He was the kid your mom didn’t want you to play with, but you did.
“Dude,” I said as I rolled up to his shop, a small mountain of surfboard shavings piled in the corner. “I gotta be back by 10:30.”
“No problem,” he said. Even for him, 10:30 sounded like a reasonable time to start the day. “What’s going on?”
“I have to get a couple of documents back to clients and they need the drafts by noon.”
“What were you thinking of doing?” He had that smile, and fastened his helmet.
“Santa Monica, then Amalfi, down Sunset and over to Mandeville. That should put me back with a couple of minutes to spare.”
“No problem.” Smile.
In Santa Monica we started up Amalfi. “Hey,” said Surfer Dan. “You ever do Sullivan Ranch?”
“No,” I said.
“Wanna do it? It’s got a little stretch of pretty cool dirt.”
We were on our road bikes. “I don’t care what we do,” I said. “But I gotta be back by 10:30.”
As anyone who doesn’t know Los Angeles will tell you, it’s a concrete jungle. Surfer knows every nook and cranny of the city, and before long, high above the millionaire mansions of Brentwood, we were past a locked gate and climbing a steep dirt trail. “Glad I got these CX 2-mm’s.” I muttered a prayer of thanks to Moonshine, who had given me the tires a few weeks back. I dodged rocks and slogged uphill, barely keeping Dan’s ass in sight. We’d been climbing for miles now, ever since the base of Amalfi at sea level.
“You okay?” asked Surfer, smiling.
“Yeah,” I grunted. “Glad I got this 28-cog on the back, though.” My frame shuddered through another chughole.
A couple of mountain bikers came by, hanging on for dear life and giving us the crazy look. “You can’t do that,” their faces said. “You’re on road bikes.”
We came to another gate. Beyond it was a dirt road that went on forever.
“Wanna keep going?” Surfer ask-smiled.
“Look, man, I don’t care, but … ”
“… you gotta be home by 10:30.”
“Let’s keep going, then.”
Now we were far from anything. There was only the sound of our tires crunching the dirt and our frames bouncing along the washboard and my labored breathing as we climbed, climbed, climbed, and Dan chattered on.
A long time later we reached an old deactivated Minute Man ICBM silo. We finally descended to pavement. Our bikes and we were covered from head to toe in dust, which made sense because I’d cleaned my bike that morning.
The road dumped out at Sepulveda and the 405, smack in the center of the worst traffic in America, as magical as if we’d walked through Alice’s looking-glass, from silence and endless green vistas that reached to the glittering sea to the thrum and impatience and sweating frustration of a million cagers locked in their steel coffins.
“How far are we from home?” I asked.
“Two hours if we drill it.”
It was 10:30.
“Let’s go, then.” I grinned at him and he grinned back. We put our heads down and pinned it, me and Trouble.
Of course I ended up being late, but I wasn’t, really.