Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Fourth Jersey

I'm in the midst of wearing each of my 20 jerseys on 20 bike rides. I'm trying to assuage the guilt I have both for my jersey gluttony and for allowing some of jerseys to languish in a dark closet. I'm also trying to decide if I can let go of some of these jerseys, even though each of them represents parts of my personal history.

Above is my Cannondale jersey, which I purchased from the defunct Santa Monica bike shope, Bikecology, many years ago. As I recall, I purchased the jersey a few days before riding the Solvang Century, one of my favorite organized rides; in the past two decades or so, I've only missed one of these events, held each March, although I've sometimes ridden the half rather than the full century.

Bikecology was a great place to shop because of its amazing selection of cycling gear, and because my good friend, Greg Stokell, was the manager. (Greg also led a few "Bikecentennial" trips across the U.S., in 1976. He still rides a bike). He often gave me a nice discount, but somehow I always managed to walk out of his store spending at least twice as much as I thought I would. I recall dropping into the store one night after work, to pick up a little French-made "Wonder Light," which cost about $15. After explaining to me that, as a family man, I needed to safeguard myself with something better than the wimpy Wonder Light, I
found myself with $125 (on sale!) dual headlights.

After buying my jersey, and the years wore on, I began to gain weight, looking more like a puffy horned toad than a slinky lizard. After a while, this somewhat snug fitting jersey left me looking less than my best, and so it sat unused in the closet. Having largely reversed that gain (although I slipped badly over the holidays), the jersey has seen the light of day in past years. It seems a little odd to advertise Cannondale bikes when I don't ride one, but the the lizard design is striking and as far as I have seen, I have the last such jersey in circulation.

When I wear this jersey, I think about the astonishingly enjoyable Solvang rides I've made. Have you ever begun an enterprise that seemed arduous - started, for example, a thick book - and finished feeling sorry the project was at an end? That's how it is with me and the Solvang Century. I've always been sorry to coast over the finish line at the end of 100 miles, sorry that there were not more miles to ride (except for the year of the rain and the hail, when all of the people I usually rode with were afraid of the weather. No, now that I think about it, I was extremely glad to finish that ride).

My 4th jersey ride wasn't a century, traveling 15 miles through city streets, including several rush-hour clogged thoroughfares, including Melrose Ave., Santa Monica Blvd., and, at dusk, along brightly lit Hollywood Blvd.

For the most part, rush hour traffic doesn't intimidate me when I'm on my bike, because most of the time, during the misnamed "rush hour," cars are moving at a snail's pace. The major danger comes from passing cars on the right as I travel through intersections; invariably, someone will make a right turn without having signaled and without looking in the side view mirror to see if it's safe to make that turn, threatening to cut me off and take me down. Because these inattentive drivers are moving so slowly, I usually don't have to take evasive action; I just pedal past them, and shoot a dirty look over my shoulder at the miscreant. However, I've had some serious close-calls.

My route took me past some unusual L.A. architecture, including the "castle" above, which sits on a quiet residential street in the Carthay Circle district.

Below is the beautiful El Royale, an Art Deco apartment building, erected at 450 N. Rossmore Ave. in 1929. The inside of the building has a mixture of Spanish and French Renaissance architecture.

Years ago, Carthay Circle was defined as much by the fantastic Carthay Circle Theater as it was by its lovely homes. A rather non-descript business park now stands in place of the movie theater, which was built, like the El Royale, in 1929, and regrettably demolished in 1969. Here's the western edge of the area as it looked on my ride.

Although I was ending my ride in the dark, I felt reasonably safe, as I've got lights on my bike almost as bright as the klieg light pictured below. I coasted the final few yards of my ride to a stop in front of my home, which is about a minute away from the old theater. As I feel at the end of the Solvang Century, I was a sorry that this day's ride had ended.

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