Monday, March 22, 2010


From the Fletcher Avenue Bridge, you can bike the ‘other’ direction on the bike path, toward downtown. And I say ‘other’ with my index fingers bracketed because very few of the hard-core hammerhead cyclists ever pass that way owing 1) to the crappy bike-path conditions down that way and 2) to concerns about “those who dwell within the mountain,” to borrow a phrase from Lord of the Rings. True enough, the three miles of path beyond this gate are bumpy and potholed and gnarly and the socioeconomic conditions aren’t exactly on par with Beverly Hills, but since when has that stopped a Heckawee from riding his bike? Besides, with no jackasses riding in this direction, that means this Heckawee can spin and enjoy the view and keep his heart rate and his blood pressure low.

The reverse view of the Fletcher Ave Bridge on a rare gray day in Silver Lake. You can see that the path isn’t finished – cable railing not installed and so on – and there isn’t enough money to finish it, I don’t believe. And see the debris along the embankment? That’s how high the river rose a month or so ago. Under the bridge itself, of course, is the homeless guy with his Bolano novels. Out of respect, I will not take his picture with my cell phone. One of these times, though, I will interview that fellow and post it here on Mag’s Sentence. If he will talk to me, that is.

Here, gathered on the riverbed stones, are some of the incredibly frightening thug-types who seem to scare off cyclists from this part of the path. They are standing around a small picnic table on which is a bottle of California champagne. A gorgeous female model (is there any other kind?) fondles this bottle and the rest of those folks are assisting a photographer who is taking the model’s picture. I don’t know about you, but I’m writing my City Councilperson. These good-looking people with money are ruining the neighborhood!

Powerlines, trees in the river, run-down warehouses: tell me this isn’t a groovy place to ride bikes. Actually, my only complaint is the City used what money it had left to patch the dirt sections on the path with asphalt (there must not have been enough money to re-asphalt the whole thing), and I miss the dirt stretches. Funny thing, a couple of days ago, I emerged from this bumpy section of the trail and got back on to the smooth part that leads toward Griffith Park and I met up with a cyclist on a Specialized. Nice guy. Talkative. I was happy to have a friend for a while. He was telling me that he thinks the path is way too crappy and bumpy from whence I had emerged. He couldn’t believe I was riding down there. “I paid way too much money for my bike,” he said, “to beat the fuck out of it like that.” He was riding a Specialized Roubaix.

I’m riding a 2003-model Trek 5500. It has seen better days and if I were to try selling it, I would probably have to give the prospective buyer a few hundred bucks just to fix it up. On crappy surfaces, though, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better road bike.

I believe the makers of this fine artwork are the folks who scare off the hardcore hammerheads. Listen, I know it’s a tough neighborhood along this stretch of path but then again, it’s not all that scary. People wave. People say hello. Children play out on the path while their grandmothers supervise (all the more reason not to be a hammerhead: safety first, folks!). And dozens of people fish in the river. The only thing missing here is cyclists, which is what makes it ideal for cycling!

The end of the line. Beyond this fence, under this bridge: scary people. But here’s the thing, if the city put up the money, this path would extend four or five miles longer and connect with the path that goes all the way to Long Beach, for chrissakes! And from there a person could get on the San Gabriel River path and go clear into the mountains, all without ever encountering traffic. But there’s no money to make this happen. Sad, sad, sad situation. Still, from here in the other direction, till past the Zoo, it’s seven full miles of uninterrupted bike path. I have to be thankful for that.

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