Thursday, July 28, 2011

67.09 miles. boom

It was supposed to be a fun 28-mile bike ride along the beach from Marina del Rey to Redondo Beach... little did they know...

9 AM A group of new friends gathers in the morning for a leisurely ride down the boardwalk. They get to know each other, chatting amicably as they ride.

11:43 AM It’s nearly noon when they gather on the wharf to eat fresh fish, fried squid, and oysters. They talk of camping and plans for that evening back in LA. The excursion will end in a few short hours.

The plan is to mosey back after Lawrence obtains some commemorative magnets and James tops off his fried food with a gallon of smoothie. But this weekend joy ride is about to take a treacherous turn.

More prepared than he knows, James showing off the versatility of his REI du-rag at Redondo Pier

Dave innocently suggests they ride out one more mile to make the whole trip an even 30-miles. 30 miles would be a record for most of the team. Feeling rejuvenated by the pound of fried calamari they've just consumed, Dave's friends entertain this idea and join him down the boardwalk.

2 PM  It's peak of the day. Sun beats down. The road curves around the Palos Verdes Peninsula, snakes up and down like a Stegosaurus back. The team stops for gatorade twice. They set a goal, the Korean Bell in San Pedro, almost as a joke. It’s another 15 miles out, and the elevation keeps climbing. As they ride on, no one wants to be the first to call it and head back.

A brutal mistake.

There are warning signs. A tourists stopped at a key view along the way, shakes his head in dismay. "It's a long way to the Bell with a lot of hills."

The road opens up like a ribbon lacing the edge of the peninsula's cliff. A nice breeze blows from the coast, but a fierce sun, uninhibited by trees, beats down upon their backs. The climbing never seems to stop, and it stretches out in front of them as far as the eye can see.

Huddled by the road side, these recreational cyclists are without spandex bike uniforms. No spandex. It’s a crime. They are, without a doubt, way out of their league.

"We are there," Ro yells. They look off into the distance at the bell. They are not there. But his enthusiasm pushes them on. Five miles later, they circle around and around the fort trying to find the entrance while avoiding any unnecessary hills. A patch of grass briefly relieves the aching backsides, but the reprieve is brief. They press on.

It has been thirty tiring miles....

.. but we make the summit of the Koran Bell, San Pedro, CA at 6 PM PST
A surprise event captures our attention. They are hosting a historical reenactment in the park surrounding the Bell. Figures from every period of time, ranging from pirates in the 17th century to Vietnam War soldiers traipse around the encampment. Some pirates take our picture.
Lt. Berenger making his round. "You did not pay for tickets to get into this event, get off this premise or you're mine!"

As they flee the reenactment, Dave, the only team member with a road bike suffers a devastating flat tire; they search for a bike shop, squeeze in the door, and replace it just minutes before they close. Energy reserves are low, very low. The oysters and fried fish are long gone. The team must replenish or there will be no journey back.

The refueling station is a cafe in San Pedro. Everyone consumes massive quantities of food. The waitress is curious after a million refills on the signature watermelon lemonade. She sees the bikes outside as the sun is setting.
"Where are ya'll biking to?"
"Culver City."
"Oh my gosh, be careful, the crazy fools come out at night."
Ro aptly replies, "Yes, we do."

7:30 PM Departure from San Pedro at dusk.

It has grown much colder, the swimsuit top that I am wearing, anticipating that day at the beach, will not suffice in the long night ahead.

By some twist of fate, the team passes a consignment shop with late hours and are all able to acquire the proper supplies without draining any unnecessary funds. Dave scores one better than spandex: a Team USA training jacket.
Ill-prepared and exhausted, the team begins their retreat. There is confusion over the route, and it kills precious time. They are under the gun as the sun fades away. Two vertical inclines drain them before they even begin.

Once on the highway the reality of the situation becomes clear. It is night. And the road is pitch-black.  They cannot see even a foot in front of them; the oncoming traffic is blinding. With downhill speeds of up to 23mph, the team knows proceeding in such conditions would be unwise, but they have no choice.

After ten grueling miles, there is a break and finally a convenience store appeared on the horizon. But to their dismay, there are no lights. The team is directed up the hill to a legitimate supply depot.

After a quick consensus, the two veteran bikers tackle the two-mile vertical incline to retrieve flashlights, while the rest of the team waits at base camp. Tensions are running high, already it is 10pm, and they are still 20 miles out. (Luckily this team is comprised of tech savvy boys who are plotting on Endomondo every rotation of the wheel).

Three snails attack my candy stash nearly draining me of my resources.

10:30 PM A radio call comes in from the team on the summit. There is talk of taking emergency measures and finding an evacuation plan. The remaining members at base camp are determined to survive and once reunited with the exhausted crew from the top, inspire them to press on.

The team prepares for the final decent. They rig flashlights onto the handle bars with rubberbands, refuel with Reece's Pieces, and begin the perilous journey again.

Flashlights improve the situation, but the darkness is deceiving, dissolving the road ahead into blackness. The only indication of a steep incline approaching is the trail of carlights far above us. Clouds have blanketed the moon, leaving an ominous glow.

The cyclists wait faithfully for the last bend int the road to give way to the boardwalk -  some sign that this is not endless. This mythic curve in the road becomes an obsession. It hovers in their minds like the promise of water for a Bedouin. Will it appear? Or is this all a dream?

I trail behind feeling every muscle in my leg resisting the mental call to action. The momentum from the downhills wastes away and is unusable for the ensuing uphill battle. I am reduced to using the low gears that make you pedal like a mixer but move like a barge. This is all I can ask my jello-y limbs.

When I think I can go no further, suddenly there is relief. The road drops away into a violent downhill. I use it to my advantage. I am far behind the group and must catch up.  The cogs churn like a high-powered fan, as I turn the gears all of the way up. They propel me faster like a loud train into complete darkness. I do not think of the possible obstructions before me in the night. The woods to my right are letting off cool air, and I pray there are no rogue sticks or creatures. I’m gaining ground and for the first time in miles enjoying the abandon of speed.

The first sign of an end is the posh library on the hill. The fountain glows with night lights beneath the water. I stuff some more candy in my mouth and try to induce some synthetic energy.

The sandy ramp to the boardwalk is like a driveway home; the collective feeling is: we've made it. This is where mistakes are made. It has been proven that most accidents happen on the decent, when athletes mentally check out, think they are home-free, and get sloppy. They start doing things like playing Frisbee.

Our Frisbee game lasted approximately 30 seconds. No one could move.

12:30 AM No one is playing around (after the Frisbee). It is game time. James is on a mission. He ties the du-rag on, and we don’t see him again until the bridge. Dave keeps up on his heels like a Banchee. Ro does some sight-seeing around the vacant pier, while Lawrence  sleep-cycles. They pass no one on the bike path for the entire 16 miles back.

The lurking figures on the periphery are highly suspicious and I swear someone from a drunken bonfire on the beach yells, "Get a life." As if being drunk and sloppy on a beach at 2am is any better than being exhausted and biking at 2am.

Here is the sophisticated dialogue in my head: Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

So many false flags, my mind is cruelly playing jokes every time I see a gap in the buildings up ahead. When the bridge finally comes, I am in disbelief. 

The team reconvenes at the bridge. Each member collapsing as they approach on their bikes, ignoring the utter filth of the bridge they disappear into delirium.
and yet.. still four miles from home
We lost Lawrence
 ...dont even care that we are lying on moist concrete that smells like ..nevermind
2 AM The team has reached base camp. This saga has drawn to a close. Feel the glory! The only thing left to say is: 67.09 miles. Boom.

It only slightly embarrassing to learn later from Dave that while we were struggling down the boardwalk, the Tour de France cyclists were simultaneously covering 129 miles.  It’s all in the spandex.

A special thank you to my bike.

Dramatization. Based on true events.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the Arizona Sky

Behold the classic Saguaro cacti in Arizona. 
I was so excited the first time I saw these. 
They look exactly like the ones I had always seen in books about the wild wild west. 
Bring me my camel. 
We missed the sandstorm although it looked like it was fast approaching. 
AZ or Cairo, the mountains look more like pyramids in the hot hot hot,
did I mention hot evening air. 
Little niece was so fun. We were resourceful in the hotel. We made ghost puppets from Kleenex, played improv songs on my ukulele about cooking breakfast on the hot sidewalk. I read her stories out of the Popular Science magazine which surprisingly held her attention. She’d say, “Oh that’s so interesting. Wow.” So cute - most of the time she had no idea what the article was talking about.
Not enjoying the Taming of the fro.

Arizona Attractions: 
1. Hanging out with family of course. 2. Grand Canyon of course. 3. Huge Cacti make the landscape look like a pin cushion. 4. Thunderstorms in summer. 5.  Tumbleweeds actually roll across the roads. 6. Sand dunes and 4-wheelers. 7. Roadrunners are alive and well. 8. Running in the rain doesn't make you cold. 9. Turquiose and feathers 10. Crystals, red rocks, and vortices in Sedona 11. Legends of cowboys, lawlessness, and Wyatt Earp. 12. Tombstone, AZ. 13. Spinkler misters on the eaves of buildings make you feel like veggies in a supermarket. 14. Ice cream is a matter of survival. 15. Mesas. 16. Gigantic open skies 17. Clear starry nights

Arizona Detractions:  
1. It did not get below 112 during the day. 2. My shoes actually melted! I had to buy huge flip-flops just to make it back to the hotel. 3. Deoderant, chapstick, chocolate cookies, fruit... everything melted. Nothing is safe. 4. The ipod found it inhumane.. (or intechane?) to work in such hostile conditions. 5. We had to freeze water in bottles before leaving the hotel. 6. No car AC, how did they live before AC?. 7. Not being able to be outside during the day. 8. Planned communities and prefab houses everywhere. 9. RV lots 

Obviously in this official synopsis shows the attractions win 17 to 9.
Every day seems to end in spectacular sunsets.

 We found fireworks on the way back near the border.
As we got closer, we saw a huge blaze on the horizon. Fire trucks were racing past. Apparently the fireworks caught fire and the entire field was ablaze. Luckily they detonate the show remotely, so no one was too close when the fireworks exploded on the ground.