My alarm clock went off but I did not. So, at 7:30 I rode down to CotKU to at least say hello to the forcats du NPR, who were massed on the bricks drinking coffee, exaggerating their greatness, and minimizing the derring-do of others.
I minimized and exaggerated as best I could until Eric, Surfer Dan, Sam, Phoque de Paris, Chris, and AEPie-hole indicated it was time to ride some more. We approached the light at Beryl. “Which way?” asked Dan.
“Let’s do Gussy’s Cobbles,” I said.
“Gussy’s? You mean mine.”
“No, those cobbles were discovered by Gussy. He showed them to me about six months ago and I’ve been doing them ever since.”
Surfer Dan sighed. “Wanky, they’ve been a Strava segment called ‘Tha Surfer Dan’ for well over a year. That’s my turf.”
We flew through the stop sign at the end of North Harbor drive, dashed through the parking lot, and shunted onto the gravel-and-cobbled walkway that threaded between two concrete posts. Any error here and you were gash.
Through the posts the mini-cobbles led up a grass-stone-dirt-tree root embankment and we charged, full bore, Surfer Dan in the lead until he veered off to the right. Unbeknownst to me, “Tha Surfer Dan” Strava segment went right whereas the “normal Wanky commute” went left.
Erik, charging hard on my left, also veered right at the top of the embankment, precisely where I began to drift left. There is no better epilogue to a Strava segment charge than taking out your good friend and teammate, but unfortunately we only smashed bars and untangled at the last minute.
Everyone else laughed and cat-called as we hustled our way up to Catalina.
A happy disrespect for the usual
Ever since the first Belgian Waffle Ride in 2012, I have been impressed with the SPY Optic motto of “A happy disrespect for the usual way of doing things.” But I never really understood it until Tha Surfer Dan.
Over the last two years I have altered my perspective about road bicycling. I used to think that road bicycling meant pavement, but the BWR taught me that there are other paths you can take using the same things you have always used. New paths, different paths, exciting paths, not limited to cycling.
Tha Surfer Dan was a little mix of grass and mini-cobbles I would have never sought out before 2012. Now I went out of my way to ride it.
At the top, Surfer Dan said “Let’s do a couple of climbs. Anybody up for Dirty del Monte?”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Instead of going up Via del Monte the usual way, we hop onto a dirt track next to the library, go up a wall, empty out onto the golf course, then go up another dirt track, follow an abandoned road, and come out near Paseo del Sol.”
This seemed very happy and very disrespectful to the usual way of climbing Via del Monte. “I’m in,” I said.
“There’s a chute you’ll have to walk up, though,” he said. “I’ve never made it to the top without dismounting.”
Far from the madding crowd
Riding in Palos Verdes is weird. You’re in the heart of Los Angeles but it’s mostly quiet and almost rural. There are hardly any shops or stores and almost any road takes you up to breathtaking views of the Pacific. Nothing prepared me for Dirty del Monte, though. It was like being spirited into a different world.
We blasted off the pavement and up the narrow dirt track, suddenly surrounded by trees and shade, and the noise of traffic was instantly obliterated. We beat the pedals until we mounted the wall, dumped out onto pavement, and a few moments later were again ensconced in the silence of the trees. We clawed our way up and up and up until the dirt track gave way to an abandoned and overgrown narrow strip of shattered pavement.
On every side were trees, and each sharp turn threw out another priceless view of the ocean and the bay all the way to Malibu.
It finished almost before it had begun, a 1.5-mile dirt climb straight up the face of the peninsula on road bikes and narrow tires.
No one said a word. We stopped our bikes and caught our breath. Whatever we were feeling, it wasn’t disrespect. But on the other hand, it wasn’t usual, either. Finally, I understood.
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