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08/30/2009: "Happy Birthday, Tullio!"
Yesterday was the Tullio Campangolo Birthday Ride of Matt Gorski's Far West Milano Cycling Club--which grand appellation signifies a bunch of vintage bike nuts, mostly from around the Long Beach area, but including a number of out-of towners. It also includes some steel-bike stalwarts such as Brian Bayliss, Peter Johnson, Greg Townsend, painter Joe Bell, and quite a number of others; Bayliss and Bell were in attendance yesterday.

As was I, non-luminary though I am; despite feeling a bit puny after a week-long cold followed by a bout of food poisoning, I dragged my ass down to the garage a little before seven AM and saddled up the Bottecchia for the 35-mile jaunt to the LBC.

Despite the heat wave we're in--99°F every day, with forest fires burning all around--at that hour the sky was clear and the temperature actually quite sweet, and I ambled over to Western Avenue and then south past the barbershops, rib joints, storefront churches, and other older and often colorful architecture to Imperial Highway, which took me east to the river.

As you may know, most of the Los Angeles River is sheathed in concrete and runs a mere trickle through the nine dry months of the year, but there's enough water in it to support gentle regiments of grass-covered islets that, at this time of year, are sprinkled with tiny bright-yellow flowers; and at all times of the year there are scattered townships of ocean birds--pipers, gulls, and more--piping and squawking as they huddle by the channel or wheel about in the vast spaces between the concrete banks. It's a nice ride if you keep an open mind.

The club itself--no dues, no member lists--is as nice a bunch of cycling guys and gals as you'd find anywhere--and Matty lays out a good spread of pastries before, and beer and pizza after, the ride!

There's a bit of irony in all this, in that the ride itself is the least interesting part of the gathering to me--most of it takes place on the Pacific Coast Highway, five to ten lanes wide, always intensely busy, and lined largely with malls and big blocky beachside apartment buildings. We ride deep into north Orange County--Seal, Huntington, and Newport beaches--and there seems to be a high proportion of quite rude frat-boy types living high on daddy's money, and driving imbecilically.

Nevertheless, there's a number of lovely bays and lagoons, and a wetlands, as well as two estuaries and a grand view (when it's clear) of the San Gabriel Mountains far away--where yesterday were visible the towering plumes of the Station fire above La Crescenta. And of course the beach crowd is pretty if not genteel.

Plus, I saw something that I found personally both amusing and heartening, where Huntington crosses PCH: a surly-looking fellow riding a brakeless fixie no-handed back from the beach--with a longboard under his arm!

I left around three, too tuckered from my recent ills to complete the usual century I make of it. I pedaled back to downtown Long Beach and caught the Blue Line Metro train to LA, cutting out some twenty two miles of riding. From the Seventh St./Metro Center station it was an easy six miles home.

A shower, a supper, and then Gina and I strolled to the museum for a look at the Picassos to end the day.

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