THRU HOLLYWOOD TOWARDS THE COAST.
Having hardly eaten, I was fueled by the joy of being outside in the sun. My legs were fresh from the months of being cooped up in the Portland winter. My gear was packed tight, and I nimbly weaved through the crowded LA streets. I stopped on a corner to position my camera, hoping to experience a catharsis as I rode, words and meaning flowing out of me.
The camera rattled as I silently realized I had nothing to say. The streets were packed, and I had to get to the coast. Focused, and purposeful, my brain relaxed as my skin took in the warmth from the sun. Maybe the catharsis would come later. In the meantime, I'll take in the stylish hairdos, palm trees, and million dollar homes.
Reaching Laurel Canyon, I stalled out. The steep grade with my gear left me to rest on a driveway as I climbed. Panting, an older man began walking down the hill towards me. I hadn't rested more than a minute, and got irritable expecting this guy to tell me to get off his driveway. I began repositioning my bike to leave, hoping to avoid a conflict as he waived me to stop.
He had been a professional cyclist in the 50s, racing in Europe; expressing particular pride in how well he had done in Lebanon. He pulled out his flip phone, quickly scrolling through his photos. He thanked me for riding, for reminding him. He doesn't ride anymore, but he walks everyday. He said he goes to the doctor for check ups, and the doctor asks him why he came, because he is so healthy. We laughed. 84 years old, he said. He wished me luck on my ride, never asking where I was going, or why. I thanked him, nudging back out onto the road, continuing slowly up the canyon.
IT THEN BECAME CLEAR. FINDING WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY, AND SHARING THAT HAPPINESS IS ALL ONE NEEDS TO DO. RIDING MY BIKE BECAUSE I ENJOY IT IS REASON ENOUGH TO DO IT. NOTHING BIGGER NEEDED TO BE ACHIEVED, OTHER THAN THE HILL IN FRONT OF ME.
Beverly Hills was unlike any place I had been. It was tropical and bright, filled with life. Humming with eclectic, wealthy energy. At each stop light, as the pedestrians passed before me, I imagined where they were heading, creating brief stories. I wondered if anyone noticed me in the course of their busy, semi-productive days. I rode through the shadows of buildings, feeling the cold of the early evening, and the heat of the exhaust as buses narrowly passed on my left.
Stopping to chug a juice and eat a muffin, I was 15 miles out from Malibu. I planned to camp, but Cody had mentioned that he knew a few people down here, so why not see if they would let me stay? No harm in that, plenty of opportunity to camp on this trip. I gave him a quick call, and he said he would find out. They lived only 4 miles from the RV park that I had planned to land at anyways.
Rolling down the hill to the coast line, I reached highway one. I, along with everyone out on the highway, did not want myself to be out there. I tried to escape, crossing the street towards what appeared to be a esplanade. NO BIKES was painted on the concrete every hundred feet, rolling under my tires. Ending only a few moments later, the path spilled me back onto the highway, leaving me without a crosswalk, on the wrong side.
The sun was low, perhaps a hour or so of light left. The traffic allowed me to needle through cars, crossing four lanes and back onto my inconsistent shoulder. Cody called me back, saying his friends would be more than happy to let me stay the night. I was elated. All that remained was to find a beer and some food before I arrived.
I rolled into a Ralph's parking lot, spotting a neighboring USPS. Without hesitation, I pulled in, unpacked my tent, asked for a box, and mailed it back home. $18 well spent, I thought. Escorting my lighter bike through the store, I picked up two single cans, sushi, and spicy peanuts for dinner. It was shaping up to be a decent day. Got a room, got some sun, climbing, and beer.
Retreating to the privacy of the back of the Ralph's, I drank my beer and thought about what I had just done. I had no choice but to find a place to stay for 9 more days of the trip. That was going to be expensive, and would require me to do some planning. And, the whole idea was to do this thing alone, out there beyond my comfort zone, but I just weaseled out of it.
Finishing my beer, I turned on my lights for the last short stretch of highway. My plan for tomorrow was to keep moving north.