On L.A.

Well, I’m back. After a 10 day road trip that took my partner and I down to the smoggy city of LA and back to the PNW. We took the 101 and the 1 (coastal highway down), but then the interstate 5 back. We saw the jagged coast of the sea side. The Podunk towns of Oregon. We revved the car on a hill so much the clutch began to slip and it made me thankful I have AAA.

LA is a series of cities. A sprawling map of confused and bewildered buildings. The roof tops bars pump their simple beats to the streets where a homeless man sits next to his shopping cart. The shopping cart is filled with plastic bags, cardboard. Old, crushed cans and other worldly possessions. The LA bustle does nothing for him.

On Skid Row, where I didn’t go, people die daily. In Korea Town people eat expensive meats, take Uber’s to parties. In Santa Monica the homeless crowd the beach in intervals. They are periodically cleared off. Cleared out. The people who afford it go to new restaurants and drink $10 smoothies and super-juices.

What I’m trying to say is: LA is a city of dichotomy, much like every major city in the United States–maybe the world. The dichotomy lies within the varied life styles and social stratum each person lives in. There are many Uber and Lyft drivers. There are young aspiring actors, writers, artists, set designers, everything. And there are the people who are there to serve them, because, as everyone know, no deal was ever made over salad. More likely hands shake over drinks at 3am. It’s difficult to know how to feel about a city that really has everything there, right at your finger tips. LA gets a bad wrap, but how can it have a bad wrap without a good one? It has everything. It’s an affordable place for artists to live and try to grow their career. It’s a warm place for the homeless. It’s a rough place for those who are hard. It’s a soft place in the hills and neighborhoods where you can’t hear the city. It is the lapping of the beaches, the snoring of the giant. LA is not the city people want it to be. But it’s the city we all deserve.

The Earned View Is Sweeter

As we speed past the slowing cyclists, we approach the hill that may take them 20 or 30 minutes to climb. The engine revs and bucks as the car accelerates up the inclined, 7% grade.

There is a whine in the car, but not of the engine, of my heart. I want to feel the wind and the heat press my body as my legs churn the road to butter. My pedals and crank spin and spin, and the inches, we move in inches, and smaller still–slide by. I watch the bagged frames flex with weight as the cyclists push, bent over handlebars, their leather seats worn from days of use.

I know, they know, the hill is the reward as much as the view at the top or the speeding way down the other side. The hill makes us sweat, makes the muscles, legs burn and these difficulties are the ones that make the view more vivid. The sweeping coastline out before those who have bled for the view is more vivid, knowing you have earned it.

The 101 of the West Coast, has a work to reward ratio better than any other cycled road in the United States, I believe, if not the world. The hills take no longer than 30 minutes, perhaps an hour if you are taking your time, which you should. On cycling tours my philosophy has always been that if you aren’t having fun, you are pushing too hard, cycling too fast. Slow down to feel the breeze, the slow drip of sweat from your brow, the aching in your legs recedes and you are met with this realization that everything you have done up to this point fits into a small box and could be stored in a 5X5 storage unit and the road that humps and curves has it’s own voice–one so much more vast than yours, and the ocean you look out over even more so.

And that is when you ask yourself why you’ve lived the way you have. Always searching for that fulfillment from things that were easy. The low work-high pay job that, even if it existed, would leave you empty inside. When you vacation, adventure, you do so with effort in mind. I vacation with effort in mind. Everything uncomfortable is a desire that burns within me as much as the burning of worked muscles that burns without. Those sky waters and mountain-rugged rocks of the 101 are calling to me. What eyes are searching for my vacant gaze as I peer across the Pacific? Can they feel my reach as I feel theirs? And I know we are not so far apart.