Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gusty Night Bike Ride

50 mph wind gusts make for a heck of a night bike ride. When the power finally went out for good at EA, I thought about playing it safe and hitching a ride home with someone who drove. In retrospect, it probably wasn't a bad idea, but you've got to take advantage of a good tailwind when it presents itself. Riding through a pitch dark Playa Vista (as the rest of the power for the surrounding blocks had gone out), with only the headlights of the nearby congestion of cars illuminating the streets, was a pleasant start. Fire trucks screamed by to various locations to attend to the outages in the region. The Ballona Creek bike path was virtually deserted as I dodged downed branches, twigs and bushes while leaning into the crosswind twenty degrees to avoid being blown over and/or into the canal. It got a little dicey once I reached the Marina entrance as the cover from the surrounding brush and apartments disappeared. The repeated high pitched clinks of sailboat riggings could be heard in the distance as almost a constant whistle as I passed. After finally reaching the far side of Playa del Rey, the bright bike headlight and the rare passing car were the only sources of light and signs of life in the area. Through the darkened streets, I started towards the entrance to South Marine Avenue, a 2 mile straightaway along the beach. With southward gusting winds, my southward ride home was going to be a fun one. I hit 34.4 miles per hour along the flats in Dockweiler beach, and didn't even reach the highest gear. All the while, the masses of drifting beach sand in the wind made such a resounding hiss that not even the stormy ocean surf was audible. As I reached the water treatment plant, the dozens of street lamps in the parking lot clanked loudly as they swayed back and forth, deviating roughly a foot in either direction. The occasional flying flags I passed sounded as if they were going to be ripped right off their posts. As I reached the refinery further south, an entire section of chainlink, barbed wire fence surrounding the premises had been torn down by the wind as sand began to cover the bike path. I slowed my pace to avoid having my tires slip out from under me on one of the various patches of loose sand. I continued through to Manhattan Beach where the power fortunately remained and the sand cleared off the path, though large road signs had been overturned and the volleyball nets on the beach flapped rapidly, but in unison. I reached Hermosa beach at a good pace, where here, the power also remained. Shortly before reaching the pier, a sudden bluish flash erupted over the nearby beach houses to the Southeast. The surrounding buildings and street lamps quickly went dark as, evidently, a power line or transformer had gone up, leaving the few passing cars as the only source of light, once again. The pier retained power as I passed and made my way into Redondo Beach. As I neared the power station, the steel power lines that hung along the massive metal towers repeatedly smacked into each other and sent metallic reverberations in either direction. Fearing another potentially more dangerous blue flash, I sped past. I finally arrived at my apartment after a surreal, ever-so-slightly dangerous, though undoubtedly fun 12 mile ride home. Could I have played it safe? Sure. Would I have missed an unbelievable experience? You betcha. Some risks in life are just worth taking.

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