I biked to my Friday breakfast burrito at Joe’s, so I could detour by the Pier on my way home. It’s not a heroic feat, but it did take a little motivation to ride my bike at 5:50 instead of just slipping into the Mustang whose engine would have hummed a smoother transition from sleep to wake.
(The recommended soundtrack to these images is Chet Atkin’s album Sails).
The motivation paid off, I think. I love the Pier at any time of the day, but especially in the early morning when it’s all half asleep and pink and light blue.
The endless skyway has been a constant source of inspiration in the past few weeks. The Western monsoon clouds, flying my drone in Arizona and Utah, yesterday’s serendipitous encounter with the flight to Seoul… and this morning I took my drone up here at home, in Redondo Beach.
Two sunny mornings in a row? After a very gloomy beginning of summer, this might be the end of the No-Sky July? Waiting to find out, I produced a little video to celebrate the beauty of a summer morning where everything is green, golden and blue.
I got a new bike last week. I have a love-hate relationship with bicycles. I’ve bought bicycles all my life. Sometimes on a whim, sometimes after careful research. Some of my bikes were stolen. Some were traded. Some were left behind.
**Here begins the story of me and my bikes, if you do not care feel free to skip forward**
More than a decade ago, I went to a sporting goods store (Decathlon) in Turin, Italy. I needed to get a bike fixed. While I was there, I tried an entry-level road bike. It was bright red. You know, Ferrari red. You cannot let an Italian try a fast red bike and imagine he will react neutrally. I bought it. A few months and some bad falls later, I realized that drop bars do not offer the maneuverability you need to handle the busy and unevenly-paved roads of European cities. So I hated that bike and stored it at my parents home.
Fast forward, in 2015 I moved to Paris. After a few more unlucky attempts at purchasing a bike there, I went back to Italy, had the drop bars on my road bike replaced with flat bars, and that bike became my pride and joy, especially after Anne-Claire gifted me a beautiful Brooks saddle decorated with a Thunderbird design. Over three years, I rode several hundred miles around Paris with that bike. I also had a major fall once, after which I dragged myself to a pharmacy to get my bruises sanitized. The pharmacist, an elderly lady, prompted me to drop my trousers so I could put some disinfectant on my thigh. I asked her if there was a backroom where I could do that in case another client came in, but she said no and insisted that I just go ahead. Which I did. Ah, la France.
Fast forward again to 2018. We moved to California. My bicycle-purchase journey started once again, with a couple of failed attempts (much more costlier than in Europe because, on average, everything bike-related seems to be 30% to 50% more expensive in the US than in Europe).
Over the last couple of weeks, there I was, in the good company of at least half a million Americans: I wanted a new bike, one that would match my specs, my budget, that I could try, maybe have a little bit of a choice, and most of all I wanted it now. Anyone who tried purchasing a bike right now knows that everything is out of stock, with several months of backlogs, half a year-long wait lists, and most of what bike stores have are either high end models or entry level clunkers. And everything in small sizes.
But I lucked out! I went to Safety Cycle in Torrance and they had the kind of bike I wanted. I got myself a Specialized Sirrus X 4.0. I would have preferred a carbon frame, but I realized that on top of not being available, it was only two pounds lighter and almost a grand more expensive. I also wanted thinner tires, but those are easy to replace and I had also been toying with the idea of getting a mountain bike and now I cannot wait to get these gently-gripped tires on some easy trails such as Westridge and Sullivan, maybe all the way to Nike Station.
**If you skipped earlier, you can resume reading here**
The reason why I am really excited about this bike, on top of the ordinary perks of biking (less fuel and pollution on local trips, no parking hassle, workouts, mood), is that it biking really pairs well with photography. Just think of the Palos Verdes Peninsula: many amazing vistas from Palos Verdes Boulevard do not have easy or legal parking. With your bike, it’s a no-brainer. Pull over, shoot, ride.
I rode my bike to Malaga Cove two days ago, just to test its climbing capabilities with a heavy-set rider. 100% approved. These are the first two photos I took from a bike outing, so they are a little special to me.
Today it’s Friday. On Friday mornings, Anne-Claire and I always have breakfast at Eat at Joe’s. I think their breakfast burritos are just unmatched (but I also know it’s a matter of very personal taste so if you prefer Phanny’s we’re still cool). So today I decided I was going to bike there. It reduced the guilt, and prompted me to to take a little detour on my way home.
When rosy-fingered dawn appeared, I was at the Redondo Beach harbor.
I’ve often visited the beach in the very early morning, but never the harbor. By car, it’s a bit of a hassle. You have to park, pay, walk to what you want to see, walk back. As a biking detour, the scenery just gave itself to me.
There was a softness, a tranquillity that I had never seen there. I actually reminded me of my bike rides in Paris when I was going to teach in the early morning and businesses were not open yet, so once you left the most trafficked roads you would fine yourself surrounded by an unreal quiet.
The emptiness and the silence also inspired me to try some unexplored perspectives. It’s funny how, when you visit a familiar place at an unfamiliar time of the day, it feels like a new discovery.
I woke up at 3:00AM this morning. It happens. I open my eyes and all of my ideas go like “Oh! You’re up! Hi!”
By 6:00 I was done with breakfast, I was washed and dressed. What to do know? We often joke about it, but the best photography happens “out there”. My best camera is not only the one I have with me, it’s also the one I have with me when I’m out there.
Yesterday night the South Bay was swept by a strong west wind, so I figured the view would have been amazing if I got high enough. Long story short, I got in my car and drove to the top of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. And there it was. Down Town Los Angeles ready to become golden in the first rays of the rising sun.
As the light changed, a delightful image of Santa Monica almost composed by itself. The Ocean was so calm that it reflected the white buildings laying on the waterfront between California and Colorado Avenue. The view was so quiet, on this warm January morning, that I almost felt back home, in Europe, looking over some Mediterranean city, in Spain or in Greece.
Last but not least, I was offered a beautiful glimpse of Century City, with the Fox Pla… excuse me! the Nakatomi Plaza shining like a bar of gold, and to the west Los Angeles International Airport, with it’s characteristic architecture.
You never know, sometimes those photo hunts are golden, sometimes they are a bust. Sometimes it’s really clear by the coast, but the inland is covered in fog. Sometimes the fog is magical, sometimes it’s just too much. This morning, it was perfect.