Chilaquiles, bicycling, swimming… and lightning??


Well, it was an action-packed last (for now) day in Los Angeles! The temperatures looked more manageable than yesterday. I still chose to postpone my visit to the Huntington; I want a full day to appreciate its splendor, and probably 70s-ish temps would be optimal, which I hope to find in late October or early-mid December, when I come back through. But I did venture out for those chilaquiles!

I had it all planned out: I would bike part of the way, and then take a city bus for the rest of the way, including the hilly part.

But when I biked to the bus stop, what should I discover but that the bus ran so infrequently that it would deposit me at Sage Bistro after 11 am… when the brunch menu would no longer be available!

I thought, hmmm, could I actually bike the whole way after all? The timing seemed iffy, but I thought I’d give it a try. (I was hoping to avoid the cost of a Lyft, and in addition, my Lyft app was acting up, not allowing me to open it, so it didn’t appear to be an option anyway.)

As I felt stress rising in me, I reminded myself that I am capable of going with the flow. It might be a fun challenge to see if I really could cycle the whole way. And if I were to arrive late, I could enjoy something else on the menu; I know that their whole menu is delicious.

I set off along the Arroyo Seco bike trail. (The name means “dry streambed,” which was quite accurate.) This being LA, the trail is accessed by cycling along a freeway on-ramp for about fifty yards. I was perplexed and frightened by this prospect at first, but I went with the flow, and found what I thought was the trail.


It turned out I took a wrong turn early on, and ended up on another trail, which sadly was made of bumpy concrete, and after maybe a quarter mile, it dead-ended.

I could feel those chilaquiles slipping from my grasp, and I was having a hard time letting them go.

I made a gut decision to try calling a Lyft after all. Miraculously(?) the app opened this time! I cycled back to the point where I found I could join the actual trail, and biked it just long enough to enjoy the experience of the smooth pavement in the middle of a canyon. Then I exited to a surface street, and ordered the Lyft. In the “note for driver” field, I indicated that I had a “small folding bike” with me. I marveled at how perfect this Brompton is for my way of traveling. I can take it on buses, trains, and in car trunks, and then ride it like a “normal bike” as much as I want, when and where I want.

The driver appeared within three minutes, and we easily stowed the bike in the trunk. After I hopped in, we got to talking, and it turned out he was a University of Oregon grad (was even wearing a U of O jersey!) and furthermore, hailed originally from San Diego.

It felt like the magic was returning. Perhaps calling the Lyft was just the right thing to do!

He dropped me off at 10:48. I wheeled the bike around to the back of the bistro where I recalled that the entrance was. I found no bike parking (boo) but locked it to a railing.

I was seated a few minutes before 11:00, and the server handed me a brunch menu. Those chilaquiles were to be mine!!

They were as wonderful as I remembered.

Afterward, I had planned to take a bus home, because the sun was direct and the mercury was showing mid-80s, and Google Maps had shown me when I checked earlier that there would be 1000+ feet of elevation gain to get back to my cousin’s place.

But I checked again… and bizarrely, Google Maps had apparently changed its mind—it was now showing only about 300 feet. I knew that the bus would drop me at the foot of a 200’ hill I’d have to climb anyway, so I figured, OK, I’ll bike the whole way!

In any case, I needed to stop somewhere to pick up dinner and snack provisions for the train ride this evening. I busted out my HappyCow app (it shows where all vegan and vegan-friendly establishments are, worldwide) and it showed me a nearby place called Kitchen Mouse, with grab-and-go sandwiches. Perfect! I pedaled over there and found a “loxdown” sandwich, which looked ideal for my purposes. (The “lox” is made from marinated carrots.) I also selected a decadent-looking s’mores bar.

I made it back up the 200’ hill, feeling pretty hot and sweaty by the crest where my cousin’s place sits.

I recalled her earlier invitation to use the complex’s pool. Perfect! I had a few hours free before she would pick me up after her work to head to Union Station.

The dip in the pool was wonderful. For most of my time there, I was the only one in the water, and the temperature was absolutely perfect.

After the swim, I returned to the condo and began the task of packing up all my things, when I was startled by the sound of raindrops(!) on the skylights. Shortly afterward, the rain was joined by lightning and thunder! My cousin had just been telling me yesterday how little rain the area had had for the past year. (She estimated six days of rain during the entire year. Wow.)

My phone’s weather app had shown no indication of this storm. It had predicted a 40% chance of rain on Friday, but otherwise full or partial sun for the entire 9-day forecast.

And yet, here it was: rain pouring down outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, and lightning flashing through the skylight, followed by claps of thunder.

How bizarre.

I was a bit concerned about how we should load up all my gear into the car; I didn’t want it getting wet before boarding the train. We managed it all in the complex’s garage, and made the drive in the storm.

The rain had mostly abated by the time we arrived at the station. My cousin helped me to reassemble my rig just outside the front doors, and then we said goodbye and I headed straight to the platform. I made it up the ramp with the whole rig together, then took it apart when I arrived trainside. This time, I found a helpful sleeper-car attendant, and plenty of room to stow things in my now-usual way.

I ate the loxdown sandwich and s’mores bar (both amazing! Go to Kitchen Mouse next time you’re in LA!) and then enjoyed my signature Amtrak cocktail in the dimly lit lounge. Once again, I had hoped for some human connection there, but ended up sipping solitarily.

Such is life. I’m on the train to New Mexico, and it’s lovely. The attendant made up my sleeping quarters, and then kindly bent the rules to allow me to still sit up and type this in the neighboring roomette, since it’s unoccupied.

There is no WiFi on the trains, so I’ll post this tomorrow. Soon, I’ll drift off to dreamland, and then shortly after I wake, we’ll be pulling into Albuquerque, and the next stop on my wondrous journey.

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2 thoughts on “Chilaquiles, bicycling, swimming… and lightning??”

  1. OMG I can’t believe you’re already there *and* still getting to take the time to experience local culture and eat so many amazing vegan foods! I love it, Maren! So fun to live vicariously through you!

    1. Thanks!! Yes, the train definitely makes me move faster. 😉 But I’ll be doing more cycling come November: all the way down through California! But I’m enjoying the Southwest now, while the weather is good. (79 in Albuquerque right now, which will not be the case in January, when I would have otherwise made it here.)

      And yes, the food…!! Definitely hit these places next time you’re in LA!

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