In Pursuit of a Beer Garden; Sometimes It’s the Journey That’s The Story and Not The Destination
Sometimes, despite good training and life preparation from my loving parents, I do things that prove that boys will still be boys.
“Mom would not approve,” I kept telling myself in this particular instance.
The occasion was the end of the Los Angeles Marathon. I was going to cover it and the finish line festival “beach party” for PubClub.com (plus there was beer in the Michelob Ultra beer garden)!
The finish line was in Santa Moncia and I live in the north end of Manhattan Beach, CA. But instead of driving, I decided to get a little exercise and take my bike on the Strand, a path that runs along the ocean. The route goes by El Segundo and Playa del Rey, down the south channel and through the yacht yards of Marina del Rey, past Venice Beach and its famous boardwalk and finally onto the Santa Monica Pier. It’s a distance of about 15 miles and takes, on a nice day, about an hour.
But this was not a nice day. In fact, it was nasty. Spitting rain. Yes, it spits rain occasionally in L.A.
Still, sounding like Bill Murray in Caddyshack, I remarked to myself that “the hard stuff is not supposed to come down for quite a while.”
So I put on a long-sleeve t-shirt, a thicker shirt and covered it up with a PubClub fleece. I also donned a PubClub hat but that’s when my dressing acumen deserted me. For some reason, instead of putting on my waterproof boots and ski pants, I threw on jeans and laced up hiking-type tennis shoes.
“As long as it doesn’t unload on me,” I reassured myself, “I’ll be okay.”
Or course, it was raining harder than I initially thought and by the time I had gone less than a quarter of a mile, the jeans were soaked. Rain droplets would form on the brim of the hat and just hang there, as if teasing me, until I shook them loose. Instantly, they would reappear again.
I put my head down and got wetter as I went. Progress through Ballona Creek, the first “finger” of Marina del Rey – always a challenge because of a steady wind – was slow but not overly difficult. Going through the rest of MDR was a snap and not until I had to get on a street and stopped at a light on Washington Blvd., did I notice how steady it was really raining.
When I hit Venice Beach with the Santa Monica Pier ferris wheel in site, the rain REALLY started to come down hard. I also encountered large puddles on the bike path for the first time. Clearly, it would have been much wiser to have driven.
When I finally arrived at event, a second wave of heavy rain hit.
I presented myself to the Michelob Ultra tent and but hardly anyone was around. Soon, though, a life-saving beer-pourer appeared and, after giving me a strange look and a laugh, gave me a beer. A free beer! That alone was worth the journey!
Now satisfied from a beer standpoint, I took a few photos of the event (what few people were there were huddled in tents) and then, of course, prepared to head home and ride back those 15 miles. My jeans were as wet and heavy as if I had just pulled them out of the washing machine and my socks were soaked. Still, the fleece was keeping my upper body dry (though I could not pinpoint the source of a few droplets of water rolling down my back; I later learned the bottom of my t-shirt was wet) and I felt energized by the beer.
I briefly considered stopping at Shutter’s in Santa Monica where some friends were about to gather for brunch. I also considered stopping at the Venice Whaler at the Venice Pier or even The Harbor Room in Playa del Rey, which is LA’s smallest bar (it’s elbow-to-elbow whenever a dozen people are in the place). But all I really wanted to do was to get back to Manhattan Beach and a long, steamy shower.
Initially, things were not so bad. The rain had let up to more of a steady drizzle. I noticed a few shops open along the Venice Boardwalk and made it through MDR (I passed a cop hiding in a empty parking lot and gave him a wave; we waved back but also gave a look that said, “that guy’s nuts to be on his bike today!”).
Now, all I had to do was turn a corner in Playa del Rey; from there it’s a straight shot of about four miles to home.
Of course, things turned out not to be that easy. When I rounded the the curve past Ballona Creek, I was nearly stopped dead in my tracks by a huge headwind.
It was so strong it took every bit of strength in my legs to keep moving (I have what’s known as a beach cruiser, a one-speed bike made for cruising on the Strand). My pace was barely above that of a walk. I felt like taking shelter at a bathroom – a few people foolish enough to also be out had done this – but the forecast called for really heavy rain to hit at any time, so I pedaled as hard as I could, barely making any progress. “This can’t continue,” I said to encourage myself. But it not only continued, it continued to get worse. The wind was blowing even harder!
Then, just to remind me of how foolish this exercise was, the pace of the rain picked up to a downpour. Not only were my jeans completely wet and also weighing me down, but the arms of the fleece were becoming saturated. Occasionally, a plane would fly over my head landing at LAX. I imaged first-time visitors looking out the window, seeing me and saying, “those people in LA really ARE crazy.” I satisfied myself by responding, “Yeah, but I’m at the beach and you’re not!”
I also thought about my misfortune at having to face a headwind instead of being pushed by a tailwind. Had the wind been at my back, I would have been home in about 10 minutes. As it was, it took more than 30. I finally reached a plateau in El Segundo where some type of kids club is located in a building – I’ve always felt officials could have served the public much better by putting in a cantina instead – and I knew I was almost home. In less than 10 minutes, the first lifeguard stand of Manhattan Beach came into view.
In a way, I was kind of expecting some type of celebration when I got home. Neighbors gathered to cheer my arrival, a huge scream of “I MADE IT” coming from myself, that sort of thing. Instead, I quietly climbed the steps, put the bike away, shed my dripping clothes and ht the shower.
But hey, I had my beer!