Bike Los Angeles with Mike
Los Angeles is a city which doesn’t get associated with bicycling. Greater LA is all about staggering numbers in other fields: 18 million inhabitants from more than 140 countries worldwide and 30 million cars! Impressive stats when arriving from little Denmark into LAX – LAs international airport on a sunny November day 2009. Arriving together with my bike from Copenhagen ready to take on the challenge of biking the streets of Los Angeles.
Santa Monica made up a wonderful base for my bike adventures in Los Angeles. Right on the Pacific and having the big smoke behind us, when cruising along the awesome Marvin Braude Bike Trail right along the beach front, enjoying the spectacular view and breeze of the mighty, blue Pacific, fellow bikers, the skateboarders, volleyball-players and the skyline of the Santa Monica Mountains, I often had to ask myself: Is this really LA? Yes, this is also LA!
Los Angeles. I love the name. It’s beautiful. I have been visiting LA several times before but many, many years ago. I only remembered smog, congested roads and the glamour of Hollywood. I had totally forgotten about the weather in southern California. Northern Europe in November is terrible weather-wise. Los Angeles is heaven. After a few days we left behind the daily task of checking tomorrows forecast. No need. Always sunny and blue skies. Fantastic.
I found it easy to settle in to the exceptional outdoor lifestyle of LA. The city was clean all the places I went. Pleased about the lack of broken glass from beer bottles on the roads - unlike back home. Maybe its due to no drunks in the public space as to my observations - also different to Denmark where booze is the driving force in having a good time! The food scene is extrodinary rich with cuisine reflecting all corners of the world. Food was always made up of fresh ingridients and with surprising and tasty touches - the low fat cooking preparation practised everywhere I dined seem to be a norm rather than a new way as back home. LA caters for all walks of life and does it in a most naturel way, which is fascinating and admirably. I felt home from the moment I walked off the plane in LAX and I consider LA to be one of the most attractive places worldwide to live ones life - yes, I am a little envious and I miss the place.
To explore LA by bike was a rewarding experience. It is definitely feasible, but probably not for everyone. I never had a problem when biking along on the boulevards, but in all honesty is has to be said, that many roads are in inferior condition for safe biking. You always have to pay attention to the road ahead as serious cracks appear often, but to the keen biker this is a fun challenge! Bike lanes are common in only certain parts with Santa Monica coming out tops being most bike friendly. But the car park has shrunk – so has the fumes extractions - maybe not in numbers, but in size of the vehicles. My visit was also a live action study into the trouble of the American motor industry; 90% of all cars on the LA roads appear to be imports from Japan and Europe and the smaller cars on the big roads leaves unexpectedly good room for bicycling. I understood fully how the American government had to take “socialist” measures in use to save the local motor company icons!
Topanga Canyon Tour
Cruising north bound along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, leaving wonderful Santa Monica behind and getting on to the busy Pacific Coast Highway – with roomy shoulder space most of the way - at Pacific Palisades towards Malibu. I sneaked up to Malibu to see if I could spot any of the stars, but none in sight. A little backward towards the Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Stopping for a dip in the blue Pacific at the Topanga beach and then back in the saddle for the disappearance into the wilderness.
The first eight kilometres is a slow ascent through the canyon on an ever winding, but good road with good shoulder space for the lonely biker. Not too much traffic. All seemed a little too easy and it was. I hit the wall – a steep three kilometre climb – around another bend and then pleasure biking turned into a struggle, where I surely felt my 10 extra kilos. The climb is very steep and the road shrinks making it all more challenging. I thought of all the very slim and firm Santa Monica women on the beach compared with my overweight as I lost more and more punch in my pedal power climbing upwards. The beautiful scenery had no longer my interest; I only focussed on the next bend and then the next one again. But I survived under the warm November sun and the satisfying feeling of winning came to me as I rode into the small village of Topanga. My rest stop at the local village market shop loading my body with orange juice, energy drinks and energy bars was pleasant; I was amazed of the tranquillity of the place when at the same time knowing of LA was just on the other side of the mountains.
Riding out of Topanga I thought I was in for a smooth few last kilometres to the pass, but no, another steep, nasty climb on my full stomach made it hell like to reach the top under the relatively strong midday sun. I made a lengthy stop at the entry into the Santa Monica Mountains State Park, drying my wet shirt and soaking up the sun while enjoying the fine view of the massive San Fernando Valley. But I knew I had completed the hard work of the day and began focussing on my next leg; the downhill ride and the ride back into Hollywood along the endless Ventura Boulevard.
Going downhill felt too short and I easily got onto Ventura Boulevard and the ride along the wide road was trouble free. Moore struggles was to come as I had not calculated on the short, but very steep climb along Coldwater Canyon Drive. Heavy traffic and little or no shoulder room made it a difficult one, but cars never hassled me. The view at the top on Mulholland was beautiful and hard to leave behind, but I had a promising appointment ahead of me, so no time for sitting still. Another downhill ride – at times very steep – went by at high speed on good roads arriving into Beverly Hills. I got onto Sunset Boulevard eastbound.
When hitting “The Strip” I got off and walked along the spacy sidewalks taking in all the beautiful shopping opportunities. On The Strip there is an overflow of Nail & Spas, like five outlets per bloc on either side of the road. I had to splurge a little in an Armani Exchange shop with a few nice pieces of clothing for my fiancé. Ole Henriksens Body & Spa is situated right on The Strip, my destination. I am a great fan of the bubbly Dane, who so successfully has made a name for himself in Hollywood. It was an enjoyable visit with a lovely steam – good for the aching muscles – prior to the 1 ½ hour long, very professional massage session. The revitalisation of my old body was completed with all the wonderful teas and cucumber water and trials of Oles many lotions while showering. The meditation room with its Japanese zen atmosphere is another pearl of the place. Dinnertime came around to be enjoyed at the Chin Chin Asian restaurant right next to Oles Body & Spa. The black beans & scallops – big, juicy scallops – were a delight and the setting of the table right on the sidewalk of The Strip an extra, great bonus.
I rode away in the dark and mild Hollywood night and made in time my meeting appointment on Robertson. By 10 PM I was ready for the last leg of my bike journey; back home to Santa Monica. I chose Santa Monica Boulevard and should be very pleased with that choice. The junction of Santa Monica and Melrose saw me off the bike to take in a wonderful exhibition of what seemed to be Calder sculptures in the lawned middle part of the road. Classic LA stuff to me; the city as such might not be beautiful, but is loaded with surprising spots all over the place.
Then began my best bike experience during my visit; the 20 km ride along the wide and well paved Santa Monica Boulevard. Little traffic gave me plenty of room to peddle in high speed back home, a most thrilling bike ride in itself during the dark, but crispy night, passing past many known sights and places all lit up with no concern of saving the climate! Arriving safe back home to the Seashore Motel on Main St. I read 145 km done for the day on my bike computer. A day which gave me so much in terms of positive impressions and experiences all due to the wonderful machine called a bicycle. It was a satisfying feeling bringing my 38 year old Saxil bike with me into our room for the night.
Santa Monica - LA Downtown & return tour
When I got on to Washington Boulevard aiming for LA Downtown I had already gained plenty of good impressions in my bag during the ride out of Santa Monica. Southward bound on the beach bike trail, Venice Beach is just around the corner with all the colourful stalls selling all kinds of funky junk not to forget the fantastic designed skateboard arena where great performers show off their skills. A most life confirming experience to watch these guys and girls wheeling up and down at high speed – California culture at its best, and of course, under blue sky and plenty of sun with the Pacific as a beautiful backdrop.
Leaving Venice along Washington I soon disappear into more anonymous suburbs. It’s Saturday and the traffic is light, bicycling is easy and hassle free except for the many road cracks trickering my journey. The centre of Culver City slows me down with its many art deco buildings and the beautiful front entry to the Kirk Douglas Movie Theatre. The closer to downtown, the lesser the traffic. All of a sudden I find myself partying away together with hundreds of people of El Salvadorian descent. “Unidos por El Salvador” seems to be the theme of the party where I have my picture taken together with miss El Salvador USA – a stunning, young beauty. Beauty and the beast all right! I like this feature of LA with all the many large ethnic groups of folks from all over the place living among one and the other making up a fantastic, vibrant community. The City of Angels at her best! I am also reminded of the trouble we have at home with accepting immigrants into Denmark. A disgrace of our time in my view. Soon I spot the skyscraper landscape of downtown LA; it’s just standing there in the middle of the huge metropolis. An impressive view and very encouraging for the lonesome biker.
The arrival into downtown is trouble free and mainly sees me pass under the one after the other freeway construction. This Saturday afternoon finds the outer downtown area vacated for people and the environment under the freeways provide me with a ghostly feel. All of a sudden the skyscrapers are not in the distance, but around me. I like the feeling of cruising around the downtown area on the nearly car free roads changing my view between looking up and ahead. I walk through the Pershing Square with the awesome building making up the Biltmore Hotel. Here I end up getting soaked into a wedding ceremony to start up with numerous Mexican beauties. It all happens right around me with all kinds of people and I love it - America at her best. The LA Times building has an interesting decoration moulded into its wall of LAs history. I am happy when I together with my bike stand in front of the main entrance to LA Times – that paper mean something special to me this year for good reasons. Sniffing to the Little Tokyo area of downtown as the night arrives and it arrives early at 5 PM and come on rather quickly. Time to find my way out and I have chosen Wilshire Boulevard for my home journey. Crossing over a few of the huge freeway systems I am reminded of the 30 million cars in greater LA, but it is an impressive sight to view the carbon dioxide emissions in full scale safely elevated in the dark of an early LA Saturday night on Wilshire.
MacArthur Park has an inviting sound of loud live rock music while passing through but I have a meeting appointment at 6 PM in La Brea which I prioritise higher. Korea town is next, all the well lit up signage is more or less in Korean only, a very lively and potent part of the city. Wilshire is busy, lots of traffic and I often choose to bike along on the wide sidewalks, against the law I understand, but nobody seems to be bothered. I make it just in time for my meeting which is right across from the LA County Art Museum and afterwards I take in more Alexander Calder sculptures in the museum park. I have liked Calder for a long time; his work always provides me with positive thoughts and inspiration.
Along a very dark Fairfax Avenue Little Ethiopia appears out of the dark, lots of African life in the streets. Pico Boulevard is next and I turn right and am aiming for Santa Monica. As I bike across the boundary line for Santa Monica I pass by my already beloved favourite LA café; The Unurban Café, I have to stop for a cup of coffee and to enjoy the wild bird painting exhibition including one of the South African Krysna Turaco, which I have already purchased. I happen to meet the artist herself who is thrilled to know, that one of her works is travelling to Copenhagen. So am I. When proceeding I notice too how much road conditions improve in this well healed part of LA as compared with the rest of the city. I swing by the Santa Monica Pier, a most joyful amusement area, where we earlier dined well and cheaply with plenty of shrimps on the BubbaGump restaurant, set on the old – more than 100 years, historic in this part of the world – pier built right into the Pacific. A few hundred meters along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail on Muscle Beach, many people playing volleyball on the lit up playgrounds, and I find Main Street and the Seashore Motel. I finish another great LA bike day enjoying my favourite food, Japanese, in the shape of take-away on the porch of the motel together with my family. Stars are blinking from the black sky, the Pacific is next door, LA is in my blood and life is wonderful!