Accordingly, it was a little bit less of an exploration than before, and more of a rolling town square, as we pedaled chattily under clear, blazing skies along the Art Deco spans that connect Downtown to East Los Angeles across the concrete trench of the Los Angeles River.
We gathered, as always, in Chinatown, by the Statue of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, where we were briefly joined by a couple of fixie hipsters named Trevor and David, who disappeared as the heat grew more intense. By 10:35 everyone was there, so I gave my thirty-second pre-ride speech ("The two rules are: be polite, and don't get killed"), then led us out onto North Broadway.
The first two bridges come together in a V at the end of the Broadway span, and we arrive at them after riding only two or three minutes, so, although they are both quite photogenic, they never get as much attention paid to them as farther bridges. I think that next time I might run the route backwards, which would also have us crossing each bridge in the opposite direction, maybe giving us new views of LA. In any case, I don't think anyone had brought a camera, so the ride carried a little more momentum than usual. Our first stop came after we crossed the short flat Main Street bridge by the San Antonio Winery, where we stopped for a sip (of water, that is) and seat adjustments. I pointed out a set of railroad tracks visible through a fence: I believe that something like 40% of all goods sold in the US roll over those tracks on their way out of the harbor.
From there we rolled past the Old Brewery artists' colony (the first loft development in Los Angeles) and up the bluff for the first of many short but noticeable climbs. Once on the bluff we backtracked to the river along Mission Street and crossed again on the imposing Cesar E. Chavevz Avenue bridge, which brought us to the beautiful MTA tower, where there is a difficult left turn that, after an incomprehensible concatenation of twists and turns that can be navigated only by a combination of instinct and faith, some led us (as it always has) to Santa Fe Boulevard, where we must cross under the 1st Street bridge to get on it for the return to East Los Angeles.
We stopped on the bridge to gaze at the river and the sleepy-seeming railroad tracks (without which the entire US economy as presently structured would dwindle to a whimper), and to read the plaque commemorating an engineer of the 'Thirties who died in some unspecified manner related to the building of the span. The building has started up again: the Metro Gold Line tram's Eastside extension will cross this bridge, and the trackways are being laid now. Just east of the bridge, before the tracks sink underground, was the scaffolding for one of the stops, with sparkling and inventive new buildings already going up nearby in anticipation.
I almost led us right past the turn to the 4th Street bridge, but caught myself (with Chuck's help) in time. We stopped briefly at Sci-Arc, where, on some signboards opposite, Chuck discovered a font he'd designed for a client decades ago in prominent use. Then we looped back through a pair of winding warehouse access roads and back on the 4th Street bridge in the opposite direction.
And back up the bluff! To Boyle Street, which led us past the placid lake at Hollenbeck park, which is peculiar in that Interstate 5 squats right on it, making a deep shade over its western end. From Boyle we turned onto Whittier, the longest of the spans, and with the best view, it essentially being a wide, flat platform high in the air, crossing an area of low sheds and warehouses (and of course the river and the tracks).
A short jaunt on a tiny industrial street took us to 7th, full of little markets and tiny Mexican diners, up the (by-now damned) bluff once again, over the the massive Sears building recently bought and then sold by Oscar de la Hoya , and thence to Olympic, our last bridge, and my favorite viewing stop overlooking the Amtrak engine sheds.
Once back on the Downtown side of the bridge, we stopped for an emergency Gatorade transfusion to one of the riders who was bonking in the heat, then proceeded on a very relaxed excursion back along Santa Fe to Union Station, where we doglegged onto Alameda for the return to Chinatown.
Smoothies and pastry at Wonder Bakery were much appreciated and avidly consumed! We sat in the shade for as long as possible before heading on back home, almost all of us having arrived on bikes.
You can't keep a good ride down.