautiful time. The light and the colors and the waves, the world perfected.
Had a hot, if dark, 7.5-minute, 75-cent shower (the sunlight-and-motion-sensitive lights not quite working; while I was getting dressed they would flicker in & out), made another spaghetti dinner, with a Honeycrisp–first of the year!–for dessert. Another cyclist, Russ from Blackpool, rolled in late after a hundred mile day. He started 2.5 months ago in Fairbanks and plans to try for Argentina. Nice to know that my little jaunt down the coast is pretty tame by some standards. Now listening to Hey Marseilles songs over the ocean waves and the trains that seem to be rumbling past so often you don’t even notice.