Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mural in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles (and a mecca for fixed gear cyclists)

Click on any photo for a larger-sized version

A Ride to the Heart of Los Angeles

Around the world, cyclists are attempting the Festive 500 (tempting the unruly weather gods, too). Many have journeyed out into the countryside found around or not far from their homes.

While I could have driven myself and my bike to less hostile terrain, holiday time constraints have kept me close to home. With the exception of my rides in the Santa Monica Mountains, or rides along bike paths, all of my routes have taken me along the streets of Los Angeles and its adjacent cities.

Mural in the Echo Park area - one of my favorite buildings along Sunset Boulevard

Most of my routes have forced me to deal with hundreds of stop signs and stoplights and thousands of motorized vehicles. For me, it's all been part of the challenge, giving me at the same time an unparalleled chance to explore my home town with fresh eyes, as I've explored with a camera as well as with my bike.

The faithful in front of the mural honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe at the historic La Placita church in downtown Los Angeles

Tuesday morning, in reaction to my climb fest of the previous afternoon, I spent some time simply cruising the streets of my own neighborhood, South Carthay, where many of the homes and duplexes are fine examples of the Spanish Mission Revival style that epitomizes some of the best architecture of Southern California.

Echo Park Lake, with the downtown Los Angeles skyline as a backdrop

In the afternoon, needing to feed my voracious appetite for still more kms, I decided to pedal to downtown Los Angeles. With a late start, I knew wouldn't return home until after dark; I was equipped with lights, as well as a fair amount of experience riding at night in Los Angeles.

We all long to connect in life with another person who wants to connect with us;
we all want to travel the right road in life, best done with the help of a good bike

I pedaled north to Sunset Blvd., and then turned east, to reach the original central plaza, which is the heart of Los Angeles. Here the Spanish established a settlement, bringing to an end the culture of the Tongva people, replacing their mythic existence with more the formal histories created by those who would follow: the Spanish, the Mexicans, and finally the Anglos who arrived from the United States, to annex Los Angeles and California and much of the southwest. In the process, the Anglos overwhelmed the Hispanic culture, as the Spanish had the Tongva.

Storm clouds from an approaching storm fill the sky above La Placita Church

After spending a few minutes exploring the old plaza, I turned for home, heading south along Los Angeles Street before taking Pico Blvd., the old street named for Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of Upper California, west, almost to the front door of my home. Along the route, the signs in Spanish tell the story of the return of the Hispanic culture along Pico Blvd.

I stopped to admire a colorful sunset along Pico Blvd.

Late in the evening, I decided I needed a few more miles on my bike. I was hungry, too, and not just for kms, so I pedaled to two taco trucks, both not far from my home. These are two of the noturnal trucks that set up shop in the city starting in late afternoon or early evening, staying open until 1 or 2 in the morning.

I was surprised to see a group of young cyclists enjoying each other's company, if not the tacos, at one of the trucks. I had a feeling that some of them were a little on the young side to be out so late, just as I thought perhaps I was a bit too old to be out so late, too.

Kids and their bikes at Gallito's taco truck

Although I'd wanted to try the tacos these trucks serve ever since I first noticed them in the area many months ago, I hadn't given myself the opportunity, until Tuesday night. The tacos were inexpensive and delicious.

I decided to try the offerings most Anglos, like me, would ordinarily forego. At Danny's truck, I ate beef cheek (cabeza) and tongue (lengua) tacos, at Gallito's I ate belly (buche) and intestine (tripa) tacos. All the tacos were tender and delicious.

My evening of cycling was close to an end after I purchased a few mini-cream puffs from the donut shop. With my third and forth tacos in a fanny pack with my camera, and dessert in a jersey pocket, I pedaled through lamp-lit streets now mostly free of cars, with no particular need to pay attention to stoplights or stop signs.

Tuesday morning ride is here.

Tuesday afternoon ride is here.

Note: click on any photograph for a larger-sized image

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