My ride began at 6:05 AM this morning, nary a car on the road as I descended to PV Drive North. I made the left and drifted out of the bike lane on the deserted street.
Whatever drowsiness that remained was blasted away by a white pickup that had sped up onto my rear wheel and violently leaned on the horn. It was one of those loud, obnoxious, “Fuck you!” honks that are such a specialty of the terminally angry South Bay not-quite-rich-enough folks.
I met up with a gang of Big Orange riders at the Center of the Known Universe, and as we left Manhattan Beach a very angry white person leaned on the horn without let-up for a solid minute, letting us know that she wanted us off of her road. We waved when she finally passed, and wished her the nicest of days, although it was clear that the sight of twenty happy bicyclists had already ruined her entire weekend.
We reached the meet-up spot at La Tijera and La Cienega. A big contingent of the Beach City Cycling Club also showed up, as well as large numbers of riders from Major Motion, Methods to Winning, the Bahati Foundation, Penuel Cycles, a bunch of other clubs, and a large assortment of unaffiliated riders. In all there were well over a hundred riders.
The MVMNT Rides were started as a way to get together white, black, Latino, Asian, Filipino, and every other ethnicity on two wheels and pedal through urban Los Angeles on routes that many of us don’t often take. One of those routes is to Watts Towers, an extraordinary landmark by any measure, yet one that most L.A. denizens have never seen.
We owe a huge debt to Ken Vinson, Methods to Winning rider and engine who has done so much to get our communities talking to each other. Ken is the person who put the word out for today’s MVMNT Ride, and people turned out in force.
It took us over an hour to make the short 12-mile pedal because we stopped at traffic lights and because the pace was intentionally slow and conversational. In addition to enjoying the sights of the city we got to meet so many new people. Of course, throughout the morning people honked at us, but unlike the uptight South Bay people in their Rage Rovers, these were friendly honks accompanied with happy yell, thumbs up, and waves.
It’s something I’ve gotten used to riding with a large group in urban L.A. Half of the people shouting have bikes at home and wish they were with you, and the other half are shouting because they are stoked.
Watts Towers was amazing. I’d tell you about it, but you have to see it for yourself.
After the ride, there was a neighborhood barbecue put on by East Side Riders, which turned out to be an amazing end to an amazing day. I was unable to go, but friend and fellow Big Orange rider Kristie Fox went with Ken to the event. Here is her report:
“ESR is more than a bike club, and membership requires a mindset of giving back to the community and helping people in need. The BBQ and the people there reflected that. For the East Side Riders, bikes are transportation, not toys like they typically are on the West Side and in the South Bay, and that’s why the organization fights for bike lanes and other advocacy issues.
“John Jones, the head of the club, is a super charismatic person but totally unpretentious. You can feel how much he cares about what he is doing and how good it makes him feel just standing next to him. The BBQ had free food and drinks, mountains of hot dogs, sausage, hamburgers, pasta salad, potato salad and watermelon, all paid for by John and free to not only the club, but anyone in the community who needed to be fed this day.
“Everyone there was incredibly friendly and happy. It felt more like a family reunion than a bike club BBQ. Everyone smiled and talked, some came up and introduced themselves. There was a woman there from the MVMNT ride named Aso who does a lot of riding with ESR. She talked about riding, the people she has met, and how inspirational they are to her. There was no talk of carbon, watts, racing, teams, power meters, and the other garbage that gets bandied about by bike racers, but a lot of talk about getting away from gangs, getting kids away from gangs, and giving something back to help people struggling in their neighborhoods with real problems like no food, parents on crack, illness, and no health insurance.
“There is a group of women in the group called The Flawless Diamonds. They are some of the most genuinely kind, energetic and completely crazy women you could ever hope to meet. They go by names like MZZ. V, Snazzy, MZ. Vilvit, and Ms. Booty. They were there selling BBQ to fund their club that raises money to sponsor families in south central Los Angeles. They adopt families and children for the year and provide them with everything they need for school, food and help with academics. They pay for everything, that’s everything, folks, and make sure the kids have dinners for holidays and anything else they need for the year. The founder, Snazzy, told about one family they’ve helped where the dad was raising two very young children because the mom was a drug addict who left and was never seen again. These women pay for medical expenses for kids with serious illness like cancer, and they volunteer every single Sunday in Bellflower to cook meals for the homeless.
“Napoleon Moore was also there, an unforgettable, unmistakable legend of the cycling world. He rides a minimum of 100 miles a day, all over the city. He had ridden 100 on the way to the BBQ and was on his way to rack up a bunch more miles after. He talked about how ESR had changed his life and gotten him out of the gang mindset by allowing him the get outside the community. He said that before ESR he couldn’t ride his bike anywhere but on his own street because the other streets were claimed by different gangs.
“ESR did not follow a gang claim rule for membership, and riding with them allowed him to move around and through the community to the outside where there were no gangs. He said this was something he had never heard of before joining them. He talked about how kids are isolated and segregated by systematized enforcement of gang territories, which stunts them into becoming gang members. He said that ESR had saved him, and he does everything he can to get more kids involved with ESR and moved away from a life in gangs and drugs.”
Thoughts about the day
On the way back I was talking with Baby Seal. “Why does money make people so bitter?” he wondered aloud.
“It’s because people with money don’t have to interact much with other people. Every problem in life is a transaction. But when you don’t have money you have to talk with people, rely on people, deal with people, comfort people, listen to people, help people out. Karma isn’t a bumper sticker for your Rage Rover, it’s a way of life, helping people and encouraging people because you know that what goes around really does come around, and your turn could be right around the corner.”
A bunch of young guys standing by the bus stop whistled and waved, and we waved back.
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