Biking on little cat feet

I’m really not a fan of bicycling in Los Angeles.

Sure, I ride here, because this is where I live.  But of all the places I’ve tried to ride, this town ranks pretty near the bottom.  The only place I’d rank lower was Baton Rouge, LA, where I could count on getting run off the road or doored every time the frat boys at LSU had a few too many.  Which was pretty much every weekend, now that I think about it.

But there are days that make it all worthwhile.  Like the other day, when I took a quick run down the coast to cool off from an early season heat wave.  It was just early enough in the day to beat the crowds that usually clog the beachfront bike as the day goes on, and the weather at the beach was perfect.

I was feeling good, so I just kept going, past sailboats and surfers, seagulls and sun-drenched beach babes tanning on the shore.  After about 25 miles, it was time to turn around, so I stopped briefly in Hermosa Beach to tighten a spoke and eat one of the Kashi bars I keep in my seat bag.

And in that short amount of time, a heavy fog rolled in, blanketing the coast and completely changing the texture of my return.  Instead of clear, sparkling views, I passed through a heavy grey curtain, hiding all my landmarks and parting only briefly to unveil a building or allow another rider to pass by.  As I rode, I could see breakers come out of nowhere, sometimes bearing a surfer floating out of the haze.

The result was a sense of splendid isolation, as if I was somehow cut off from the world, and every person and object I passed was a welcome revelation.

Of course, it’s one thing to savor a fog like that on an isolated bike path; quite another to slog through traffic when you can’t see where the cars are coming from.  But within a few blocks of the beach, the fog — and that magical feeling — melted away.

(The title refers to a poem by Carl Sandberg, which begins, “The fog comes on little cat feet…”)

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