Saturday 29th October – Making It In Hollywood

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It was pretty cold this morning, still shorts weather, but enough to make my fingers cold during morning duties. I decided not to have a shower and settled for washing my face, still figuring out the morning routine. Cereal for breakfast, I was out of camp by 8:30am. I continued driving south through farmland and hills until I reached Ojai, which was a small town, then Santa Paula. It was morning tea time by then so I pulled in at the park to use the bathroom and stretch my legs. I ate my muffin as I wandered through the park. A marching band started congregating in the park and I soon discovered this was because they were the leaders of a Halloween parade, which was still ongoing. I walked through the crowd of skeleton-painted faces to the street and caught the end of the parade. It was a pretty modest affair, with children dressed in costume and a participation ribbon on everyone’s breast. Some people had gone to extroadinary effort and were wearing it with pride. The tail end of the parade was a small drumming band who made a pleasant racket. As the parade congregated in the park, I wandered off back to the car, thoroughly happy with my timing.

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I skirted north of LA, heading through Santa Clarita then up into the San Gabrial Mountains for some riding. I was seeking a ride today and had found a trail network on Brown Mountain using Trailforks. It was around 11:30am when I pulled up in the small but crowded carpark at the trailhead. There was a bike shop there offering demos and people hanging around, so a good chance to get advice about the trails. I spoke to a father/son locals and they told me the route I should take, up Fern Truck, further up Brown Mountain, then down El Priesto, known only as “El P”. This was good advice because it wasn’t what I was going to do. Always happy to get the local’s perspective!

I kitted up for a day that had warmed up significantly, it was quite steamy because the clouds still hung overhead. I rode along some fireroad to get to the Fern trail. On the way, I saw the exit of El P and a group of guys in full-face and armour. Hmm…. Anyway, the climb was solid up Fern Truck to the saddle where you can see downtown LA over the mountains. At one of the crests, I met Jonathan, A guy in his 60s who was taking his time going up the hill. I was asking about the lay of the land, wondering what I was looking at and we got chatting. He told me that his sister-in-law at 46, had been buried yesterday. She was a triathlete as fit as anything and had felt dizzy after doing a 7-mile run so sat down, and that was the end. They never found out what was wrong. She had left a husband and two young girls behind. Testament that life has to be lived for today, no waiting for tomorrow. We rode together for a bit, swapping stories, until I rode onwards. Jonathan said it had been an honour to meet me which was touching. I was glad to have met him.

At the saddle I got chatting to a couple of guys about my age about climbing and places to see in the region. They advised I should go to Big Bear and hit up some climbing and riding there on my way to Joshua Tree, great advice! We all enjoyed the view for a bit, then rode on up Brown Mountain trail. I turned around after not too long, not really excited about riding back down the wide, not-technical single track. I said goodbye to the guys as I rode back towards them. It was a fast ride down to El P which was easy to find. As soon as the trail broke off from the main route, it was black diamond territory. Very sandy, it started out with a few tight switchbacks, then sped up. It was a beautiful flowy trail with natural rocky sections. A bit rutted out, but not too bad. The bottom half of the trail followed a floodway with huge concrete structures to restrict water flow. Not sure if they are needed anymore, but they looked like something Danny McKaskal could have fun on. At the bottom of the trail, I rolled back to the trailhead.

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Before I’d had a chance to put my bike back on my car, one of the guys from the bike shop asked how my ride was and we got talking. His name is Kelly and he is a sales rep for Kona, a bike brand I hadn’t heard of before. As a travelling man, he lived in his Mercedes Sprinter van from time-to-time, so we swapped notes and he showed me hit set-up. Then he offered me a beer so we chatted some more. Eventually he had to help his crew pack the 18 bikes into his partner’s sprinter van. 18 bikes in one van! With room to sleep!

As I was packing up, Kelly came back over to ask where I was headed next. I gave him a vague answer, so he suggested I come up to Lake Castaic the next day for a Girls Gone Riding event. He gave me his number and I said I’d let him know. I finished packing and decided that I didn’t want to get back in the car and continue driving, so decided to head into Hollywood and go for a tourist wander.

As Google navigated me down there, I got off the highway at Mullholland Drive and came upon a lookout that a lot of sightseer buses were stopping at. It offered a great view of the city. It is HUGE, it really took my breath away. You could also see the Hollywood sign which was neat. When I’d been here with Mikey the year before, for some reason we’d found it hard to get a good look at it, but this time I stumbled on it. I was interested to learn that the sign was originally place on the hill as a billboard for a new real estate development called Hollywoodland. The sign originally read Hollywoodland, but ironically, the last four letters were destroyed in a landslide, leaving only Hollywood!

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Onwards along Mullholland Drive, I weaved through the narrow streets of the rich and famous until I was within a flew blocks of Hollywood Boulevard. I parked outside a very fancy mansion where the cars on the street where Mercedes, Teslas and BMWs. Thinking I might have a sign on my car by the time I got back, I made a quick lunch and ate it on the go. You would never know you were near Hollywood Boulevard until you’re on it. The streets around it look just like normal ‘burbs. When you do turn the corner though, it is very obvious! I’m glad I came to see it, just to experience the atmosphere. Tourists were shoulder to shoulder, there were costumed vendors every few steps, posing or performing for a dollar, some with more talent than others. Homeless competed with them for change. And of course, everyone is walking with their heads down, looking for their favourites in the pavement. Cheap souvenirs were on sale on the streets outside high end shops. Unfortunately amongst all this, was the lingering smell of tabacco smoke and urine.

In front of a Chinese Theatre is a dedication to its owner, with handprints and footprints made in the concrete by all of the rich and famous. It was an interesting feature, especially seeing some of the hand sizes. For instance, Morgan Freeman has HUGE hands, while Arnie’s aren’t as big as you’d think!

As I wandered up and down the strip, watching street vendors, and taking it in, there were a few things I tried to figure out. Why there was a huge line of goth-style people waiting for a pop-up called Avenged Sevenfold? If the signs in a sports bar dictating “No Dancing” were serious or sarcasm. After seeing group of Trump supporters/Hilary haters, if it could be possible that Trump will become president of this country.

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My legs were tired before long so I was back at the car in under two hours. Here, I pondered my options for what to do next. Going with my general rule of doing the most unpredictable thing, I decided I’d hit the bike festival at Lake Castaic the next day. I sent Kelly a message saying as much and started driving north towards the park, intending to find a camp somewhere nearby. It was only a 45 minute drive. Before I got there, Kelly invited me to hang out with his crew at the Best Western hotel they were staying at. I also pondered the safety of this considering I’d just met these guys, but I trusted my judge of character and decided to take him up on the offer. It would mean a hot shower! I bought some beers before I got there, then found them in room 129. Surprisingly when I knocked, a dog barked! It was Vince’s 1.5 year old puppy, also named Kelly.

There was nothing dodgy about it. Me and Kelly (the dog) made instant friends and we all spent the rest of the night drinking beers and talking bikes, moto-riding, employment and van-camping, since we were all doing it! Vince, at 22 was a demo driver for Kona, driving all over the country (with 18 bikes in the back) offering demo rides at different events. He would team up with different sales reps and shops along the road. What a gig! He’d been at it for 8 months and was looking forward to getting home to Montana. These guys were super cool. We hatched a plan for the next day, I would be a Kona employee and ride for them in the girls-only rides organised for tomorrow. Sweet! I enjoyed a hot shower before I retired to the van parked in the hotel carpark. They were convinced they would not care and they were right, they didn’t.

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