Saturday, January 09, 2010

To Downtown L.A. and Back

I am continuing my campaign of a jersey-a-day rides. Although there was no cycling team when I was a student at that prestigious Northern California institution, Chico State, for Friday I wore the college's team jersey, which I purchased five or six years ago.

On my previous day's ride, I pedaled west along Pico Blvd. Yesterday, I cycled from my home in mid-town Los Angeles (in the historic South Carthay neighborhood) to explore along the eastern reaches of the boulevard, named in honor of Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California. I thought I might make it to downtown Los Angeles and back before dinner, even though I knew I might ride for a while in the dark.

Not far from my home, I made a stop at Wes Oishi's unusual
Sound Cycles shop, where Wes will repair your bike and/or sell you a rare sleeve from a vinyl record. Wes has been a long-time member of the Los Angeles bike racing scene.

When he saw my Chico State jersey, Wes retaliated by showing me his vintage UC Irvine Jersey. According to Wes, the Irvine bike team had ordered jerseys from an Italian company. Someone there was convinced that University of California at Irvine was really the United States at Irvine, and changed the lettering on the jersey accordingly.

Continuing up Pico, the signage began to change, reflecting the mutli-cultural attributes of the city. There were signs in English, some in Korean (the heart of Koreatown lies north, along Olympic Blvd.) and the farther east I went, the more signs I saw in Spanish. There were at least a couple of "Agua Purificadas," stores specializing in bottled water. There were "botanics," selling herbs and religious trinkets, "carnicerĂ­as," butcher shops, and bakeries, "panaderias." A pleasantly odiferous wave, gathering strength as the dinner hour approached, washed like a high tide over the boulevard. Among these storefronts, though, there was no fast-food chain restaurants; no McDonalds, no Jack-in-the-Box, no Carl's Jr.

As I made made way up Pico Blvd, lined with mostly one story structures, I had a good view of the more vertically oriented downtown LA.. Had I wanted to return home before sunset, I would have began now. I was having too much fun, though, cycling and making photos. And I had some powerful lights on my bike to protect me from things that go bump in the night.

So I kept pedaling, stopping here and there to photograph whatever I wanted. That included a couple of murals and a cyclist on a bike that looked very different than mine (and one that looked like a lot of fun to ride).

As the sun headed for the horizon, I reached the southern edge of downtown Los Angeles. Turning left, onto Figueroa Blvd, I stopped to photograph the Staples Center, home to the Lakers, Clippers and Sparks basketball teams, and the Kings ice hockey team. Rising above the building was the Ritz-Carlton-J.W. Marriott complex, with a 54 story skyscraper, the newest in Los Angeles.

Continuing up "Fig," and sticking to the safety of the nearly empty bus lane, I passed through a gauntlet of skyscrapers. By now, as a gloom settled over the bottomlands of the city and the last light of the sun lit the tops of the buildings, I turned on my lights. I could keep up with and even pass the heavy motorized traffic on my left, as I'd been able to do much of the way up Pico. I let the cars thin out and turned left again, onto 7th Street, cycling west, on the last leg of my ride.

I crossed the 110 Freeway, where I stopped to make a photograph of cars clogging up the lanes like plaque in a coronary artery. Definitely I'd be riding home in the dark. I'm not too worried about being hit by a car in the dark, because my bike is so well lit; however, I am afraid, especially when riding alone, of outrunning the beam on my front light and then losing control on potholes and bumps. It's conquering the fear, though, by paying such strict attention to the road, and believing that my array of blinking red lights on the back of my bike will keep cars from accidentally whacking me, that helps make riding solo at night in the city for me a worthy enterprise.

Later, I detoured through the little park at the Southwestern Law School. I admired the adjacent building, with its Art Deco tower jutting up out of the base of what was once the swankiest Department Store in L.A., Bullock's. Now a part of the law school's campus, the building was restored by the school to the way it looked when it opened in 1929.

There were some miles still to ride. For a while, though, I lingered at MacArthur Park, melting in the dark. Riding in the dark is was time to put my camera away and ride for home.


Anonymous said...

Back to your California history class: Pio Pico was the last governor of Mexican California.

And it's MacArthur, not McArthur.

Dave said...

I think rubrtrukr's wording -"Pio Pico was the last governor of Mexican California" - is correct. So is mine.

Rrubrtukr's phrasing introduces some ambiguit: one could wonder if Mexican California existed for some time without a governor. I think my wording is more precise.

So rubrtrukr's comment can stay, and so will my wording about Governor Pico.