And then a squirrel fell onto my handlebars

May 31, 2014 § 27 Comments

Today is the 2nd Chris Cono Memorial Ride. It is in Pasadena, which is a long way from the South Bay. The ride starts at 7:45 AM. Since the memorial ride only lasts about two hours, it could be made into a full day by pedaling to the event.

It made sense to recon the ride to Pasadena yesterday. Dan Barr suggested the Rio Hondo River Trail. He said it would take about two hours from Torrance. Maybe it would. On a motorcycle.

This was Day 3 of the Wanky Crashfast Diet. It is a four-day diet. It is simple. In the morning you eat 350 calories. Then you ride your bike for eight hours. Then you go to bed. After four days you are guaranteed to lose eleven pounds. The literature states that some people have difficulty making it to the fourth day. Perhaps because they die?

The literature does not state that some people have difficulty making it past the first hour. That is in fact what happened. But at the end of Day 1, the fatmeter had dropped from 164 to 162.5.

At the end of Day 2, it had dropped from 162.5 to 162.

Today was Day 3. Have you ever ridden your bicycle for 8 hours and ingested nothing more than a Coke? If you haven’t, don’t bother. You will not feel very good or go very fast.

Before taking a complicated trip from the South Bay through the center of L.A. to the wilds of Pasadena, most people check the route on a map. Maps used to be made of paper and required a brain. Now all you need is a phone.

People without brains don’t check their phone maps and go off in search of things called “River Trail.” If you go out Del Amo for a long way you will find something called the “Compton Creek Trail.” It is a bicycle path along Compton Creek. You didn’t know that Compton had a creek.

You think the only thing in Compton is crime, but the Compton Creek Trail takes you under massive shade trees along an immaculate path. Male redwing blackbirds with their  brilliant epaulettes flit among the rushes, trying to ride herd on the females who are fraternizing with other males in their absence.

Fucking and cheating are universal animal endeavors.

A green heron glides above the creek. It is beautiful and peaceful and the pavement is better than a new Interstate. But like all bike paths in Los Angeles, it teases you and pulls you up short. The Compton bike path ends, dead, at a railroad track.

After retracing, and getting back on Del Amo, the Los Angeles River Trail bike path appears. What is a river doing in Los Angeles? What is a concrete sluice doing calling itself a river?

It doesn’t take long for the majesty to reveal itself. Amidst the shopping carts and giant tires and green scum and other pinnacles of the human creative spirit are the birds. Black-necked stilts, killdeer, western gulls, great blue herons, and even an avocet. In the bushes and trees that line the bike path are the shamelessly gaudy hooded orioles.

The trail veers off onto the Rio Hondo trail. Under some of the overpasses, homeless people live in horrific little shanty towns, but it makes them not homeless. One man has a rope ladder he ascends up into the crevices of a steel and concrete superstructure. The gangland graffiti has been blacked out by conscientious county workers.

Rio Hondo descends into a forest. It is beautiful. Butterflies flutter and flowers release their perfume. Other people on the path smile and wave. They are not professional masters racers. They are people riding bicycles.

A firing range emits the pop-pop-pop of small penises and their blood lust. It displays a banner that says “Do Not Fly Over Firing Range.” This makes no sense until you come to the El Monte airport. Small aircraft occupied by lone, older men, speed down the runway. They see World War II, or grand commercial jets, or modern fighter planes, but all anyone else sees are Cessnas. Second hand ones, at that.

Pasadena is nowhere near the South Bay. After the trail ends, even the park workers are mystified as to how one would cycle to Pasadena. “This trail, you can pick it up somewhere else, man, but it goes up into the mountains.”

After circling back there is a trail called the Santa Anita Wash. It tricks you by being paved, then disintegrates into a beautiful, pine-covered, soft dirt and soft sand track. It goes on for miles and requires huge effort. Your road bike sinks and slips, skitters, hits roots, but the shade is welcome. Somewhere along the trail a squirrel tries to leap from the fence onto an overhanging branch. He is a Cat 4 squirrel, so he misses the branch and lands on the handlebars. He stares briefly at the human eyes he wrongly imagines want to eat him and leaps again, catching another branch. Perhaps that means he will get his upgrade soon.

Eventually, all roads lead to Velo Pasadena. Hrach is welcoming and warm and friendly and presses a cold Coke in your hand. Those 240 kcal kill the Wanky Crashfast Diet, but who cares? Hrach also relates the best route back to the bike trail.

The return trip is long and downhill, but the downhill is offset by the strong headwind. Suddenly two kids on motor scooters appear. Scooters are illegal on the bike path. One has run out of gas and is hanging onto the other. When you pass them they laugh and gun the engine. It can’t keep up. Kids without helmets dragging scooters breaking the law laughing at adults are doing what all children should do.

A patrol car has driven down into one of the shanty towns. A pretty woman is being led away in handcuffs. Why police the banks and stop the 2nd Amendment slaughter when you can bust a woman living under a bridge? She will never fight back and she may even screw you in the back of the patrol car to stay out of jail. “May”?

The whole trip takes six and a half hours. Its most challenging moment was when the bicycle crossed Western on Del Amo, only a few yards from Monkish Brewery.  The keenest memory is the lone avocet searching for food. I hope he found it.


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