Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Sunday Corner Ride

Each Sunday, members of the Los Angeles Wheelmen meet informally at "The Corner," near the intersection of Olympic and La Cienega Blvds., on the border between L.A. and Beverly Hills, in Southern California.

The weather in Los Angeles had been overcast the past few days, the typical May Gray/June Gloom that Angelenos must suffer through before the summer takes proper root in the city.

The past week, though, had seen some rainfall, as unusual for this time of year as the overcast is normal.

On this day, the weather was ideal - temperatures started out in the 60s and climbed into the low 70s; the air was clear, my fellow riders were all companionable. It was just another day in Paradise.

On a Sunday morning, the normally busy boulevards act as if they're hung-over, unwilling to carry their usual load of cars until they've slept off the excesses of the prior week. Cyclists could be pedaling through their own private disaster movie, the streets and the city around them emptied of life as if by an alien plague; at least there are no Martians or flesh-eating zombies to contend with, and almost no traffic. The residential streets and the routes snaking through the Santa Monica Mountains, too, are deserted.

This Sunday, our ride took us north into the ostentatious commercial district of Beverly Hills, then past the city hall complex, and up a couple of climbs through rugged Franklin Canyon (where my brother and I spotted Paul McCartney a few ago, with his then-wife and small child, feeding the ducks, marital problems yet to surface in the public consciousness), in the Santa Monica Mountains. This is one of the great, largely undiscovered parks of the city.

Then we turned west above the city, riding over the rollers along famed Mulholland Drive; the views out into the San Fernando Valley, with the San Gabriel Mountains beyond, were spectacular. And we made our way through West Los Angles and Brentwood to Ocean Ave., above the blue Pacific, before turning back toward the corner.

A few of us sprinted for bragging rights down Sepulveda Blvd., just before we turned onto the spacious grounds of the West Los Angeles Veteran's Center. With my third place finish, I at least stood on the virtual finish podium. First would have been nice, but trying to clip guys 20+ years younger than me at the line is an impossibility. But that sprint is, for this group, an aberration on what is always a very mellow ride, with a few re-grouping spots, and a decidedly relaxed pace.

The obligatory stop at Pete's Coffee in Brentwood was the penultimate act of the ride. The last of the first wave of riders to wash over Pete's - members of the Velo-La Grange racing club - were saddling up as we arrived. We Wheelmen gathered together a few tables and chairs and lingered over iced coffee and blueberry muffins and convivial chat before heading back towards The Corner. We had completed 32+ miles and 1700+ feet of gain, just another day in Paradise.

The Corner Ride on Sunday meets at 9:00 a.m., at the corner of W. Olympic Blvd. and S. Le Doux Road (a block west of Santa Monica). Return time is about 1:00 p.m. Helmets are required, and the group tends to pedal off at 9:00 a.m. sharp.

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