In pursuit of free things to do in Los Angeles, I set off from Redondo Beach this morning on my best friend Dave’s bike. I didn’t really have much of a clue where I was going, but I wasn’t too concerned. How lost can I possibly get? After a brief drive around with Dave a few days ago, I kind of had my bearings, or I was determined I had some sort of an idea. The roads seemed pretty straightforward to me and the whole of the area as far as I could tell is designed in a grid system. When you look at Los Angeles on Google Maps, you can see how straightforward the road systems are. Looking at it all from a GPS point of view, from a camera high up in the sky and then physically navigating your way along the roads, however, are two entirely different sausages. Even though every house you pass is delightfully unique and you are convinced you will remember every landmark you pass, the scene being fed into your head as you peddle along seems to go in one eye ball and out of the other. You can’t help being completely seduced by everything you see. One moment you are wowing at the design of a house, the next minute, you’re getting all teary eyed because you can’t believe cactus can actually grow outside somewhere. I’m cactus and succulent obsessed and have a whole family of desert plants on my bedroom window in North Yorkshire. They only survive there because of the central heating and sunlight magnified through the double glazing. Every year around about now, April/May one of my cactus always flowers, happy little crowns of pink. The flowers go to sleep on a night, closing up as the sun goes down, but then when you wake up there they are, all crowny and glorious, like pink trumpets bugling the new day in. Every year, my little cactus amazes me, I love that plant! Anyway, back to the tale in hand, basically, what I’m getting at is, as much as you want to remember every detail here in LA, there is too much information! Remembering every detail here is impossible. Just Peddle. Just roll with it!
From Dave’s house there’s this cycleway just around the corner, you really can’t miss it once you know it’s there. The cycling and running track lies beneath some characterful pylons. The metal structures you can’t help but imagine are comic book giants, stomping across the landscape, but maybe that’s just my imagination. The start of today’s journey began here. I cycled up hill not really knowing how far the track would go. But once I reached the brow of the hill, I could see the end of the track. Shit! That was quick! What I really wanted to know was which way the beach was. I slammed on the brakes and stopped to ask a lady pushing a pram, which way it was to the beach. It’s funny because I had felt the wind, before I stopped to ask. And I knew the breeze would have been coming off the sea. Always trust your instincts. I ticked myself off for this afterwards, I knew which way the beach was, really. The lady I stopped to ask directions off was so lovely and I cycled away from her thinking, “People are so lovely here, Have A Happy Wednesday…”
From here I set off on a long stretch of road, being reinsured as I went by the fact that I kept seeing signs that said ‘bike route’. Bike route? To where? No idea really! When I eventually reached the summit of yet another big sweaty leg burning hill, I finally saw the beautiful glistening ocean in front of me, I was absolutely elated. Manhattan Beach. Dave and I had been here in the car for a little look a few days previous, so I was familiar with the pier. An octagonal Mediterranean-style building sits at the end of the pier, built in the 1920’s, it’s quite an iconic vista with the golden sand and azure ocean as a backdrop. This is the spot I was looking for to join onto the beach cycling track. Hurray! I made my way down to the beach.
I didn’t realise until I saw signs along the track, that I was actually on the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, also known as The Strand. I ended up cycling over 32 miles journeying to Venice Beach and back! Just keep peddling, I felt like a kid out of the Red Hand Hang! What an amazing bike track, this trail has to be one of the best man made cycling tracks I have been on to date. A seemingly endless beach side ride, that is as flat as a pancake all the way along the ocean. The trail actually starts in Torrance County Beach, which is just south of Redondo Beach where I’m staying, ending at Will Rogers State Beach, just north of Venice Beach. From end to end, the track is 22 miles long.
There was one particular section of the track, just before you reach the marina that was lined with these amazing bright yellow daisies. The wild flowers and succulents all along the route really did have me amazed and I was constantly stopping to appreciate how beautiful they were. Likewise, the trees, some tree’s I’d never seen before. I’m always happy to see eucalyptus trees, always a favourite of mine. There were eucalypts around the marina, the smell of eucalyptus wafting under my nose as I cycled past. I love it!
Navigating Marina Del Ray was no issue, this marina pokes out of the coastline looking like a hand with fingers spread out on the map from above, but the bike track is so good, you can easily navigate your way through and around. By the time I reached the centre of the Marina, I was starving and when I saw a place called ‘Venice Ramen’ over the road, I felt that the planets had aligned for me! I love Japanese food, perfect! I piloted myself across the road and probably looked like a right tourist, as I was gawping about, pushing my bike along trying to find somewhere to chain it to. There was nowhere. I was that hungry by this point, I ended up chaining Dave’s bike to a rubbish bin outside. I kept looking out of the window to make sure the bike was still there in between slurping on my soup and doing my best with the chopsticks. I was just amazed by the condiments. There were three pots given to me, the contents of which I’d never seen delivered quite like this before. Grated raw garlic, proper chunky pickled grated ginger and get in your rocket and prepare for lift off, chilli oil. Absolutely amazing, the vegetable ramen was one of the best I’ve had. If you’re ever in the Venice Beach area of LA, I highly recommend Venice Ramen, an unassuming noodle joint, in a parking lot.
Just as I was slurping on the last of my noodles, always tricky when you get to the bottom of the bowl, I saw this guy outside in a red hoodie. It’s the hood up on a hot sunny day thing that get’s me. Unsettling vibes came upon me. He looked agitated, this guy. He was looking at Dave’s bike, chained to the rubbish bin outside. I was watching him through the window. And so were all the staff. There were seats outside set up in a line against the window, facing out to the car park. He kept shifting from one chair to another, looking distinctly shifty. I could see that he was waiting to see if anybody came back for the bike. I quickly paid my bill, went for a wee, and then went to unlock the bike. He cleared off as soon as I came out and got my bike lock keys out. He didn’t waste anytime getting over the road and away. I watched him as he went, shouting at himself out loud. I didn’t dare get off the bike and leave it after this. Not only would I have been gutted about Dave’s bike being nicked, I’d also have had to consider walking the 16 miles home. So I cycled to Venice Beach where I had another quick look around. I did a big doughnut in the sand for Jimbo and then made my way back along the coast again heading for Redondo Beach.
I cycled past Manhattan Beach pier again on my way back and kept on going through to the next beach along, Hermosa Beach. This was a really lovely little place that I’ll go back to spend a bit more time at. One thing that tickled me about this stretch of the track was that it had electronic road signs and I got told off when I was speeding, over the 8mp limit. A little further down the track, red lights flashing indicated that everybody must get off their bikes and push them. So funny! But everyone obeyed, so I thought I’d better too. The last thing I wanted was a fine, but that would have been even funnier in a warped way. From here I carried on towards Redondo Beach. I was looking for an exit point where I could do another leg burn uphill to get me back across town. This is where things started to get confusing. I got completely lost and ended up back where I’d started a few times. How did that happen? After about half an hour of messing about, I decided the best option was to go back down to the beach and ride back up to Manhattan Beach where I was a bit more familiar with the road. Somehow, on the way back up the beach, the bike track ended and I had to carry Dave’s bike up a load of steps. A bike made from steel not titanium I was thinking, as I almost fell backwards into a woman coming up behind me. She asked me; obviously genuinely concerned,
“Are you OK?”
Oh I’m fine, thank you very much (not really, I’m carrying more than half my body weight in bicycle form up a load of steps, but thank you for worrying) Did I mention how lovely people are here?
From here, I found the pier again and headed uphill back towards town. I don’t know if it was the fact the bike seat was almost cutting me in two and I just wanted to get back after cycling more than 32 miles, of if I really am rubbish at navigation, but I got completely lost again. Everything started to look the same. I have to confess, after almost another hour of perseverance that I did end up using the maps on a phone Dave had leant me to get me back to his place. I do believe I’d have still been out there now without the help of technology. I love getting lost, but it’s always good to know you can somehow get back home, if you need to, even if that means taking the easier option. By the time I got back to Dave’s I realised it might have been a good idea to put some sunscreen on… before I left!
Keep on living the life you love… And loving the life you live…
Captain over, but never out… X