Venice Beach, LA

Los angeles may 11
My intent on my latest trip to Los Angeles was to rent a car and tour the sleepy sea towns that are normally too far for me to venture off to.  I found a kink in my plan, the hours of operation of the car rental offices.  I could have picked up a car at LAX airport as their offices are open 24/7 but then i would have to also return it there as none of the locations near the hotel are open on Sundays.  If i went that route I would have to get to the airport early to take the shuttle from the car rental offices to the main terminal and pay an exorbitant amount for parking the car overnight at the hotel. . I wasn’t quite sold on getting up that early and did not want to risk being late for work.

In came option two, rent a bike. I had mentioned to my crew what my plans in LA were and they also were considering renting bikes. We opted to venture out together. We each rented a bike from our hotel, with baskets and a lock for about $15 US a bike for a four hour rental.  Helmets were available free of charge at our hotel. If I were to do it again I would feel more comfortable with my own helmet.  If your hotel does not have bike rentals not to fret. Most of the popular beaches have rental kiosks that you can rent bikes at.  The only one I have checked out in the past for pricing was in the Redondo beach area. It was $8/hour or $24 per day for a one speed cruiser with various other options for different bikes and time lengths.
Cruisers are adequate with only one speed if you are riding along the beach. We did not encounter too many hills that would have benefitted from more than one gear. The brakes are engaged by backpedalling, similar to a child’s bike.   The basket was nice as I could carry a bag stuffed with sunscreen, water, and a jacket rather than carry a backpack.

We decided we would start on the beach paths at Hermosa beach and head towards Venice beach. We had heard it wasn’t a terribly long or difficult ride.  The paths were crowded with weekend beach revellers and created some obstacles we had to dodge. We wove our way through the throngs of pedestrians, rollerbladers and cyclist relatively easily. Along the busiest sections cyclists must dismount their bikes and walk them through. This was good for me as I am not as adept at navigating on a bike as I would like to think I am, having last been on a bike in my teen years.  I also was happy for the respite my rear got from sitting on the seat. One of my colleagues remarked that the seats were okay but they were not meant to ridden for hours on end.
We wound along the coastline past the scantily clad beach volleyball players and families of Manhattan beach.  The pier Manhattan Beach is home to minuscule aquarium ($2 donation is suggested), a refreshment cafe, and many fishermen and women. The waters surrounding the pier were rife with surfers and frolickers.
Back on our bikes we passed through many beach areas each slightly different. One was a popular motorhome  destination. Fire pits were in great  use at this expanse of sand, another was full of large families under makeshift tents and tarp beach abodes. They were only there to enjoy the day and not as a permanent residence.  A point that jutted out by the power plant was home to hang gliders and their students.  At about Marina Del Rey we considered turnin back but upon consulting the map we knew Venice beach was the next beach, what we did not realise was the circuitous route we would have to take thought the surface streets to pass through the marina. Had we understood the distance we may not have completed our journey.
The village in marina del rey looked neat and if we had had the time I would have stopped and checked it out. I also loved that the paths were so close to the boat moorings.  Following the Marvin Braude bike trail we did make it to Venice beach about 2 hours after we set out.
Venice beach was bigger than I expected. It went on for a long ways and had more sights to see than I had thought. We rode past the canals on the way in and I was awed by the glimpse I got of the canals that were created after the Italian city of the same name.

Venice is home to many a sight, the people being the most popular. There is an eclectic mix of counterculture, tourism, local, entrepreneur, and sports minded people occupying the brag and boardwalk. One famous sight many tourists come to see is muscle beach, home to many extraordinarily muscled athletes. It was an amazing sight to see what their bodies are capable of.  The street performers gather large crowds. We stopped to see what was being showcased but left perplexed. The current offering is large collections of young men who picked audience members out, solicited money to perform from the chosen few and then a few jokes were said in unison. It seemed like a long warm up but no real “show” whenever we stopped to listen. Other performers included a piano player, a saxophonist, a magician and participants in a carnival style freak show.  We wandered up and down the boardwalk street vendors and tourist shops not going in any as all the wares were visible from the sidewalk. People watching is just as much as the basketball being played on the park courts.
One element of the counterculture of Venice are the medicinal marijuana assessment clinics, head shops and ever present smell of other than tobacco cigarettes.  The food in the area went along with the munchy style food one would expect in the area. Every place claimed to have the best pizza, hamburgers, funnels cakes and/or ice cream.
Hungry from the first half of our journey we opted for a more down home – less fast food slow roasted tacos. At $2.50 each we bought 2 chicken tacos a piece from Mr. Pupusas / The Fat Shack. They are found down a little lane perpendicular to the ocean with many kiosk style permanent food vendors. There are two places to order one in a hallway the other from the lane side. The tortillas are handmade and it took about 15 minutes for all 6 to be cooked. While we waited we were tempted by the fresh hand cut fries next door at The Wee Chippy.
Here you choose the gourmet salt to top your fresh fries, we chose spicy curry salt and an accompanying ranch dip. The fries were delicious and hit the spot to provide us with sustenance to make the return ride. The tacos were also just as wonderful. Two was about right and more and I would have been too stuffed to jump back on my bike.
Whilst we ate we went over to the skateboarding park and watched the youth or acting their flips and jumps. On the way back to the area we had locked up the bikes we passed thought the graffiti art area. It is a great idea to have permanent structures that are meant to be decorated by the urban art form.
The ride home seemed to go much faster than the ride down, as I always find the case. I managed to only drop the bike once when I underestimated its weight  while I was stopped.  The funniest moment was when one of my colleagues, who is way more adept on a bike than I am, took a jump off a mini speed bump.  My other college decided he too could get air with the rental forgetting he had a basket on his bike.  A great clatter, but no damage, occurred as the metal hamper flew off his handle bars and narrowly missed me and my bike.  With the bikes returned less on time than we had anticipated we walked to whole foods in redondo to grab a second meal as we had worked up fabulous appetites after having biked around 42 Kms (26.6 mi). There is so much to see in Venice beach it was well worth the trek.