Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wed. June 30, 2010 Off My Game

It's Wednesday, June 30th, and I've been traveling a week. Right now, like Venus Williams... I'm off my game.
Three different bike shop owners in Carson City, Nevada backed off on giving me advice on how to cross the state - read: desert.
All said my best route would be to "go Greyhound."
I listened. Took the 7:30 p.m. bus out of Carson City and traveled the night to Salt Lake City, UT. An easy eight hours, but not the most restful.
Arrived with a bad headache, little rest and very poor decision-making skills. It took me three elephant-heaves to get out of the bus.
I bought another ticket to Denver. Then I returned it. Then I bought it again. Then I changed it from an 8 a.m. departure to 8 p.m. ... then I asked for a refund.
Can you feel the confusion.
Bike stores open at 10am. Started biking around town to see if I could shake my muddy head and I drove right to a Catholic center; read - homeless shelter.
Barb... reluctantly pulled me in. She took me past all the residents, up an elevator with my bike to an office. I could roll out my sleeping bag for two hours' safe rest and she would wake me at 10 a.m.
PHEW... feel a little better. Found bike store and they're working on contacting a bike tour leader to see if they have sound advice.
Called my brother in tears. He made a phone diagnosis by the sound of my voice. "You're tired, dehydrated and hungry... go get something to eat - read a paper, talk to people... don't make a decision for two hours... and call me back."
It's crazy how tired can affect your decision-making process. Survivor skills are really being tested.
Eggs, red potatoes, dry toast, and coffee with a chaser of Coke... and some water.
Just past noon and I'm doing better... but still with no sound plan.
Returning to bike store when my time expires on the library computer. People have been so nice - or it's pity.
Like my brother said, "You're on vacation - don't stress this, have fun."
Saw a quote in the paper from 16-year-old Abby Sutherland. "You can only plan so far in adventure."
I think that's where I'm at.
Trying to get back on the road...
PS... if you look at it, I've been a lot of places in the past week: LA, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Bishop, Lake Tahoe, Carson City, Reno, and now Salt Lake City.

Day 4, June 26., 2010 SANTA CLARITA

SANTA CLARITA - Bicycled out of Simi Valley around 5 a.m., climbed the six-mile hill out of town and approached the rest of the day with a bit of nervous apprehension.

I had a rough map, lots of hand-written directions and two bike shop owners saying I'd have a tough time making it north to Bakersfield.

So,,,, with some superior planning and coordination, I had everything screwed up.

Other than the Interstate, there weren't many options as far as county roads or side streets ... and I had to get through some mountains.

By 8 a.m. on the outskirts of Santa Clarita, I explored my options at a gas station near Highway 5, trying to catch a ride. It would have helped to know Spanish.

A bit frustrated, I went into town to talk to some food. The Way Station on San Fernando Road in Newhall was the perfect spot with the ambiance of an old-time truck stop. License plates covering the walls were donated by customers. There were also posters of Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey Circus and a couple black and white pictures of Roy Rogers eating Wheaties. The menu featured the Brakeman's Breakfast of two eggs, two biscuits, and lots of gravy for $6.25. The Pony Express was hot oatmeal and banana with a bagel and juice for $6.30.

Of course - movies were shot at the Way Station including The Buddy Holly Story and a lot of Dennis Weaver's McCloud series.

After ordering, I struck up a conversation with the couple at the booth next door; Scott and Bev became my new best friends. He was a retired high school music teacher, originally from Minnesota. Bev was a second grade teacher from California. They rescued me - had me over for dinner, let me spend the night and gave me a nice push 210 miles north to Bishop. "We're going camping and geocaching there anyway," said Scott.

The pair met while in college at UCLA and were dedicated Bruins fans; easily distinguishable by the Bruins silver ice bucket on the kitchen counter, tiny stuffed Bruins bears climbing the stair railing, five boxes of Bruins cereal on top of the refrigerator, UCLA nightlight in the bathroom.... you get the picture.

Dinner was a family affair with Bev's nephew Eric, his friend Wazzie, Scott's friend and fellow UCLA alum Mike, and Bev's soon-to-be-93-year-old mother. Chicken, rice, green salad, and fresh fruit. Discussion ran the gamut from UCLA to Disney to the bike tour and trends in education.

Mike was a former music teacher as well; both he and Scott were UCLA band members.

BISHOP, Calif...

We took off early the next morning around 8:30 a.m. and drove 210 miles north to Bishop.

Bev and Scott dropped me off in a shady spot so I could put my bike together.

The Salvation Army helped me find a place to stay at the Trees Motel on West Line St. ,Bob, at the front desk was all business. He wore a sleeveless shirt, shorts, and had a white flat-top. "Here's your key," he said, handing me a metal key attached to a green plastic diamond fob -room 104.

I walked down two steps from the office, which was about the size of a kitchen appliance, shuffled over a couple steps and I was to my room.

The phone was ringing as I entered - it was Bob, at the front desk. "This is Bob in the office, see me," he said. All I could think was my credit card didn't go through.

I shuffled over and up two steps. Bob's Chihuahua was standing in the doorway to the living quarters in the back of the office.

"West Bend," he said. "Wisconsin," he said, extending his hand. "Columbus... welcome."

Bob talked for 15 minutes or so about his memories of Wisconsin; he left years ago. "Hated the cold," he said, as a drop of sweat crept down the side of his nose and hung on his upper lip. "Now I really miss the change in seasons."

Bob served in the army, traveled the world.

He waived his arms while he talked and I noticed a thick turquoise green tattoo on his left forearm. It looked like it was once a full-figured blonde bombshell wearing a bathing suit and looking flirtatiously over her shoulder. Sun and aging made her sag a bit - both she and Bob moving together into their Sabbath.


- Ticked off 25 miles Saturday from Simi Valley to Santa Clarita. Tooled around town after being adopted by Scott and Bev and notched 42 miles by the end of the day.

- It's interesting to note how I'm perceived by the public is different depending on the size of the city. The smaller the community, the more I'm seen as a cross-country bicyclist. The larger the city - I'm seen as homeless.

- Toured the Galen Rowell Gallery in Bishop. At 32, he photographed his first cover story for National Geographic. He specialized in wilderness photography, landscape and mountain climbing. "Photography is an action sport," said Rowell, who took pictures in the Himalayas, Yosemite, and Africa... just to name a few. Rowell and his wife were killed in a plane crash in 2002 when they were coming into Bishop Airport in a small plane following an expedition in Alaska.

- Bishop was also known for Mule Days. "Celebrated every year around Memorial Day," said Kim, who helped organize the event. "It started in 1941 when it was too cold for the Packers." I jumped all over her... "It's never too cold for the Packers!" We were locked in a stare-down - mine fueled by green and gold and Kim totally bewildered. "Packing mules," she said dryly - like I was the dope.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


SIMI VALLEY - I can scratch the Ronald Reagan Library off my bucket list. Paid a visit on my third day in California and it was well worth the trip.

Scott Zimmer, head of library security, took my bicycle into protective custody. It helped a ton knowing my sweet ride was locked safe while I explored.

The library, which opened in 1991, has a huge bronze statue of Dutch in the entryway. He's dressed in cowboy boots and holding a cowboy hat.

Gallery after gallery featured photos of the president and his wife, and collectibles from Reagan's two terms in the White House.

One of the unique items displayed under glass was the brand new blue suit Reagan was wearing March 30, 1981 when he was shot outside the Hilton Hotel in D.C. A small white card sitting atop the suit coat indicated the 'bullet hole in left armpit area.' The suit coat had to be cut off Reagan when he went to the hospital. It also must have been washed prior to being put on display.

My god... I'm turning into my mother. I can't believe I noticed the lack of blood stains. It's going to be my destiny.... pretty soon I'm going to be wiping the drops out of the inside of the sink.

The library also has the president's plane, Airforce One. The Boeing 707 is indoors and measures 152-feet long and has a 145-foot wingspan.

"Ya almost thought it woulda been bigger," said a woman in front of me on the plane tour.

Marcie drove past the exit for the Ronald Reagan Library for years, but this was her first visit.

Marcie was a saucy woman, about 5-foot-4 with flipflops, khaki cargo capris, and a lime green t-shirt that looked like she was hiding a bag full of groceries underneath.

Marcie spoke with a bit of a funky dialect. "I'm from California," she said. I was guessing more so Alabama - think Forrest Gump. And I mean that in a warm and nonjudgemental way.

Marcie called it like she saw it; kinda like a shrug with an "I'm just saying" qualifier. Marcie also struck me as the one in the dentist chair, laid back, having a margarita made in her mouth at La Fuente.

Marcie was with her husband and girlfriend; when the docents spoke, they talked to us as a foursome.

"This was Reagan's office and his private quarters," said the docent standing in the doorway of the room.

"I thought it would be bigger," said Marcie, again.

The rooms on the plane were well laid out; a handwritten letter by Nancy with a pen carrying the presidential seal set by her signature, and a pressed dark blue airforce jacket with Reagan's name sewn into the front shoulder rested on the back of a chair. Even the seatbelts on the plane seemed meticulously placed.

There was also the ever-present jar of jelly beans. "Is that real or staged?" Marcie asked. The docent said everything was as it would have been when Reagan flew.

"Where's the chocolate cake?" asked Marcie.

Apparently Reagan also always flew with a chocolate cake on board Airforce One should there be a birthday or anniversary. The docents said there was cake even when there wasn't anything to celebrate.

The media seating area was next and the docent explained that reporters flying with the president had to pay for their own ticket.

Marcie let loose with her second favorite saying, "Oh, my garsh."

In common-sense fashion, she pressed the docent for a ticket price. When Marcie couldn't get an answer she said, "Well, I'd just go to and get the cheapest price."


- There's a certain flamboyance about California; a lot of piercings and body art. I even thought I saw that tattooed chick who messed up Sandra Bullock's marriage.

- Obviously an open lifestyle is also more accepted in California. I even spotted a thrift store called Out of the Closet.

- Although I easily profile 'midwestern', I feel I've been accepted in California. I was biking up a long steep hill in Ventura and a kid in a big Escalade sat in a mall driveway waiting to exit. He had a bright red mowhawk, plugs the size of quarters in his earlobes, thick black eyeliner and a look of unwanted delay. I momentarily caught his eye and quickly glanced away. Then I heard the chant "Go, go, go" echoed with strong hand clapping. "Come on girlfriend - work those legs!" The kid beeped his horn and waived as he sped away.

- I never found the West Bend belt buckle presented to Reagan when he visited West Bend. That's because an entire wing of the presidential library was under renovation. The new gallery will be unveiled Feb, 2011 in honor of the centennial celebration of Reagan's birth.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 2, June 24, 2010 - SIMI VALLEY (CONT.)

Filing from the Newhall Library which is a small burg in the city of Santa Clarita

Day 2, June 24, 2010

SIMI VALLEY - Finally got in some good bicycling today. Sunny, 74 degrees and 47 miles from West Hollywood through Beverly Hills, Sherman Oaks, Ventura Ave, Woodland Hills, across Santa Susanna Pass to Simi Valley, home of the Ronald Reagan Library.

Pastor Gary Stevenson from Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church let me stay in the parish youth room for the evening. He also invited me to share in a community meal that night.

The church began the effort several months ago in an effort to help the homeless and people having trouble catching a break in the poor economy.

I spent most of the evening at a table with Ken, his wife Irene and their friend Bernita.

Ken lived in Simi Valley for 25 years; he was a walking history book. We talked mostly about the Hollywood happenings in the community in the 1970s.

Errol Flynn and the Adventures of Robin Hood was filmed in Simi Valley, as was (Johnny Weissmuller) Tarzan, Rin Tin Tin , John Wayne cowboy flicks and, if ever the Star Trek crew beamed down to another planet... it was shot in Simi Valley.

"Bob Hope bought property in the area in 1967; he called it Hopeville," said Ken.

A brush fire put an end to Hopeville, taking with it a majority of the movie sets except for the original Fort Apache, a movie directed by John Ford with a cast starring John Wayne, Shirley Temple and Henry Fonda.

Simi was also home to Corriganville; it was America's first theme park opened in 1953 by cowboy actor Ray 'Crash' Corrigan.

The 2,000-acre site featured a blacksmith shop, Marshall’s office, general store, Silverdollar Saloon, and Wells Fargo Bank & Hotel. Corriganville had over 20,000 visitors a day and made over 3,500 movies.

Ken and Bernita took turns telling stories.

Ken, 59, had large, square wire-rim glasses and spoke with an easy-going slowness, like there was nothing on his calendar for infinity.

He had patience and a good memory, except his timelines were a little cloudy and he'd often generalize - "it happened in 1970-something."

Bernita, 66, was a well-insulated woman with a lot of spunk. She had long grey hair and wore a small, framed pendant of Jesus around her neck.

Bernita had relatives in Green Bay and Milwaukee, and felt an instant connection to me. She spoke with urgency and an outline.

"I have three things to add and then I'll be quiet," she said... several times.

The pair said Simi Valley was known as the safest city in the United States and the primary industry used to be farming.

"Apricots, peaches, oranges and even hay across the entire valley," said Ken. That dried up when Simi Valley failed to keep up with farmers in the Midwest.

"Zsa Zsa Gabor used to go to Ralph's Market on L.A. Avenue, which was next to Green Acres, and I bet that's how they got the name of the show," said Bernita, finishing her sentence with arms folded, lips pursed and a confident head-nod of satisfaction.

Ken said he didn't know too much about that.

He said Simi Valley doubled in size over the last five years. Once Rocadyne, a jet and rocket fuel company, went under the city turned into a bedroom community with neighbors commuting 40 minutes, one way to L.A. or Ventura.

In Simi Valley today, the industry (a loosely used term) is strip malls.

"You should go see Grandma Prisbrey's house where her husband built a foundation around their trailer using cement and bottles," said Bernita, with another serious head-nod and a matter-of-fact attitude." Like 'you can take that to the bank.'

Ken swung his gaze from Bernita to me, nodding in affirmation. "That bottle work actually enhanced the value of their property," he said, noting the Prisbrey's were on top of four earthquake faults.

In fine detail, Ken tried to explain how to find the Prisbrey place while Bernita looked like she was about to fly out of her seat.

"He went to the dump and brought back bottles," she said, a bit exhausted.

I later found Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in July 1984.

The bronze-plated plaque on the fence said the small plot on the main drag through Simi carried a fantastic assemblage of remarkable twentieth-century folk art.

In 1956, Tressa Prisbrey, then nearly 60-years-old, started building a fanciful "village" of shrines, walkways, sculptures and buildings from recycled items and discards from the local dump. She worked for 25 years creating one structure after another to house her collections.

Today, Bottle Village is composed of 13 buildings and 20 sculptures.

It kind of reminded me of the witch’s house in Fox Point. There were waist-high walls of blue bottle glass set in cement. A series of headlights from a vehicle were stacked two rows high in the shape of a water fountain you may see in a town centre.

Ken returned to the topic of Hollywood films and television shows.

Big Sky Ranch, which was an area with more housing developments, apparently was the place to see remnants of the old Hollywood sets.

Little House on the Prairie was one of the last television shows filmed in Simi Valley. "You know who wrote the music for Little House on the Prairie," said Ken.

"You won't find much of that set left; they exploded the town in the last episode," said Ken.

During the season finale the railroad was apparently set to come through town and there was nothing Pa or Mr. Edwards could do to stop it.

Seriously, they had to raze all Walnut Grove so the railroad could go through?

Ken looked at me with a blank stare as if to say 'it was just a TV show.'

But seriously, the whole town? I guess that's government - even back in the day.


- There are really beautiful trees in California. One species has bright flowers that look like fine pink feathers on a fly-fishing lure. The other spectacular tree, the Jacaranda has soft purple trumpet-shaped flowers the color of a ribbon in an Easter bonnet. In Beverly Hills the streets were lined with Jacaranda, which looked like somebody pulled a broad brush of lavender though the treetops.

- I was on the UCLA campus today. Wow, that's big.

- Saw a guy eat out of the dumpster on Hollywood Blvd. today. He got a pretty nice slice of pizza with maybe three small bites taken out of the pointy end. I admire the California mentality towards recycling.

- Simi Valley has a population of 150,000, the city is about 15 miles across, there are two main east/west roads and bicycling lanes on most streets.

- Simi Valley is in a soup bowl, so to speak. You have to climb six miles up and over and drop down six miles to get into town. Then, there is a steep climb up and over to get out. Anywhere you stand in Simi, you're surrounded by the Santa Susana Mountain range.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Simi Valley

Made it to Simi Valley today... about 50 mi.
Getting out of LA was good. Challenging - but good. Much slower pace in Simi Valley.
74 and sunny
Found a church for tonight. Pastor Gary Stephenson at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran has given me the youth room.
Five couches to choose from. Sweet!
Tomorrow I'm exploring. Apparently the Ronald Reagan Library is seven miles away on the outskirts of town and have to climb over a hill to get there. Reagan apparently liked the view.

I've already got the name of an old-timey diner to try tomorrow morning. Tonight.. the church is feeding me; it's their community night - me and the homeless. I should fit right in.. considering I haven't showered yet... I'll really blend.

Day 1 in LA

I'm not a typical tourist. Expensive hotels, attractions and theme parks just aren't my thing.

I really tried to grow my boundaries and explored spending the night at the historic
Hotel Roosevelt in West Hollywood. The 300-room hotel dates to 1927, is located on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was first to host the Academy Awards.

The hotel reportedly is haunted by Marilyn Monroe; her reflection has been seen in the poolside nightclub, Tropicana. Montgomery Clift supposedly has been heard playing a trombone on the ninth floor.

The hotel has been used in a bunch of movies and TV shows, including "Knots Landing", "Moonlighting" and "Beverly Hills Cop II."

Through the years, the hotel has bee remodeled and lost a ton of its' history. It used to have a grand archway and elaborately painted ceilings. Now, it's a boutique hotel and all the history has been covered; paintings, pictures and memorabilia have been dumped in a closet.

As much as I wanted to grow as a person, the $30-a-night Hollywood Hostel down the street on Hollywood Blvd. was more my speed. Across from the Kodak Theatre, down the block from Grauman's Chinese was perfect.

With a couple flat tires in the 15 miles from LAX to West Hollywood, I sought a bicycle store and found a Hollywood cemetery called
Hollywood Forever; it's on Santa Monica Blvd.

Back in the day, it was probably amidst fields and trees and on the outskirts of town. Now, it's an immaculate landscape of crypts, gardens, mausoleums and monuments housed behind a black wrought-iron gate across the street from Tom's Smog & Auto Repair, Manuel's Tires and Hollywood Discount Mufflers.

Hollywood Forever started in 1849 and was originally Hollywood Memorial Park.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the "final resting place to more of Hollywood's founders and stars than anywhere else on earth.
More than 101 celebrities and notables are buried there; the most famous is Rudolph Valentino.

The Italian star, primarily cast as a "Latin Lover," died at age 31 after an appendicitis operation became aggravated by peritonitis. Within a matter of a week Valentino fell into a coma and died.

Valentino's funeral was held in New York. His body shipped cross country by train for a second funeral in Beverly Hills. He had no burial plans - but then a friend, June Mathis, said she could take his crypt. Unfortunately, she died - and now Mathis and Valentino lie in adjoining crypts at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Tough to find him without a $30 guide or GPS.

Other recognizable stars include Peter Lorre, Jayne Mansfield, Cecil B. DeMille, John Huston and Mel Blank, all of which I was unable to locate. I got lost in the maze of this wonderful cemetery. HUGE granite memorials to people whose names I couldn't even pronounce like Dolukhanyan Vantset, Mary Laura Tedeschi and Kerop Shushianyan.

Apparently the cemetery also houses a lot of Albanians, Russians and a huge Jewish population.

Stars I did find include Tyrone Power, who was a big-deal actor in the 1950s with
The Mark of Zorro. Power died in 1958; he was 44.

I also saw a nice memorial to Hattie McDaniel; the first African-American to win an Academy Award in 1939 for
Gone With The Wind.

I also found actor Douglas Fairbanks and guitarist Johnny Ramone from the Ramones.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the "final resting place to more of Hollywood's founders and stars than anywhere else on earth."


- It seems to be human nature to
be in Hollywood and think you've seen a star. I went exploring this morning and thought I bicycled past author Stephen King. Then I'm like, 'why would Stephen King be hanging out in California's version of the Wisconsin Dells?' I checked online and King still resides in Bangor, Maine.

So, I
almost saw Stephen King today.

- The airline saw fit to check my bicycle, for safety's sake. Upon landing and retrieving my bicycle box I could tell it had been opened. There was a nice note from Transportation Security Administration inside that said they were "required by law" to inspect all checked baggage. Mine was among those selected for physical inspection. I hope they found that repacking a bicycle is
not the easiest thing. And they failed to do it correctly.

- Spent the night at the Hollywood Hostel on Hollywood Blvd. $30 a night, across from the
Kodak Theatre and down the street from Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel is performing next door and Toy Story 3 is playing at the El Capitan cinema. Adult admission is $20.

- The big
HOLLYWOOD sign in the Hollywood Hills is just outside my hostel window. It's rather easy to spot the 45-foot letters. I asked how to bicycle to the sign and locals say it's not really possible. For years it's been cordoned off by gates and security. There's a lot of graffiti in the area and officials believe the sign would be tagged if left open to the public.

- Lots of tourist attractions. Explored the shopping area around the Kodak Theatre and read the sidewalk about the 'road to Hollywood':

One segment read, "You've got to come to Hollywood," they said.

"Movies is the third biggest business in the world. Safety razors is first, corn plasters second, and movies third." So I went. - Cowboy star.

- West Benders are stalking me. Crazy coincidence that the day I land in LA, my friends Ric and Amy Leitheiser and family are also in LA. Through cell phone challenges and traffic issues we managed to hook up for a cold one last night on Hollywood Blvd. I love how my friends take care of me.