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January 06, 2003

Slow Pokes DO Have All the Fun!

Cycling is NOT just about speed and exercise, but about taking the time to stop and see the deer & Harleyholics......

It's 3:30am, May 12, 2002, and my cats are looking at me like I'd just lost my mind:

"Daddy, what in the heck are you doing up at this ungodly hour? It's not even 5am (when they start pestering me for breakfast) yet!"

By the time I was out the door, 20 min. later, they had lost all interest in my sanity because breakfast was served.

1 Foothill Transit bus, 2 MTA'S, a Subway ride, and 4 hours later, I had arrived at Westwood Park, at Ohio & Sepulveda, in West Los Angeles, just southeast of the 405 frwy. and Wilshire Blvd..

With 25 minutes until start time I got copies of the 3 route slips and tried to decide whether to ride 30, 57, or 64 miles. 6 other riders had shown up and, after gathering opinions, I was getting a better understanding of the 2 longer rides as I began flipping my imaginary coin.

The short was going to Pacific Palisades and the beach Bike Path south to Marina Del Rey before heading back north again to the park. The medium and long were heading up Pacific Coast Highway, into the mountains above Malibu, before parting company at Mulholland Highway. The medium going right, and the long going left, and contrary to what the Club Newsletter, THE GOOSENECK, reported, the long was not 78 miles afterall.

Realizing that I'd be alone on the short, and stood a good chance of being left behind on the medium, I decided that if I could go up to Mt. Baldy Village & west on Glendora Ridge, closer to home, and live to tell about it, I MIGHT be able to tackle the much more challenging medium ride.

As we left the parking lot I knew I had 2 miles to decide to wimp out on the reported hills, hills, & more hills, that might be a challenge for the inexperienced rider.

After 2 miles I confirmed that the other 5 riders (1 had left early to tackle the long alone) were used to a faster pace than I am, partly because they obviously do these type of rides in their sleep. At my comfortable pace of 12-15mph I was quickly left behind. It didn't help matters that I kept hitting all the lights.

So, west on Ohio, right on Barrington, left on San Vicente, right on 7th and along Entrada and the West Channel Rd. to PCH we went. I tossed out any thought of doing the short and, becoming determined to prove I could do the medium, resigned myself to the inglorious fact that absolutely no-one would see me finish, or die trying.

Let me pause here for what, for lack of a better description, I will call a "Pep Talk and Recruitment Pitch".

To all my fellow LA WHEELMEN, and to all those folks who belong to the thousands of other Cycling Clubs, who may be intimidated into staying home on certain rides because a Newsletter gives lengths and descriptions that scare the bejesus out of you, especially when you look at a map, and you don't want to be embarrassingly left behind in the dust:

DON'T! PLEASE! You miss out on so much!

I joined the Wheelmen, a year and a half ago, for the pleasure of a great selection of organized group rides, and the social atmosphere they engender, but I also knew that there would be times that I'd be left behind. This used to annoy me, with other groups, because it happened every time I joined a ride.

It's nobody's fault when this happens. It's just a matter of one's pacing "zone of comfort". Compared to these other groups, I've discovered that with the Wheelmen there will always be rides where you WILL be able to keep up, so when you find yourself on a ride where you ARE one of the "left behind", smile and relax, because the fun is just beginning.

Around mile 5 I came across lonely David and his flat tire, and we talked a few minutes before I pedaled on, knowing he'd easily catch and pass me.

A couple of miles later, heading north on PCH, he indeed caught up and, observing what gear I was in, made a couple of suggestions about when best to change into the highest and lowest gears, before moving on to try and catch the group.

Thanks to David I realized that just because the middle gears may be comfy doesn't mean I can't shift more often, and as it turned out, my decision to try his advice made all the difference in my ride this day.

PCH to the Webb Way right turn was a breeze as I began to put my new tips into fledgling practice. Left on Civic Center, and up toward Pepperdine University meant I was approaching my last chance to bail out. There are no busses where I was heading!

With the climb up Malibu Canyon Road. looming to the right I paused for a hopeful confidence boost from State Motorcycle Cop Gary Smith, happily, and lovingly polishing the chrome of his trusty steed on the side of the road.

I told him that, despite appearances, I was on a group ride with The LA Wheelmen, and we laughed as I told him that the "group" was up the road a half hour or so.

He assured me that if I'd made it up to him from PCH I would not have a problem with the upcoming rollies.

16 miles had so far been survived.......

The officer was right. it was 7 miles along Malibu Canyon Rd., past the tunnel, where it soon became Las Virgenes Rd., and up, up, to the Mulholland Highway intersection. The scenery was lovely as I passed State Park Lands, the climb impressive, but quite manageable, all the way to Mulholland.

Once there I met a small group of fellow Cyclists about to set off on a ride of their own. One person actually had friends in the Wheelmen. More laughter ensued as I mentioned that I was on a Wheelman Group Ride, only the "group" was an hour up the road.

Taking stock of my situation I made a fateful decision. Left, instead of right. The medium, and the group, went right, heading down into Woodland Hills and back thru the Sepulveda Pass to the start. The group was long gone, and besides I wasn't tired, so I switched to the Long Route Slip, and pedaled on into Malibu State Park.

Only to come to a screeching halt, a few yards in, as 2 lovely Ladies, 1/2 my age, scampered across the road to their parked cars......

I decided to ask them about the road ahead and, while they were no help in that regard, they did wonders for this slowly balding bachelor's ego.

Telling them where I'd been, and where I was headed, I learned that there's alot to be said about the feelings one gets when 2 Bodacious Babes say you are AWESOME, and essentially THE GREATEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD.

Thank you, Ladies!

Then, suddenly, a Buck & 3 Does, calmly approached, not 15 ft. from us, in the field alongside the road. Talk about AWESOME! MAJESTIC is more like it.

He came up over the hill, gave us the once over, glanced confidently behind him and, as the others bounded up behind, led them back into the forest.

Passing the turn-offs to the Paramount Ranch, and to Malibu Lake, and a Peacock Farm where a Great Escape seemed to have just occurred, I came upon a lone Highway Patrolman playing happily with his gun (his RADAR gun).

He told me that not only was there a little store up the road, but a Bar & Grill a bit beyond.

I went past the Route Slip's suggested turn-off to the store, at Sierra Creek Rd., and after 28 1/2 miles of being passed by motorcycles of every stripe, finally found their destination: The Rock Store Cafe.

It was 12:15pm and my 1st thought was: Oh no, I'm surrounded by Hell's Angel's! Dozens of 'em!!

As I walked my Bicycle (hard to say who was more nervous there for a moment, me or my trusty steed) thru the crowd of what turned out to be mostly ordinary folk, with only a handful of Hell's Angels, my smile grew wide as I noticed all the Harleyholics eyeing me up and down with varying degrees of puzzlement and amusement.

Deciding that $15 on my ATM, for lunch, was a bit much to ask especially when I could just BARELY justify spending $9, I went back to Sierra Creek, & going left, took the right turn my route slip demanded, finding that the Rustic Canyon Store at Kanan Rd. is a pleasant spot to hunker down for a tasty lunch.

Keeping my 2 apples and power bars in reserve, to get me thru the rest of the ride, I settled in for what turned out to be 2 hrs. of good food, good talk, & some rest.

I talked to a mtn. biker with a flat, and a couple of motorcyclists and came to the conclusion that I might be better off ignoring a portion of the route slip once I started out again.

You see, the slip called for returning to Mulholland & heading right on a winding road , similar to the climb from Pepperdine, to reach Kanan Dume Rd.. But, by staying on Kanan Rd. I would supposedly take a little longer, but easier, direct route to the same spot.

With 29 1/2 miles behind me, my camelbak filled again with 70oz. of water, and a long, long way to go, I set off once again, with a 2nd wind.

A mile up, and I do mean up Kanan Rd., I came across a lonely cardboard sign telling all who came across it that Craig & Michelle's wedding was just 2 miles down the road! Good for them!

There's an old saying about how walking does a body good. Well, I walked the next miles or so, past 2 tunnels. Walking also does an empty wallet good, too! I was 80 cents richer by the time I was through!

Your reward for reaching Kanan Dume Rd., and having endured the 1st 35 miles of your ride is the 8% grade that is the final 4 miles of heaven that is the road down, down to PCH. No pedaling, and careful brake management allows one to enjoy the scenery of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and the gorgeous, clear and unobstructed view of the ocean off Pont Dume, and the coastal islands between Malibu and Santa Monica.

It was nice of the city to put a bench on the corner at PCH.

When one thinks of PCH, beaches come to mind. There are plenty of them, and the views to match. 20 miles worth! Tall waves, crashing surf, rocks, and sand, sand, sand........

Escondido Beach, Dan Blocker, Puerco, Amarillo, Malibu, Carbon, La Costa, Las Flores, Big Rock, Las Tunas, Topanga, Will Rogers, & finally Santa Monica.

The next 4 miles, to Malibu Rd., allowed me great views of the beaches and the islands. The winds off the ocean is a cooling breeze to be savored by the cyclist, and gives one the 3rd wind you need for the return to Santa Monica.

I didn't realize that, at Point Dume, I was almost beyond the farthest point along PCH that an MTA BUS goes into Malibu. I had planned to attempt a coastal ride someday, but not this soon!

I enter Malibu Rd. at a WRONG WAY sign on the right and, 3 miles later, am saying thanks to the road builders for this nice bypass of a nasty PCH hill.

9 miles later I reach the Bike Path entrance in the parking lot of Will Rogers State Beach at Temescal Canyon Rd.. It's 5:30pm.

Along the way to this point I stop at a gas station and notice a young African-American Lady looking at me strangely from the safety of her car. Her eyes get wide and her jaw drops as I smile and tell her of my day so far and what was ahead. I laugh and tell her she can tell her friends that she encountered a crazy white boy today, and she laughs and wishes me luck on my journey.

At Will Rogers I shared a bench and pleasant conversation with a nice Lady named Sandy and her daughter Britney. I thank the 2 of them for letting me plop my weary behind down in their company for a bit. It was a pleasure.

To get to this point you must beware of a several mile stretch of PCH clogged with traffic. I felt like I was in a Cyclists version of The Charge of the Light Brigade, minus the cannon.

Parked cars and foot traffic to the right of me, potential traffic violations to the left of me, rumble, rumble, zoom, zoom! I felt trapped.

After 4 miles, and just when playing dodge with my fellow travelers on the path started getting hairy, I find the Bay St. exit to Ocean Blvd. on my left, not far beyond Santa Monica Pier.

I tell ya, all those lovely, sculpted, BUNS OF STEEL floating around and ahead of you on roller blades can be darned distracting! Pleasant, oh, yes! But, darned distracting, all the same.

After a jaunt north on Ocean Blvd. it's the home stretch heading east on city streets and the familiarity of urban neighborhoods.

Right on Montana, left at Stanford, right at San Vicente, right at Barrington, and left on Ohio to the park.

I rolled down Barrington & Ohio to the park, in the near-dark evening coolness with the exhiliration one feels doing a victory lap at the Olympics Marathon.

Once in the parking lot I let out a yell of release and pride of accomplishment.

It 's 7:30pm and I have just rode my bike exactly 66 miles in exactly 11 hours.

It is a triumph for the ordinary cyclist. A triumph for the slow pokes.

UPDATE: 8/8/07

In August 2007 I revisited this ride, this time with a Digital Camera, and did an update, with plenty of pictures. and new thoughts on the ride, and the changes,  as experienced over 5 years after this 1st visit.


January 6, 2003 in Riding Los Angeles County | Permalink


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