A whole host of things happen before Alma and I begin our walks each day, First and foremost, we must drive to the beach from our home. As I have written earlier, the beach is really only about 5 miles from where Alma and I live and you might think we could easily ride a bus or a bicycle to it.
A bus ride to the beach in Los Angeles, however, is not always a simple matter. Alma and I live in Westchester, close to a couple major bus lines, but neither line goes straight to the beach. Instead, each bus travels to a central hub, from which we must transfer twice more to end at the beach we prefer. I am not opposed to buses in principle and have used them regularly in the past to commute to various jobs. And I would gladly take one to the beach, were it not that the bus ride each way lasts about 90 minutes (or 3 hours round-trip), when I can easily reach that same beach by car in 15 minutes each way, or one-sixth the time.
I will grant you that there are many advantages to riding a bus, not the least of which is not having to fret about parking. I am unemployed and I suppose my time is now cheaper. But I simply cannot justify to myself the massive amounts of time required to get from point A to point B by bus when the same trip by car lasts only 1/6 the time. The Los Angeles MTA has not yet invented a way that one can work on one's laptop while riding its buses and, while Alma and I would surely enjoy the additional time we spent together getting to and from the beach by bus, by the time we had completed our walk, and with three hours for the bus ride factored in, we would be looking at spending upwards of 5-6 hours for each beach walk. And that kind of time means we might also need to start worrying about dining options while out, another expense we cannot easily afford while I am unemployed.
As for riding a bicycle to the beach, the thought is tempting. However, Los Angeles is a motorized city and has almost no bike paths once one leaves the coast. Any time you ride a bike on the streets of LA, you place your life at risk. Not so much because the bicyclist is unsafe. Rather, motorists here seem particularly out of tune with anything not powered by an internal combustion engine.
So for safety and time savings, taking the car is really the only way to go in Los Angeles. But this choice brings up the bane of every Southern California motorist's existence: parking. We have developed quite a ritual in our search for the perfect parking spot.
Parking at a public or private lot at the beach can cost a lot. During the high summer months on weekends, a spot in the beach lots can run as high as $20 for all day parking. Even during the off-season, I have seen the parking go as high as high as $10. My unemployed status means I look for free parking whenever possible. So Alma and I always try first to park on Strongs Dr., a little side street about four blocks from the beach, so that we can walk down any of several pedestrian walkways that lead to the beach.
In order to find parking on Strongs Dr during the summer months, we found that we needed to arrive there after 5:30 p.m. when most beach goers had left or were in the process of leaving. Now that the high season has ended, though, we almost always find a parking spot there no matter what time of day we arrive.
However, if there is no parking on Strongs Dr., we have discovered several other no- and low-cost alternatives. Pacific Avenue, for example, runs parallel to the beach all the way from Washington Blvd. northward from Marina del Rey to Santa Monica. There is free street parking on either side of the street all along the way. If we are lucky and there has been no parking available on Strongs, we might find a spot on Pacific Ave. Failing that, after we have driven north past the famous Windward Circle that is the central hub of Venice Beach, we arrive at Brooks Ave. A sharp right onto Brooks takes us across the north-south artery Main St and onto Abbot Kinney Blvd. where we may also find free street parking.
The problem with the Pacific Ave and Abbot Kinney possibilities is that Alma and I, interlopers from outside the area, must compete for spots with residents who live there. Venice takes a laissez-faire approach to parking, unlike its more militant sister Santa Monica, so that interlopers and residents in Venice have equal claim on any free street parking spots. However, in our experience, residents have already taken most of the spots on most days before we ever arrive.
So we will then continue northward down Main St. to the border of Santa Monica and Venice. If we are lucky we might find a free spot on Santa Monica's 2nd St (which turns into Venice's Hampton Dr once one crosses the border). Or if we are lucky we might a free spot on Santa Monica's 3rd St. (which becomes Venice's 3rd Ave). More often than not, we must park on the Venice side of the border, because Santa Monica reserves street parking for its residents after 6 p.m. And Santa Monica's parking enforcement is notorious for religiously enforcing its post-6 p.m. residents0only policy. Tickets range from $40-$60 for a single violation. Venice has no such restrictions on non-residential parking.
Finally, if all the free spots are taken, metered parking is available for quite reasonable hourly rates of $0.75/hour, just west of Main St and just north of Pier Ave, at the southern edge of Santa Monica. Two caveats: first, the meters allow only three hours of parking, so one must plan one's excursions carefully and second, the meters take only coins, so one must make sure one has ample change with one to feed the meters or run the risk of afore-mentioned $40-$60 violations.
Taken all together, we find that a single round trip with gas and metered parking included runs us no more than $5. If we find free parking, the single round trip cost drops to about $2.50, ironically about $1 less than the cost for two round trip bus trips.
We usually try to decipher the weather we will encounter at the beach before we leave each day so that we can choose the appropriate attire. During the high summer months, most often I wear shorts, a t-shirt and tennis shoes. Alma chooses between a skirt and sun dress but will also occasionally wear shorts. If the weather looks a bit chilly or cloudy, I will invariably wear jeans or sweat pants and a sweatshirt. Alma will almost always wear the same.
We must also decide what we will carry and what we will leave behind. I usually carry a sport bottle filled with fruit juice and ice from which we can both drink when thirsty. I also carry a recycling bag for any detritus we might find on the walk and for our socks and shoes should we decide to walk shoeless.
Finally, we must decide in which direction to start. When beginning at Catamaran Street, one of the pedestrian walkways that leads from Strongs Dr to the ocean, Alma and I usually start by walking south 1 mile, then turning and walking north 1.5 miles, before returning to our jumping off point with a .5 mile walk south. At other beaches, however, we might start by walking north on the first leg with our final leg being southward back to our jumping off point.
As I wrote this today, I struggled to find some deeper meaning to it all, some sort of transcendence to the dull routine of preparing to walk each day. While certain portions of what I have detailed here partake of ritual -- the preparation of the sports bottle comes to mind, as does the drive down Washington Blvd towards the Pacific before embarking on the search for parking -- I find that these preparations, while absolutely necessary to a successful walk, do not have much redeeming social value. Maybe I am tired and unable to see beyond the mundane details for the bigger picture. Or maybe their significance resides in their very mundaneness. I do not know, but I detail them here so that my readers will understand a little more the preparations Alma and I make each day prior to beginning our daily walks.