Rocket man

Day 27: Capistrano Beach to Los Angeles, 62 miles

I wake later than I wanted, sleeping in a bit more in the chilly morning. But I’m planning to ride into LA today and have a deadline: 2pm tickets for entry into the California Science Center. To see the Space Shuttle Endeavor. With my friend and Permaculture Mad Scientist, Ray Cirino.

I met Ray on my first tour, having been distant friends on Facebook for years. Ray is the urban equivalent of Ianto Evans, creating cob and sustainable projects, events, buildings, ovens, all in the grotesquely non-sustainable landscape of Los Angeles. When I visited Ray three years ago he was feverishly working on his masterpiece rocket-fired mobile cob pizza oven, sculpted in beautiful metalwork to become “Sparky”. I couldn’t think of a better person in LA to see the Endeavor with than Rocket Man Ray.

I bid farewell to Torii, glad to see him one more time. There is the bittersweet feeling, that I wish I could ride south, share the adventure of Baja. But I have another mission, to see a space shuttle! I’m soon riding north over Dana Point and Laguna Beach. Wow, I’m stronger than before, or maybe more decided. When I came through here a week ago, I was flustered, anxious, cranky.

This ride, I feel inspired, excited, anticipation. I’m flying up the PCH, winds are light, at my back. I have to stop for a most ironic picture of the Pacific Bicycle Route sign juxtaposed with the Newport Beach Ferrari dealership. Two kinds of transportation, very different energy useage, very different experience. Ferraris and Mercedes and Porches and Mazeratis will all pass me as I ride the opulent coastal colonies of Southern California.

I turn in at Seal Beach, taking the San Gabriel River bikeway. This is a bicycle highway, following the concrete encased river banks, up into the heart of the metropolis. Fast going, strange scenery, horse stables to the right, concrete gorge to the left. Miles and miles, much better than riding city streets! I’m cutting across town, industrial districts. I catch the Los Angeles River bikeway, which is heavily tagged with gang graffiti. I see Watts on the map and realize I’m cycling through South Central LA. It’s Saturday morning, I don’t feel fear, though I remember the riots after the Rodney King trial. Has anything changed in this culture, where a vigilante can stalk and gun down a Florida youth for reaching into his pocket for Skittles?

I see the Coliseum looming ahead. I reach the Science Center, a meet Ray. He tells me he saw the space shuttle launch in Florida, where he grew up. The scale is overwhelming. Space glider. Blasted into orbit strapped to two missiles. Millions of tons of force required to lift off. I find the weathering of the ship stunning. This is a 30 year old vehicle, 25 missions flown. How brave the astronauts, or in that special kind of denial shared by all adventurers: sure there is danger, but it won’t happen to me. The astronaut, the sea explorer, the rock climber, the surfer, the bicyclist. How about all y’all who drive fly in planes, or drive at breakneck speeds on freeways or curving mountain roads?

I’m delighted to connect with Ray again, hearing his stories of LA permaculture, peppered with end-times fatalism. Peak oil has passed, water is becoming more and more scarce down here. The oceans are rising. But Ray is undaunted in his optimism and belief that we can overcome, survive, thrive. If we use our intelligence, create sustainable solutions. Don’t go for the quick fix. Also entertaining are his tales of building pod villages in Venice and guerilla harvests of avocados from a church yard to feed the homeless. And feeding dragon-fired pizza to Robert Downey Jr in Malibu. Funny, Downey lives in the same neighborhood of his Hollywood doppelganger Tony Stark.

We share dinner of Indian food on Venice Boulevard. Then I’m off to the Santa Monica hostel for the night. I’m riding over Malibu to Santa Barbara tomorrow. I’ll keep an eye out for Iron Man blasting off overhead. And space shuttles. And Ferraris. And touring cyclists. Who has the best ride?

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