While not an annual tradition, past Thanksgiving Days going back to the early 1990s have found me out and about on long bike rides, and this holiday proved to be the next and rather epic one to add to that list.

Going on a near two hour and forty-five minute, 32-mile tour beginning at daybreak Thanksgiving Day, my ride crossed 18 bridges big and small over the Los Angeles River from Atwater Village to the north, to the industrial area around Washington Boulevard to the south — most of which were designed and built in the early 1900s by a hero of mine — largely unsung: Los Angeles City Engineer Merrill Butler.

The source material for this ride was something I dubbed the “10 Bridges” group ride and first organized back in the mid-2000s when I was a far more involved and enthusiastic member of Los Angeles’ bike “community.” That ride typically started at the south end, and finished at the North Broadway Viaduct above Chinatown. Researching the bridges’ histories led me to discover Butler was behind the designs of most of them.

After my interest and involvement with the at-large bike community waned (I think the last group ride I led was in 2013) brought on by a disenchantment as well as a conversion to a bike commuter logging 6,000-plus miles yearly, that was followed by a prolonged period through the 20-teens which also saw my bike mileage dwindle to near zero due to how easily pedaling would aggravate a nagging sciatic nerve condition that had developed. In the midst of all that was the years-long closure/demolition/rebuild of the old 6th Street Viaduct so during that time there were only nine bridges.

Then in April of 2019 came the game-changing purchase of my first ebike and with it a less sciatic trouble and a resurgence both in bike commuting and recreational riding, the latter most recently re-energized with the fabulous recent ArroyoFest 2023. Fast forward to last week and as I was staring down the long holiday weekend, I rather impulsively charted out a north-to-south route vith the Gmaps Pedometer website (image at right; link: https://tinyurl.com/44pky35e).

Only this time around in addition to the original ten bridges I incorporated the three newest bridge over the river: the the North Atwater Ped/Bike/Equestrian bridge, the Red Car Ped/Bike bridge, the historic Sunnynook Ped Bridge, and the one-year-old Taylor Yard Ped/Bike Bridge in Frogtown. If you’re doing your math, that’s only sixteen bridges. The other two I decided to include during the ride itself, at the outset of which I first rolled over Merrill Butler’s Sunset Boulevard Bridge over Silver Lake Boulevard, and at the south end of the LA River Bikepath I begrudgingly added the Riverside/Figueroa Ped/Bike Bridge. It’s neither historic nor a Merrill Butler creation, but it does span the river so I couldn’t leave it out.

Lastly, because sound recording on my body-worn GoPro sucks, I went to the extra trouble of mic’ing up with a secondary audio device — the better not only to hear the accompanying classical music soundtrack as provided by KUSC’s app through my backpack strapped bluetooth speaker, but also any vocal ramblings I felt compelled to make along the way. Of course, in putting together this video that then involved the painstaking manual effort of syncing up the secondary audio tracks to the video tracks, but it came out well enough to make that additional toil worthwhile.

The ride itself? Well, it was glorious. Though there ain’t nothing like the real thing. if you watch any of the video I hope you’ll be able to tell how wonderful it was to be out in the quiet calm of a Los Angeles on such a beautiful Thanksgiving Day morning.

An animation of the entire route is at left. Below, I’ve time-marked the bridge arrivals/crossings chronologically (as well as a few bonus locations) for yer skip-ahead pleasure. Clicking on the times should hopefully open the video up in a new browser tab at that specified time):

1. Sunset Boulevard Bridge — 3:00
2. Glendale-Hyperion Bridge — 11:45
3. North Atwater (Kretz) Bridge — 20:25
4. Sunnynook Bridge — 24:50
5. Red Car Bridge — 30:30
6. Fletcher Avenue Bridge — 36:20
7. Taylor Yard Bridge — 53:20
8. Riverside Drive Bridge — 58:00
9. North Broadway (Buena Vista) Viaduct — 1:02:50
10. Spring Street Viaduct — 1:11:25
11. Main Street Viaduct — 1:13:50
12. Cesar E. Chavez (Macy Street) Viaduct — 1:21:55
13. 1st Street Viaduct — 1:24:10
14. 4th Street Viaduct — 1:28:35
15. 6th Street Viaduct — 1:33:00
16. 7th Street Viaduct — 1:40:05
17. Olympic Boulevard Viaduct — 1:46:30
18. Washington Boulevard Bridge — 1:51:50

Merrill Butler Tribute (read from James Ricci’s LA Times column): 1:53:40
Dumpster of Good Fortune: 2:15:10
Intersection with the annual Turkey Trot Run: 2:24:00
2nd Street Tunnel: 2:25:45