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It’s 9:30pm and Dan Sharp, Ira Ryan and myself have been in the mini-van for fifteen hours. It’s dark outside and Route 110 – the Pasadena Freeway - is poorly lit. It drives like a tedious, uneven go-cart track, one built for narrow wagons and 1930’s touring cars. Eight miles of uniform S-turns broken intermittently by twenty-seven dangerous off-and-on-ramps. One of them, Figueroa, is our exit and the next step to Cole Maness’ house. Cole isn’t home, instead he’s headed to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to collect Aaron and Hahn who are coming down from Seattle. Aimee, Cole’s girlfriend and tomorrow’s driver, is waiting for us all.
We find Cole’s stupidly steep driveway through a tunnel of trees and plants. On the other side, his three-bedroom house sits on a hillock, surrounded on all sides by indigenous vegetation–dense and lush and cool and salubrious, like a surf resort in Costa Rica. Open windows and proximity blur the boundary between outside and in. In the backyard, two half-made beds on frames and box-springs blend into the flora, along with a hammock and a bike stand.
By 10:30pm we’re all seated on Cole’s hideous green linoleum fake marble floor. It’s clean considering that three Beagles, three cats and several bikes pass through the kitchen several hundred times a day. We’re discussing Cloudburst.
Daniel: Cole, you’re the local here, this is your ride. Tell us about it.
Cole: It’s a 98-mile loop through the San Gabriel Mountains. We head east on foothill roads and a bike path. Then we climb 6,000ft on a road mostly closed to cars. Then we ride Angeles Forest Road back, past Mount Wilson and Mount Disappointment, and down to Pasadena. And don’t let my cats out.
Daniel: Great, any questions?
Ira: What about the weather warning, the heat alert? It’s Code Green or Red or something. They’re expecting record highs – 95 degrees and up.
Cole: The main section of climb is exposed and long and gains 4,000ft in seven miles. No stores.
Aaron: Great, can I build my bike now?
Dan: What’s your dog’s name again?
Hahn: While Aaron’s building our bikes can we talk about where we’re getting coffee in the morning?
Daniel: Did I mention that Neil Browne from Road Magazine, is going to ride with us tomorrow to see how we put the Continental rides together? And likely to hammer us.
It’s 6:30am and Cole’s house is awake but nobody is talking yet, I like that. Were it not for the distorted and unacceptably loud ‘Wilco’ coming from a Panasonic boom box in the kitchen, I could easily drift back to sleep. Between my cap and the fat on the back of my arm, I can see Cole mishandling an unusually large pink box of cinnamon sticky buns from the fridge to the oven. The site is either appetizing or disturbing and I’m not sure which. From my futon, I move only my head in the direction of the side porch. Through an open window and a dusty fan, I see Aaron, seated on an inflatable red mat, tucked into a blue down sleeping bag. He’s holding up a pink Italian Country Jersey and laughing about something – to himself. Weird. Back in the kitchen, Hahn is making coffee in a steel flower vase. Ira is crunching around Cole’s gravel driveway, fully kitted, lubed, fed and embrocated. Dan, on the back porch is fully dressed and seated on a three-foot high chicken-wire residence shared by the Beagles, one of which can jump higher than Ira. Dan’s loading film. I’m looking for a black sock with an ‘R’ on it and putting in calls to the other LA Continental rider Ben Lieberson, then to Neil from Road Magazine with our morning start plans.
In the cold light of day, on a bike at 7:55am, Cole’s driveway is still terrifyingly steep. From the bottom we begin a series of convoluted uphill turns to traverse and eventually summit Cole’s neighborhood. We’re headed for South Pasadena, the next neighborhood north and to Buster’s Coffee Shop. On the way, pavement seams fail to match by several inches, vertically and horizontally. It’s already 83 degrees and Hahn restarts his Continental-long campaign of taunting Ira. Pushing, passing and riding him. Hahn’s effort is wasted on Ira but it hits Aaron and I where it hurts, in the stomach, legs and lungs. I pant, scream and lose my cool with Hahn for replacing our last easy bit of riding with a time trial.
Hahn: Daniel, are you finished?
Ira: No, he’s never finished.
Ben is seated outside the coffee shop looking fresh, cool and expeditious in spite of the temperature, which is climbing by the minute. We roll up, hot and dripping. The coffee shop features milkshakes and savory meat and cheese filled pastries. Neil pulls up across the street, having just driven in from Long Beach. He’s quiet and easy and happy to meet us. His sock tan is intimidating. We discuss his role today, how these rides typically transpire, and what the team and the project are all about. He’s game.
At 10:30 we roll out and head east through East Pasadena and Arcadia. The streets are lined with uniformly spaced trees, mandated by the city, and expertly manicured (high-n-tight) nature-strips. Well maintained or expensively restored, we pass bungalow after villa after bungalow. Whatever was fresh or moist about the morning has burned-off completely and already it feels like midday. But traffic is light, the pace is easy and we’re all talking. Ben is 140 pounds, a competitive Cat 2 racer and climbs like a European¬–which he is if you count England as Europe - and he’s still not sweating.
40-minutes in and we give up neighborhood wending for a dusty bike path running parallel to a concrete riverbed. On our left is the river and to our right, empty fast food containers, an eight-foot high prison fence and a string of air-conditioner and satellite-dish clad town homes. Not long after, less than a mile, we pick up the San Gabriel River Path on it’s way through a vast, arid and flat San Gabriel Valley. The San Gabriel Mountains rise almost at right angles out of the sage and chaparral to the north. To the west, east and south all we see is heat rippling and warping the boarder between suburbia and industrialized nature.
"Dawn comes early for me. I wander around Cole’s house eager for the day and battling the urge to enthusiastically rouse everyone. The dogs and cats are happy to see me up ready for me to make their breakfast. I cant find their food and more importantly I cant find anything related to the production of coffee. Clouds darken the early morning light and I shiver, ‘could I be among the uncaffeinated’. I shake it off and look for solutions."