My ride began with a view west, to the towers of Century City
(Click on any photograph to view it in a larger size)
Balancing My Life with the Festive 500
The new-born morning of Christmas Eve arrived under clear, blue skies. Temperatures quickly began to ascend from the mid-40s into the 60s, and I plunged into the second day of the Festive 500, determined to give myself 65 more kilometers.
Crossing over Ballona Creek, on my way to the relatively empty beach bike path
That it is better to give than receive is a given for me. When I give something, the joy I receive back is a gift. Self sacrifice – even when its anonymous – can be its own reward, be a gift to the giver. These concepts came to me perhaps later in life than they should have. Today, before my ride, I had to ponder anew what giving and receiving and sacrificing means to me.
Looking east, toward Mount Baldy (10,068 ft.), from the bridge at the bottom of Ballona Creek; seagulls bob in the creek
I had to decide how much time I owe my family this holiday season. For I was going to spend some significant amount of time away, both today and in the coming six days, from my wonderful wife, and my lovely daughters, one of whom traveled to Los Angeles with her terrific fiance. Surely the gift of time, assuming someone wants to take it, is a precious gift. Am I withholding it from my family?
I met Brian Phillips, whom I ride with on occasion (and not when he races), at the Ballona Creek Bridge at the beach bike path
Before I could leave for my ride, I decided I needed to fulfill several items that belonged on my calendar for the day. I needed to clean the kitchen. I needed to answer some email from friends. I needed to purchase one more present, and one more holiday card. I needed – and wanted – to give the gift of time by walking around the block with my wife.
As I worked through my obligations, I began to understand that, for me, the Festive 500 is about more than riding a certain distance in time certain. It's about deciding the worth of the time it takes to make the distance.
Much of the U.S. and Europe are in the grip of cold weather; that's obviously not true in Los Angeles
For me, the Festive 500 allows me to consciously attempt to follow the right road in life, balancing my desires against my needs, and balancing those desires and needs against my obligations to my family and friends.
I met Michael Kludjian, a member of the La Grange cycling club; long ago I was a member. We rode together for a while.
I'm also realizing, anew, how lucky I am to live in a place where it's possible to cycle every almost day of the year. It's never that cold, and rarely that hot in Southern California, to keep me off my bike.
Family activities and work keep me off my bike. My aging, protesting bones might keep me from cycling.
Since May, John Nilson has created an amazing collection of rock art along Ballona Creek; it's his ongoing gift
Heading up to the snow to ski in our "local" mountains can put me into ski bindings instead of bike pedals (and I'll admit I have enjoyed cycling in cold conditions in the mountains of California). Laziness definitely keeps me off my bike.
On the way home, I ascended the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, with downtown Los Angeles and the mountains to the east
Just before reaching my home, and completing my 65kms, I came across a boy on his bike. If only my life were as simple for me as it is for that boy. Of course, that might make for a boring life as an adult. Yet riding my bike, among other attributes, makes life less boring.
Sometimes, when I'm talking about a long ride, someone will ask, "Why do you still want to push yourself so hard?" Perhaps the real meaning of that question is, "Why don't you admit your age?"
Maybe that question reveals something about my questioners, about their own fears of growing old, and about their loss of the simple joy of riding a bike.
I don't ride to turn back time. I don't ride to prove I'm strong, nor to prove I'm fast. I ride because I love to ride. I ride because I've loved to ride since I first learned to balance myself on my bike, just as I've learned, however inartfully, to balance my entire life.
Back home, I walked over to our Christmas tree (which, among its many decorations, holds a Jewish star, which, on a little reflection, shouldn't seem unusual for a family of atheists). I looked at the little, plastic tricycle that is balanced on a foundation of pine needles. That little toy is probably the oldest toy I have, dating back to my earliest memories of Christmas.
The trike wasn't mine, it was part of the collection of ornaments our family put on the tree; where the trike came from, or why we put it on the tree, I will never know. I never thought to ask my parents, and they are long gone.
I inherited the trike. Just like riding my bike, putting that tricycle on the tree is an ongoing obligation, and ancient tradition. I'll keep both traditions going as long as I can.
Perhaps the Festive 500 will become a tradition for all cyclists, too.
Follow my route here
Note: click on any image to view a large size.