Santa Monica Pier

12/24/21

I did something weird and scary today: I drove a car! More specifically, I drove on LA freeways! Eek.

I hadn’t been behind the wheel of a motor vehicle for probably at least a year before today. And the previous time was probably at least a year before that. Suffice it to say, I don’t drive much.

Mostly this is for environmental reasons, which is also why I’ve never owned a car. But a side effect of rarely driving is that I get also get quite nervous behind the wheel, which becomes another reason to avoid it.

I was imagining—without even explicitly thinking about it—that I would make it through this year’s journey without driving. I figured I could handle it even in LA. But I decided to do it today, for a few reasons. For one, I really wanted to see Santa Monica (I had visited once before, and really enjoyed the aesthetic of the beach and pier area). My initial plan had been to stay there for a couple of nights, after this time in Highland Park, before heading south to Long Beach. But I haven’t been able to find lodging there yet, despite a few efforts.

I’ve also been keeping an eye on the forecast, and there’s spotty rain here in this area for the next week or so. Biking to Santa Monica would take me the better part of a day, so I didn’t want to do that if I wasn’t planning to spend the night there. Transit would have taken a couple of hours each way, and by the time I realized this afternoon would be clear, and thus a good chance to go, that wouldn’t have left me enough time to actually enjoy the area.

And… my cousin was kind enough to leave her car key here for me to use. Although I prefer to avoid driving for the above reasons, another theme I’m embracing on this trip is to receive kindnesses and gifts when offered. Several previous hosts so far have offered to loan me their cars to run errands, and I have declined. But today seemed like the day to do it.

It was a process for me, mentally, emotionally, and physically/logistically, but I made it through! This involved everything from taking photos of the parking spaces in the building, and also in Santa Monica, so I would remember where to return (to) the car… to folding up the bike and placing it gently on a blanket in the trunk, so as not to harm the contents of the trunk… to studying the driving directions ahead of time—remarkably easy on the freeways—so that I committed them to memory and didn’t have to use my phone on the way out there… to spontaneously making up songs to sing to keep my courage up as I actually traversed the freeways at about 50 miles per hour because I was scared (lyrics like “I’m doing this at my own pace, and that’s OK/people can pass me if they want, today”)… to leaving the beach at 3:00 so that I wouldn’t have to drive in the dark… to choosing to avoid freeways and let Google narrate my directions on the way home… to filling up the tank afterward (and even pumping my own gas, which is extra unfamiliar to me as an Oregonian.)

Whew. Did it all. (And only got honked at once!)

Even in a car, it takes a while to get there and back, so I only had about an hour and a half in Santa Monica. But I took the chance to visit one of only two co-op grocery locations in LA County (same co-op—their other location is in Culver City) and there I saw an item I’d never beheld before! I had to snag one to see if I liked it, and surprisingly enough I did. I’ve never considered carob to be a remotely adequate substitute for chocolate, but this product was a kind of hybrid: carob powder mixed with cocoa butter. It was pretty tasty.

Then I biked the groceries back to the car. (I had parked on the street, several blocks away, so as to only have to park once.) I stashed them in the trunk, and biked down to the pier.

On the way, stopped at a light, I heard, “I like your Brompton!”

Nice!

I looked up and it was a guy at an open-air bike shop, The Bike Center. Turns out they are one of only two Brompton dealers in the LA area. He said he personally owns a Brompton, too, and so do all the other workers there. How cool! Luckily I didn’t need any maintenance today, but it was a fun little interaction.

Smiling at the serendipity, I proceeded a few blocks to the boardwalk area. It was mobbed with people, and I put on my mask to walk around. But the pier was cute and fun to see, and I cycled under the boardwalk and down the beach a bit. The late afternoon light looked cool.

Then it was time to head back. Avoiding the freeways this time was definitely a good idea for my nerves, even if it probably took me longer to get back. Parts of the drive were pretty, with palm trees and cool streets and buildings, and golden light on the hills.

So, that was my multifaceted adventure for the day! LA definitely contains a variety of experiences for someone like me.

Tomorrow is a holiday, and also looks to be kinda rainy here, so I probably won’t make a post tomorrow. But whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful day.

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