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A Venice Beach, California Day Trip on Wheels
Rental cycling along the Venice Beach Boardwalk is lowbrow biking at its best. For less than twenty dollars a mountain bike can be rented from one of the four bike and skate shops located along the Venice Beach Boardwalk between Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey.
Rental cycling along the Venice Beach, California Boardwalk is lowbrow biking at its best.
For less than twenty dollars a mountain bike can be rented from one of the four bike and skate shops located along the Venice Beach Boardwalk between Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey. But don't let the appearance of a shiny aluminum frame and twenty-four gears fool you, though-there are typically only two gears on a standard tourist-beaten kickstand cruiser: the really-easy-to-pedal gear and the really-hard-to-pedal gear, which only comes in handy when you need to go farther, faster.
Although the bike rentals are far from top-notch, trading in the helm of motorized wheels for a more energy-efficient set is a great way to breathe in the fresh salt air, enjoy a moderate workout, and take in the Venice Beach subculture scene while basking in the sun. The endless sand and surf to the west extends out to the horizon in sharp contrast to the boardwalk scene, creating an odd juxtaposition between a century of subculture and natural ecology that has existed for billions of years.
Twenty-dollar psychics, tourist T-shirts and buck-fifty pizza parlors line the eastern side of the winding two-mile stretch that is part of a seven-mile course extending from Will Rogers State Park in Pacific Palisades to the Marina del Rey line. Wafts of incense and sporadic puffs of smoke mix with the sea air to form an odor unique to the strip, and the symphony of squawking sea gulls is accented by the electro-humming buzz of tattoo needles and adjacent tourist retailer shops blaring different music genres, competing with one another with amplification.
A ride through the Venice Beach Boardwalk reveals a marketplace of new and used products and services, like a pedestrian eBay. It is a community of stories passed down about clashes with authority and the sense of freedom arising from an artist subculture including painters and photographers, musicians and performance artists-even psychics and scam artists. Easels displaying canvasses for sale are interspersed among jewelry and T-shirt sellers sitting along the path in foldable beach chairs who often snarl when discussing increased policing that now mandates random requests to furnish a business license or suffer fines.
In the Boardwalk bazaar laughs have cash value and sideshow dollars ensure that the show goes on. Over time, surviving local fixtures become neighborhood stars whose popularity can be gauged by the paintings on the brick sides of buildings created by famed muralist Rip Cronk. The multi-story tributes feature icons like Jim Morrison and Harry Perry, the roller-blading, turban-wearing, self-made entertainer who continues rolls through the strip serenading couples and attractive women with his Hendrix-like electric guitar riffs.
Fresh faces in search of stardom burst onto the Boardwalk scene regularly. The attraction to notions of fame and fortune sold through eighties movies and Doors folklore lends an air of desperation to the area, and expression for dollars becomes a way of life. Countless amateur musicians spatter the landscape strumming for spare change. For some, talent and persistence will pay off, but others will go back from where they hailed or will settle and root themselves into Venice's borderline survival scene.
Current sideshows that have made the cut over the past few years are a Vietnam veteran who performs a war comedy show complete with oral chopper noises and talking army men from inside a tempera gray paper machÃ© box that is painted to look like a television set, a glass walker and his belly-dancing girlfriend, and the bikini-clad one-man band.
And this is just the eastern side of the bike path.
To the west, the welcoming sand and surf is highlighted by clear blue skies and downy white clouds set against the Santa Monica mountain range. Spring and summer sailboats rock and glide against the horizon and gentle ocean breezes lightly brush by as the spoke reflectors turn along the winding beach commuter trail.
Even the worst of rental bikes pedaled at a decent clip can make a good corner feel like sports car commercial. But beware of pesky pedestrians who haven't quite figured out the social faux pas of walking on the bike path. Combined with small children in sit-down cycles they can make other sections of the trail feel like Gran Turismo 3 on the 405 during rush hour.
When bike path congestion gets too much, bikers and bladers head out to their favorite pit stop just west of Windward Avenue where watching roller dancers revolving to funk beats is a Venice Beach spectator sport. This variation of line dancing and infusion of catchy beats inspires many to trade in their boards and bikes for a pair of skates.
As the day winds down, the beat continues onto the sand where different types of people gather on the waterfront for a communal drum circle. The beat may not always be on time and to the casual observer the mixture of dance styles may look like a cross between a bad Woodstock reenactment and a rain dance, but there is a hypnotic effect of masses writhing to the same beat as the sun sets.
When you've had enough of the surf and scene, a quick escape is as simple as hopping on your cruiser and casually pedaling back to where you started-just remember rental wheels are due back before sundown.
On second thought, to get back in time you better drop it down and use the hard gear for that.