Since I began working at UCLA three months ago, I’ve been thrilled to use the easy and cost-effective Big Blue Bus from Santa Monica every day.
The only piece missing was my desire to ride my bike sometimes, but scary Westwood traffic and the sweat and helmet-head factors squelched that option.
When the news reported that President Obama would be in town and traffic would likely be a quagmire one Friday, I had a surge of creative thought: I’d load my bike on the front of the #3 bus to come to work, then pedal home so I could maneuver my way home and avoid traffic snarls. I remembered how another president’s visit gave me a wonderful day in another city.
Several years ago I was in Rome on the same day that President Bush was making an official visit and the streets were blocked to vehicle traffic. What a luscious day that was to roam the streets the City of Love without the incessant roar of motor engines, careening of obnoxious motor scooters, inhaling of bilking exhaust and without fear to cross every intersection. It was a delight to savor sensual Rome as it is meant to be tasted. Ahhh, thank you, Mr. President.
I hoped for similar a positive outcome from my bus and bike plan when Mr. Obama came to Los Angeles.
The day before the President’s visit, we were abuzz in our office as we discussed the President’s itinerary that would take him from Sony Studios in Culver City to Brentwood for dinner. Anticipating the worst of traffic, two of my athletic bus-commuting co-workers planned to bring their running clothes to run the six miles to their homes in Santa Monica.
On the morning of the president’s visit I was a bit nervous about my bus/bike plan. When the bus pulled-up at Lincoln and Montana Avenue, I struggled to load the bike on the rack. The bus driver, who had normally seemed unfriendly, calmed my concerns by kindly and patiently talking me through the loading process. That done, I shared some rare moments of camaraderie with other riders as we discussed the expected troubles we’d have in the afternoon traffic. Thank you, Mr. President.
At 5:30 that evening, I donned my bike clothes and headed out. I rode through Westwood neighborhoods I’d have no reason to wander otherwise and I saw stunning new views Veteran’s Cemetery. As I rode west on Wilshire and under the 405 freeway, I expected to be stressed by snarled traffic and exhaust fumes. Due to closed roads elsewhere, the traffic on Wilshire was like an early Sunday morning and the drivers generously let me pass at the cross-walks at the freeway entrances. It was even pleasant. Thank you, Mr. President.
In a minute, I was riding through the quiet and lovely VA property, getting my heart rate to a decent heart rate level. I easily skirted around the Brentwood area where the President was slated to have dinner on San Vicente Blvd. I later learned it was quite the hubbub of police activity, gawking onlookers and detours. I didn’t get even a hint of that on my route.
As I rode closer to Santa Monica I glided through neighborhoods with lush gardens abloom with spring flowers. Door to door, the trip took about as long as the usual bus trip. I enjoyed my own city as it was meant to be enjoyed – outside. Thank you, Mr. President.