Passage #200: 25 May 2013


In celebration of our 200th ride, we did a series of four weekend, daytime rides. Instead of departing from California Donuts on Wednesday nights as usual, each Saturday for a month we met at Union Station and took a Metrolink train to a remote location to ride.

I don't know where Nathan spent his first two years in Southern California, but I spent mine in Santa Clarita. I was going to school and, though I had a car for the first time in my life, having previously been a lifelong pedestrian, public transit rider, and cyclist, the prospect of living in the city and commuting up to Valencia sounded absurd. So I spent two years in the community of Edward Scissorhands, the community of Weeds.

And yet, being in grad school, I didn't really have time to explore all that much. And what exploration I did was mostly done in the way someone in a car explores: I drove around a lot, yet saw relatively little. It was all destination and little in the way of journey.

When school was over I fully intended to move back east. Life however, as the cliché goes, had other plans. A job opening opened, I applied, was hired, and after a brutal month of commuting to the city from the 'burbs, I became a resident of Los Angeles.

Fast forward almost ten years. I hadn't really given Santa Clarita much thought in the interim. I had visited my school's library a couple times, gone to a couple art openings there. One time I took the train up and rode down to the city. But I had more or less left the suburb two valleys to the north behind.

Then, last year at AFI Fest, I saw a documentary about a group of teenagers growing up there. It showed them hanging out in abandoned hillside houses, defunct mini golf courses, concrete civic infrastructure. Well, okay, now you've got my attention. I knew I needed to get up there again, take another look. This ride is the result.

So, in a way, it is a return to a beginning -- a fitting exercise for an anniversary. A lot has changed in the nearly ten years since I left but mostly it feels about the same. Sprawl. Sprawling houses and barren, sprawling hills. And weird border spaces between the two: dead zones, spaces in plain view which one tends to edit from one's sight. Santa Clarita is the collision of sanitized suburbia and wild, open spaces, of strip malls and oil fields, of wide expanses of asphalt and wide expanses of brush -- ready to burn when the summer gets hot. Its extreme weirdness is masked by extreme boringness. "It's a nice place to raise a family." There's a lot of beige brick.

The ride has changed a bit too. We go a little farther than we used to, riding perhaps a little faster. Nathan is now known for the hilly routes (I've grown lazy!). We no longer have those weeks when the ride is just us and maybe one or two other people. But, on balance, things also remain unchanged: baroque routes, conceptual conceits, bridges, tunnels, hills, off-roading, disorientation, etc., etc. Always the same in that it is always a bit different.

This week, in celebration of our 200th ride, we begin the four-week cycle of rides outside our normal territory. We begin in Santa Clarita, where I began my time as a Southern Californian. We will twist our way through its streets and along its trails and, as ever, keep our eyes open for the unusual, the unexpected.

Route Map

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