Saturday, October 8, 2011

Los Angeles Tour de Fat - 10/8/11

Today saw several new things, one of which is relatively trivial - that of using the ATM at my bank to deposit a check with NO deposit slip. It was something I had been avoiding doing for a long time, and I don't know why, but today push came to shove because I needed to deposit the check during off-hours due to my biking plans for the day.

At about 8:45 a.m. I left the house on my bike, fully geared, to join up with the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition at Poinsettia Park for a ride downtown. I had a supply of my own food (partially to avoid buying expensive food from food trucks at the event), including some peanut M&Ms, my favorite tropical turkey salad sandwich from Pavillions, a banana, apple, fig newtons and about 75 ounces of water.

I knew for sure there would be a few of us, but 7 of us turned up, and so at 9:30 we left the park and began an approx. 10-mile trek to go downtown. We mostly rode the sharrows of 4th Street and later connected with the new bike lanes on 7th street that took us downtown - where the bike lane abruptly ended and dumped us into to true city traffic. I was glad I was in a group because with 7 of us, we took up a whole lane, which made riding safer.

There are a few firsts for me this day:

1. First time riding my bike downtown
2. First time riding with a group.
3. First time riding with a HUGE group.
4. First time taking the subway in Los Angeles
5. First time taking the bike on the subway in Los Angeles
6. First big ride since the bike crash on September 5.

I knew we would be meeting up with a lot of other riders for something called "Tour de Fat" - which is not about obesity, btw. However, I sort of got it confused with another event called CicLAvia - which is where some of the streets are closed off in downtown L.A. and opened up to riders, skateboarders, rollerbladers, etc.

The ride to downtown was a lot hillier than I'm used to on my daily commutes and even to get to the beach, which is a walk in the park by comparison. I huffed and puffed up a few of the hills, but never once did I have to get off and walk the bike, so that is a big YAHOO for me.

We met up with a much larger mob of cyclists in Los Angeles Historic State Park just north of downtown Los Angeles and a little S.E. of Dodger Stadium. Music was blaring, bicycle bells were chiming to the beat, and I began to understand that this was not the CicLAvia event but that Tour de Fat was something else entirely. It was sort of a costume party on bikes - a party that would take the mobs of cyclists on a route through downtown L.A. were the streets had NOT been closed off. Tour de Fats are held all over the country and are sponsored by New Belgium, a brand of beer. I'm not a drinker, so I didn't partake of that, but I did enjoy being with other cyclists, including meeting members of the Santa Monica Spoke, the bicycle chapter from Santa Monica.

We had only been at the park for a short time when the mob took off for the ride downtown. The route was relatively short but the ride became extremely congested in one area, and for about 3 blocks of 7th Street, no one was riding much - just sort of half on and half off their bikes and scooting along with one foot on the ground. It was extremely slow going. I know there was at least one accident with a car but I didn't see it. There was some police presence, but mostly because the current Batman movie was filming down there.

While most of the bikes were regular bikes, there were some tricked out, funky ones too. Unfortunately I didn't get any pics of the ones I saw during the ride through downtown because I was concentrating too much on not getting killed by other cyclists and the traffic.

Although I could have ridden my bike home, I really wanted the experience of riding the subway and taking the bike on the subway. One of the West Hollywood riders was ready to leave the event early as well and was going to take the subway, so he showed me the ropes on how to do it from Union Station. $1.50 and 11 subway stops later on the "red line", we got off at the station in Hollywood by the Kodak Theater (where the Academy Awards are held), then walked our bikes for about a block (we were in the very touristy and people/traffic congested part of Hollywood) to a quiet side street that helped to get both of us home.

So, 24 miles and about 50 oz of water later, I'm slightly sunburned and heat exhausted but feeling good that things got accomplished.

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