Sunday, April 21, 2013

CicLAvia - Downtown to the Beach via Venice Blvd

It started out simply enough - meet up at I. Martin Cycles at 9:15 for a feeder ride from West Hollywood to downtown for CicLAvia.  For some reason I thought we would take other streets to get downtown than those already designated for CicLAvia, but a group of about 15 of us headed mostly down Crescent Heights to Guthrie, then Guthrie to Venice Blvd.

CicLAvia was supposed to start at 10:00 but we got to Venice Blvd at about the half way mark before 10:00 and it was all set up and bikes were already on the move.  The group split with half opting to head to the beach and the other half heading downtown.  Since I have taken Venice to the beach countless times, I decided to go downtown - my second bike trip down.  The crowd heading west was much bigger than the crowd heading east, and it was a mostly smooth ride down except for one hill where I had to stop half way up to catch my breath.  I had already lost the group anyhow as we all just sort of split up.  After I caught my breath, I finished crawling up the hill with my bike.  It should be noted that this hill was so steep that on the way back everyone had to dismount their bikes and walk down the hill for crowd safety reasons.

Upon arriving at the end of the line somewhere downtown, I promptly turned around and started back, and that's when the enormous traffic jamming of cyclists began.  It was a painfully slow slog to get out of downtown, trying not to bump into other cyclists including small children or people towing children in trailers.  I had finished my 20-oz bottle of water in the heat of a cloudless day, and I was working on my 25 oz bottle when I realized that there was no way I could make it to the beach and back with the water I had left and with the time it was taking to move - it was very slow going.
I couldn't even say how many bikes there were, but at one point they were packed in as far as I could see ahead and behind me.  So I decided to stop the madness when I got back to Guthrie and I exited the CicLAvia event.  Honestly, at the crawl it was moving, I don't know how long it would have taken me to get to the beach and I didn't really care anymore.  I had hoped for a 40-mile ride, and one gal in the group from I Martin did manage it, but after 26 miles and nearly out of water,  I just had had enough.
So I don't know if I will ever do another CicLAvia, or at least not in the same way.  It would be nice to socialize with other cyclists but perhaps next time I'll not take the designated route but another route and just hang out, then take a non-CicLAvia route out, because the mob scene is definitely not my thing.

One thing I will say is that I need a Camelbak and will look into getting one this year when the cookie orders are more abundant.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Crazy tire issues and biking Fountain Blvd.

A scooter bike thing, but this guy kept up with the pace!
On Sunday I decided not to go to church but instead to take a group ride that was sponsored by the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition #WehoBike.  We met up at the West Hollywood City Hall parking lot which is only 3 blocks from where I live, and I think about 25 people on bikes showed up.

We went up Sweetzer to Fountain Blvd and then took Fountain to the Ralphs parking lot on Fountain/La Brea - which was not quite 2 miles, and then we turned around and came back.  It was a ride to experience the hard-fought sharrows that have now been laid down on Fountain, which is a major cycling street and helps connect West Hollywood to other sharrow streets.  I heard Willoughby also had some sharrows laid down as well. 

The ride was on the new tube I installed, and everything seemed fine.  I went to work afterwards, adding another 6 miles on the bike, and still the tube seemed okay.

The bike after the cookie delivery but before the flat.
Yesterday I loaded up the bike with cookies to deliver to my Monday client and rode down there, no problem, then went to work.  When I came out of work, the tire was almost flat, certainly not ride-able.  So I walked the 2 miles from Shenandoah/Pico to Beverly/Sweetzer to I. Martin Cycles.  I had bought two new tubes on Sunday, and I told them I had just changed it out, and it was already flat but that I couldn't find the problem.  The guy took it apart and carefully inspected the inside of the tire.  Just like me, he could not find the problem.  No thorns, glass, nothing poking through, but the tube definitely had a pinhole in it.  How did it get that hole?  I have no idea.  They suggested perhaps getting a new tire, but in the meantime put in a liner for me and a new tube and pumped it up, and I rode it home.  I am not feeling 100% confident in riding it at the moment since I don't want to get too far from home and get stuck with a flat - because pumping it back up will not solve anything.  There is a bigger problem.  Three tube changes in less than a month is not normal, but we cannot find the integrity issue.   I don't want to hear about how much weight is on the back of the bike.  Before I even got the Bontrager hard case tires, I hadn't experienced a single flat since owning the bike.  The original tires, which had carried me for the first 4 years, are in my closet.  That was before I had the rack and side panniers, but I used to have a different rack that attached to the seat stem, and it carried a pannier that was no heavier than the one I have now. 

So, I'm going to hope the liner gets me through a few days at least.  The walk wasn't terrible yesterday, but afterwards, the 1 mile ride home was horrendous with very blustery head-on Santa Ana winds.  Sometimes I could hardly get over 8 mph.  It's times like those where I wish I had on some fully enclosed goggles so that no debris can get into my eyes.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A slogging Saturday ride

I wanted to ride a good distance today, but I wasn't really mentally into the idea.  Where the mind doesn't go, the body will not follow.  However, I had to deliver some cookies, which I decided to do on the bike, and that was about 8 miles away, and even before the trip I kept thinking, "Oh, maybe I'll just take the car instead," and also, "Well, I'll just get to the destination and turn around and come home." which would have meant only 16 miles.  Part of my brain was saying to do the big ride that automatically puts 42 miles on the odometer.  So I finally decided that I would just see how I felt after the cookie delivery, see if I wanted to complete the journey to the beach and then how far I wanted to go on the bike path.

The bike journey took a partially new route to get to Venice Boulevard's bike lane today.  I have a route picked out the dumps me on Venice Blvd one block east of where National crosses, but between National and Robertson, especially by Robertson, there is road construction - something that not only blocks the bike lane but also even the sidewalks (I don't do well in swift traffic).  So I went to Google Maps to check out a new possible route that would bypass that nonsense, and I found one that dumps me out onto Venice Blvd. from Bagley - a route that crosses Robertson but also keeps me off of Robertson, which I hate riding.  This new detour took me from Shenandoah Blvd to Cattaraugus, then Cattaraugus west to Bagley, and Bagley to Venice Blvd.  It worked beautifully.

My cookie delivery was in a subdivision of L.A. called Mar Vista, and I Google mapped that as well, using McLaughlin, which turned out to be an established bike route (though no bike lanes or sharrows).  It was a relatively flat ride into the lovely, quiet neighborhood that somehow reminded me of the quietness of my grandfather's neighborhood in Goldsboro, NC.  I suddenly felt as if I weren't even in Los Angeles anymore.  It was just so peaceful and calm.  I think if I ever purchased a house, that would be the type of neighborhood I'd want to live in.

After the cookies were dropped off and I retraced my route back to Venice Blvd, I decided to head for the beach.  Now, I was already feeling tired at this point, a weird tiredness - not just because I've spent so many late nights going through all the episodes of Grey's Anatomy.  No, it was a tiredness where I just wasn't interested in speed and didn't seem to be able to get any speed anyhow.

A bike with a surfboard attachment.
I got to the beach, did my usual run down the bike path to the Venice Pier first, then turned to potentially head up the 6 miles to Temescal Canyon.  However, when I got about 3 miles into it by the Santa Monica Pier, I pulled over for a little rest and to take some water.  That's when I discovered my back tire was not holding air and was under-inflated.  Now, I had just inflated it yesterday to 80 psi, and the tube had only been changed a couple weeks ago. So, I was a little shocked, although it explained why I wasn't getting any speed and why I was feeling extraordinarily tired.  Have a low tire makes riding feel like you are slogging through tar.  I got out my manual air pump and tried to put some air into the tire.  That little thing is a piece of crap.  I'm going to have to get a new, better one. 

I fugured if the leak was slow enough, I could maybe get it pumped up at one of the bike rental places and maybe make it home, so I did stop at a rental place and got it pumped up, but at that point I was still over 11 miles out, and I just prayed to make it home.

I had to stop at work for about an hour, and that was 8 miles from the beach, and the tire was pretty low at that point, and I thought if somehow I could just make it 2 more miles to I. Martin Bicycles, I would have them give me a shot of air so that I could make the last mile home.  Well, those two miles were horrific on that tire.  I felt like I could hardly move the bike, and my speed was only about 8 mph.  Awful.  However, I did make it to I. Martin, and the nice folks there gave the back tire a full supply of air, and I made it home.  Within two hours, however, the tire went completely flat.  Now, these are Bontrager hard case tires.  They're supposed to be built tough.  I took the whole thing apart and once again completely examined the tire inside and out looking for thorns or other things  that could be causing injury to the tube, and for the 2nd time could find no issues at all.  One friend suggested that sometimes a spoke can poke it.  I pulled out the new tube I purchased only two weeks ago and replaced it and pumped up the tire again.  So, here we go again.  This is the fourth tube replacement in the back since I got these darned slicks.  No problems in the front.  The front has an extra thick tube, but I've had two of those in the back and had valve stem tears, so thick or thin in the back, I seem to be screwed.  All I know is that I have a group bike ride tomorrow plus I have to go to work for an hour or so, and I need this bike to be working.

My knees feel completely shot from such a hard slog.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Restless Soul Syndrome

I've been on a Grey's Anatomy marathon for a little while, and I'm almost through season 3, and I've come to realise that being a doctor or nurse would have been a great career for me.  Now, saying that doesn't mean I would have had the grades to get into medical school or a nursing school.  However, the fact that working in a hospital is different every day and you never know what is going to come through the door or happen with a patient, well, that's the kind of thing that keeps me engaged in life.  When I have a job where I'm bored out of my mind and watching the minutes tick by, just living to get a paycheck, I feel like screaming.  I feel trapped.  I have had those jobs where I feel trapped.  Sometimes I feel trapped in the job I have now.  When the feeling of being trapped sets in, depression is nipping at my heels.  That depression leads me to come home after work and shut down, and I shut down on the weekends too because I need to conserve and recharge to face another Monday and the start of the grind again.

I have restless soul syndrome. I really do.  I need to be challenged.  I need to be moving, I need to have variety.  I need to not look at the clock because I am totally in the moment.  I have a need to be fully engaged in the moment, in life.  Too often I am shut down.

I don't think I'm better than anyone else, but I can't ever go back to a 9-5 job where I'm pushing pencils and papers.  I've been there and done that, and it's time for someone else to do it.  I've worked for $2 an hour and for $45 an hour and all sorts of salaries in between.  I've bussed tables, been a maid, worked fast food, fetched coffee, designed Flash animation during the bubble, built websites, booked talent, sang for my supper, and I've largely been bored out of my mind.  So thanks but no thanks, I don't want that anymore. 

I'm 54 years old this year.  Some people start planning for their retirement.  I have no intention of ever retiring.  I'm staying engaged in life.  I plan to keep moving, to keep learning, to keep seeing what's out there, and I plan to do it on the bike.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Not looking back

Right now I am living vicariously through other cyclists who are on cross-country adventures.  I am cheering them on, wanting all to make it no matter how long it takes, and I want to hear about every adventure all the way.

I will go when it is my time, which is not now.  I have two animals that need to pass away first, and although one will probably get put down within the month, the other is not as close to that place, and except for her blindness, she still has the enthusiasm and energy of a puppy at 14+ years.  She has a few years to go.

But as I look forward to going, I am wondering if I will ever look back.  Will I sublet my apartment or just sell everything I own and leave Los Angeles for good.  Will I effectively make myself homeless for a greater adventure than sitting still in a mundane job?  Is it even possible to survive off the bike?  I wonder if I will be looking for a new place to start over.  The reality is that I think I would at least have to put some things in storage.  I haven't checked into that.  If I didn't sublet, however, and if I did put things in storage, there would be no turning back once I got onto the bike.

Unlike most cyclists who do their journey and return home, I don't really feel I have anything holding me in California anymore.  What I came out here for (screenwriting) isn't really part of my life now, and although I love the state, there is definitely an emptiness here, a void that I can't fill.  So I know I need to go.  I need to start over, start a new life, a life of adventure.  

In the grand scheme of things, I really don't know how I would live for an extended period on the bike, and I'd like to have an extended period.  I get tiny amounts of residual money through ebook sales, but can also go for weeks without a single sale.  I know that whatever computer I take, I can connect to the internet via various free wireless places, including a library or most Starbucks, and a multi-year prepaid subscription to skype would enable me to make all the long distance calls I need whenever I have wireless.  Still, I think I would want to have a mobile phone... but how would I pay for it with an extended period on the road?  All these things need to be carefully planned out.

I'm looking into buying a tent and a sleeping bag and other basic camping gear.  I have plenty of time to save up for it and to have it all ready to go for when I do get on the bike and begin the trek eastward.  I'm toying more with the idea of towing a small trailer. rather than panniers.  That will also enable me to take my standing bike pump.

I want to spend some time at the Bicycle Kitchen to learn more about bike maintenance and becoming my own mechanic for more than just changing tires or adjusting screws. I'll need to know as much as I can if I'm going out on the road for an extended length of time for which there is no set return date.

I'm just musing.