Latigo. One of my favorite words. A good strong leather. A strap to keep your saddle set.
On a horse that is.
On a bike it means something else entirely.
It means you and your saddle are about to get to know one another really well. And at the end of the relationship it'll have the last word.
Latigo Canyon is a 9 mile climb off of PCH with two peaks, beautiful views, not a lot of cars, and all the pain you could desire.
That's not really true, it's actually pretty forgiving as evil ascents go. It's not Flores or Tuna Canyon or Kanan heading East. Those three were designed to make a man (or woman) go back to swimming.
Latigo is the amateur's point of pride. It's a hill that weekend cyclists suffer or die on, pros run up at a sprint toward the end but for folks in the middle, it's a point of pride. "I did that!"
And it's untrafficked. Like it was built more for us than the cars.
Two cars went by. A couple road crews were perched up in the high corners digging the road back out to its former width after the rains, the hillsides newly excavated and showing bright rock to the sun that hadn't seen sun in half a million years.
A guy chased me the whole way. Well, half way as that's when he caught me. We had a nice chat though, him astride the most beautiful white titanium frame. No labels no name, but a work of art and he spun it up the hill at way more RPMs than I could match. Lovely to watch the consistent speed. When someone can keep a pace it gives one hope. Makes you think someone at least is holding decay at bay, holding off gravity and the rhythmic flagging mammals make when they're gonna die. The beat our heart and lungs keep that shows the clock tick down.
He was none a that. Up. Like a wire was coming out of his chest and pulling him skyward.
Made me think of all the things I see that one wouldnt see from a car. The old stuff left over, the rare preserves in LA.
Those low white wooden fences at the outer corners of some of the older canyon roads. Early County security measures. Looking like props out of "Chinatown".
The dirt and grass access roads half way down some hills connecting the backyards of various mansions- they must have been the original horse trails- like you often see in Western PA- the old road, steeper and narrower, where the first road was built before they decided to build the highway.
The dirt alleys of Venice, the remaining two or three left.
The wood frame cabins off PCH in lower Santa Monica- the barn which stands behind the Annenberg center - it's the last surviving piece of Randolph Hearst's seaside monstrous mansion- now part of some condo complex. The websites and the wiki will tell you the whole thing was razed but check out the photos and then go to the beach. That's it. Still there.
The little cabin in Malibu creek park up near the waterfall. It's a maintenance shed now but it was, into the 1940s, once the home of the last surviving member of the Pico family, descended from the Mexican governors of California. The final representative that hadn't intermarried into the anglo empire of So Cal he was allowed to live out his days on a piece of the property once the size of an Eastern city his family had owned.
You can ride right by it. Any day.
70 miles. Too slow, too long.