Winter solstice at Descanso Gardens

12/21/21

Today was the shortest day of the year, here in the northern hemisphere. I wanted to take advantage of the sunlight and warmth we did have here: it got up to 71 in LA today. Tomorrow is to be mid-60s and cloudy, and after that, temps are set to drop about ten degrees, and rain is at least potential in the forecast most days after that, for the next week or so.

So, I headed out to Descanso Gardens, which several people had recommended.

First I went to get my teeth cleaned at a local dentist. It feels good to be able to take care of various errands—as well as sightseeing—in a famously car-centric place like LA, on my bike. We’ll see how I continue with that when the rain sets in, but so far so good.

The ride from the dentist to the garden was about eight miles, including about 800 feet of mostly very gentle elevation gain. The main road was called Linda Vista, and a lovely view it provided indeed, through beautiful neighborhoods with established trees.

When I arrived at the garden, I discovered to my delight that the third Tuesday of every month is their free day. (What are the odds?) I also lucked out because normally they require advance tickets on free days, but for some reason they were not doing so today. So… I did share the space with an awful lot of people—including many kids on school break—but free is a very good price, and the gardens themselves did indeed feel restful.

There was even a small Japanese garden, charmingly festooned with red lanterns, which I’m assuming is a seasonal Christmas touch, although I’m not sure because they could look nice year-round.

After the gardens, I had two errands in mind: get my COVID booster shot, and check out at least one vegan restaurant.

Both errands ended up presenting some challenges. The first vegan restaurant I tried was closed between lunch and dinner, and the first vaccination place had just filled their last slot for the day.

Luckily, a staffer there gave me a lead on a potential pharmacy to try, just about eight blocks down the road. And between those two places was Donut Friend, an all-vegan doughnut place (I prefer the traditional spelling) I had been meaning to try.

I couldn’t help snapping an artsy capture of my bike in the shop. (Doesn’t it look cool?) It had to sit there a while in the corner, while I perused the options and eventually narrowed it down to two: a chocolate-glazed custard-filled, and a Nutella-inspired sandwich doughnut. Wow, those were good.

Then I continued on to the pharmacy, where, despite signage indicating appointments required, they were happy to accommodate me as a walk-in. The woman who did my intake was impressed and ebullient to hear about my bicycle journey. It was a cool experience all around. My arm is sore now, but no side effects yet; fingers crossed it stays that way, as my first two rounds fortunately did back in May.

After all this, I stopped at the local market again to restock my veggies, beans, and Clif bars. Then headed back up the hill, in time for a phone call with a good friend.

It’s the solstice. And I’m about a quarter of the way through my journey. There are physical and logistical challenges at times. And I feel wistful and listless at times. But mostly, I am so grateful for this journey, and the beautiful places I’m seeing, and the wonderful people in my life, old and new.

Happy solstice to all!

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