Jim Bradbury

Writer, Cycler, Strummer

Day 0: Hanging Out in L.A.

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We drove down I-5 last night under stormy, bruised skies that finally let loose as we crossed Tejon Pass. By the time we reached Santa Monica around 8:30, the rain was pouring. It had stopped by the time we checked into our motel, though.

When I got up the next morning, the streets were still damp and the skies were overcast, but it didn’t look much like rain. I have good Internet access here, so I was able to check the radar as well. I walked across the street to Coogie’s Café, but it wasn’t going to be open until 7:00, so I decided to ride down Santa Monica Blvd until I found a Starbucks or something better.

After just a couple of miles, I saw several cyclists coming the other way, and as we passed I realized that they were Route 66 riders. I did a U-turn, caught up to them, discovered that it was Lon Haldeman and the Crew and let Lon know where I was going. This was the first time I’d seen Lon since the finish of Paris-Brest-Paris three years ago. He reminded me that I needed to be back in time for the 3:30 rider meeting.

After turning back around again, I rode to the Main Street Mall, which is just a couple of blocks from Ocean, which is the last street before the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Sure enough: a Starbucks. By now it was 6:54 or so, but Starbucks didn’t open until 7:00. I figured I’d better wait.

Some people were gathering in front of Starbucks with various street-fair paraphernalia. “Hi,” said one young woman. “Are you here for Earth Day?”

“No, last I checked Earth Day wasn’t until April 22,” I said. I could have said “I’m here to FORGET about Earth Day.”

“Well, we’re here to celebrate the Earth.”

I was there to celebrate coffee and a maple scone, but Starbucks, bucking its corporate image, wasn’t opening on time. I watched the Santa Monica police arrest and handcuff a vagrant with a BMX bike across the mall from the café while I waited.

Finally, one latte and scone later, I got back on the road and headed north on PCH. Even at 7:30 in the morning, there was a lot of traffic, and it was moving fast. The shoulder had an irritating habit of suddenly deciding to disappear as well. This was worse than I remembered from my youth, but I managed to make it to Malibu, where things improved somewhat. The big hill at Pepperdine was certainly a blast from the past. Finally, I reached the turnoff for Latigo Canyon Road.

Latigo Canyon Road was my first. My first Hill. Back when I began riding a bike somewhat seriously a little more than 20 years ago, Latigo Canyon Road was the first real climb I attempted after reading about it in a book of bike routes. I still remember going up it the very first time and suddenly thinking “You’ve never done anything this hard before.” I’d probably never done anything really hard before that climb, actually.

Now, I’m certain that I have not ridden Latigo Canyon Road for at least 18 years. But I’ve always maintained a shamelessl sentimental fondness for it because it was my First. I didn’t pretend to myself that I remembered a lot about it, but I had a couple of recollections. And I often wondered what it would be like to ride up it today in my dotage.

Well, it turns out that I remembered almost nothing about Latigo Canyon Road. And even if I had, there’s been a huge amount of development along it over the past couple of decades. Still it was a great climb. I saw several other cyclists on it and not that many cars. It goes up 2,000 feet from PCH, drops 200 after a false summit, and then climbs back up to 2,000. I really enjoyed it. It twists and turns and twists some more.

Latigo Canyon Road

I managed to find my way down the other side to Mullholland Highway easily enough and then started east toward where my friends Randall and Sharon live. Passed the Rock House, which I remembered from my Santa Monica Mountains riding days (it’s a big motorcyclist hangout), and enjoyed very light traffic for quite a few miles.

Que es mas macho?

I did get lost when I tried to follow the directions that Randall had sent me and, as the morning slipped away, I began to get a little nervous about how long I was going to be out. I finally found their house at around 11:25. It’s a very nice house, too, and I had to have a quick tour of course.

Randall gave me directions to Stunt Road, which is only a couple of minutes from their house. My meager store of memories of Santa Monica Mountains routes included the information that once one climbed Stunt Road it would then be basically downhill all the way back to Santa Monica. Randall said that the climb was about 4 miles and 1,300 feet. I also remembered that it was a tough climb to do on a hot day, which this, fortunately, was not. The sun did come out a bit, though, as I made my way slowly up the hill. By this time, I’d already climbed over 5,000 feet for the day, which is probably more than I should have been doing on the day before starting a PAC Tour, but tomorrow is supposed to be almost completely flat, so what the heck. The climb was, in fact, just over 1,300 feet, but after turning at the top onto Saddle Rock Rd, it kept going up for a little while. It also became very foggy. I was at 2,400 feet now and basically riding in the clouds.

Soon enough, though, it started heading mostly down, and before too long I came to a road called Tuna Canyon. This sounded vaguely familiar, so I decided to head down it. It was so foggy, though, that I wasn’t positive I was heading down toward the ocean. Heading down away from the ocean would have been a Very Bad Thing. My new bike computer has a compass heading feature, though, and this reassured me. I was even more reassured when I could see the ocean after the fog cleared a bit.

Tuna Canyon Road

Tuna Canyon was an amazing descent. Long, steep, and with sweeping views of Santa Monica Bay and the Pacific below. It dropped me onto PCH just south of Malibu. Traffic was terrible but, again, I cheated death and managed to get back to the motel just before 2:00, which gave me time to have a shower and grab some food before the 3:30 rider meeting, which took an hour.

Now I’m just waiting for my nephew Jeff to show up so we can go to dinner at Gilbert’s El Indio.

Update: We went to Gilbert’s and then to Westwood for ice cream cookie sandwiches.


Written by Jim Bradbury

April 15, 2006 at 8:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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