My hubby sure knows how to make me happy. Some folks are real good at taking lemons and making lemonade. El Cochinito excels at taking a pitcher of lemonade, and making it into a party!
It all started innocently enough. In July, our friend Angie had offered me a pair of tickets to a performance at the Hollywood Bowl on August 9th. That date just so happens to be my birthday (I suspect she knew that), and no plans had yet been made for how the occasion would be celebrated, so I immediately said, “YES!” to the offer. El Cochinito took it from there.
He let me know that afternoon that I should try to be home by 4 p.m., as we would be heading out early for our pre-Bowl activities. He didn’t give any details, keeping the pre-party a surprise, except to let me know we would be biking to the Hollywood Bowl – something he knew I’ve been wanting to do. I planned ahead, wore my date-night-dress to the office, and rode to work on my road bike instead of the Dutch bike I usually take for commuting and errands. I didn’t know how much of a challenge it might be to bike up to the Hollywood Bowl, but I was quite sure I did not want to try that on the heavy upright 8-speed Gazelle I normally use for commuting.
It was a wee bit interesting getting started, as el Cochinito was in charge of the itinerary, but asking me to lead the way on our bikes. Not wanting to reveal our destination, he would tell me things like “ride to the UU church” and then, at some point, tell me, okay, now we need to go up Rampart. And off we went!
We ended up in Los Feliz, which necessitated climbing some hills that were nothing to sneeze at, especially on a hot August afternoon. Finally he announced that we had arrived at our first stop, and we locked our bikes to a railing in a small corner strip mall at Hillhurst & Franklin. Although we didn’t exactly take the most direct route to get here, we avoided the nasty traffic streets during the late afternoon commute, and what’s an extra mile or so when you’re out having fun, right? I was grateful for the quieter streets, and considered that well worth any extra distance.
Our first stop turned out to be Lou Wine Shop, where we were greeted by Lou himself. He asked us what we were looking for, but then took a good look at my deep red and very sweaty face, and suggested perhaps I would like to start with a cold glass of water – just what I needed! Of course, el Cochinito was appearing all refreshed and sweat-free, having made the ride on his electric-assist Pedego bike. (Harumph!) Lou helped us select a nice bottle to take with us to the Hollywood Bowl. It was apparent that we could learn a lot about wine from Lou, and we both agreed we will have to return for more one day.
El Cochinito had hoped we could partake in one of Lou’s wine tastings, but the timing wasn’t quite right. Being a master at last-minute plan revisions, he quickly found a place nearby to grab some pre-dinner drinks. We toodled over to a nearby establishment, Spitz, that had some refreshments to offer. Hubby had a beer, and I tried my first mango michelada (a beer with mango puree mixed in, and some spice). It was just the ticket after getting all sweaty on the uphill ride.
From there we headed west into Hollywood, for a delicious dinner el Cochinito had booked for us at Cleo’s. It appeared the parking valets at Cleo’s were not accustomed to diners arriving by bike, but they were nice enough about helping us identify a suitable place to park in their garage. The restaurant is elegant, without being over the top – lots of photos and decor celebrating Cleopatra. They have an enticing menu of craft cocktails to choose from, and a delectable selection of food to cover just about any appetite or palate. I had a fancy-schmancy cocktail and some seriously delicious roast lamb with lebaneh and Israeli couscous. I felt like I was getting quite the royal treatment, and it was wonderful.
We retrieved our bikes and headed up (really UP) to the Bowl. It wasn’t a bad route, and we were able to do some of the first part off of the busiest streets. But one of those cute little streets took a super steep incline for about 1/4 of a block as we made our way from Yucca to Franklin. Even in my lowest gear, and weaving side to side, I found myself beginning to fall over, rather than continue up that nasty little hill. So I stepped off the bike and walked it up that last little bit, where el Cochinito was waiting for me. I had imagined the hill up Highland to the Bowl would be a hearty climb, but it didn’t seem that hard. Not sure if that’s in comparison to the earlier climb, when it was hotter out, or because I was still buzzing from my killer cocktail!
I loved the feeling as the parking guides waved us on in at the Bowl entrance, and breezing past all the poor suckers stuck in their cars. Moments like this help make up for all the times we feel like the bottom of the traffic food chain. We entered the event space, and began the quest for where exactly one goes to park their bike at the Hollywood Bowl. We asked one of the Bowl employees who was guiding folks in, but he had no idea. Luckily, a pair of modest bike racks caught my eye, and we locked up there.
We found our seats. Angie had done quite nicely by us with these tickets. I’ve never sat so close at the Hollywood Bowl before. Angie stopped by to visit us at a couple of points, and introduced a friend she and her hubby had brought along – they were sitting even closer to the front. The music was a delight. A Latin jazz group led by Pedrito Martinez opened, followed by the lively Angélique Kidjo. And then we heard the popular (VERY popular in Cuba) group Gente de Zona. The wine was great, the music was great, and we were fortunate to be sitting with folks who like to get up and dance!
Afterward, we found our bikes, put on our lights, I donned my reflective vest, cued up some music on my combination headlight/bluetooth speaker, and off we rode. I loved, absolutely loved, riding down the hill in the crisp evening air. The ride alone was fun, but of course, it was made sweeter knowing that we had bypassed the whole misery of trying to leave the Bowl in a car along with thousands of others.
Would I do this again? YES!
Thanks to el Cochinito for a wonderful night on the town!
Our full 16.6 mile round trip (with only 795 feet of climbing)
Bikie Girl recently participated in the Ride In Style Shop, a pop up shop held during Bike Week in Manhattan, and featuring eight indie brands, all providing gear to help city cyclists ride in style. To make it more fun, each brand sponsored an event. Bikie Girl provided a workshop called “Bike Commuting Made Easy”. Here’s a summary of what we covered in the commuting workshop, as well as a glimpse at the different brands featured in our shop.
Getting Started: Keep It Simple
Keep it simple at first. Establish a small goal: to bike to a nearby store for an errand, or to bike home from work one day this week. You will be going through the planning and execution logistics, and perhaps overcoming some trepidation, and that is enough for the first time at it. Make sure you are ready by thinking through the following items to ensure a positive experience. If you are new to city riding, you might start out with recreational social rides led by a local bike advocacy group. Riding with a group can make city riding safer, teach you city riding skills, and introduce you to others who like to ride. It’s also a great way to discover parts of your city you never knew.
Gear: Start With The Basics
If you will ride your own bike, consider taking it to a local bike shop for a tune up and safety check. If you don’t know how to fix a flat tire, now is the time to learn and practice (you can find tutorials on youtube). The weekend before your first ride, check your ABC’s: A – air in the tires; B – brakes working properly; C – chain is clean and lubed. Re-check these before each ride. It’s normal for your tires to need a little more air, or for your chain to need some cleaning, about once a week or so. Checking these items regularly will also make it easy for you to notice when the brakes are getting worn, or another repair is needed.
If you will use bike share, go to the web site for your city’s bike share system and familiarize yourself with how it works, what you need to check out a bike, and where the docking stations are for your start and stop points. Download an app to make it easy to find bike share stations while out and about. The Spotcycle app works with most bike share systems.
The basic gear needs include: helmet, lights, and something to carry your stuff. Helmets are available in stylish designs (see those by Sawako), and with lights to signal braking and turning (see the Lumos helmet).
If taking your own bike, you will want to carry a patch kit, extra inner tube, a pump, and bike tools, such as a multi-tool. Keep a quality lock with you, even if you can park the bike inside, as you may need it when stopping for an errand. High quality theft-resistant locks can be heavy, but TiGr offers titanium locks that are strong, light and stylish.
Gear that makes the commute more pleasant: fenders, a chainguard, a good saddle properly adjusted, a basket and/or rack, phone holder, and a kickstand. Other gear that can be worth the investment: handlebars/bike that support upright riding position, dynamo lights, panniers, platform pedals that work well with street shoes, and a power bank to re-charge your phone or lights. An electric assist bike can be practical if the commute is long and/or hilly. Although electric assist bikes cost significantly more than regular bikes, they are a fraction of the cost of a car, and well worth it if it makes it possible to commute by bike more often or at all. Superpedestrian offers the Copenhagen Wheel, which can turn a regular bike into an electric assist.
Clothing: Go With What Works For You
You are likely able to ride in whatever clothes you wear to work. Exceptions are avoiding or adjusting for long, flowy items that might get caught in the spokes, or dealing with hills, distance, or weather that leaves you too sweaty or wet. You can pin up, anchor, or tie a knot in a long, loose skirt, or use a pant clip or slap band to keep pant legs out of the way. For sweaty situations, you can bring fresh clothes with you and change at work. Some work places offer shower facilities or have a gym close by. Many bike commuters keep extra clothes at work, or bring a week’s worth to the office at a time. You can also keep a kit of toiletries at work to use for freshening up. Consider a small towel, cleansing wipes, deodorant, and a comb or brush.
Experiment with different clothing to find what is most comfortable. Some prefer pants, others prefer the freedom of movement provided by a skirt or dress. Pants can easily wear out from bike riding, so consider a style designed for the durability and flexibility biking requires, such as The Willary’s Core Pant. Skirts and dresses can be combined with a lightweight bike short, tights, or leggings for coverage and/or warmth. If needed, you can wear a padded bike short for the ride in, and switch to regular pants upon arrival. Let the bike shorts air out during the day so they are at least partly refreshed for the ride home.
Planning Your Route: Map It Out
The best route for biking to work is likely different from the route you would take by car or other means. Most cities provide a map of bike routes, bike paths, and bike-friendly streets. Google maps and other bike routing software can help you figure out a suitable route. Test ride your route on the weekend to make sure there aren’t any unpleasant surprises and to get familiar with your route when there is less traffic on the roads. Keep in mind that occasionally Google maps will direct you to cross a major street without a traffic light. If you get stuck in such a situation, consider taking the sidewalk (walk the bike if sidewalk riding is not legal in your city) to access the nearest crossing with a traffic light.
Carrying Your Stuff: No Sweat
Options for carrying your things include: a messenger bag (make sure it is stable while riding), backpack, basket or panniers. A bag that is against your back will create much more sweating, so many prefer a basket or a pannier that attaches to the rear rack. Po Campo provides a variety of stylish options that include bags that hook on your bike and can also be your professional-looking briefcase or handbag. Rear-mounted bike baskets allow for a more stable weight distribution, while front baskets provide easy access while riding. Your choice will also be influenced by what you need or will have to carry with you upon arrival. Think also about whether your arrangement will be used for shopping or carrying children.
Staying Safe: Take That Lane
Know your local bike laws. The most important keys to safety relate to being visible and predictable to others and being prepared for the unexpected. Ride with the flow of traffic, and take the lane when sharing the road with motorized vehicles. Riding too close to the edge of the lane makes you less visible to motorists and can encourage drivers to pass you too closely. Allow 3-5 feet between you and parked cars to avoid getting doored. Avoid weaving around parked cars, as that can catch motorists by surprise when you re-enter the traffic lane. Be aware of others traveling on foot, bike, or by car. Signal your turns, and use vocals or a bell to let others know you are approaching them to pass or to alert pedestrians. You can increase your skills and confidence by taking a class with your local bike advocacy organization. Click here to see some examples of the skills that will help you handle dicey situations that can arise on city streets.
Riding At Night: Be Visible
Wear reflective clothing at night, and use a white light in front and a red light in back. Brands like Vespertine NYC provide stylish reflective vests, jackets, scarves, and dresses. Flashing lights can make it harder for others to gauge distance and are unsafe (to others) as front lights. Lights vary, so be sure you know how effective the lights you have will be. Consider also whether they will require battery replacement or can be recharged. Lights are often stolen from parked bikes, so consider lights you can easily carry with you. Alternatively, dynamo lights whose power is generated by the front wheel and integrated into the bike design are less easy to steal from a parked bike.
Multi-Modal Options: Create A Back-Up Plan
If the distance is too great, one direction is too hilly, or you feel more comfortable knowing you don’t have to ride both ways, look into the options for public transit. Some cities allow bikes on trains, buses, and/or subways, others allow them only during non-commuting hours, or have limited space. Some commuters use public transit for part of their route, or in one direction. Others take public transit (or drive) at the beginning and end of the week to carry clothes and other items for the week, and use the bike in between. These options can also be your back-up in case of weather or an equipment mishap.
Go ahead and give it a try. Keep in mind that it gets easier the more you ride to work, as you will get more comfortable on the bike, discover better routes, and hone your gear logistics. It’s OK to start out as a fair weather cyclist, or to hold off before you start riding at night. Riding in inclement weather or in the dark or every day can be goals to set for the future. You can strive for more as you gain confidence (and the addiction sets in).
And don’t be surprised if you start noticing an extra spring in your step when you arrive at the office!
I recently attended a conference, and felt so lucky that it was being held in one of our nation’s top bike-friendly cities, AND during a week of fantastic weather! If you have to attend board meetings, there’s no better way to get there than by bike, except, of course, for taking the long way by bike!
For the last three years, I’ve been serving a term on the Board of Directors of the American Intellectual Property Law Association, also known as AIPLA. It has been an incredible honor and privilege to serve, and it also means that, each of the three years, I attend the 3 stated meetings plus a board retreat, held in varied locations, as well as 3 additional day-long meetings at the AIPLA headquarters in Crystal City, Virginia. This makes for quite a bit of travel, and I have been determined to make the most of these excursions by working in some bike adventures whenever I can.
Last year’s AIPLA Spring Meeting just so happened to be held right here in Los Angeles, so I biked from my home to the JW Marriott in Downtown LA each day of the meeting. This year, the Spring Meeting was held in Minneapolis, a city designated as a gold level “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists, among other bikie accolades. Not only that, the meeting was being held right smack in the middle of Bike Week! When I realized that, I started looking into what Bike Week events I might be able to participate in while I was there.
I also got to work at finding the right place to stay. I am not a big fan of paying big bucks to stay at a standard, run-of-the-mill chain hotel room. A room in a Marriott or Hilton can look completely interchangeable with any other corporate chain hotel room in just about any other U.S. city. The tastefully bland decor can be a damper on the spirit, if not outright soul-killing. I prefer to book my stays at nearby bed & breakfast inns or boutique hotels. It means spending significantly less per night, plus staying in a charming place, and meeting interesting people. In most cities, I’m also able to rent a bike and see a bit of the city I’m visiting while commuting from my charming B&B to the conference site. It’s a real win-win-win. So far, I have biked to AIPLA meetings in Austin, Orlando, La Quinta, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, DC, as well as L.A.
I also love trying out bike share in different cities, and I knew Minneapolis has a bike share system called Nice Ride. I was delighted to find that they offer a 30-day membership for just $18, so I signed up before my trip. Membership meant I could get a key for easier unlocking of a bike and 60 minutes of use per trip instead of 30. A great bargain. Nice Ride mailed me a code that I could use to obtain a key at a Nice Ride station once I was ready to begin using my new membership. I stowed that code in a safe place, or so I thought until I went to retrieve it and spent a few hours searching everywhere I could possibly imagine having been considered a “safe place”. Luckily, the kind folks at Nice Ride were happy enough to issue me a new code — by email this time — when I called to tell them I’d lost the code.
I stayed at LeBlanc House, a Victorian B&B just north of downtown. The house was built in 1896, and is just two blocks from a Nice Ride station. Even though I arrived in the wee hours, I got up early my first morning there, hopped on a Nice Ride bike, and rode to the south side of town for a coffee meet up. I’d reached out to various women in the Minneapolis bike community to explore the interest in a coffee meet-up, in the style I’ve written about before. I contacted people of the Minneapolis Bike Coalition, reached out via the Wheelwomen Switchboard, and emailed a blogger I found. Erin, a woman who responded on the Switchboard pointed me to a Facebook group for WTF cyclists in Minneapolis called Grease Rag Ride & Wrench, so I created an event page and invited that group. That post got lots of likes and started some conversation, but did not draw any others into the coffee plan. Both Erin and Lindsey, the blogger, participated in the coffee meet-up. Erin has lived in Washington, DC, and is already quite familiar with the Women & Bicycles Coffee Club tradition.
Even though I’d only slept for about 4 hours due to my late-night arrival, I was able to rise and shine early enough to make the journey to Peace Coffee on Minnehaha my first experience with Nice Ride. The weather app on my phone said it was 43 degrees outside, so I bundled up with tights and a trench coat. As it turned out, the morning sun was plenty warm and I was over-bundled.I was pleased to have given myself enough time to arrive just a couple minutes ahead of the scheduled 8 a.m.meeting time. I snapped a few pics of Peace Coffee, ordered my mocha & almond croissant, and settled at a central table that made me easy to find. Erin and Lindsey joined me, and we had a great time visiting. Erin shared her comparative experiences with biking in DC and Minneapolis, and Lindsey shared her passion for spreading bike love and making her own bike-friendly clothes. Of course, I had to pull out some samples to share of my Bikie Girl Bloomers.
After Erin headed off to work, Lindsey and I stuck around while she interviewed me about biking in Los Angeles and the Bikie Girl Bloomers story.Afterward, she walked with me back to the Nice Ride station. We stopped briefly on the way to admire her nice custom bike made locally by Handsome Cycles. Lindsey is quite a delightful tour de force, full of great ideas for helping people, and the businesses who employ them, discover how easily they can work bicycling into their lives, improve health and productivity, and find their own win-win solutions. She’s also very efficient, as she posted the interview with me on her blog the very next day!
From there, I enjoyed a leisurely meander on Nice Ride back to LeBlanc House, making use of the Hiawatha Light Rail Trail, one of many bike trails in and around Minneapolis. This one took me into downtown right alongside some light rail tracks.
Once in the city’s center, I soon found myself near the Old Mill Ruins, riding over wood planks. This area is right along the riverfront, with a view of the beautiful Stone Arch Bridge, one of the highlights listed on the Bike Bridges tour. Of course, I had to cross it! It’s a beauty and fed me right into a beautiful neighborhood greenway. I took great pleasure in all the bike-friendly features along my way.
I was able to get in a much-needed nap before it was time to head to the downtown hotel for my first meeting associated with the conference. What would be my regular commute for the next four days took me into downtown via the picturesque Hennepin Avenue Bridge. Continuing on Hennepin Avenue into downtown was only moderately hectic, as the bike lane gives way to a lane with sharrows and lots of city buses. Shortly before my turn onto 10th Street, I passed State Theatre, whose marquis was advertising an upcoming opportunity to see a final performance of A Prairie Home Companion – so Minnesota!
After an evening event at Hell’s Kitchen, I went to retrieve a Nice Bike from the docking station right across the street from the Hilton where the conference was being held. I’d switched bags for the ride back and realized I’d left my Nice Ride key in the other bag back at LeBlanc House. No problem, though, as I knew I could just swipe my credit card and get a bike through my membership that way. Except that the kiosk wasn’t responding – not to my credit card swipe or to any attempts to press the touch screen. No problem, though, as I knew there was another Nice Ride dock just around the corner. Except that kiosk had an unresponsive touch screen as well. I began to wonder if Nice Ride doesn’t operate after 10 pm. I called their number for assistance, and got a recording telling me it was after hours for customer service, but inviting me to leave a message. I let them know I was rather concerned about not being able to get out of downtown after 10 pm. I figured I would just start walking back toward LeBlanc House, and keep an eye out for another Nice Ride station. I did find another, but had the same problem at the kiosk.
I looked up and saw what I thought was the Hennepin Ave Bridge I’d come into town on, so figured I’d just walk the rest of the way. Except at some point, halfway over the bridge, I knew that was not the Hennepin Ave Bridge. I was not going over a river; I was going over a freeway. The neighborhood did not look very residential. In fact, it seemed like a rather creepy place for a woman to be walking alone at night without knowing where she was or how to get where she was headed. I was glad I’d already installed the Lyft app on my phone, and requested a ride. I immediately called the driver who was on his way to let him know I did not feel safe standing in place to wait for him — that I was going to keep walking, and we identified a good place ahead of me to meet. I made it back to LeBlanc House fine, but a bit miffed that Nice Ride had let me down.
The good folks at Nice Ride called me back the next day, terribly sorry for my troubles, and reassuring me that it was supposed to work any time of day or night. They did point out that, if I’d had my key with me, I wouldn’t have been limited by a malfunctioning touchscreen, so I made sure I always had it with me the rest of the week. While on the phone with me, they also noticed that I’d had a significant overage from the morning before and asked if I’d had a bike out for 3 hours. I told them I’d discovered my bike was still loose at the docking station where I’d parked it before my morning meeting when I returned to get another bike. They kindly credited my account to remove the overage charges, and advised me to be sure the bike was completely locked back into the dock whenever returning a bike to a dock.
I commuted back and forth between LeBlanc and the Hilton twice each day, finding that I always needed a nap in the early afternoon in order to recharge and get through the evening receptions. On Thursday, which was Women/Trans/Femme Day of Minneapolis Bike Week, I wanted to try to catch an event listed as part of that day’s schedule that would fit my free gap in the middle of the day. At the downtown farmer’s market, there was to be a free bike check and zap-tagging event running from 10-1. I got out of the Hilton around 12:15 and walked over to the market, except I had a heckuva time trying to find it and follow my Google maps walking directions. After wandering in a big circle for a half hour, I got real hungry and stopped at one of the many food trucks parked along 2nd Avenue. After enjoying the best brussels sprouts ever, I finally found the farmer’s market. The bike “event” was just one booth in the park where an occasional passerby would stop and inquire about zap tagging (used to count bicyclists). There was nothing about this event that was connected with the Women/Trans/Femme theme of the day, so I shrugged it off and went back to LeBlanc to attend to some work matters and grab me a power nap.
Friday was great because I didn’t have any early meetings to attend. Finally, on my fourth morning at the bed and breakfast, I was able to take advantage of the breakfast offered and get to meet some other guests at LeBlanc. After dining with a couple in town from Ohio to attend their kid’s graduation and visit with old friends, the hostess was kind enough to give me and my suitcase a ride to the Hilton. I stowed my luggage at the hotel, and then took off on my much-anticipated bike adventure.
The Walker Art Center had been recommended to me, and wasn’t too far away, so I headed in that direction. I knew it likely wouldn’t be open when I got there, but figured I could at least explore the sculpture garden. The ride through Loring Park to get there was absolutely gorgeous. Ponds, bridges, gardens, park benches, all right there on either side of the bike path.
Then I found my way onto a bike path that runs along a very busy part of Hennepin Avenue, with Walker Art Center visible on the other side of many lanes of fast-moving traffic. Google maps wanted me to do something else, I wasn’t quite sure exactly what, but I saw a bridge up ahead and had to explore that. It was a fantastical contraption, a bit awkward to go up the ramp to get to the bridge, but a fun challenge to tackle with the clunky Nice Ride bike. I got up and over and found my way to the sculpture garden. Except the sculpture garden was fenced off and closed for renovation.
So I continued onward, knowing there were lakes off in the beyond somewhere, lakes completely encircled with bike paths. I saw a sign that announced Kenwood Parkway, an area that was lush and green, so I kept right on pedaling. Soon thereafter, I came upon a crossroads of bike paths to choose from. I saw that I could head left to take the Cedar Lake Trail, so I headed that way. After enjoying that trail for some good while, it dawned on me that I had best figure out where there might be a docking station, as soon my 60 minutes would be up. I consulted the Spotcyle app’s station map, and realized that going around Cedar Lake was not a practical option. Of course, going over the 60 minutes would simply mean incurring a surcharge, but I was a bit uneasy that I would underestimate just how long it would take to go all the way around Cedar Lake. I did have to get back to the Hilton for a meeting at noon!
Instead, I headed toward Wirth Lake, where I was able to dock the bike at a Nice Ride station and take a little break. There was a playground and a building next to the bike station, so I got real hopeful that there would be a place to get some desperately needed water. Whatever facilities beyond restrooms that the building is used for appeared to be shut down, perhaps waiting for the official start of Summer. At least there was a drinking fountain and a lovely shaded seating area.
From Wirth Lake, I continued north alongside the lake and then through a golf course to Plymouth Ave, a nice bike-friendly street that took me back toward the Mississippi River, north of the city center. I had a bike lane most of my way along Plymouth Avenue, and even a protected lane for part of it, with a well-marked zone to guide the transitional zone where cars must cross the bike lane to make a right turn. When I got to the river, I turned right and rode along the waterfront. So many bridges – it really was beautiful.
I decided to arc in a big circle around downtown and then head back to the Hilton from the east. At one point, I missed a turn and went a little too far south, but was able to course-correct quickly enough to get back just in time for my meeting. Maybe not as epic an adventure as I’d hope to squeeze into my morning, but enough to give me a taste of how much there is to explore by bike in the Twin Cities area!
Having so thoroughly enjoyed the Coffeeneuring challenge orchestrated by Chasing Mailboxes last Fall, I could not resist accepting her next challenge, the Errandonnee. With Coffeeneuring, the challenge was to visit seven different coffee shops by bike over seven weeks, staying within some rules and documenting the events accordingly. The schedule for the Errandonnee challenge, however, is a bit more compact: 12 errands in 12 days, hitting at least seven different categories. As luck would have it, I was out of town for the first half of those 12 days (March 4-15). Normally visiting another city would add to the fun, but my schedule for these travel days was packed, and managing any of my tasks during that packed schedule by bicycle just wasn’t practical under the circumstances.
I didn’t worry about the scheduling too much though, in view of two things. First, I was confident I could cram my 12 errands into six days, if need be. Second, Rule No. 12 of the Errandonnee is that you should stop if it stresses you out. I couldn’t let that happen! So here’s how it played out:
Errandonnee #1, March 10th: My first day back in town, I rode my bike to work, as I normally do. No biggie. Off to a great start! Category: Work. Miles: 1.2 (one way – the direct route – no time for lollygagging along the scenic route!). Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire. Observation: I really need to fix the left handlebar grip on my Gazelle. It came loose before I left town, and it slides off every time I accelerate, and especially when I go uphill. Bloomers of the day: Tie Dye Pettipants.
Errandonnee #2, March 10th: Stopped at the grocery store on my way home from the office. Category: Store. Miles: 1.7 (total from office to store to home). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: Packing the eggs at the top of the nylon shopping bag with the handles tied together, and then set inside my Nantucket basket pannier, provides a stable and secure means of transport for my groceries. I always worry about the eggs, but thus far, no casualties.
Errandonee #3, March 11th: Usual commute to work, again taking the shorter route, as I’m still exhausted from my travels and running a bit late getting out of the house in the morning. Category: Work. Miles: 1.2 (2.4 if we count the round trip). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: Gray skies with rain in the forecast for the afternoon has me thinking about whether I will want a jacket for the ride home – or would that make things worse? I’ve got the right helmet, though. The Closca Waterproof Flatcap not only keeps my noggin dry, but the bill helps minimize the raindrops in my face and eyes. Bloomers of the day: Smokin’ Hot Flame Shorts.
Errandonnee #4, March 12th: Breakfast outing with my sons to Grub (that’s the name of the restaurant) in Hollywood. I raised my boys right: they both use bikes as their primary means of transportation. I was delighted to have them both home at the same time for a Spring Break visit. Category: Social. Miles: 7.6 (round trip). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: Without parking signs, many establishments would have absolutely no place to lock a bike! We locked all three bikes together with one long cable and a U-lock around the no parking sign on the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the street. Bloomers of the day: Blue Bandana.
Errandonnee #5, March 13th: Spiritual recharge ride up to Griffith Observatory. Category: Personal Care. Miles: 23.9. Bike: Specialized Dolce Comp (Roadie). Observations: The golf courses at Griffith Park feature an impressive variety of trees, including oak, eucalyptus, redwood. I doubt many urban golf courses can top the foliage here. First time doing this route after some heavy rains means (1) there is a lot more bright green growth alongside Mt. Hollywood Drive, and (2) there is a lot more dirt and gravel washed across the road, requiring extra care, especially when going downhill in the hiker-heavy zone. Bloomers of the morning: Red Hot Aqua Dot.
Errandonnee #6, March 13th: Coffee shop run with my boys to check out Go Get Em Tiger in Larchmont. Category: Social. Miles: 2.9 (one way). Bike: Gazelle. Observations: The new bike corral in Larchmont Village is nice – plenty of room for our three bikes – but the positioning relative to the adjacent angled car parking makes it awkward. I was nervous that the driver of the van parked right next to our bikes might no be able to see our bikes when getting ready to back out of the spot. The sweet latte on the menu at Go Get Em Tiger is indeed sweet – in a good way, as far as I’m concerned. I will be back for some future coffeeneuring. Bloomers of the afternoon: Crazy Daisy.
Locking up at the O.K. bike corral.
My Sweet Latte on the left, Noah’s Curiosity Cola in front, Adam’s straight-up pure coffee in the carafe
Errandonnee #7, March 13th: Stop at Rite-Aid for the eggs and milk hubby needs to make flan. Category: Store. Miles: 0.05 (just down the block in Larchmont Village – there’s no minimum distance in the rules!). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: It’s amazing the groceries available at a drug store. We bought sweetened condensed milk, half and half, and a carton of eggs (yes, more eggs – he’s making two flans).
Errandonnee #8, March 13th: Stop to admire one of my favorite architectural gems of historic Los Angeles, the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. Category: Arts & entertainment (or Wild Card if need be). Miles: 2.75. Bike: Gazelle. Observation: Lots of motorists have to wait patiently for their turn to enter the parking lot upon arriving for whatever event is taking place there this afternoon. It’s so fun to zip past them on our bikes.
Errandonnee #9, March 13th: Crazy run-around to figure out where to have dinner with my uncle and aunt, who had just arrived for a stopover on their way from San Antonio, Texas, to Monterey, California. Category: Wild Card (it was a wild ride, and my uncle is a real card). Miles: 1.8 (total). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: During the crazy run-around, I zipped around Koreatown on my Gazelle as quickly as the other two groups did in their cars.
We had initially made arrangements to meet my aunt and uncle at a Japanese restaurant that is just over a mile north of us, but when we called to make a reservation, learned that they would not be able to accommodate both my uncle’s wheelchair and a party of six at the same table. That was disappointing. Then we settled on a place just under a mile east of us: Guelaguetza. Based on the size and lay-out of the restaurant, we thought it would surely be suitable for accommodating my uncle’s wheelchair and our group of six. The restaurant would not allow us to make a reservation on short notice, and then we discovered, after we got there, that the wait was going to be at least 45 minutes. The place was a mad-house, the parking lot completely jammed, and even trying to get through on the street was nearly impossible (for cars, that is). Who knew it could be like that on a Sunday evening?! Noah stood out in the street, near the entrance, to wait for my aunt and uncle to arrive, while my husband and I brainstormed on a back-up plan. Having ridden over on my bike, I’d noticed El Cholo, a Mexican restaurant just a few blocks from our house. Duh! Why didn’t we think of that in the first place? Hubby gave them a call to confirm that they could accommodate the wheelchair and our party of six, and away we went. I was able to ride up alongside my aunt and uncle’s car at a key intersection and give them guidance on where to turn to find the entrance to El Cholo. It worked out perfectly.
Whew! Good thing I was able to get 5 of my trips into one day!
Errandonee #10, March 14th: Bringing 7 bottles of wine home from the office. Category: You Carried WHAT on your bike? Miles: 1.3 (one way). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: I wasn’t sure I could get up the ramp out of the parking structure carrying this much weight, without having to hop off the bike, but I did it! I had 4 bottles in one basket and 3 in the other, along with my computer, my purse, and my lunch bag with my empty food containers. The entire ride, even the hill on St. Andrew’s Place, went more smoothly than expected. I think having the load balanced between the two basket panniers and relatively low on the bike made for a nice, stable ride. Bloomers of the day: Leaping Lady Leopard Shorts.
I think these go well with my wine.
The dirties in the basket as I show off my bloomers.
Errandonnee #11, March 15th: Drop off dry cleaning. Category: Personal Business / Non-store errand. Miles: 0.4 miles (one way). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: The tagging in Koreatown makes me sad. It is most unfair to our neighborhood business owners. Bloomers of the day: Pinka Dot.
To the mailbox, for the win!
Errandonnee #12, March 15th: Mail a payment to Pam, my graphic artist. Sure, I could’ve paid via PayPal, but that doesn’t involve a bike, so why would I? Category: Non-store errand. Miles: 1 (one way; add 0.3 for the rest of the trip home). Bike: Gazelle. Observation: The traffic light at Olympic Boulevard & St. Andrews Place changes frequently. During the time it took me to stop the bike, get the letter out of my pannier, snap a photo to document my errand, and drop the letter in the mailbox, the light went through almost three cycles!
It’s a good thing I decided to throw in an extra errand by mailing the letter/payment on the 15th, as I had miscounted and this was not my 13th or bonus errand — it was my critical twelfth errand I very much needed in order to complete the series! Looking back at my effort to cram twelve errands into six days, I can’t say that I’m terribly proud of my showing. It seemed a bit lame, and I feel like I stretch the rules a wee bit here and there. I am pleased that I managed to pull it off, but the experience leaves me eager to do a better job of it next year. If nothing else, I look forward to coming up with a better submission for the “You carried WHAT on your bike?” category. I would love to devise a plan that makes for an impressive photo. But I did log a total of 45.8 miles (or 47.3 with parentheticals), so I feel good about that.
Post Script: I thought I had until March 31st to submit my Errandonnee report. I’ve been working on it a little each evening, struggling to get it done. I just reviewed the rules and see that I’m a few days late. Will the Chief Errandonneur let me get away with a late submission? Fingers crossed. I want my patch!
A favorite ritual of mine on Sunday mornings is to head out early on my road bike, ride a 24-mile loop from my house to Griffith Park. It starts with about 7 miles of city-riding to the park, leads to a lovely loop through the park, which loop includes climbing up a windy road to the Griffith Observatory. Then I get to fly back downhill and home again. It’s a gorgeous ride, gets in about 1700 feet of climbing, takes a little less than 2-1/2 hours, and I can get home and showered with enough time to catch the 11:00 service at First Unitarian Church of L.A. to complete my spiritual nourishment and recharge for the week. As much as I enjoy that ritual, lately I started feeling like I was getting into a rut and limiting myself from doing longer or more challenging rides.
A couple of Sundays ago, I had a reason to ride to Torrance for a visit with extended family. That took me onto the Ballona Creek Bike Path, which feeds in to the bike path that runs south along the beach all the way along the South Bay. In other words, the bulk of my 25-mile ride that day was on bike paths. I’d forgotten how nice it can be to cruise along on a flat path without having to stop at intersections and interact with automobiles.
Then last Sunday, I had a reason to go to Venice. The Rapha Pop Up Shop on Abbott Kinney was hosting a women’s round table and social ride, and a friend was going to be one of the panelists. To get there on time for the 9:00 a.m. event, I headed straight west on the Venice Boulevard bike lane. The social ride (I opted for the “low-key” alternative, as I knew I couldn’t keep up with the serious roadie gals) was a gentle 14-miler, so I took a little bit longer return route when it was time to head home, allowing me to get back on that Ballona Creek Bike Path. That day I got in a total of 37 miles, and that whetted my appetite for adding more distance.
The next Sunday, I had an excuse to visit the Unitarian Universalist Church in Santa Monica, and to arrive there between 10-11 a.m. That would allow me to knit a bit with the knitting group I used to hang with each Sunday, catch the 11:00 service, and get in on the final opportunity for bidding on the Dining 4 Dollars events, an annual fundraising tradition that involves bidding on themed dinners and events. I really wanted to try my luck at Lorenzo’s Crawfish Boil.
I decided this was also an opportunity to put together an epic ride. Something that would challenge me on both distance and climbing, since all of my recent rides have been one or the other, and never that much of either. I mapped it out with Google: head up Nichols Canyon (after all, I did that one last Fall – should be doable), descend from Mulholland at Coldwater Canyon, work my way farther west and see if I can handle Mandeville (it’s been 4 years since the last time I climbed that one), and then I would be not too far from Santa Monica. After the service and bidding was done, I could then take the longer way home, along the ocean and then back east toward home via the Ballona Creek Path. The total mileage would be close to 50, a challenge given my current level of conditioning, but not too intimidating or unrealistic.
I figured the first climb was definitely within reach, and if the second was not, well, I could always just turn around and end the climb early, giving me more time with the knitting group. So off I went, leaving the house at 7:15. It was cool and foggy; we don’t usually get such dense fog this far inland. I felt good, and was psyched for the challenge. By the time I was approaching Nichols Canyon to begin climbing, I was rather wet. My glasses were wet with dew, my clothes were damp, and my brake hoods and shift levers were slippery. Even my tissue that I pulled from my pocket to blow my wet nose was damp, just from being in my pocket.
Soon enough, the dampness was no longer distracting me, and must have disappeared somewhere along the climb. It turned out to be a great day for riding, maybe just because I started out early enough that there wasn’t much car traffic on the windy narrow road. I like checking out the variety of interesting-looking homes along the way, and then being awestruck by the scenery once I’m high enough to see out over the Hollywood Hills. By this time it was just plain sunny; no hints remained of my foggy start. Before I knew it, there was the right turn onto Woodrow Wilson, which told me I was beginning the final and steepest part of the climb to Mulholland. I certainly felt maxed out on that last steep part, and grateful for my bike’s lowest gear, and especially grateful for the knowledge that this part of the climb would be short. Otherwise I might have considered giving up.
Once I got to Mulholland, I took a good little break. I needed to catch my breath, chug some water, and snap a photo to memorialize my adventure on Instagram.
The next part, cruising along Mulholland, was better than I had remembered it, in that the road had been repaved, and I didn’t have any scary moments with motorists zipping by too closely. At least not until I crossed Laurel Canyon. Then it was the rough road and hostile/ignorant drivers I remembered. For those reasons, I prefer to limit my time on Mulholland and take the first good option for my descent: Coldwater Canyon. I love this one. The road is in good condition and traffic is fairly light. There is plenty of room for cars to pass me safely, a minimum of cross-streets, and I can really pick up speed without freaking out.
I stopped at the bottom to check google maps and plan the next segment. I felt good enough to continue with my plan to head over to Mandeville, but knew the steep part of that climb would be harder than that last part of Nichols, and I may well not be able to go the whole way. No reason not to see how far I can make it, though, especially since it’s an up-and-back route.
Riding through Beverly Hills is nice: giant mansions and ridiculously manicured lawns to gawk at, plus ostentatiously wide streets. I discovered for my first time that there is a cut through to Santa Monica Boulevard that makes it easy to head over to the west side. You still have to ride the awful part through Century City, with cars swooshing by at freeway speeds and no bike lane. There really needs to be a protected bike lane there, more so than anywhere else I’ve ridden in L.A.
Having made it to Beverly Glen without getting plowed over, I got to ride in bike lanes all the way to Westwood and continuing as I headed north to Ohio. Ohio got me to Federal, which got me to San Vicente. There’s a bike lane there, but this is Brentwood, so cyclists have to be extra vigilant about inattentive drivers, cars stopped in the bike lane, and entitled drivers who think nothing of cutting you off in their hurry to make a right turn.
As I got close to the turn off to head towards Mandeville, I considered the time, and how I could just go straight on to Santa Monica and be able to join the knitting group for the full hour between services. But,no, I was too close to Mandeville not to at least see how far I could go. I survived the scary 0.3 miles one has to ride on Sunset in order to get to Mandeville, and shortly thereafter pulled over to take off my jacket and refill my main water bottle from my backup bottle. At this point, another rider pulled over, too. Turns out he was about to attempt Mandeville for his first time, and asked me about it. I told him I hadn’t done it in 4 years, but that I remember that just when you think you aren’t going to make it, you can see the top, and that helps you make it up that last super steep bit. We wished each other luck, and got to it.
In general, I did okay. I was able to enjoy the ride, and could feel the climb, but without discomfort or feeling discouraged by my limited conditioning. At least not until I got to the steeper part. I was working hard, breathing hard, and reached a point where I began to wonder if I might be pushing myself a little too hard for my own good. Was I starting to cross that line between embracing a challenge and stupidity? I wasn’t sure. I remembered that you can see the end of the road when you are near the top, and it bothered me that I still could not see that end. Maybe I still had a ways to go. My pulse was pounding. If I’m not ready to make it all the way today, I can just stop and turn around and try again another day. No biggie. Yet maybe that guy who was trying Mandeville for his first time was waiting for me. But I couldn’t base my decision on that. I decided I was struggling just a bit too much and ought to stop and turn around at the shady spot just ahead of me, so I did. But as soon as I stopped, I looked up and there was the top, only a short block ahead of me. I took a minute or two to drink some water and catch my breath, and mustered up a little more oomph to get me up that last grunt! Three gentlemen on bikes were at the top, resting, and I recognized one as my friend from the bottom of the hill. They offered words of encouragement, and before I knew it, I’d made it!
I snapped a selfie for Instagram and to send to my hubby, who knew I hadn’t been sure about my ability to do this climb, and took only a short break before getting rolling again. The descent was sweet, especially with the added glow of accomplishment.
I didn’t get to the Santa Monica church as early as I’d hoped, but it didn’t matter much. I had enough time for a cup of coffee and to catch up with a friend before the 11:00 service began. I got some knitting in during the service, and then joined the bidding frenzy and chatted with old friends in the social hall. My mid-ride break ended up being over 2 hours, as it was after 1 pm by the time I got rolling again.
I headed south toward the beach, and enjoyed watching all the sunny Sunday afternoon action along the Santa Monica oceanside before heading into Venice on ultra-hip Abbott Kinney to get over to the bike path into Marina del Rey.
By this time, the reality that I hadn’t eaten any lunch was getting to me, yet I didn’t feel like stopping at a restaurant or fast food joint. Hungry as I was, nothing like that sounded very appealing to me. Once I’d started onto the connecting Ballona Creek bike path, I decided to stop at one of the recently added beautiful park-like areas that have been added along the path. I drank a good bit of water and ate my second Kind bar to keep the hunger at bay.
It was great to zoom along the path without being interrupted by intersections. At the other end, in Culver City, I considered looking for a place to get some lunch, but I really just wanted to finish the trip home. I figured I could just eat something when I got home.
But as I got closer to home, heading east on Venice Boulevard, I saw that Strava showed my mileage was only in the low 40’s. I thought my route was going to be 48 miles, which could easily be nudged up to 50 by altering the last bit home. This bothered me. I’d been out all day and I wanted to claim I’d ridden a half century! I decided to take a left when I got to Country Club Drive, instead of the right turn that would have taken me straight home. I arced west and north, the way I go when taking the longer, prettier route to work through Hancock Park. As I came back east, though, my miles traveled remained disappointingly short of the target, so I extended my route farther east, and took Harvard south to 11th. This looped me through Koreatown and then back west to home. The final tally (49.3 miles per Strava) was still a wee bit shy of 50, but I decided to just go home already!
It was still a ride I could be proud of, and getting home after 3 was late enough!
This last week, the most exciting piece of mail arrived: my official Coffeeneuring patch! It arrived straight from the Chief Coffeeneur herself, all official-like and very classy. I do not yet have the slightest idea where to place it for its long-term home, but I knew I had to snap a photo. I laid my new patch against the solid brown skirt I was wearing, and realized that it coordinates quite nicely with the Blue Bandana Bloomers I had underneath. Naturally, I arranged it all to capture the pleasing compilation of complementary pieces. These things make me happy.
Lest anyone be misled into believing that I’m only one to go coffeeneuring when in the midst of official coffeeneuring season, be it known that I did in fact go on just such an excursion this past Sunday. My youngest son, who just turned 21, was in town for a week before returning to college for his Spring semester. He likes to bike, so long as it’s not too far nor too hilly. He has a Public bike that is well-suited for city transportation, and he has no interest in road bikes, wearing special spandex bike clothing, or exerting himself to take on a grueling challenge. I proposed a loop around Silver Lake, followed by breakfast at one of the many dining establishments that can be found along Sunset Boulevard.
I decided to take my Gazelle out for this ride, to better match the style of bike my son was riding. I’ve done the Silver Lake loop a few times, but only on my road bike. I knew we could avoid the fun hill on Hyperion, but I wasn’t sure if we would encounter any other hills that might be a bit much for this occasion. After all, Silver Lake is a very hilly area. As it turned out, we had just enough hill action to give us a little exercise, but nothing too discouraging or beyond the capabilities of our 7-8 speed bikes.
We were able to lock our bikes together around a signpost right in front of the outside seating area at Sunset Junction Coffee Shop. We were very happy with this choice of dining establishment. Noah had the Breakfast Quesadilla, and I had the Sunset omelet. I don’t usually go for omelets, but this one begged me to try it: bacon, sausage, mushrooms, cheese, and avocado. The bonus treat was the biscuit that came with it: one of the best I’ve had.
All in all, it was an excellent excursion. Noah was very pleased with the length and mild hills of our 14 mile route. We had perfect cycling weather (mid-sixties, light clouds). We had bike lanes and/or bike-friendly streets the entire way. And I got to spend some quality time with my son!
We may not have burned as many calories as we consumed, but we burned more than if we hadn’t done the ride at all!
And I enjoyed breezing through Silver Lake in one of my favorite styles from the Bikie Girl Bloomers collection:
This is the quick and dirty summary of my first experience of the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Listed below are the seven qualifying rides of my series. In addition to meeting the rule of going to a different coffee shop for each ride, I made a point of going to a different part of the Los Angeles area (or even farther in the case of #4). I also added a theme within the theme: wearing a different pair of Bikie Girl Bloomers for each ride.
What’s with the bloomers, you ask? This is a line of cute, comfortable, lightweight bike shorts I started once I realized this would be the perfect thing to wear under skirts and dresses when biking around town. If you are curious to try them out, please help yourself to a discount as my expression of love to all fans of coffeeneuring (voyeurs included). Use the code COFFEENEUR at check out and get 15% off any purchase of $50 or more at the Bikie Girl Bloomers online store.
Oh, yes, back to my listing of the official coffeeneuring rides. I’ve linked to the corresponding blog posts (click on the date) to make it easy to get more detail on each ride.
Weather conditions: Sunny & mild on the outbound leg; cool and dark on the return
Distance (complete trip): 10.9 miles
Qualifying Beverage & Bonus edible(s): Cappuccino & Ginger Molasses Cookie (the latter served in a coffee filter)
Bloomers of the day: Hot Pink Zebra Stripes (my route for this final ride may have been tame, but not my bloomers!)
Bike-friendliness: Accessible via bike-friendly streets. Sidewalk bike parking visible from both indoor and outdoor table areas. I had brought along my heavy duty locks, knowing that my bike could be vulnerable in this area, but visibility of the spot I got made me feel the extra lock was unnecessary.
As much as I would have loved to go out with an epic journey, my full schedule for the weekend just would not allow for a lengthy ride. I decided instead that it would be good to select a coffee shop in a part of town not yet covered in my prior coffeeneuring outings. I rather like that I have covered a fairly decent selection of places in different parts of the Los Angeles area, and it would be a shame not to include something from the mid-city area.
I was only going 5 miles from my home, so I made sure to at least vary my outbound and return routes, forming a loop of sorts. I started out heading west out of Country Club Park, then north into Hancock Park. This is a route I take for my morning commute. It’s a longer way to get to work, and well worth it because the streets are wide, and the big historic homes are beautiful.
My route this late afternoon differed from my commute in that I turned west instead of east when I got to 4th Street. This is a designated bike route that was supposed to be L.A.’s first bicycle boulevard/greenway. Although the street improvements have yet to be installed, and the pavement is in poor shape in many places, it does have sharrows and gets lots of bicycle traffic, without too many motorists. At 4th & La Brea, I snapped this photo of the statue of Lenin’s Head that is always a source of mild amusement.
I continued on past Park La Brea, crossing Fairfax, and then heading north into the area between the Fairfax Farmer’s Market and Beverly Center, to the corner of Beverly & Sweetzer.
Blue Bottle Coffee is described on Google Maps as a “hip café for gourmet coffee and pastries”, which seems in line with the vibe of the place. The counter area is quite designer-esque.
And near the entrance is an impressive display of gadgetry for the connoisseur seeking to perfect their home brew.
I like asking the barista what drink they recommend for someone trying their coffee shop for the first time. This one suggested I try the cappuccino, so I did. I also couldn’t resist trying one of the ginger molasses cookies on display.
Even the cup and saucer were artsy-cute. And my cookie was presented to me inside a coffee filter. Both the cappuccino and the cookie were delicious.
It was dark when I left, and I went further north one block to take Oakwood back east, all the way to McCadden, where I went south until I got back to the good ole 4th Street bikeway, which took me back into my neighborhood. The wide streets of Hancock Park are also pleasant for night riding. It’s dark, but there’s little traffic and the wide streets make it easy for what cars do come along to pass safely.
I arrived home feeling both a little sad, and a little proud, about completing my first coffeeneuring challenge. I look forward to doing it again next year.
Bloomers of the day: Wick-It Black (under a nuu-muu dress, with my knitting in my lap)
Bike-friendliness: Not so much. No bike racks on sidewalk or in parking lot. There was one awkwardly placed parking signpost, to which I was able to lock my bike.
I was curious to try Coffee Commissary, and its location in Burbank had the appeal of taking me into a different part of the L.A. area. Its proximity to Griffith Park made it tempting to simply do one of my routine Sunday morning rides up to Griffith Observatory (an excellent hill climb for keeping one’s ticker in shape with bonus views of the city), and then just head over to Burbank afterward. But a big part of what drew me to coffeeneuring was exploring new places, and feeling a touch of adventure, so I couldn’t go with that plan. Besides, I felt a craving for a little more distance for this weekend’s ride. I’d had to put in a lot of extra hours at work this week, and I needed a substantial ride to work off all that stress.
I consulted my handy guidebook, Cycling Los Angeles, which has 85 bike rides throughout the L.A. area. Wouldn’t you know it, Ride #36 is the “Burbank Bikeway”. The suggested route is a 14.8 mile loop that tours the periphery of Burbank, mostly on bike-friendly streets that go past parks and, most appealing to me, along the foothills below the Verdugo Mountains. Now I had my substance, and a convincing reason to bike to a Burbank coffee shop.
To turn it into a complete trip, I tried to work out a blend of Google Maps’ directions for getting from my house to Coffee Commissary, which is near the southern edge of the Burbank loop, combined with the route map from my book. Unfortunately, the book does not provide a convenient cue sheet, so I made a photocopy of the route map, and had to stop frequently to figure out where my next turn should be. It more or less worked, but I did not quite follow the book’s route the whole way. It was just too hard to keep going back to the map, as I could only read it if I stopped and pulled it off my handlebars to really study it.
First, I had to get onto the LA River Bike Path. It was rather disconcerting to find the gate closed and taped off when I got to the entrance. There were no signs explaining what was going on, so instead of entering at the gate and using this cool bike bridge to cross the many lanes of insane car traffic, I waited at a light to cross the street at the surface, and found an entrance to the bike path that was easy to use, despite being sort of taped off as well.
Turned out there was a half marathon in progress on the bike path. I only had to proceed with caution, dodging a few runners who were not looking at the path in front of them, and before I knew it, I was already turning onto Riverside Drive, entering Burbank. Riverside Drive has a nice bike lane, and is well-designed for sharing the road, not just between cars and bikes, but also with horses.
They even have special buttons at horserider height to activate a crossing light.
As you approach each intersection, the bike lane splits at a median, with a separated horse lane to the right.
I turned off Riverside, and rode past some studios. Lots of TV shows are made in Burbank.
Mostly I rode along quiet, residential streets, lined with unimaginative post-war tract homes. But then I saw this:
It appeared to be a fenced-off empty lot that someone had made a little more interesting. Many who live in this area work in the entertainment industry, so perhaps this is how these creative types deal with properties that would otherwise be just an eyesore.
I love rolling hills on a bike ride, and I was pleased that my route took me into and along the foothills of the Verdugo Mountains.
There were bike-friendly roads throughout this part of the ride. Then I rode back toward downtown Burbank, at which point I switched to using Google maps to guide me to Coffee Commissary. That got odd when the Google kept telling me to turn left off of Front Street in an area that had absolutely no cross streets. Finally, I realized that the Google wanted me to go up this crazy ramp to a bridge overhead.
It was a little dicey when I got to the top, as I had to ride the sidewalk, which at the base of the bridge, fed me straight into oncoming motor traffic. I turned off that scary-busy street at my first opportunity, and within a few blocks, I’d made it to Coffee Commissary, where I enjoyed my vanilla latte and lunched on the best Croque Madame of my life. I took my time, filled my water bottle and hydrated while knitting on the lovely back patio. The patio space is attractive and allowed me to keep a close eye on my bike, which was squeezed into position between a bollard and a parking sign, the latter being the only structure I could find to which I could lock my bike.
After a delightful repast, I made my way back to Riverside Drive, and enjoyed seeing a side of Griffith Park I never see from the L.A. side.
Soon I was back on the LA River Bike Path. Of course, in Los Angeles, we line our rivers with concrete:
But that doesn’t mean we don’t get any wild life. These ducks seemed to be having a good time.
The downtown skyline was visible in the distance as I rode south.
My entire journey was five hours. The San Fernando Valley doesn’t usually interest me much, but to explore it by bike was fun. It made for a most satisfying ride!
Qualifying Beverage & Bonus edible(s): Café au Lait
Bloomers of the day: Blue Bandana (seemed like a good fit for Day of the Dead)
Bike-friendliness: Not so much. Very bike-friendly area, but this particular shop only has a silly non-usable bike rack out front. It’s more of a style piece, as it looks cute, but you can barely get a front tire into it because it’s too close to the wall. And if you do park a bike there, your bike will block the sidewalk. Inside, however, the woman at the counter told me that most cyclists just bring their bikes inside.
For this week’s ride, I decided to work a coffee shop into a trip to Santa Monica for a 6:00 p.m. remembrance vespers service being held at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church for Day of the Dead. We had just turned our clocks back, so it really was an evening ride. It was already twilight when I began, despite leaving the house at 4:15 p.m. It takes about an hour to bike to Santa Monica from my home in the Koreatown area, so I had to give myself plenty of time. I’m not one to drink coffee in the evening, but it was rather exciting to break from the usual morning approach to coffeeneuring. I chose Espresso Cielo because it was just under 3 miles from there to the UU church, and an easy route from my house.
I took the Venice Boulevard bike lane for 9 miles, all the way from Mid-City to Abbot Kinney.
In the last year, they added a huge buffer zone by removing a traffic lane from the section of Venice Boulevard between Crenshaw & West, where motorists tend to drive 15-20 MPH over the posted 35 MPH speed limit. That extra space makes it feel much safer than it used to. Then all of a sudden it gets a little weird in the zone where many cars are angling over to veer right onto San Vicente. The most dangerous stretch is the part where the bike lane just isn’t, and you really have to watch out for fast-moving cars crossing over to the right lane.
But that’s just a brief part. It’s still nice to have a long stretch with a bike lane for getting over to the west side. You can take this all the way to the beach. I turned off in Venice at Abbot Kinney, though, and was agape at all the trendy shops, restaurants and bars that line this cute street that angles over from Venice Boulevard to Main Street. I realized as I rode into Santa Monica that it has been a couple of years since the last time I rode a bike on Main Street, and the bike infrastructure has really grown, as has the number of cyclists you see here. That said, when I got to Espresso Cielo, realistic bike parking did not seem to be available. Instead, I found the odd little bike rack that isn’t really a bike rack out front. I moved the bike inside after ordering my cafe au lait.
The cafe au lait was dreamy in a milky-good sort of way (I get disappointed when a cafe au lait tastes like someone thought they should hold back on the milk – it’s all about the lait), which made it nice for an evening hot beverage. I had to gulp it down rather quickly, though, as I needed to hurry on my way in order to catch the 6 pm vespers service.
I managed to get there at 6:01, so by the time I’d parked my bike and went inside, the music had begun. It was a a double choir, the combined choirs of the UU Community Church of Santa Monica and First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles in Koreatown (I joined the Santa Monica church in 1998, when I was living on the west side, and then joined First Church after moving to Koreatown, so I’ve got ties to both places).
They sang Luigi Cherubini’s Requiem in C-minor, interspersed with some prayers, readings, candle-lighting, and most moving of all, the singing of names. We had been invited to provide names of loved ones who died during the past year. A few soloists stepped forward and took turns singing the names. After each person’s name was sung, the choir followed with “you are not forgotten”. Just at the point when I started kicking myself for not remembering to submit my brother’s name, the soloist sang: “Craig Canady” and the choir sang “you are not forgotten”. It was beautiful. The tears felt beautiful rolling down my cheeks. Maybe I had remembered to submit his name. I know it would mean a lot to Craig to be remembered like this. Exactly 11 months after he died. Exactly two weeks before his birthday. Craig would have noted those details.
It was after the singing of the names that we had our opportunity to step up and light candles to acknowledge our memories, our grief. I wanted to light so many candles, as there have been so many deaths to grieve. I lit three, one for each of the three I’ve been grieving the most this past year: my brother Craig, my first cousin once removed Bill, and my friend Adriane. I really should have brought more tissues with me.
Emerging from that beautiful service, after having a good cry, it felt great to be in the fresh night air, feeling the breeze as I biked my way back home. I took a different way back, heading straight east from the church into Westwood, then Century City, through Beverly Hills, into Mid-City and home again. How lucky I am to be not just alive, but really living, breathing, feeling my body move as I pedal my way through my city.
Craig, in his youth, in his element (at a family gathering). He was always the best at bringing family together, staying in touch with each of us, no matter where we were, and remembering all the details of what happened on what date.
Cuz Bill, in his later years, but still plenty spunky. He taught me to write limericks. He exemplified a tasteful classiness, punctuated by a clever wit.
Adriane, standing next to her favorite painting. She would rarely allow herself to be photographed. I got away with it this time only because I wanted a picture of her in the cowl I had knitted for her.