Well, all seems right with the world again: it was a sunny day in SoCal, and between the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner and my trusty rig, I traversed the 50 miles back to the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, near Pasadena. My cousin is away for the holidays, and she very graciously offered me her place in her absence. I plan to stay at least a week here, which should be a great opportunity to decompress, get my booster, get my flu shot, get a dental cleaning, catch up on communicating with some (by now feeling like long-lost!) friends, visit some beautiful places and maybe see some local friends… etc. I can feel the decompression beginning already.
I departed my friends’ house in Moorpark this morning after a hearty breakfast of a green smoothie, tofu scramble, and vegan sausage. I biked the three miles to downtown Moorpark to catch the Surfliner. The ride lasted about an hour, and I boarded and deboarded without incident. The Moorpark depot actually was just an unstaffed commuter-rail platform, without a station. Glendale, where I disembarked, had a charming small station.
I opted to take the 9.2 mile cycling option rather than the 5.4 mile one, because the former was largely on a dedicated bike path. I had the time, and the weather was lovely, and I’m so glad I chose that option. LA traffic can be nerve-wracking to navigate under human power, but this path was beautiful, with water running in the canal since the recent rain, and pretty autumn trees mingling with bright flowers on the path.
The first path did dump me out into unpleasant auto traffic for a mile or two, but then I joined another path, in the Arroyo Seco canyon cutting through a few neighborhoods.
When I climbed out of the canyon into Highland Park, I decided to stop at a supermarket to stock up on a few groceries for the week. (I would be cooking for myself, for the first time in three months!)
My cousin’s condo sits atop a 200’ hill. On my previous two visits here on this trip—in early and then late October—she had picked me up from the train station both times. I had made it up the hill under my own power on both occasions, but only while exploring during the visits; I hadn’t had the trailer with me on those excursions. I was a bit concerned whether I would be able to scale the hill today by pedal power (vs. walking) with the trailer in tow.
So the thought of also adding the weight and bulk of groceries seemed potentially foolhardy. But I knew the alternative was to climb the hill, get everything inside the building, up the elevator, and down the hall, and then turn back around with just the bike to go down the hill for groceries, and back up. It didn’t sound very efficient, nor much fun. I decided to risk the extra weight and bulk, and get the groceries on my way in.
When I pulled up to the neighborhood market and surveyed the scene for a safe place to stash the bike (and the trailer, which I can’t secure) what should I discover but a man at a table right out front, offering free samples of vegan ice cream! Clearly, I had made the right decision.
We began chatting, and it turns out he was doing the sampling as a part-time gig, but he is a local vegan restaurant owner! His name is Ty, and his pop-up vegan restaurant is called Fun With Fries. He told me about a vegan food festival in downtown LA tomorrow; I may check it out!
When I emerged from the store, my grocery bag was even heavier and bulkier than I had feared. (Heads of broccoli and cauliflower, carrots, two cans of beans, and even a pint of the Eclipse ice cream I had just sampled—I was sold on it!)
So I was concerned about how I was going to manage this. The trailer, as always, was stuffed to the gills, so that wasn’t an option. My hydration backpack is small, so there was no room in there. I first tried using some of the straps on the pack to loop through the handles of the grocery bag. This just resulted in a heavy bag banging into the back of my thighs—not well suited to the task of mounting, and then piloting, a bicycle.
I puzzled about what I could do. Finally, I remembered that the Brompton is designed to carry a large front bag for touring. I have chosen not to use such a bag, favoring the trailer instead. This means that the front of my bike is open, and I knew it could handle some weight up there. So I managed to thread the bag handles over each handlebar. Of course they did not have the snap-on attachment that an actual Brompton bag would have, to hold it in place and prevent the weight from swaying around while pedaling. But I judged that I could handle it for the roughly two-thirds of a mile I’d be riding up that hill.
Sure enough… I took it slow, and stayed in the lowest gear, and I’m pleased to report that the whole rig made it up that hill without any walking, nor even stopping to rest.
The past few weeks I’ve been feeling concerned that my body didn’t seem to be gaining as much strength or stamina as I thought it should be. The physical challenge of my days had been feeling pretty consistent, rather than improving. But after this achievement today, I’m feeling better about it. Perhaps the 40-mile ride from Santa Barbara to Ventura, followed immediately by the 30-mile ride to Moorpark the next day, gave me the extra strength training I needed for this feat.
I arrived at the condo and got settled, enjoyed some ice cream on the balcony in the late afternoon sun, and then walked out to the small park next door to enjoy the last of the day’s rays. I took a photo from the top of the hill, admiring the view below.
I’m happy to be here.
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