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Postcards from an L.A. weekend of mountains, Dodgers and CicLAvia

A visit to see the snow and then a game at Dodger Stadium before riding the streets in CicLAvia make for a fabulous time with the family.

April 18, 2012|Steve Lopez
  • Bicyclists head down 7th Street during CicLAvia.
Bicyclists head down 7th Street during CicLAvia. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

We headed into the weekend without much of a plan, other than taking in a Dodger game. But as things turned out, we would have written a song if Randy Newman hadn't beaten us to it.

On Saturday morning, the storm had moved out, the air was crisp and the sky was mostly clear. How about a hike in the mountains?

I ran this past the family and the chairwoman of the board voted yes, but the 8-year-old vice chair was a tough sell. Her questions included "What mountains?" and "What are we going to do there?"

The mountains we see every day, I said. And we're going to have fun.

You have to be firm.

We weren't even out of Silver Lake when a postcard rose up in front of us — the snow level was down to a few thousand feet in the San Gabes. As we headed up Angeles Crest, the scenery looked increasingly like the Alps, and the curvy road kept throwing us sweeping views of the basin, all the way out to the sea.

Exactly 30 minutes after leaving home, we were having a snowball fight in the area known as Red Box. The turnoff to Mt. Wilson was closed because it was too icy, but that wasn't a problem. Kids were sledding and building snowmen and crunching around on the ice. Who needs Mammoth? My initially skeptical daughter now didn't want to leave.

If you haven't been to the old former firehouse up there, you should check it out. It now serves as the American Indian Cultural Center, with samples of the kinds of items the Tongva and other tribes carried — skins, tools and utensils — on what was a busy trading route.

On the way back down the mountain, I told my daughter about the time I went into those same mountains with Caltech geologist Leon Silver, who showed me a little trick while schooling me on the effects of thousands of years of seismic activity. Silver approached the face of a cliff, grabbed what looked like solid bedrock, and tore off a chunk as if he were Superman.

I impressed my daughter with a similar move, and then she began ripping off her own chunks of the mountain.

Saturday ended with an early evening trip to Dodger Stadium, where the sky at sunset was amazing. Frank McCourt hasn't officially turned the team over to the new owners yet, but the handoff is close enough that I felt I could attend the game without a bag over my head.

Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier launched rockets out of the park in the first, and the Dodgers — spurred on no doubt by the impending departure of the toxic Mr. McCourt — pounded the poor San Diego Padres, who don't have a prayer.

How to follow all of that up on Sunday?

We went to CicLAvia, the bike-riding street party. About 100,000 other people had the same idea.

At the risk of stating the obvious, there's something invigorating and liberating about owning the streets, free of competition with vehicles, with a mix of people, income and orientation no other city in the world can match. We pedaled east from City Hall and all the way to Boyle Heights across the 4th Street bridge, from which, in the dazzling distance, we could see the snow-covered mountains we'd played in 24 hours earlier.

Jackets and gloves one day, short sleeves the next.

Can Randy Newman help me here?

"Look at that mountain. Look at those trees."

Thank you, Mr. Newman. But as you may know, Newman's "I Love L.A." was a bit of a wink, the songwriter describing a dream out of the reach of many.

And on that note of darkness, I want you to know I didn't lose my edge out there on a fabulous weekend. In fact, I've got complaints.

Do you know how many times we had to sit through red lights at CicLAvia because of the traffic?

That's bike traffic I'm talking about. Thousands of cyclists at every intersection in downtown L.A., slowly inching forward. We finally get people out of their cars in Los Angeles, put them in shorts and helmets, and it was one SigAlert after another.

This thing is too popular for its own good, and the only solution is to do it more often.

Jaime de la Vega, who gave up his Hummer for a bike Sunday, said the city is working on a plan to have CicLAvias hosted by six neighborhoods in the city. There would be two in each of those neighborhoods every year, for a total of 12. And the mayor announced Sunday that a bike-sharing program will begin soon, with 400 rental stations and 4,000 bikes available to commuters.

I like it, but as I've been saying for years, the city has a long way to go in making Los Angeles bike-friendly enough to be an option for those who'd like to pedal — safely — to school or work. De la Vega said the mayor has developed 55 miles of bike lanes and 18 miles of bike paths while in office, with more to come.

Sure, it's an improvement, said Jennifer Klausner of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, "But it's not happening fast enough."

Bike rider and mayoral candidate Austin Beutner wasn't as polite when I reached him Tuesday, repeating his claim that the city's 35-year plan to make the city more bike-friendly is an embarrassment.

"It took one year to write 'War and Peace' and four years to build the atom bomb," said Beutner.

Ahhh, the glory of L.A. In the snow one day, in the sun the next. I come back to work tanned and rested, and the mayor's former deputy is taking shots at him.

Life is good.

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