Monday, August 17, 2009

Testing the Waters

On the road to recovery, I cycled down to Marina del Rey and back this late afternoon, about 20 miles. So far, I'd cycled only easy miles. Now it was time to mix metaphors, time to put the hammer down and see if the ol' engine under the hood was still capable of putting out some horsepower.

The route led through West Los Angeles and Culver City - the latter home to a number of movie studios, including Metro Goldwyn Meyer (now Sony) and the Culver Studio (where "Gone with the Wind" was filmed) - before reaching the sea. Along the wasy, I would have chance to assess the effectiveness of the catheter that had been jammed up my artery seven days earlier.

This time, I made sure I had my nitro tabs with me. My ride began, as so many for me have of late, from the beautiful South Carthy neighborhood of Los Angels, midway between downtown Los Angeles and the coast. A number of homes in this area are going green by not going green, their owners pulling up the grass as well as the crabgrass to create gardenscapes that require little water.

The Ballona Creek Bike Path seems oddly named. Ballona Channel might work, or Ballona Waterway. Certainly at its headwaters near La Cienega and and Jefferson Blvds., the creek is constrained, sometimes barely in wet years, by walls of sterile concrete. What a pity the landscape stills suffers from this visual insult. Humans, though, deemed it more important to stave off periodic flooding of the Culver Studio's backlot and surroundings developments than to allow nature to takes its course. Even so, the concrete can sometimes exhibit an industrialized beauty, especially with the right props.

Westward along the creek, the harshness of the concrete facade softens a bit. Tidal waters pushing inland mix with the fresh water flowing out of the city, creating a habitat for salt-tolerant vegetation and bird life - gulls, pelicans, herons, great egrets. A pair of snowy egrets didn't mind me peering down at them. Not so long ago, the Ballona Creek wetlands paralleled the bike path.

During rare wet years, even the wetlands could not soak up the rain; the rising water table created a passel of pools reflecting the sky in their shallow depths. I can remember marveling at the sight of those pools, and marveling that the wetlands survived in a city built that had built itself on concrete and asphalt. Today, most of the wetlands have been paved over, and those sparkling pools are gone forever. Or at least until the coming of the next Great Deluge, and not the deluge filmed on the back lot of the Culver Studio.

Nearing the Marina, and now under the leading edge of an incoming cloud deck, I picked up my pace, pushing myself against the typically strong afternoon headwind. The chest pain I'd experienced eight days earlier was gone, gone with the wind.

Eventually, the bike path becomes a narrow causeway, with the creek on the south, and the main Marina del Rey Channel on the north. With a few hundred yards or so to the halfway point of my ride, I began to wonder at my aggressiveness on my bike. I was supposed to be testing the waters, not drowning in them.

A bridge leads across Ballona Creek as it enters the sea. Once there was an estuary where the Marina sits. Now this is a place for cyclists, pedestrians and skaters to take a break; it's a place to fish, and to people watch. It's where I stopped for a break, to people watch, and to make a few more photographs.

A California gull had something to say, but the meaning of its utterances was lost in translation.

After a few minutes making photographs and enjoying the view, I turned my bike around and headed for home, the wind at my back. Ten miles later, I pulled off my helmet. Its straps were soaked with perspiration, proof that I hadn't cut my heart too much slack on my road to recovery.

Technical note: my camera was, as usual, my little Panasonic Lumix TZ5. As usual, click on a photo for a larger version.


Felice said...

Great ride, i bet
great photos
great city...of angeles (angels).
thank you for the city scapes
i love to see any new ones
of LA
ride, captian, ride.

rbnyc said...

That was a great Beach Boys song, "I Wish They All Could be California Gulls".