Sunday, March 20, 2011

Walk to the beach!

Some time ago I had noted via Google Maps that it is not impossible to conceive walking to the beach from Caltech. The only problem is you'd need about a day of spare time, which only occurs about twice a year.
Still, yesterday was such a day, so I gave a friend J a call and we met at 6:30am (just before dawn) and set off. I took minimal weight; phone, keys, wallet, jacket, and a hat. J brought a bag with some water and a red cap that made him look like Mario. (In my opinion!).
The weather was perfect, and we walked at a steady pace, joining a series of very long LA roads.
From memory, we began on California Ave, then zigzagged up to W64 Ave, cut through on Meridian Ave, then York. Walked through an underpass under the railway festooned with pigeons (dead and alive), before joining Eagle Rock Ave, following it south to Fletcher, which took us over the LA river (which had some water, and trees in it). By this point we had covered about 12 miles, or 20km, which is a decent walk in itself, in about 4 hours. J put his NY honed 'diner finder' skills to good use and we stopped at 10:30 for Breakfast/Lunch. I consumed my own weight in steak, capsicum, and omelette, providing essential walking fuel. 
A quick dogleg put us on Silver Lake Avenue, and suddenly the affluence of our surroundings jumped about 10 points. The lake itself is a fairly unremarkable reservoir, but there was a nice park (infested, as usual, with Australian trees of varying kinds). We sat under a bottlebrush and dodged a rain of gumnuts for about 20 minutes. For varieties sake we swapped shoes, then continued on. Silver Lake Ave fed into W Sunset Boulevard, which had a lot of interesting looking shops, and soon we turned left onto Santa Monica Blvd, which marked the end of tricky navigation. Santa Monica Blvd is about 14 miles (25km) long, and only has one substantial bend in the whole thing. Although by this stage a degree of discomfort was apparent, it's only at this point that the idea of walking all day becomes worthwhile. That is, walking is easy, even when tired, but only when tired does putting one foot in front of the other become meaningful.
After a couple of hours we entered Hollywood, then Beverly Hills, which seemed to ooze money. The side of the road was a long, skinny garden. Walking on grass for a change, J said it felt like 'walking through cake'. We took a 25 minute break, then continued on. We walked past a large Mormon church, the turnoff to UCLA, and one last raised expressway before finally, we could see the last row of buildings before the beach, now 'only' 3 miles (5km) away. Our pace had slowed by this point, but inevitably, inexorably, we reeled in the miles, one numbered street at a time, 20th, 10th, 3rd, 2nd, and finally, we were there, at the park above Santa Monica beach and pier. 
Some otherwise trivial steps, doffing of shoes, and a quick jog across about another mile of sand and we dipped out toes in the great Pacific Sea. I attempted to skim some pebbles, took a few photos, and ran through all the streets we'd walked on through my mind - it was exhausting!
Back up into the town and found a Thai restaurant to supply essential, life giving nutrition. I had Pad See Ew, naturally, though I mixed it up by ordering chicken instead of beef. Google provided guidance on the swiftest way home, so we caught a 'metro express' 10 to Union Station (sleeping most of the way), then the gold line to Lake St Station, followed by a walk back into the university (about another 2 miles in total).
After a quick shower and glass of water I joined some friends who were watching the final half of 'The coronation of Poppaea', which was an extremely silly (and early) opera, then went home and slept the sleep of the righteous until 3pm the following day.
In total, we walked about 30 miles or 50km, which is further than a marathon. This is nearly the furthest I've walked in a 24 hour period, and certainly the furthest I've walked in an urban environment. LA is HUGE! In my opinion, beyond a level of physical discomfort, it wasn't all that difficult either. Just something, without a good reason, you wouldn't do every day.

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