|My hero! On Sunset Blvd, LA. He did serveral circles in the street before giving drivers the One Finger Salute and moving on.|
Well, cool title. All the leaves were turning brown and the skies were grey. Nope, the weather was still decent in Iowa. Blue skies but definitely cooler. We did not go to California for the weather. WE WENT TO CALI FOR ROCK & ROLL!!!! And there I checked up on the bicycle scene and commuting life in LA. I was there two years ago and wrote THIS. This year I expanded my activities to using the available mass transit, Metro and Amtrak, or trains. No buses. We did a lot of walking. Taking a break for the hustle and bustle and filth of the big city, we visited Laguna Beach and hung out with a friend who is a local. Beautiful beach city that we hit during the non tourist season. Bliss!
|Official Who tour shirt. After leaving the venue there were many opportunities to purchase bootleg shirts ranging from $5 to $15.|
|We caught the last gig of the tour although several have been rescheduled for 2020.|
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
But does that have to do with bicycles? A lot. It was the reason for our trip in LA.
I gave the girls a break and did not order the Butt Crack O Dawn flight. But out flight landed conveniently in time for rush hour. The 110 and the 101. Traffic crawled. By the time we got off the FlyAway bus it was dark. About a two mile walk to our hotel. FYI FlyAway goes to many places in LA and it is a mere $8 per ride (card only, no cash). Service begins at 5 am or so and will pick you up where they dropped you off. Cheaper than Uber or Lyft or a cab.
So we are walking to our hotel and encountering the first bikes we have seen since leaving home. Mostly on the sidewalk, mostly without lights. Occasionally we saw a professional commuter. Vest, lights, helmet. People would bring their bikes on trains. Infrastructure exists such as sharrows and bike boxes near some of the Metrolink (commuter train stations). Amtrak trains had designated cars for bicycles. Unfortunately, I failed to get a photo of that. There were a lot more bikes on the late train headed back from Union station. I think they were out for a good time that night. One woman had a Townie.
We spoke to one commuter. He had a red Cannondale racing bike in Saeco livery. This was on the commuter train. He said he had 3 bikes stolen from him in a 6 month period! Now he never let's his bike out of sight unless it is totally secure. "I carry it on my shoulder when I go into stores," he reported. We complemented him on his nice bike. Said he paid $500 for it in a pawnshop. I did not have the heart to say that that it may have been stolen if it was for sale at a pawnshop.
A note about LA Mass Transit, Metro Link (not Metro Stink as Winston called it). One needs a pre-paid Tap card. The machines take cash or card and those awful dollar coins. If memory serves we paid $7 for 24 hours access. That's a bargain because the subway was fast and convenient, clean and took us from one end of LA to the other. Refillable and monthly options are also available at reasonable price. Get to the train and tap the turnstile and board. Simple.
Took the subway to Union Station and made the mistake of walking to Chinatown. Not impressed. True we did not get into the heart of it but it looked like basic LA ghetto. All three of of us made a "mistake." Mine was picking the Sycamore Tavern on Sunset. Two years ago on football Sunday it was a great place to be. On a Wednesday during their "dojo comedy" night it was not unless you like watching sex dwarfs, trannies and other assortment of humanity walk in and out of the mysterious door near the bar. Just saying that I could have stayed for another round or two but my traveling companions wanted to GTFO. Grease was airing on the tellie btw. Mary's mistake was having us take the train to Universal Studios. The idea was to walk back to Hollywood. Unfortunately, a mountain was in the way. Unfortunately, the tour was $115 each. We declined.
|The Universal Studio Excursion was not a total waste of time. These bicycle lockers are near the MetroLink stop.|
The next day we were back at Union Station to catch the Amtrak to Laguna Beach. The The Pacificsurfliner! $37 for commuter class seats. Big and comfy. Electric outlets for charging phones and such. Only a few stops. Some and fast. Could have taken this to San Diego if we wanted to. The only problem, ugly industrial scenery. Not the beautiful mountain and Pacific vistas that I envisioned. Urban sprawl, more homeless camps, dull shade of green flora and brown dusty desert scenes. Not the rail services fault, just modern realities. I felt like Ed Harris in Enemy At The Gates, just wanted to close the curtain until our stop arrived. More about this later. Great train just don't look out the window.
The Great Rock & Roll Swindle
A note about the homeless. Back in 2017 in the same area I only noticed them late at night or in the morning. Most were sleeping in doorways and near benches and steps. Two years later they are everywhere. 99% are asleep. It is like a virus outbreak. A person is just walking and falls ill, clothing turns grungy, shoes disappear and they drop where they are standing and lay asleep on the sidewalk with a blanket and a few possessions. One man apparently walked up the steps from the subway and had one more set of stairs to go but just collapsed, one shoe off a few feet away, face down on the tile without blanket. Just made it to the top of the stairs and went to sleep. Others have shopping carts and are in a shady area of a sidewalk. Others camp out on the sides of the freeway. It is overwhelming. 60,000 of them at latest estimates.
Mary and I walked to a coffee shop for breakfast early one morning and encountered quite a few sleeping in the streets. The smell of urine filled the air. Walking back along the Walk of Fame I had to warn her several times of human feces smeared on the walk.
How does this happen? What can be done about it? Cynthia noted that their will to live must be stronger than ours because we agreed we would not have the strength to live like that.
Up 16% from 2018
Good photos of the problem
On the corner of Highland and Franklin we noticed a small busted couch that a homeless person was staring at contemplating that it would make a nice comfy bed. I could not resist. Later I found a dockless E-Bike, downloaded the app and rented the bastard. Two wheels, seat and a throttle! DAMN, this is fun! Look Ma, no effort! I would like to take this home with me but I did not plan on saving money for extra carry-ons or Grand Theft Bicycle. Thus I became the first person not only to score a California GeoCouch but a Hollywood GeoCouch. I ended up with two and passed up on a few more. Hollywood is literally covered with trash.
Back to the Great Rock & Roll Swindle....Earlier in the day we stopped in a record store and made a few purchased. Upon our return to the Hilton Garden Hotel I discover that one record had a chunk missing. Broken record. Of course the most expensive one. My thought, grab the E-Bike I left at the geocouch and fly all the way to the record store. Time was tight. We had to pre-game before going to see The Who. Of course the bike was gone, the second problem with dockless rentals. So I hoofed it until I found another one. I did notice that people were laying around them recharging their phones on them. Guess they provide another service. Eventually I found one and I was off to the races. The clerk at the record store recognized me and found a suitable replacement. BACK TO THE HILTON GARDEN!!
Easier said then done. "Low Battery" light was on. Gotta nurse this heap home. Glad I picked the hilly route. It was a struggle. Had to push it up a steep hill. Rocket down the backside. Stop for geocouch 2. But I made it back. Took a photo of the bike as per app instructions to show them that I parked it properly, $5 fine for parking like a selfish bastard. Most importantly, made it to the Hollywood Bowl on time!
It was lunch time so we ate a local cafe to avoid the tourist scene although it was not "Clown Town" as Winston refers to tourist season. Same prices as we would find in Iowa. Situated on pacific Coast Highway, I noticed a few baggers, people on loaded touring bikes, heading south. Later we would see roadies. Automobile traffic seems a bit thick and my friend reminds me that this is the slow time of year. I was more concerned about the hills. Perspective. After lunch we walked don the hill to the beach, his car parked at his residence. Ubers from now on if we were tired of walking.
|Good bye North America! Hello Pacific Ocean!|
|This is the reason people live here. That and the perfect weather. Quite a shock stepping off that jet to 40*F in Des Moines.|
The beach was beautiful and we stood in the water for photos. Later we returned to watch the sunset and see the haze of the fires on the horizon. Fire is not a stranger here, while my city of Des Moines flooded in 1993 Laguna Beach fell victim to a wildfire.
|That is a pint glass! Evil Chris would have walked out with it. Perhaps I should have asked if they were for sale. Like I need another drinking vessel.|
|Yes, they have sour beers at the SeaHorse.|
After the beach we were thirsty for a beer so we hit a few pubs. I really enjoyed the SeaHorse. Dan, Winston's friend stopped in and immediately put American Beauty on the turntable. As he said, this is real California. Very laid back. "Billionaires come here but you'd never realize it." It was hard to leave. Last stop was at The Sandpiper Lounge, a Marine bar. We saw the unit badge his father wore and other photos of the First To Fight. Drinks were cheap. Finally we ended up at his place and drank a bottle of wine before the Uber arrived to take us back to the train.
|VMF-311. The Sand Piper is frequented by USMC. Rumor has it there is a large Marine base near here.. Winston's father flew for that fighter squadron .|
The train trip was uneventful. Irvine Station has facilities such as restrooms and vending machines. At night it seems a bit lonely. just a few groups of people waiting. One side for the trip to San Diego, the other LA. A speaker system makes announcements to break up the silence. One is a computer voice anti-suicide message. "You are not alone...." How depressing. I wonder if it has actually saved anyone or had the opposite effect.
We got back to Union Station in time to watch the the Metrolink train roll north to Hollywood. 20 minute wait. Young people on the trip back, obviously going to and fro shows and parties. The homeless man who was asleep on the stairway at our stop was gone. The day before it looked as if he took 5 steps after a flight of stairs and face planted, one shoe off laying 2' away. Sadly, one grows immune to this. In Hollywood one could not get two blocks covered in a day if they stopped to help everyone in this situation. It's overwhelming. In the morning we walked around one sleeping shoeless within a few yards of our shuttle out.
My Impressions of This Trip
Homelessness has hit hard here in the past 2 years. In 2017 I did not really notice this until I had to catch my shuttle to LAX at 530 am. Then every doorway, every set of steps, every bench had someone sleeping. E-Bikes and E-Scooters everywhere and I have now witnessed what people complain about although I appreciate their availability when I travel. Loved the trains, subways and Amtrak. Easy to use and clean. Cars still are the dominant problem here. We witnessed a crash not far from our hotel. We were stuck in awful traffic/gridlock. People were friendly especially those in the service industry who were most likely afraid to lose their jobs and end up in the streets. Even people walking on the streets were friendly, mostly, an Amy Winehouse clone pushing a stroller and playing with her phone almost started an incident with us but she looked like a tourist. On one occasion someone reminded us not to jaywalk. Good info as it seems really easy to get hit by a car in LA.