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.

23 thoughts on “Trouble”

  1. Great story!
    I have a Surfer Dan (Mike) in my life. 28 years ago we went to Ensenada for a 2 week vacation from our desk job. 14 months later I finally made it back, with a new wife and kid, after living in a country in the middle of a revolution. It’s a blur how we got to Nicaragua from Baja California but it was at his urging. Vladluskin is right, “everyone needs a Surfer Dan in his life”.

  2. I did that ride a couple of weeks ago but once we got to the silo’s we turned onto Mulholland (7 more miles of dirt) and continued on to Topanga Canyon and back to PCH. Oh yeah, on my road bike with a 34/25. Epic ride!

  3. I may move back to LA just to mess with you. I’m the guy Surfer Dan’s mom warned HIM about. BTW, how do you know that silo is abandoned?
    I was with Space and Missile Test in’75 (1975, we didn’t have missiles in 1875, that was the Chinese) but anyway, uh, where was I?…oh…a lot of Defense is disguised as obsolete. Like me…maybe.

  4. Wanky,

    In Old Man Mountain Biking references, you went up Sullivan ridge, then across to the missle silo (Westridge) via dirt mulholland and then continuing onto paved mulholland via more dirt Mulholland? If so, that descent from Westridge to paved Mulholland is no fun without some suspension. It’s so hard and choppy.

    I don’t know why more of you roadies don’t do the full Westridge climb to the top, then back down. Descending dirt Westridge on a road bike will teach some cornering skills. The dirt part is not particularly steep and corners not hard.

    I too was surprised when a mountain biker told me I couldn’t ride my ‘cross bike on Westridge. Apparently it’s not designed for hard things like Westridge road. 😉

    1. If it’s not marketed for a specific kind of road surface, then it “can’t” be done. And even if it can, it shouldn’t because, image.

  5. I’m with Channel Zero. Rather than taking Mulholland, a right turn at Nike would have taken you to Westridge, the descent of which would be more fun than Mulholland and land you at the bottom of Mandeville.

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