To Silverlake Los Angeles 67km
It was a very special moment cycling into LA, along the beaches. The end of this journey feels really close now, although we are still planning the two days cycling down to see Annie and Royer in San Diego. For some of our cycling buddies the end couldn't come soon enough, but for me, it has almost arrived too quickly.
The cyclists all seemed to have regrouped. Couples from Quebec, England, South Dakota, and Ju and I shared the last Hiker/Biker site before LA, with Dave, a "Transient" thinking of running for President. (He certainly had the ideas). In many ways it was a sad departure in the morning. We've shared many kms together, a few meals, and, for Ju, the odd beer, Margarita, and wine.
But it's not only the cyclists we will miss. We meet a lovely group of folk at a campsite the other night, on their annual church camp. We joined them for breakfast, and were invited, but declined supper. We also declined the multitude of invites to join their gatherings. I know. Incredibly shallow and unadventurious of us. But I had important stuff to do, like visit Marty the barber, and buying new reading material.
This area of the Pacific Coast has lots of military bases. Some you can cycle through, as long as you don't step off the road. Others you need to circumnavigate, following high, uncrossable fences. They do all have a commonality...... young testosterone filled people driving "hot" vehicles, loudly and fast, and lots of young families, many of them Hispanic. It seems the military must be a good option for "new" Americans.
One of the bases had a collection of missiles and "strike " aircraft on display just outside the main gate. For me, this was a little disconcerting. "Here, folks, are where your millions in tax payer dollars, are being converted to weapons of mass destruction." Another disconcerting point, was that each weapon had its name written on it. Is that so those at the receiving end of a missile strike can recognise the type of weapon by which they've been obliterated? Still, we weren't the only tourists to stop and take photos, although unlike many of the others wandering through the exhibit, my thoughts were not of admiration.
The number of homeless and destitute still astound me. Venice Beach, once a wholesome, if weird, tourist attraction, is now crowded with these "forgotten" people. We hear stories of people with mental illnesses, and other medical problems, like cancer, who's insurance policies were not large enough to cover medical costs, and have sold everything to pay massive bills, and have been left with nothing. These are the people we see, reduced to sleeping in the open, and begging for food. It certainly says a lot about the social security benefits of NZ, even though some are slipping through there as well. Very sad.
We are being hosted by Amanda, a former client of mine, whom I guided around the North Island in 2002. That was her first ever hiking experience. Now she guides trips in the hills and mountains around LA for local Sierra Club members. She attributes her love for hiking and the outdoors to the wonderful guide she had in NZ. Hmmmm. Have to watch out for that trend. We don't want too many people crowding the outdoors that we love.
It was an adventure getting to Amanda's. We decided to leave the bicycles at Manhattan Beach, and catch the Metro. As usual, Grum, underestimated the distance we had to walk to the first Metro Station, as all good guides do. We were only carrying one pannier each, but they got heavy quick. Panniers on a bike appear to be much lighter. Still, Ju didn't grumble (much), and the adventure navigating the several train changes, and the crowds, enriched our experience. The amazing Mexican meal, with Amanda, and the margarita, although smaller than those up the coast, helped lessen the pain of my miscalculations. And now we are chillaxing, before our final two days cycling in the USA. (Being home is soooo close).