There's a guy named Giles Coren who writes the best restaurant reviews I've ever read. Not that I read that many. But what's great about Giles is he sometimes barely mentions the restaurant or often doesn't get to it until he's half a column in.
Like Anthony Bourdain with his Parts Unknown Coren makes us remember that when we go out to eat we aren't just trying to get the best scallopini or the finest sushi roll or a souffle to die for.
We're going out. In groups. To see other groups, and gather around the fires and let our hair down and tell stories. We're searching. And more often than not the food's mostly an excuse to do so.
Coren will tell stories about his father or being Jewish in England or his wife's reminders that he better get his ass in gear and type or he'll talk about the writing itself and then smoothly let you know you've been listening to him inside one of London's kabillion restaurants and how the subject he was going on about links up with some small one door shop's Kebab or a five star bowl of soup that smells like something that wafted up into his room at Oxford and he never found out why.
What I'm trying to say is ....describing the geographic highlights of a bike ride in correct chronology is probably going to bore everyone to death so Im gonna try and avoid it. Or mix it up. From day to day. Depending.
Headwinds. Back pain. The same old RPM drop at the same old corner on PCH that Ive been cursing for 20 years. The gravel. The glare. The exhaust. All to get to a hill by Pepperdine that cant be that hard to climb and yet every time I climb it I want to scream. It doesn't add up. I don't to anymore than the same sum I've seen for decades.
So...why? Why do people sit on bikes for 3 hours at a shot?
Well, to quote Mel Gibson...."Freedom!!"
Not democratic freedom -which as we are so often told isn't free- not the freedom to be you and me, actually quite the opposite. The freedom to be not me. To forget me, dull the voices in my head that I call my personality.
Biking hurts. Way down deep.
I like the saying, On a bike you can die many deaths. What it means is more than in a pool or running on a road, when you're cycling you can hit the wall really really hard and be quite sure that you are done, cooked, fit for the uber pick up to take you home in a bag....and then...you drift over the top of a hill, you hit a climb that's got just that canter you like, someone rips by you with a wicked smile and you find, you're back at it, you've got another life to burn.
But eventually, cycling wears them all down. It kind of erases you. At the end of a hard ride you are boiled down to fewer of your essentials, and what a joy...to lay on the ground or melt into a chair at an outdoor cafe or watch the tide come in while your normally nagging self, ego, ID, and fears are shutting the fuck up.
That's why I do it.
That and the beauty of the machine. A trim bridge most bikes are, that suspension between two wheels. The simplest truss which balances only when in motion, and us perched in the middle. Get one humming and it's a perfect thing. You're a mechanical centaur. That desire wired in all of us since the first Mongol got up on a horse and held on. To be one with something faster. To get back down on all fours and ...fly. No engine. No fuel but you. Sailing but by land, not sea.
LA's been lousy with landslides recently. Four years of water fell in the last couple months and PCH is an ever evolving mud puddle that the nice folks from CalTrans keep open. Topanga Canyon is closed which strikes an almost laughable blow at many commuter hopes and dreams. But ...it also means we the bikers can ride up and down Topanga....alone.
I'm still too old. Knees going, thighs not rippling anymore, frickin back a mess....but WTF, onward.