adventures in culver city


Many things hurt, and I’m exhausted, so this entry is a little disjointed.

I just came home from the 310 ride. That’s the Westside version of Midnite Ridazz, which is “Critical Mass without the agenda”, and consists of about two hundred cyclists going around the core zones of old Los Angeles. 310, however, only attracts a couple dozen people (21 tonight) and, the last time I rode on it, went around Santa Monica and West L.A.

However, last month, on a ride I missed, they went up to the Baldwin Hills. This is a zone of L.A. that was never developed, and even I’m not sure what its legal status is. This is where we were, out somewhere in south Culver City, in a totally blank area on the L.A. maps. Originally, it was part of Lucky Baldwin’s 6,000 acre spread, a hundred years ago, but now it’s nothing but scrubland and oil pumps. Lots of oil pumps.

Getting to the oil pumps though, that was an ADVENTURE! We biked from the Santa Monica Pier south to the Marina, where there was the first stop for snacks and liquor at a Ralphs. Then there was a break while a couple of the riders brought out root beer and ice cream and a dozen paper coffee cups, and proceeded to serve root beer floats. But I think the sugar helped everyone else on the rest of the ride, because it was not an easy one.

We moved on from there south to the Ballona Creek bike trail, which runs from Playa del Rey (the evil housing development spreading over the Ballona endangered wetlands) east to Da ‘Hood. We followed that up into Culver City, a few miles east. Then we rode over the surface streets to West L.A. college, cut up the campus roads, and then all carried our bikes through a hole in a campus fence, into the wilderness of the Baldwin Hills.

Once in the hills, it was easy enough to ride on the service roads through the area. Easy, except for the hills involved. Extended climbs are not my forte. But I kept up with the group anyways, as we rode up to the oil pumps, where we stopped and looked at the machines for a few minutes. Of course, most of the people in the bike movement are vehemently anti-oil. Many do not – and will not – own cars. Hence, the commentary:

“They look like dinosaurs, tearing up prey.”

“Yeah, and smell that? That’s the smell of money.”

“They even SOUND ominous. Like background music when something bad is about to happen.”

Of course, they ARE ominous. Halliburton runs the operation out there. Halliburton, one of the more despised symptoms of oil addiction.

After examining the evil oil pumps, we biked out of there. No one seemed to know whether or not we were legally allowed on that land. And after being spotted by the Halliburton employees, I was a little edgy. But once we were back on park land again, we stopped to look at the view, the opposite of the views I’m used to seeing of L.A. I see panoramas from the Santa Monica mountains, or photos taken on Mount Wilson – but this was the first time I’d looked at the city from south of the 10. Century City was blazing light a mile or so north, and I could pick out the buildings of the Miracle Mile and Koreatown, all along Wilshire, all the way into downtown L.A.

A treacherous hill later (ultra-steep, with a road of sand and gravel), we all emerged, and biked back towards West L.A. Which is where I left from to go home, riding the last three miles with another Venice resident. Many things hurt now. Mostly my shoulders, from coming down the hill, and my arms, for bracing on the handlebars – I used a lot of muscles I usually don’t. But my quads and knees are aching as well, and I imagine I’ll be stiff tomorrow.

But that’s it. Adventures in Culver City! Who knew that there was that kind of blank space to sneak into and bike around in, left in this crowded city?

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