CicLAvia: San Pedro Meets Wilmington


Last Sunday, I participated in a CicLAvia event that ran from my hometown of Wilmington, CA to San Pedro, another city close to my heart.

If you’re not familiar with one of these events, here you go. Ciclovía events started in Columbia over 40 years ago as an alternative to traditional means of transportation. Streets are closed to automobile traffic and open to everything else non-motorized: feet, bikes, skateboards, you name it. There’s really no better way to discover your town no matter how large or small. I’ve walked through Los Angeles a few times in my life and I have to tell you it’s so much more than what you see on TV – all cities are pretty amazing when you’re not trapped in a car watching them whiz by.

This event was particularly personal since I grew up in Wilmington and spent a lot of my time in San Pedro as well. While I spent many years pedaling around the city on an old Huffy but having the opportunity to ride down the palm tree-lined main street of Avalon Boulevard was much to good to pass up.

Now I could go and post many of the pictures I took that day but I’ve narrowed it down to these because I have stories to go along with most of them. A ton of them are already on Instagram anyhow. So without any further ado, here they are.

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The Banning Mansion in Banning Park. Historic not only because of its Civil War roots but because its owner, Phineas Banning, was the mastermind behind what would eventually become the Port of Los Angeles. That’s only the busiest port in the country.

I spent many a summer riding around Banning Park. The smell of the eucalyptus trees still gets to me and even though there’s a fence around the perimeter of the mansion, I took a little sentimental journey around the park on my bike. It was like I never left and I felt like a kid again. I almost had a moment just thinking about all the good times me and my friends had at the park.

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A few blocks away from the mansion is Avalon Boulevard. Those palm trees have been there forever. This was taken just after the event began so there’s very little traffic yet but by the time I rode back from San Pedro, wow. People everywhere and they were all smiling.

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The building you see on the right of the Avalon Boulevard shot is The Don, a senior apartment complex. This is one of the Wilmington landmarks – most likely because of it’s former seedy reputation. What I always laugh about is the fact that it was once called Don Hotel so when they changed the name, all they did was remove the H and L and rearrange the letters. I always wondered what happened to those. And look! More palm trees! Those are all around Wilmington Town Square Park which has been a congregation area for transients since I was little.

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Literally across the street from The Don is Fire Station 38, the only one in town. Really, this is it. If there’s something big going on in the area then the neighboring cities of Carson and Harbor City would most likely join. Dad would often take us here to see the fire trucks up close and personal in the days when they would let you slide down the pole. Yes, it has a pole (you can almost see it on the right of photo, or to the left of the fire truck). Definitely have some fond memories of this place.

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Here’s my old elementary school, Fries (pronounced “freeze”) Avenue School. Aside from the fancy-schmancey digital billboard out front, it pretty much looks the same from the outside. I attended at a time when we still had duck-and-cover disaster drills complete with air raid siren blaring on the last Friday of every month. I can still hear it – extremely creepy yet somehow comforting thinking back on it. The stairways also had “Fallout Shelter” signs (complete with the radiation symbols) posted as you made you way downstairs.

If you were to walk through those doors, there might be a mosaic hanging on the left wall depicting Pedro, the Angel of Olvera Street, a project that my Enrichment Class worked on. Yeah. I was a nerdy kid in enrichment. I was supposed to advance a grade but Mom held me back for the sake of not putting too much pressure on me. Made sense. It was also at this school where I was chosen to be the narrator for the 5th grade Christmas play based on Bing Crosby’s Mele Kalikimaka. Apparently I was the only one in the class who could stand in front of a crowd and read, which probably explains why singing karaoke doesn’t bother me. For the play, I remember I was speaking into one of those bitchin’ classic microphones similar to this. Good times.

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No story here. I just thought this was a cool building.

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The signs at C & C Liquor have not changed. Dad would take us here sometimes on the weekend for, presumably, his Burgermeister and some snacks for us. Remember Ice Cubes chocolate candy? This is where we would buy them. They were soooo good.

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We are now in San Pedro. This is the sign at Neptune Electronics, a place that has been there forever. And like most things in the area, the sign has not changed. I remember seeing it all the time as we took Dad to work but never got the chance to get close to it until last Sunday. It was almost like a religious experience for me to be so close and admire it after all these years. Some may see a dirty, faded sign. I see something beautiful.

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Speaking of seeing things up close for the first time, here is the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. For years, I’ve driven past it but because parking is at a minimum on these small streets, I never got a chance to see it. Sunday changed all that and it was worth it.

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I’m a big fan of Art Deco architecture, art, anything. So standing here looking up at this magnificent structure was one of the highlights of the day. It’s absolutely amazing.

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Ceiling detail at the Warner Grand. I swear I was born in the wrong era.

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As I made my way around San Pedro, I had to pause for a moment and reflect. These are the docks where Dad used to work, right next to the Vincent Thomas Bridge. I remember how he used to love driving over the bridge and look down (the best he could) at the water below.

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There is now a small park next to the bridge and this is there I paused, took a deep breath, and wiped a tear from my eye. I can still see him going to work. Still smell the bean burritos in his lunchbox. Still…everything. It was tough but it made me smile. Note the Calder-esque mobiles.

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Oh. These. So beautiful. These are lights that line the walkway of the park as well as the bike/walking path, and the design is based on these columns a few miles away. There used to be more of them including some near a pond filled with lilly pads, yet another place Dad used to love taking his lunch. As you can tell by the image in the link, these fixtures are much smaller but with better detail. Sadly, most of the originals are horribly weathered after years of exposure but it’s awesome that someone decided that they should be honored in this way. They are all over this park – and I love it.

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Without a doubt, the coolest BofA sign ever. EVER.

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Although this is the new fire boat, Dad used to take us to Station 112 to see the old one which is currently undergoing a major restoration. I was there when this new fire boat arrived many years ago.

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During the ride I thought it would be fun to take a picture of my bike at different, interesting locations along the way. I don’t think you can get more interesting than a battleship, right? The USS Iowa is dubbed The Battleship of Presidents for good reason, and I highly recommend boarding her if you’re ever in town. I also witnessed the USS Iowa arrive and make San Pedro her new home.

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Heading back to Wilmington. This is a relatively new structure and park. I’d never visited the park or been on the bridge so of course I took advantage of it.

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You get a great view of the harbor from up here.

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But CicLAvia was about people-watching, too. The lady in the picture rides her skateboard at every local event and this is the third time I’ve run into her. Seriously. She’s pretty awesome.

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The there’s this gentleman who was riding a recumbent bike while wearing a Russian MIG fighter helmet that he bought on eBay. Yet another cool person.

By the time I made it back to Wilmington I wasn’t really tired. If anything, I was pretty darn pumped to finally be able to see both cities in a way I never have, exploring places that I always new about but never had the opportunity to visit.

You know what else?

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Peacocks! Yes, we have them! They’ve been a part of the area for as long as I can recall and they just keep breeding. They are always fun to see but are extremely loud.

I took so many pictures. I logged over 20 miles round-trip. I ate lunch – two burgers and chili fries – at Tom’s #9, a burger joint I frequented as a kid. I ate for less that $5 since many restaurants were having specials because they had limited car access. Oh, and I got free ice cream. YES.

I made my way back to Banning Park and rode one more lap just for old time’s sake. This was without a doubt a great day and I’m not only looking forward to the next CicLAvia, but the one in this area in particular.

It really took me back.

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And Wilmington, you’ll always have my heart.

All images shot with iPhone 7 Plus and adjusted with Snapseed

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I Want to Ride My Bicycle…


Those were some of the many words that the late, great Freddie Mercury sang about whilst prancing about the stage with that distinctive voice that nobody will ever come close to imitating.

At any rate, now that my cold is pretty much a thing of the past I decided that it would be a great time to take the ol’ bike for a spin down the trail and to the beach. And you know what? You’re going along for the ride!

That’s right. I mounted my HTC Re camera to the front of my bike and shot a time-lapse video of a portion of my ride, starting at the trail entrance and ending at the Seal Beach Pier.

Ready? Let’s roll! For best results, watch in HD since YouTube’s default standard definition really sucks.

A few notes about the video:

  • Images were taken every 4 seconds
  • The music is not mine; it’s some stock music I decided to throw in there
  • I used the highest resolution
  • This was about 8 miles of the 22 that I logged today

Also, I had the chance to ride because I was done with work early. They simply had no hours to give anyone and from what my experience has been, things are turning sour when there’s not enough in the payroll budget to pay everyone. I worked a total of 2.5 hours this morning (from 3:30am to 6am), which really wasn’t even worth waking up for. I’ve worked for companies where I had to rush to the bank to cash my check because the funds were always low and we had to ask if there was enough to cash it. Pretty sad, and I think it may happen again.

Oh well. At least I got to burn off some steam during my ride.

One more thing. I shot a video on the way back and captured something funny. About 2 miles from the beach – I made 2 stops today – I suddenly realized I wasn’t wearing my gloves. I stopped the bike, made sure they weren’t in my pouch (which they weren’t), then turned around and headed back to the beach to see if I could find them.

Oh yeah. I did. Here’s a screencap of me walking to pick them up.

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They were sitting on the sand where I parked my bike when I took a little break. I sat on the rocks and let the sounds of the ocean soothe my soul for a bit.

And with that, I put them on and went home.

What’s a few extra miles, right?

In Response to Chad Stafko’s “Get Over It” Diatribe


A few days ago, Chad Stafko wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal entitled “OK, You’re A Runner. Get Over It” and since then, runners from all over the world have chimed in on what Stafko had to say, much less wonder what the act of running had to do with WSJ.

If you don’t want to read the article, he basically doesn’t get why runners insist on “patting themselves on the back” by showing the world what they’ve done. This can be in the form of wearing a shirt from a recently run event or, in some cases, a 13.1 or 26.2 sticker on their car. He only quotes those two because 70.3 or 140.6 probably would have blown his mind.

But that’s the extent of belittling I’ll do here. In fact I probably shouldn’t have even gone that far because running is something not everybody “gets” and Stafko definitely falls into that category despite how many running friends he says he has.

I’ll quote one part of his article, prove my point, and the game will be over. It really will be that simple.

Why would someone want to get up at 5 a.m. and run 10 miles adorned with fluorescent tape to avoid being struck by someone who has the good sense to use a car for a 10-mile journey?

Easy. Because I can guarantee that this dad (2004)…

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…had a better chance of dying from something health-related than this dad (2013)…

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…who now runs events with his son and will continue to do so until he drops dead.

(By the way, those are indeed the same two people in both pictures: me and my son.)

He will also continue to be the person Stafko despises in the article: he’ll wear shirts from events, put [insert appropriate distance here] stickers on his car, wake up on any given Sunday at 5 a.m. to go for a 10-mile run, and even wear medals the entire day after competing in an event.

And it will be done with pride.

Running any distance is indeed an accomplishment and therefore, I believe is worth bragging about. Running has also changed, and possibly saved or extended, my life.

Game over, Chad.

And no, I won’t get over it.

Blogging 365, Day 54: Long Day


UPDATE: The video is now up! Go to bottom of post!

Indeed it was.

I woke up at 4:30 am, took a shower, got dressed, had a little breakfast, put the bike on the bike rack, hopped on the train, got to Chinatown, rode my bike almost 30 miles…and by the time I got home, it was nearly 3 pm. So here I am, exhausted.

Anyway, here’s the day in pictures since I’m pooped. I am having trouble uploading the video of me lighting the firecrackers but when I can do it, I will post it. I had a great time doing that and riding today.

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Union Station is incredibly awesome. So many movies, shows and commercials were filmed here.

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Chinatown

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Waiting for the event. I got there way early.

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My bike.

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Firefighter giving us tips on lighting. We had to wear helmets and goggles and when the firecrackers went off, even where we were standing, the debris was hitting us. We also had an option to wear earplugs which I did.

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Near the top of one of the many hills we had to climb.

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Dodger Stadium, still looking as great as ever (even under construction).

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Pit Stops were set up every 10 miles with goodies like this, fruit, peanut butter, and water.

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Warner Bros. Studios Gate 2. I worked here when I was on The Whole Truth.

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Roy E. Disney Animation Building.

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Walt Disney Studios. I worked there when I was on No Ordinary Family.

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River sans bike trail. We rode along another river.

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With my medal. It was pretty small. Here’s a better view.

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I don’t drink beer but I thought I’d try. And to this day, I don’t know what compels people to drink that garbage. It’s awful stuff (but was free to all riders after the tour).

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Even got a free meal afterward. And Chinese food in Chinatown? Nothing compares.

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All in all, it was a beautiful day and a great event with awesome volunteers. Thanks to all of them, the organizers, and to the LAPD for keeping traffic in check while we rode along.

I’m pretty sure it’s time for bed now. I’m sure you would be ready too if you did this today.

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UPDATE: Here’s the video!

 

Blogging 365, Day 39: …For An Old Guy


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I left work early today so that I could attend an assembly at Anthony’s school since he was getting an award. I told him that I wouldn’t be able to make it since we were busy at work but, as I do from time to time, I surprised him.

And being that I made it home with little time to spare, I stayed in my work clothes and only changed my shoes – from dress to running, for comfort and because it was raining.

Once the assembly was over Ann and I waited in the car for Anthony and his friend who we watch on Fridays. Close to dismissal time we headed over to the school to meet them. By the time they were dismissed it was drizzling a little bit and the two of them decided to make a run for my car.

So I decided to have a little fun with them. I asked Ann if I should try to pass them up and get to the car before them. She agreed and off I went.

From a dead stop down the sidewalk I sprinted passing a few students and parents along the way. In the end I did beat them both to the car and as I waited, I noticed Ann approaching and laughing.

“Did you hear those kids?” she said pointing behind her.

“No. Why?”

Ann tried to regain her composure. “They said, ‘Wow, he runs pretty good for an old guy!’”

Woah woah woah, hold the phone, Mabel! For an old guy? What, because I have some spots of gray hair* as well as a graying goatee, that makes me an old guy?

Pfft. Whatever! It’s a state of mind, kiddies. You remember those words when you’re uh…older – say, in your teens – and can’t get yourselves to get up in the morning to exercise or don’t want to mow the lawn. This “old guy” turns 44 in a week and feels as fit as ever.

I’ll give you old.

Ahem. All that aside, I did get a compliment from the parents I passed who told Ann that I indeed run fast – period. She told them that I run every weekend and whenever I can and again, another compliment.

And that made me feel darn good.

But old? Come on, kids. I’ll take on your mom or dad any day of the week from a dead stop like today. Then you tell me who the old guy is 🙂

*It’s more than a “patch” but you know…oh well.