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We have eyelashes for days like this. From downtown to Vermont Avenue I never stopped squinting, as the Santa Ana wind pelted dust and leaves and shreds of paper and plastic from every direction. Eddies and miniature tornadoes flung litter into my spokes, and my teeth were chalky with grit by the time I got home.

Riding in the rain can be a dangerous adventure, but riding in the wind is just sheer misery.

I guess I could just wear goggles, look like a geek, but keep my vision. Or does anybody have a better solution?

We're on a big nexus of "roads" that lead through early California, called the Royal Highway or El Camino Real. Most of the original route is covered by freeways now, but you can still get from mission to mission and sometimes city to city on paths and bikeways that are more or less faithful to the actual routes the missionaries took.

Last Saturday I retraced a few segments of the old Mission Trail, from the San Gabriel Mission to LA to the San Fernando Mission.

It mostly follows river paths along Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River. That makes sense because the "Pueblo" of Los Angeles was founded at the site where these two waterways merge. (Check out the photo). Plus the city was established by people from the San Gabriel mission, which was thriving because of the abundant water supplies.

That's another thing about cars and pavement. Most people think of Los Angeles as a desert, but it was really teaming with shrubs and chaparral. The vegetation and soil acted like a giant sponge that held onto water from the rainy season and slowly released it during the long dry summer.

Today all that water just runs off the pavement into the ocean, taking a lot of trash and oil and other stuff with it. Imagine if enough people traded their cars for bikes, shrinking their concrete footprints. Even if only 5% of us did it, couldn't that allow a lot of parking acreage to return to fields and gardens?

Drop a comment or an email if you want to know the bike route to the missions. Eventually I'll take 3 weeks off and bike the whole Camino Real, from north of San Francisco down into Baja.

Just a question: Does anyone else out there use their bike to study history?


In this picture I'm with the beautiful Cristina Ottaviani in front of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. (Sorry guys, she's taken. And not by me).

This was at the end of a 2-week ride tracing via Appia, the Appian Way, ancient Rome's highway that crossed half the length of Italy from Rome to Brindisi.

I can't even tell you how much fun it was, the amazing food I ate, all the times I followed muddy trails through the forest to find old Roman ruins, the wonderful people I met, the food, the wildflowers sparkling on the meadows, lots of great food, all the things I learned about people and history and human nature, and all the amazing food, especially gelato.

Nothing beats Italy cycling tours. And did I mention the food?

Anyway, I'm not saying all this to make you jealous, but hopefully to inspire you to be part of a much bigger adventure.

One of my dreams was to bicycle around the entire Mediterranean on a bicycle before I turn 40. I've still got a couple years, but now I'm probably going to postpone the trip to take advantage of some new business opportunities, and wait for (hopefully) the current wave of violence in the Levant to blow over.

But in the meantime, I'm bicycling across Italy again in the spring of 2008. If you've ever thought about taking a bicycling tour of southern Italy, this is going to be a blast! I'll be posting more information as the date gets closer, or you can leave a comment and I'll email you if you just can't wait to hear more.

As far as the Mediterranean bike tour, we've got a few more years to plan, organize, get in shape, and above all dream.

I say "we" because if you're actually reading this blog you may have some interest in coming along. Either for the whole ride or any part of it that fits your dreams and your calendar. Leave a comment if you want to ride.

Any takers?

I wanted to see if I could do it, and I found out I could.

I had a business meeting in Newport Beach, probably a good 30-40 miles away. But it was early morning, and most of the route was along the ocean, so I figured I could bike there without being cooked by the heat.

Piece of cake, as it turns out. I only “cheated” in a few ways:
• I stuck my bike on the metro and rode public transit about a third of the way
• I brought a change of clothes, and when I got to Newport Beach I put these on and “freshened up” in the restroom of a Starbucks.
• This meeting was a casual brunch, so I didn’t need a suit and tie.

I got there early. I was all pumped up with endorphins, and amazingly relaxed. This is unusual when I'm going into a situation where I need to impress people.

And people were impressed.

The ride home was harder, because I was tired and had a strong coastal headwind slowing me down. But I took a few dips in the ocean along the way, and had time to brainstorm on some of the issues that came up at the meeting.

The lesson: There's nothing like the rush of trying out something radical. Most people gladly go out on the weekend for a bike ride on the beach. But when there's work/money connected, it's more comfortable to retreat to the haven of your car.

And there's a lot to be said for air conditioning.

I challenge you to try riding your bike somewhere that you have to go. You could revolutionize the world. It's a great way to be healthier and more relaxed, not to mention all the money you'll save on gas.