Thursday, December 23, 2010

Departing my home (Lee Gold Photo)

Note: Click on any photo for larger-sized images

The Festive 500 - Reality Rears it's Ugly Head

This evening, my body is suggesting that it doesn't like the concept of riding 500 kilometers in eight days. My body, in fact, seems to be objecting to the mere 48 km ride this afternoon.

Although the weather prediction for today called for sunlight, the sun itself was mostly a no-show, remaining invisible much of the day above thick, gray clouds. It was cool, too, cool enough to put on a wind breaker, until the sun did pop out.

My compass pointed west, and I wanted to put on 48 kms, to go with the 27 I'd completed on my midnight ride. Unlike that ride, I had lots of traffic to contend with, with no close calls. As I neared the beach community of Venice, I made a photograph out over Pacific Ocean.

Soon I was on the beach bike, with a fine view of the Santa Monica Pier's impressive Ferris Wheel and the rather wimpy roller coaster.

In the late afternoon light, the Santa Monica Mountains loomed in the background.

When I was in high school, a couple of friends and I would sometimes head down to the pier, and rent a rowboat. We'd stay safely behind the breakwater – the seas were never rough, anyway – and fish for bonito, a smallish cousin of the tuna.

While our just-ended seven days of rain seems excessive, it was nothing compared to the two storms in 1983 that took down a third of the pier. Cafes and restaurants, the bait shop, the rock shop, and the harbor patrol station all dropped, along with the pier, straight into the raging waters of the usually calm sea. The breakwater disappeared, too, and the rowboat concession would never return.

Muscle Beach lies a little south of the pier. Amongst a crowd of applauding admirers, I watched an athletic young man soar over the sand in a dazzling performance on the big rings.

Farther along, I stopped again, to watch a pedestrian feed a seagull, which put in a dazzling performance of its own.

The northwest end of the pier

With the recent storms gone, vistors enjoy looking at the water in the ocean

Pedaling north past the pier, I made my way up the bluff over Santa Monica's broad beach, looking back the way I'd come.

At the end of the bluff, I turned inland, and rode past a series of beautiful homes on Adelaide Drive; Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden lived on the street, and so did Jeff Bridges, the actor starring currently in Tron and True Grit. In fact, he went to my high school, University High; I can recall seeing his father, actor Lloyd Bridges (of Sea Hunt and Airplane! fame), walk the hall one morning.

At two places long Adelaide Street, a steep set of stairs leads down into Santa Monica Canyon.
Years ago, friends and I would walk up and down the steps three or four times, with our bikes on our shoulders. Unfortunately, on the taller of the two stairways, the wood steps were turned into concrete some years ago, at new steps were narrowed. The steps also became a magnet for those who like to stay physically fit. As a result of the changes, I haven't walked up and down the steps with my bike in many year. And it's probably just as well, for my own health, as well as the safety of everyone else.

As I rode towards home, a much younger cyclist passed me. I hung onto his wheel for a little while, and fell back. When I tried to catch up with him, I quickly learned that wasn't going to happen, not without a maximum effort. It wasn't a moment that offered up a hint of my mortality, so much as it was the realization that, as an older cyclist, completing 500 kms in the next few days might take a maximum effort, of willpower if not stamina.

The sun had sunk back below the horizon, miles behind me to the west, by the time I reached Century City, the complex of office and residential buildings constructed on the old backlot of 20th Century Fox studios. One of the skyscrapers was evacuated after a bomb threat. I gave in to curiosity and pedaled close enough to the scene to make a photograph.

A security guard from a nearby building said, "Someone wants to ruin Christmas. I hope it's a hoax." And I hope the police catch the grinch who called in the bomb.

It was time switch on my handlebar light, and head for home. Along the way, I met a true gentleman, Victor Abraham, on his way from the Santa Monica area to teach a business class close to downtown Los Angeles. Dressed in street clothes, about my age, he was intrigued with my fixed gear bike and asked me if we could trade bikes – his was a full suspension mountain bike – for a few minutes. I was reluctant to agree to Victor's request, because I wasn't sure how he'd take to my special cyclist's pedals, or the aero position, or the lack of coasting with the single, fixed gear. Victor took to my bike like a duck out of water. And I thought that I might want to pull out my own comfortable mountain bike for a few rides.

Unfortunately, I was several kilometers short of my goal. I spent about 15 minutes speeding in circles around the a few blocks in my neighborhood before calling it a day. I'd like to head out tonight and put up a few more kms. The reality is that I'm about to go to bed. If I don't, I might blow up my chance to finish off what might become the less than Festive 500.

- Official total kms to date: 74.9
- To ride: 425.1
- Days left: 7

Note: Click on any photograph for larger-sized images.

To view the ride, click here.

No comments: