(September 27 – written by Dave)
Today was a day of contrasts. We left our Air B&B and the million dollar neighbourhood making our way down past more million dollar homes before turning into Torrance. Torrance is not on the beach and not nearly as fancy. Pubs here are no longer called “Sunset” or “Pacific View”. Now they called things like Crow’s Nest and Monty’s Place. Torrance isn’t rough but it’s not flash either.
From Torrance, we rode through some residential neighbourhoods in Carson. We had several streets of 1950 single story homes, all the same, but all a little different. They were right on top of each other and generally in pretty good nick. If Torrance was a hard town, Carson was blue collar. Both of them were nothing like the beach arts of LA.
From Carson we rode through the oil refinery area of Long Beach – lots of big trucks, train cars and petroleum smells. And yet another complete change in scenery.
As we left the refineries, we crossed the LA River and entered the worst neighbourhood of the day. It wasn’t a neighbourhood really. More just a bike path along the riverside dikes. The river is not anything close to pristine near the refineries but some folks still call it home – or maybe I should say “call it homeless”. Every 100 metres of so we would see a random collection of shopping carts, blue tarps and cardboard. Nothing smelled or looked nice – it is really a hard life for some folks, and it is a reminder to us that we are lucky to be able to do this ride.
As we moved down river, toward the port, the water cleared up, became deeper and tarp homes disappeared. Enter Long Beach proper and the world of luxury boats. The biggest one calling Long Beach home is of course the Queen Mary but there are actually thousand of boats and marinas in every direction. The worries of the homeless were only a few miles off, but a million miles away.
Leaving Long Beach, we rode along the coast the rest of the day, through Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna and a few other fancy suburbs. What they lack in yachts, they make up for in gated, razor wire communities. If you see a car leaving one of these places and it doesn’t say Ferrari, Maserati or Bentley, then it is probably a gardener or maid.
We were riding touring bikes in Lycra, with big panniers, so we don’t really fit into any of the varied communities that we travelled through today. In fact, it’s pretty easy to feel like an outsider the entire time if you think about it very much. We won’t value judge any of the different lifestyles – People live in different places and different ways for many different and complex reasons. For me, today was like riding through a life-size museum where each neighbourhood is a giant diorama of “how people of type X live”. Back when I was a kid in Northern Nevada, the dioramas were of Paiute Indians, now they are of “haves”, “have-nots” and “have way more than they really need”.
Given our lifestyle choice, we are probably closer to the “have nots” but we are lucky enough to be in that situation by choice. And of course, we can leave our little diorama pretty much anytime we want to. Many do not have that choice.
We finished the day at another wonderful Warmshowers house. Today we’ve been hosted by Susan, Donnie and their 3 really cool dogs. Thanks to Susie and Donnie, we don’t have to get out our blue tarp tonight (actually, our tarp is green but you get the idea). Dana Point and Laguna have not been the friendliest places to ride but we made it here. And for tomorrow, Donnie has given me a detailed briefing of what roads to take and avoid. We have a short ride tomorrow to Carlsbad, then one more day to San Diego. We aren’t far from Mexico now – how exciting.