A Hill Over Venice

Date: April 12th, 2017

From/To: Claremont, CA/Los Angeles, CA

Daily Mileage: 55 miles

Total Mileage: 2595 miles

Conditions: Sunshine and headwinds.

I remember opening my eyes, staring at the ceiling for several minutes before rolling out of bed. I’d long anticipated today, a day I’d never forget. I was riding to the Pacific Ocean, nothing could stop me.

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Todays trek from Claremont CA to Los Angeles CA.

I wasn’t in a rush to get going today. I knew I had plenty of time and a downhill roll to Santa Monica. I wasn’t worried about getting there, I was more so prolonging the feeling of anticipation. There wasn’t a better feeling and I knew as soon as I arrived to the coast it would be nothing more than a memory. The progress I made over the past month and a half would be seen to fruition. I’ll have crossed the United States on a bicycle. This daunting task seemed to have started an eternity ago and I’d grown to love the road and more importantly the feeling of working towards something exceptionally difficult to achieve. I knew it would shortly be nothing more than a memory, I knew I was almost finished.

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A shot of the bike taken outside of Hotel Casa 425, where I had stayed in Claremont. 

I had complimentary breakfast at the hotel and walked around downtown Claremont for a while before leaving. The downtown area was a tourist hub full of shops and restaurants, with people walking streets lined with palm trees and exotic plants. It was a beautiful place and I felt bad leaving without spending more time there. I left around 11AM on my final ride to the ocean. Everything seemed to go in slow motion as I mounted my bike and started pedaling. In the past, 55 miles would go by in the blink of an eye, today it was taking much longer. At one point I climbed a bike path that took me on an elevated scenic view over the Santa Fe Dam.

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The view from up top.

The scenery shortly turned to industry as I made my way closer to Los Angeles. I wasn’t surprised to see this change, but I was astonished by the homeless population as I biked through some of the less fortunate parts of the outer city limits. I biked along homeless cities, full of tents, folding chairs, bikes, and trash, trash everywhere. It was pretty disturbing to see such a large number of people living in these slums, making up entire communities spread out across the land. Who’s going to change this? And how? I continued to think to myself as I biked along. It was hard to see, but I’m humbled by the experience. I continued on towards Santa Monica, eventually reaching USC, a beautiful college campus plopped in the middle of the LA slums. I reached the campus, amazed by the beautiful brick building and cleanliness. It didn’t last for long after I passed through the university.

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I eventually saw why people love Los Angeles, but I first realized why many people don’t. Much of LA isn’t what I’d consider livable, and yet so many people are found living day to day in the slums, making by is an overstatement. Many people hear LA and immediately think of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, scenic beaches, etc, but they fail to acknowledge the harsh parts of this city that remain invisible. I thought I would be reflecting about my overall journey during the ride today, instead I was taken away by the poverty and an overwhelming smell of garbage.

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I will say I met several bikers along the way who were curious about my ride and where I was going/coming from. California in general has a very large biking presence and I was welcomed by many. It was great to see, I wasn’t used to seeing bikers on my “customized” route across America, taking me on roads less traveled by the tour biking community.

I finally reached Culver City when my surroundings started to change. I could tell I was nearing the ocean. I made a left turn onto Venice Boulevard, my road to the Pacific. I had about five miles left on my ride before I reached the coast. The miles had been counting down slowly throughout the day but five miles could only take so long, or so I thought. Perhaps I was thinking so much about those five miles, I’m not sure why it felt like an eternity but I thought I’d never make it. I thought about how many times I’d been in this position, having five miles left before reaching my destination. It felt different this time, it felt like the end of a long journey was around the corner. I rode until Venice Boulevard took me about a half mile away from the Pacific. I still couldn’t see ocean over all the trees and beach houses. I could feel the cool ocean breeze cooling my skin, and that was the first sign I was nearing the finish. I turned a slight right onto Abbot Kinney Boulevard which took me through Venice. It was a small but very active beach town, with surf shops, bars, and stores lining the street leading downhill towards the ocean. I reached a point where Brooks Ave crossed Pacific Ave, running parallel to the ocean. I looked up at the section of Brooks Ave that would led me over a hill, my final ascent before victory. It seemed surreal, I stood there for a minute knowing very well it would all be over in a matter of seconds once I reached that small climb. It wasn’t much of a hill, just enough to hide the prize from me. One last climb. I took it all in, clipped my petals back into my shoes and started up. I’ll always remember that moment climbing over the hill in Venice, I found peace knowing that I’d accomplished something unimaginable months ago. I’d completed my journey across the country, after many days of imagining it was finally here. I made my way out to the bike path that ran along the beach.

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The view from Venice Beach.

I looked up the beach a ways and found the Santa Monica Pier, the one with the ferris wheel and other rides. I rode down there to walk my bike out over the pier. I passed many people walking and biking along side me, I certainly stirred up some attention as I arrived. I’d made it.

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The view from Santa Monica Pier, all the way out at the end. I stood there for several minutes, in astonishment that my westward progress had finally pushed me to the edge of the continent. I now know what it’s like to go the distance, it’s something I’ll never forget.
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A victory ride down Ocean Avenue, searching for a place to grab some food.

I eventually made my way over to my friends Jamie and Dan’s house where I stayed for the next few nights.

I can’t explain how liberating that feeling was. I’d set a goal and accomplished it. I was no longer under pressure to finish the ride. It was a bittersweet moment knowing that I was done with the adventure, but accomplished as a cross country tour biker. Needless to say I slept well that night.

I will continue to ride up the Pacific Coast Highway before ending my journey near San Francisco. I will continue to write about my experiences as I go, please check back for more on this!

Enjoy The Ride,

-Matt

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