Saturday, April 15, 2006


No, I'm not talking about the hot podium girls waiting for us at the end of the tour in Chicago. I'm talking about Tourette's Syndrome, the neurological disease that causes people to blurt out interjections and obscenities. I think that most large towns have at least one unlucky afflicted resident that walks around talking to him/herself, offering the occasional obscene outburst. Santa Monica is no exception, as I met several such people this morning while out for a pre-tour training ride.

This morning when I woke up, I noticed that Santa Monica Boulevard was completely deserted. As hectic as it was yesterday afternoon, this morning it was equally tranquil. I figured I would take advantage of the conditions and ride down to the Santa Monica pier while it was empty. Maybe I'd also head south to Venice Beach. A nice short easy ride as a final prep for the tour.

When I arrived at Ocean Avenue, I was met by a significant contingent of homeless people. In retrospect, I could recall seeing them on Thursday afternoon too. At that time they were surrounded by thousands of other people, so they were not so noticeable. But at 6 am on a Saturday, they owned the place. A lot of towns have their share of homeless people, but Santa Monica seems to have a few more than most places I've been. Several were quite vocal. Few places come to mind when I try to think of a place with more caustic homeless chatter. Maybe Philadelphia. Ironically, I am also hard pressed to think of a place with a higher density of $100,000+ convertibles. Santa Monica Boulevard is a virtual car show. It is interesting how extreme contrasting cultures often become neighbors, creating a bizarre sense of simultaneous balance and imbalance.

I've often thought that all people share something with Touretters. Seriously, who among us hasn't had an experience where we said the perfectly inappropriate thing at the perfectly inappropriate moment. The human brain is a complicated machine. It is not unreasonable to postulate that the human ability to improvise eloquent extemporaneous speech is just a few neural connections removed from the inability to control extemporaneous raw speech. Perhaps it is this subtle connection that gives the random outbursts of the Touretter just enough normalcy to grab your attention and force you to think about language in a new way.

As I was returning from Venice Beach, I passed a guy who was pacing rapidly in front of a bank. He was quite kinetic -- waking very fast, waving his arms, shouting, etc. I thought about snapping a photo, but the guy was pretty hyper. And wiry. He looked like he could catch me, if he were so inclined, before I could get up to speed. So I passed on the photo. Hey, not every photo is worth the risk. Anyway, as I rode past him, he shouted, "Kill the fuckers! Kill the fucking defecates!". I was immediately struck by the use of the word 'defecate' as a noun. Maybe that usage is in the vernacular out here in LA, but this was the first time I've ever heard it. I took the meaning to be a pejorative label for someone of ill-repute. Original. Effective. Unique.

Have I mentioned that I cannot wait to get out of LA? Next time I'm here, if I cannot avoid it, I will at least know better than to arrive early. Randy Newman and I will just have to agree to disagree on the LA issue.


  • Views from the pier: back toward Ocean Avenue and back toward Santa Monica Boulevard.

  • Obscure Looney Toons reference: "My momma done tol' me... to get something for dinner...

  • Let the kitsch begin.

  • I like modern sculpture, but this is just bad.

  • Nothing like a good end-of-days message to celebrate Easter Sunday.

    Ride Summary

    Route: Santa Monica / Venice Beach Loop
    Distance: 9.5 miles
    Speed (avg/max): 10 mph / 20 mph
    Riding Time: 55 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hours 4 minutes
    Heart Rate (min/max/avg): ?? bpm / ??? bpm / 145 bpm

    Miles this Year: 1883

  • Thursday, April 13, 2006

    At the Starting Line

    Ok, we're here in Santa Monica, at a motel on Santa Monica Boulevard, where the journey begins. Santa Monica Boulevard is part of Route 66, although our motel is further west than the original Route 66 terminus. Technically, the original Route 66 did not end at the ocean, but ended at 7th and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. The route was later changed to extend into Santa Monica, ending at the intersection of Lincoln Boulevard and Olympic Boulevard. I suppose a brief history lesson is in order...

    Route 66 was born out of the Federal-Aid Road Act of 1916 and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1921. In 1926, Route 66 received its official designation and became America's first federally designated interstate -- winding 2500 miles between Chicago and Santa Monica. Although born in 1926 (it's anniversary is celebrated on November 11, 1926 -- which is also Veteran's day) the path of Route 66 was modified many times. In fact, the first version of Route 66 was not entirely paved and probably not completely passable by automobile. The 1931 alignment was the first fully paved version.

    The word 'alignment', as used above, is a term that historians use to refer to a specific portion of the route -- at a specific moment in time. I will probably use that term fairly often as I write about the trip, given that we will often have to choose between alignments as we traverse the route. Riding every inch of every alignment is not practical for a cross-country tour. To ride every alignment, one would have to do a substantial amount of backtracking. In addition, significant portions of some alignments are completely overgrown, on private property, or more importantly, lost from history. Historians and aficionados are still uncovering pieces of the road in their quest to restore the historical record of America's first federal interstate.

    So, getting back to Santa Monica... It was a 1935 alignment of Route 66 that brought the highway into Santa Monica -- just 7 blocks from the ocean, and just a few blocks from this motel. Given its proximity to the ocean and the symbolism of the shoreline for westward travelers, the Santa Monica Pier is considered the defacto terminus of Route 66. I am considering the pier to be the starting point for my journey, both for the aforementioned reasons, and because I intend to continue beyond the eastern terminus of Route 66 in Chicago, to the Atlantic shore of New York -- thereby completing a transcontinental crossing.

    When we arrived in Santa Monica today, it was still early afternoon so I took a quick spin around town to get my legs loosened up. This is not a very bicycle friendly town. True to the LA stereotype, the cars are not very courteous -- to anyone or anything. For lack of a more interesting destination, and for the purposes of my transcontinental goal, I rode down to the pier at the Pacific ocean. It was a short ride -- just enough to get my legs loosened up and my knees lubricated, without tempting my fate with the LA drivers.

    Rain is forecast for tomorrow (Friday), so I will probably stick to the fluid trainer until we start the tour on Sunday morning.

    Ride Summary

    Route: Santa Monica Pier Ramble
    Distance: 9 miles

    Miles this Year: 1874

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    Route 66 Preview

    For the past few days, Ro and I have been driving out to Santa Monica. I have been riding for about 45 minutes each morning in the motel room using a portable fluid trainer attached to my bike. My hope is that these brief workouts will both preserve my fitness and help heal my knee. FWIW, I am not counting these trainer miles in my yearly total...

    The interstate driving route that we chose parallels long sections of old route 66, giving us a high-speed preview of portions of the cycling route. In Texas today, we exited I-40 onto a piece of old 66 to shoot a few quick photographs. We needed to stretch and I wanted to test a new UV filter that I picked up for my dSLR wide angle lens.

    Although I will not be able to carry the dSLR camera on the bicycle, I will have it in the evenings and hope to get access to it at rest stops for some higher quality photos. However, most of the impromptu shots that I take during the daily cycling route will be taken with the same point-and-shoot that I have been using thus far on the blog. In either case, I will be compressing the high-resolution images for posting to the blog. If anyone is particularly interested in any of the dSLR photos, I am saving the uncompressed TIFF files. They are about 15MB each.

    Anyway, I found a concrete slab -- presumably from a long-dead roadside business. It still has, what appears to be, remnants of vinyl floor tile. PVC was first plasticized, creating what we now simply call 'vinyl', in 1926 but was not widely used in flooring until after 1933. So, I'm guessing that this building was no older than that. I was only there to snap a quick photo or two, not to conduct an archeological dig, so I did not study the remnants. It is possible that the flooring was actually linoleum, in which case, the building could have been much older. Of course, it is also possible that the flooring remnants were not original to the initial construction.

    In any case, I got a photo. By the way, that's an old Santa Fe boxcar in the background. The UV filter seems to work fine...