I’ve had many adventures since I left Austin, so many that it feels I’ve been gone for weeks. The train ride was awesome; I made a couple of buddies along the way that were handy in keeping things interesting, especially as cabin fever set in. The ride itself was much faster & more comfortable than I anticipated. I was directed to a lower cabin car which has wider seats, more leg room, & only 12 seats. This cabin had 5 riders besides myself so I had two fat seats, with more leg room than I have legs, all to myself, making a generally pleasant ride with the exception of “The Queen of The Train”: a woman in her 50s who rides the rails often and ruled our car with her giant vocal chords which were active most of the time and usually had nothing interesting to broadcast.
We arrived in Los Angeles at about 7am on Friday, June 6th. Considering I hadn’t had coffee yet and no food since the night before, it seemed like an eternity for me to get my bike out of train storage. The brand new box I put my bike in in Austin was beat to hell and buried under 30 giant boxes belonging to a family of 5 that were moving to California from the East Coast. I twitched in anticipation of getting my sweetheart out from under that heap. Finally, after a gazillion years, I ripped through the little pieces of cardboard that barely remained on my bike and swiftly straightened my handlebars and put my pedals back on. Passengers aren’t usually allowed in the receiving area but that didn’t stop me from test riding my bike in giant figure eights in the belly of L.A.’s Amtrak station. Now that my bike was working I was ready to go get lost, which I did swiftly!
I wanted to ride my bike the 13 miles to the hotel in Westwood but now it was 8:30am and I still hadn’t had coffee. Additionally, upon lifting my bags, I realized that somehow they were heavier than I planned for them to be. Some gremlin must’ve stuffed some extra tools in there while I wasn’t looking. So I asked around about a bus only to learn that the folks in LA are either confused or confusing when it comes to describing their bus system. After 3 failed attempts at understanding the bus in my caffeine free state, I tied my luggage onto my bike rack with bungee cords, did some strange maneuvering of my limbs, and managed to get on my bike. I then used nothing but will power to make it go, without falling over, through downtown traffic, during rush hour, all the while kicking myself that I didn’t shell out the dough for some paniers to balance my heavy load. My GPS picked this moment to go apeshit and kept telling me I was in the middle of a dirt field in Indiana and other blatant lies. Literally, Indiana. Again I had to rely on the vague descriptions of the people of Los Angeles. OK Go straight. Turn left on 7th street. Got it.
After 9 wavy uphill miles of 7th street where I crossed 3 freeways and hit a dead end before finding the street I was supposed to turn on from there, I had to practice my broken portunol (a rare mix of portuguese and spanish that I learned in Brazil) with an old Mexican man walking his granddaughter to school. He told me I was ass backwards. I turned around and went a few blocks while questioning my language skills. A lady was watering her roses and spoke some English. She confirmed that I was ass backwards and gave me a bottle of water for my crazy/stupid bike ride. She didn’t exactly say that, but her face said it. Somehow the 9 mile return was also a steep uphill. I mean STEEP – like really really hard without a load & impossible with 60 pounds on your back. Was it 60 pounds? It felt like 60 pounds. It was too early for this, I didn’t have enough water, and my bags weren’t packed right so any further description of this segment would just result in a lot of cursing.
I finally found myself downtown again and GPS was toying with me as to which bus to take. I was a couple of blocks from where my droid was telling me to go and standing directly beneath a bus sign that said Westwood. I decided to listen to the sign. The fascinating adventure of bussing in LA shortly ensued. Lifting my monstrously heavy bike with the bulk of my belongings strapped onto it onto a bus where the driver is too pissed off at her lot in life to lower the bus was only the beginning. Yay, more pre-coffee oddly shaped exercise for me. Huff. I get on. She hits the gas pedal and immediately starts yelling at me that I put my bike on wrong and it’s going to fall off. So I stand there, helplessly watching it wobble and waiver while waiting for her to stop driving like a maniac so I can go fix it before the bus rolls over it. “Get behind the yellow line!!”, she screams as she continues to torture me for three jerky, stop & go, city blocks before stopping to watch me lift, twist, & lift my heavy life properly onto the bike rack. I finally get to squeeze me & my overstuffed turtle shell of gear through this sardine can to ensure my place among many indescribable smells & sounds. I try not to look completely overwhelmed but my eyes are bulging and I spastically keep leaning forward to see the names of the upcoming streets, hoping & promising to turn my back on atheism if my stop comes soon. I think I picked the busiest bus with the longest route in LA, and for all the whining I’ve done about how Austin lacks diversity, let me just say, I found it all on that bus. That delectable intimacy lasted about 45 minutes.
I get off the bus and it wasn’t soon enough so I continue to turn my back on god. The hotel is a mere block and a half away and I begin to feel relief but it is snatched out of my heart when the grumpy old imbecile behind the counter tells me my room isn’t ready and he doesn’t know when it will be as he practices facial twitches which indicate that I am the bain of his existence. He was almost as much of a brat as the bus driver but I have yet to get coffee and all those smells on the bus have made me testy and impatient. I proceed to gently put him in his place for being a bad human. He backs down and helps me put my belongings into a storage closet. Me & my empty bike go out for coffee. Finally.
After two hours of ambling through the UCLA area my room is ready. I unload, catch up on some breathing, and soon I’m driving with my long lost cousin and her precious offspring. I spend the next two days getting to know my young, thrice removed cousins and biking the area. My favorite ride was to Santa Monica Pier and all along the beach down to Venice. The bike path is just the right distance from the actual scene that you’re close enough to laugh at it without actually having to touch it. On the way back to the hotel I stopped for Persian Ice Cream which is potentially the most divine flavor I’ve ever tasted. Then, ZAP!, I’m off to the jobby job in Thousand Oaks. Getting there, accomplished.