Tuesday, February 16, 2010

To Live and Train in L.A. #3

We’ve got the steep hills, the amazing human diversity, the ceaseless vehicular traffic, the sirens wailing, the helicopters circling overhead, and sometimes, like last week, we have two rainbows rising from Elysian Park, perhaps from the epicenter of the Los Angeles Police Academy, where L.A.’s future finest spend their afternoons on the firing range. I’ve been riding my cyclocross bike in that direction a couple of days a week, in the direction of the rainbows and the gunfire and the memory of myself as a young person, two million years ago, when Elysium meant something profound to me, not because I had seen cartoons of the Underworld in graphic novels but because I was on a quest to find the root of all stories in the Western World and since the root of all stories is the end, the place where the heroic dead spend eternity, the Elysian Fields, seemed like a good enough place to begin.

Elysian Park maybe isn’t so heroic, not for me. I’m looking for a training grounds, a place to hurt myself a few times a week between easy spinners, and training, I don’t care who you are, isn’t all that heroic (there are people who believe training is heroic, but who wants to hang around with those folks anyway?). The park is just shy of 600 acres and is home to the Los Angeles Dodgers – not to mention to the police academy and their pistols – and I’m fairly certain that you couldn’t ask for a better place to ride a cross bike, in an urban environment, anywhere in the world. The roads are potholed and nasty; there are several astonishingly bitching renegade mountain bike trails (my guess is there are dozens of trails like this); there are wooden staircases that top out on dirt paths; and of course, you are always climbing or descending through what feels like near-wilderness conditions, despite the skyscrapers of downtown L.A. looming in the valley below. In three words: It’s fucking awesome.

But here’s my worry. I’m riding alone – friendless and witless, as they say. And note this description of the park provided by the City of Los Angeles: “The park is unstaffed, unlocked.” So we have 600 acres of trees and hills and hidden places all maybe two miles from downtown – no security people, no control of the perimeter – and what do you expect from an environment like that? 100% wholesome citizens, smiling and waving and offering a guy in spandex encouragement while he grinds his way up steep climb and dismounts and runs a staircase and careens off into the woods? Definitely not. I’m overplaying my country-boy qualities here – at least a little – but I’ve seen dozens of weird-with-a-capital-O folks wandering around on those trails. They’re not the run-of-the-mill, mental-illness-type homeless people who are along the L.A. River pushing carts; the weird-Os of Elysian Park arrive in cars and they’re up to something untoward, I’m damn certain, but I’m not yet certain what.

For the moment, I remain on a research/recon mission in Elysian Park; the riding is simply way too good there not to go regularly. Tell you what, though – I have to find some people to ride with. I’m starting to feel a little kooky alone, with my imagination, on my bicycle.

1 comment:

  1. Yeeesh...you need a gang, or you need to carry a lead pipe. And a military flare. And a life alert necklace.

    I keep thinking I want to head up there for a ride, but--since I also ride alone--you can have your capital O Weird-Os. I may not have the most attractive ass in the cycling world, but I am rather attached to it being attached to me.


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