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November 10, 1985|ELLEN MELINKOFF

Trailblazers Louis L'Amour's books, which include "Hondo," "The Lonesome Gods" and "Jubal Sackett," have sold more than 140 million copies. He's said to be one of the four best-selling living novelists in the world. L'Amour is also the owner of an extraordinary private library on the history of California. Here he picks his favorite figures from the state's past:

Phineas Banning. "He was an entrepreneur before the word was known. He built Wilmington and opened the (Los Angeles & San Pedro) railroad as well as starting a stage line going east."

Benjamin D. Wilson. "Gen. Patton's grandfather and an early mayor of Los Angeles. Mt. Wilson is named after him."

Juan Bautista de Anza. "He was an original overland explorer of these parts, coming up from Mexico."

William Wolfskill. "He was the first man to plant commercial citrus groves here. He was a fur trader who brought both his money and intelligence to Los Angeles."

Gaspar de Portola. "He discovered San Francisco by the overland route. It was entirely missed by ships."

When in Los Angeles Judy Gethers, author of "Italian Country Cooking for the American Kitchen," founded Ma Cuisine, the cooking school adjunct to Ma Maison. These are her favorite local Italian restaurants: Valentino, Santa Monica. "Finest Italian food in the city. Owner Piero Selvaggio can always come up with something out of the ordinary that is still authentically Italian."

Spago, West Hollywood. "I suppose you can best describe this as California / Italian. The food is wonderfully light and served in a fine atmosphere."

Rex Il Ristorante, downtown Los Angeles. "Elegant surroundings to complement the good food."

Primi, West Los Angeles. "The concept is original. I love being able to taste a few dishes rather than one--building a menu."

Chianti Cucina, West Hollywood. "Like dining in one's kitchen. The atmosphere's homey and warm. Portions are ample and prices modest."

Heaven on Wheels

Bob Lewis has been leading bike rides in Los Angeles for 14 years, sometimes for the Sierra Club but mainly for a singles' outings group. He has ridden just about every route in the city. These are his favorites:

Brentwood-Santa Monica-Marina del Rey. Start at San Vicente Boulevard near Bundy Drive, ride west to Ocean Avenue, south to Pico Boulevard onto the beach bikeway, south to South Venice Boulevard, east to Dell Avenue, south past Venice canals, east onto Washington Street, south onto bike path through Marina del Rey, with a stop at Burton W. Chace Park. South to the end of bike path at the channel. Return same way. Twenty miles, flat terrain.

Playa del Rey to Redondo Pier. Start at west end of Culver Boulevard in Playa del Rey and go south on beach bikeway, past Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach piers to Redondo Pier, where you can window shop or get a snack. Return by same route. Sixteen miles, flat terrain; rental bikes at starting point.

San Marino-Arcadia-Pasadena. Start at Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens, go south on Sierra Madre Boulevard, then east along Huntington Drive to Arcadia. Then go north onto Baldwin Avenue, stopping at L.A. State and County Arboretum. West onto Foothill Boulevard, continuing on bike lane just north of the Foothill Freeway. Then turn north onto Orange Grove Boulevard and go left to visit the historic Gamble House. Ride south on Orange Grove Boulevard, west onto Colorado Boulevard and south onto Arroyo Boulevard. Follow bike path south along the east rim of Arroyo, then go east onto California Boulevard. At Sierra Madre Boulevard, turn south to return to library. Fifteen miles, some hills; 10-speed bike required.

Newport-Balboa Island-Newport Bay. Start at Newport Boulevard at 20th Street, near the Newport Pier. Go east on Newport Boulevard, which becomes Balboa Boulevard. Turn north at Palm Street. Take the ferry to Balboa Island (visit shops on Marine Avenue). Leave the island on the north side via the Marine Avenue Bridge. Continue north on Jamboree Boulevard, west onto Backbay Drive and follow north to Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve. Return same route. Fifteen miles, mostly flat; rental bikes at starting point.

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