Archive for October, 2009

Despite a restless night of little sleep I got up this morning, shook off the fatigue and got on my bike from my location in San Diego’s Mission Valley for a bit of a destination-unknown ride. Roughly 24 miles later (granted, just a drop in the gridscape bucket), I do hereby declare this city to be Bike-Awesome. Not only did I encounter a nice connected network of bike lanes, paths and routes, but on two separate occasions motorists I encountered (once at the “v” of two converging roads and the next at a roundabout) yielded their right of way and decisively motioned me to cross their paths.

Of course as has been known to happen on several of my past rides, I had an animal encounter on my way back to the hotel — in this case a cormorant in some distress. Heading back to the hotel along the bike path that traverses around Sea World I came upon the bird that was unable to fly up against the k-rail that separates the path from the entry drive into the water park. My approach spooked it and it attempted a running take off that took it off the path and across To the middle of busy Ingraham Stret where a couple attentive motorists were able to avoid hitting the poor creature.

Dismounting I was able to half-assedly guide it out of the street to relative safety and it made its way back to the bike path where it moved along the k-rail away from me as  I put in a call first to the San Diego Humane Society who connected me with an organization called Project Wildlife who told me my best bet was to knock on Sea World’s door to see if someone there would come to the bird’s aid.

So I did. But rather than buy a ticket to the park and search out assistance, I entered an adjacent building with a sign reading Hubbs Sea World Research Institute and the receptionist there was kind enough to make some calls until she got a hold of someone who said they’d come check it out.

Thanking her I returned to where I’d last seen the cormorant and found it had moved across the institute’s parking lot to rocky banks by the water where it was looking a little ragged and holding out its wings trying to dry itself off.


In a few minutes, a cart pulled up with two young men from Sea World pulled up and they attempted to net the bird:

While you can hear me express my disappointment when it was able to escape into the water, they said the bird looked more to be waterlogged than oil-covered, explaining that cormorants have the ability to shed their waterproofing in order to be able to dive deeper in search of food. It was some consolation that the bird might be able to recover on its own. Plus the duo said they would check back later to see if the bird returns and try to catch it up again.

Tomorrow or Saturday morning I’m going to follow my friend Ted’s advice and head the other way down to San Diego Bay for a roll around downtown and the Gas Lamp District and maybe Coronado.

In all of the 15,000-plus miles my bikes and I have logged this last 33-ish months, most of it has been inside  Los Angeles. In fact, the furthest urban environment I’ve pedaled from home is Newport Beach last December (for a work-related event). Other than that Long Beach, during a recreational roundtripper done for the helluvit a couple thousand miles ago back in July. Oh yeah, on the subject of fun rides there was that awesome 17-mile downhiller in Death Valley on my 42nd birthday (the day after hiking to the top of 11,049-foot Telescope Peak):


I’ll be further broadening my biking horizons either today or tomorrow and/or Friday and/or Saturday as my presence is required those days for a tradeshow within the industry I purport to cover for the magazine I attempt to edit. And it’s in the not-too far-off lands of a mythical place known by the natives as San Diego (sahn dee-ay-goh). Apparently it’s conveniently accessible by a freeway coincidentally of the same name… the things you learn.

Since the distance is readily drivable, besides a piece of luggage with some clothes less casual than what I usually wear, another thing I’m going to load up my truck with today is 8-Ball and at some point during the coming days — probably in the early mornings — she and I are going to go for a little meandering cruise  (or hopefully cruises) around what I can only hope are interesting and relatively bike-friendly thoroughfares.

Seriously, with all the places Susan and I have been these last three/four years — a 4,50o-mile western-states road trip, Italy, France (a month before its public bike rental program began, dammit!), Mexico, South Carolina, Big Sur — as well as cities such as Savannah and Dallas and Orlando and Charlotte that I’ve visited for previous tradeshows, it’s somewhat anticlimactic that San Diego will be the furthest burg I’ve pedaled in, but better there than nowhere.

A two-minute timelapse (perhaps 115 seconds too long), condensing about 30 minutes of rain action against my Westchester office window this afternoon.

vivianThe Hancock Park-adjacent neighborhood bordered by Larchmont and Van Ness to the west and east, and Melrose and Beverly to the north and south is really a gem. Quiet, tree-lined streets front well-kept single-family homes in a variety of styles, along with duplexes, quads, and a smattering of larger multi-unit apartment buildings.

As a student attending Hollywood’s Le Conte Junior High I lived some of my 7th and all of my 8th and 9th grade years on Wilton Place just one block further east of Van Ness and I would regularly bike or skateboard through there for the welcome respite and change of scenery it provided. See, Wilton was something of a dividing line.  East of it to Western and beyond there was much more intrusion in the way of boxy 1950s and ’60s era apartments, and the residences that remained just seemed a bit shabbier and wearier than those standing a bit more confidently behind the much greener lawns west of Wilton where time seemed to march much more slowly.

In all my explorations past though I never found The Vivian — or let’s just say it never registered. But it did after getting ticketed on my bike this summer and as a result diverting my course to avoid the stop sign at Larchmont and Clinton where it happened. Now, as I make my way north up Larchmont from Beverly I turn right at the light at Rosewood, a block south of Clinton, and take that east over to Bronson and there’s The Vivian on my left before I get to Melrose and head further east.

Besides being an old-style apartment building with an absolutely unique name, its most charming feature is its simple still-working neon sign that I’ve long wanted to snap, but didn’t until I forced myself to pull over on my way home Friday night.

Being that neon’s as beloved by me as it is a difficult thing to capture with a handheld camera it took several exposure adjustments and snaps until I got one that did it justice (click the image for the bigger picture). If any tenants chanced glances out their windows they would have seen me somewhat self-consciously trying and failing not to look suspicious. Soon I was on my way toward home and the weekend that awaited.

With its stone’s-throw proximity to the hallowed fortress of Paramount Studios to the north, if The Vivian’s sign could talk I’d bet it could no doubt tell of shining down upon the joys and sorrows of a procession of would-be stars living there while trying to storm that castle and make their Hollywood dreams come true.

When Susan discovered that upgrading to a TiVo HD DVR would be worthless since the thing ridiculously doesn’t work with satellite service, we decided to go with DirecTV’s equivalent, and since it seemed just a matter of swapping out the DTV HD Receiver for the new one I selected the self-install option rather than schedule a service call.

So the new box arrives Thursday night and being eager to get the HD DVR party started I install it only to encounter a roadblock and then find out during a call to customer service that there needs to be two cables going from the multiswitch between the dish to the box — which was a showstopper because the HD receiver only had one and the self-install page of the DTV website made no mention of that little additional cable being required.

So all I could do was schedule an install visit and of course the earliest available was Monday, which I set up — and was going to cost me $49, dammit! To string a freakin’ cable. So all day yesterday that festered and thus on the way home last night I stopped at a Target, bought myself a 100 feet of coaxial cable for $21, and this morning ran it from the multiswitch down the side of the house and underneath it,  then up through the livingroom floor and into the back of the HD DVR receiver.

The next thing my badassness did after admiring my self-install success was save myself the $49 (or at least the $49 minus the $21 I spent on the cable) — not to mention the time off work  spent waiting for the guy to show up and complete the job Monday — by calling and canceling that service visit because I’m Capt. DIY!

Last week the news that appropriately outraged the bike-i-verse was the law on Santa Monica’s books discovered by cyclist extraordinario Gary Kavanaugh in which the penalty for riding an unlicensed bicycle in that seaside city is a fine of up to $1,000 fine and potentially 6 months in jail.

Harsh, much? Yep, considering the state law on the matter says no fine shall exceed $10. Santa Monica’s tacked on an additional $990 and made it a misdemeanor-level crime punishable as much as half a year in jail. This from a merry metropolis that’s been awarded by the League of American Biyclists for supposedly being bike friendly.

But while front line cycling advocates like my friend Dr. Alex Thompson were stepping up and calling bullshit, what was I doing? Oh my goodness: I was getting a license for my currently unlicensed 8-Ball. From Santa Monica. Like a little bitch.

For want of a less-reprehensible analogy, I feel something akin to a death camp inductee sneaking off to the side and asking for a serial number tattoo. Or a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge who takes to wearing their trademark red and white scarves.

I went online to the appropriate page of City of Santa Monica website, typed up the information requested, made a check out for $3, put it in an envelope and mailed it off. The appropriate documentation and stickers came yesterday, and the tags are on my bike this morning.


Call it Licensing With The Enemy. If it’s any consolation, with the exception of the occasional comment referencing of  “Satan Monica,” at least I wasn’t all blusterously fronting about how much they suck while scurrying around to their backroom to register my bike.

And why? First off, not because of the ridiculous Santa Monica law. Rarely do I ride there and I suspect rarer still are the times that SMPD officers cite cyclists to the full extent their employer so inappropriately allows.

I simply — and some might add irrationally (or worse) — like having it on record that the bike is mine and I’m the bike’s. No matter how worthlessly removable the actual license is, no matter how ridiculously long the odds are that the bike if stolen would be recovered or that the license would aid in its return to me, it is satisfying to me to have done so.

So why not go through LAPD? I’d done that with my previous ride Le Noir (which 8-Ball replaced) and my trusty back-up road bike Old Yeller. But what with the City Council ultimately ordering the law stricken to stop the LAPD’s suddenly aggressive over-enforcement of Los Angeles’ bike license law, I’m not so sure state licenses are even being offered anymore by that department — and certainly not with the first-class-mail ease that Santa Monica provides them.

So that’s why. Call it silly, a waste, out of step or in denial. Accuse me of suffering some cycling variation of Stockholm Syndrome: I enlisted the licensing help of the city that gives so many of my far more worthy bike advocates license to hate.

One of the truly endearing things about the biking I do is that the locations of many of the milestones I reach are so unsung.  In 2007 I began my 3,000th mile traveling next to Lindberg Park tucked into a quiet little residential enclave of Culver City. Last year, and perhaps most appropriately, my 6,000th mile began after turning the corner from Melrose Avenue onto Hyperion, the intersection that’s pretty much recognized as the ground zero of the city’s burgeoning bike culture movement.

By chance on my lunch break I decided to add up my accumulated miles over these past 33 months, and sure enough I found out that by the time I arrive home tonight I will be at 15,007 miles, which means that my 15,000th mile will be achieved along the way — not on some main thoroughfare or through some famous brightly lighted intersection, but here, perhaps all by myself on sleepy little Cochran Avenue just north of an alley south of Wilshire Boulevard.


It’s a miracle mile in the Miracle Mile.