Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Colonel Allensworth Jersey

Another beautiful day in the City of Angeles on Saturday: the thermometer pushing toward 80 by mid-afternoon, a blue sky, and visibility out to forever. While my daughters spent the late morning and early together, my wife and I took Rebecca's boyfriend, Lee, who has been visiting us with our daughter from New York, on a hike to the Hollywood sign. Although we can see the sign from our street, Lee had never visited the iconic landmark up close and personal.

Which meant the wearing of Jersey Number 2 of 20 (see my previous post for details) might have had to wait for another day.

View of the Hollywood Sign from my Neighborhood

We drove up Fairfax Blvd., past the crowded Farmers Market and the Grove shopping center (the latter winningly recapitulates Disneyland's Main Street USA), Canter's Deli, and Fairfax High School; we crossed Melrose Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd., and hung a right on Fountain, which took us into old Hollywood, the one Raymond Chandler wrote about in his mystery novels, the Hollywood of old apartment buildings and bungalows and corner markets. Then we turned up Gower Street and into to Beachwood Canyon, part of the Santa Monica Mountains, with the Hollywood Sign looming above us.

A left onto steep Ledgewood pulled us out of the canyon and onto a ridge and then onto Derondo Avenue, which ends at the private road up to the summit of Mount Lee, which itself sits atop the 45 foot tall letters of the Hollywood Sign. We parked about a quarter mile or so downhill, to make our walk a little longer; we enjoyed looking at the beautiful homes, many of them cantilevered out over the canyon below.

We crossed through an archway that put us on the service road, and from there it was perhaps a mile or so to the top of Mt. Lee. The Santa Monicas are not towering mountains; they reach, at their highest, a little above two thousand feet. But they have been in the making for thirty million years. Today, some of the ridge tops have been planed flat to accommodate upscale housing tracts. The mountain lions are mostly gone, but bobcats, coyotes, rattlesnakes, deer, raccoons, skunks, owls, and hawks still inhabit these mountains. Except for the hawks, these animals tend to put in appearances only after humans have retired for the evening.

As usual, the views out over the city seemed hallucinatory, as well as, on this clear day, far reaching. Mount San Jacinto, rising above the desert community of Palm Springs, and Mount San Gorgonio were visible to the east; little San Nicholas Island, rarely visible, was on the horizon, seeming to float on the bright waters of the Pacific. The San Fernando Valley was spread out below us to the north, the San Gabriel Mountains rising behind them. Below us and closer, to the northeast, the Griffith Park Observatory sat above chapparal-covered slopes, overlooking the city of Los Angeles.

At the bottom of the service road, we took a trail that led past a couple of enormous homes and to another good viewpoint of the sign. Another sign sat on a vacant piece of property, where prosecution for trespassing isn't punishment enough. I wonder what awaits transgressors – perhaps waterboarding?

We needed to refuel our bodies after our hike, and so we drove back through the Larchmont Village district and then west on 3rd St., to the Farmers Market, another iconic L.A. landmark. The market, built in the early 1930s, is stuffed full of curio shops, terrific places to eat (Brazilian, Cajun, Chinese foods, and lots more), and offers an eye-popping variety of fresh produce. The market was swarming with visitors on this final holiday weekend of the year. We were lucky to find a short line at a Korean barbecue, where we ate delicious strips of beef, pieces of seasoned chicken, strongly-flavored kimchee (I happen to like kimchee), broccoli, spouts, cucumbers and some sort of radish.

We didn't make our way home until well after 4 p.m., and I wasn't able to suit up for a bike ride until almost 5 p.m. This time I chose to wear my jersey that celebrates the life of Colonel Allen Allensworth, a jersey I picked up last year from Tom Ward, of the Crankin' Times Cycling club, after meeting him at the L.A. bike marathon.

Colonel Allensworth, a slave, became a Civil War veteran and would become the highest-ranked black officer in the U.S. Army. After retiring from the service, he moved to Los Angeles and helped found the first and and only colony in California built by black people for black people. The colony, Allensworth, was built in the Central Valley of California, west of the present day town of Delano. Today, a few descendants of Allensworth still live in the area, and the town itself is now a state park, many of the buildings having been restored or recreated. One day I'll have to ride the Allensworth Century, which Crankin Time has put on over the years.

The Colonel is a familiar figure of history to me, because I wrote about him in my book, Backroads of Northern California (which, regrettably for me, went out of print this year).

This is one of my favorite jerseys, because I think it's been so well thought out. Of course, I love the design; and it's the only jersey I have the includes a full length zipper, making it, shall I say, a snap to put on and remove. It also features a race cut, which means it's a bit more snug than recreational-oriented jerseys, whose makers probably rightly assume many cyclists today - at least in the U.S. - are apt to carry a bit of a spare tire around their middles.

When I bgan my ride, I pedaled off from my home headed east on Pico Blvd., and after crossing San Vicente Blvd. a few miles later, I turned right, into the semi-gated Victoria Park community. It's only one of two Los Angeles neighborhoods where the homes are built around a circular street, which is lined with tall palms. The neighborhood was built in 1908 and many of the magnificent, two story homes exhibit the finest elements of Craftsman style architecture.

I had fun zipping around the circle a few times - it's probably about a quarter mile - before heading east to Crenshaw Blvd., and then south, to visit the Lafayette Square neighborhood. With construction beginning in 1913 by banker George Crenshaw, there are 236 spectacular homes, which exhibit a variety of architectural
styles, from Craftsman to Italianate to Spanish Mission Revival. As I rode through the neighborhood, along centrally-located St. Charles Place, I stopped to admire a few of the homes still decorated for Christmas.

The Colonel, if he could return, would probably be pleased to know that many people of color live in Lafayette Park and Victoria Park, which would have probably been unheard of in his day.

Yes, the holiday season is winding down. But I've barely begun my twenty jersey quest. What will tomorrow's jersey and ride bring?

Note: As usual, click on a link to view larger images.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great BLOG!!! Hey, anyone passing the "No Trespassing" sign are not really trespassers. They are "Visitors!"