Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

hollywood, hollywood

In all about the ride, los angelenos, stateside on November 19, 2010 at 4:42 pm

So been here a day already I’m enjoying it more than I did Miami. As strange and bizarre as it may seem, I am staying in west Hollywood, just round the corner from Hollywood boulevard and manns Chinese theatre, and the walk of stars, and sunset boulevard and if I walk down the road a couple more blocks I can see the Hollywood sign high up on the hill.

I’ve been out on the road on the bike and as noted previously when riding round Buenos Aires grid systems don’t provide for the most stimulating or exciting of rides. But at least Los Angeles has two-way traffic which means you can turn left as well as right, and jumping across three lanes of traffic is much less intimidating than trying to get across five. But the roads in l.a are atrocious, riding by the kerb is just treacherous as the tarmac is folded and rippled and churned to shit, so much so it’s like riding over cobbles, disappointed that l.a hasn’t produced a Paris-roubaix winner after that experience, I was gripping the bars so hard my hands ached and I’d have to clench and unclench them to try and work it out.

Felt like I rode forever, whilst trying to find Orange 20, headed down Hollywood boulevard until it angled off and I turned onto Vermont, then took a right onto Melrose until I hit heliotrope and found orange 20. Then went back onto Vermont and headed south until I hit Wilshire, turned right onto Wilshire and rode down it for a long long time, passing through koreatown, past the contemporary arts museum and the la brea tar pits. Finally get to Fairfax and took another right and rode up a slight incline for another long period of time until I crossed sunset, took another right and headed back towards the hostel. My legs feel weak and my stomach is now full of pasta and I want to take a nap. But today has been a good day.

The hollywood hills, rise up, just over there, and its weird to be able to see that really iconic sign, suppose that’s how american tourists feel when they head into the center of town and see big ben and the houses of parliament. I’m going to get up there and have a look around at some point, as it doesn’t seem to be that far away from the hostel at all.

Took my chance to grab some authentic mexican food as soon as I was out on the bike, grabbed a burrito and some quesadilla’s over on the edge of los feliz/echo park at this corner shack. To say it was delicious would be an understatement. It was very good. Thick and chunky and filling and all the spicy things mexican food should be. Not sure whether whilst I’m here that I’m just going to eat mexican food, but I may give it the good old college try.

My hostel is just off hollywood boulevard and I spend some time walking along the walk of stars, and I’m walking for blocks and blocks, motherfucker is long yo! But I get excited about all the names I see, so many stars, literally and figuratively, old names, forgotten names, and heroic names, lying in the street for you to walk over, doing the tourist thing of walking along staring at the ground, the bipolar opposite of what you do when you’re in new york which i stare up into the sky looking at the skyscrapers which claw like dead fingers into the wild blue…

orange 20

In all about the ride, bike, los angelenos, stateside, travelling on November 19, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Been in Hollywood for a couple of days and decide I need to find some bike shops, hopefully where the staff aren’t dicks, and a friend who I met in Brazil has told me about Orange 20 which isn’t that far away from where I’m staying.

So ride down to it, across the bumpy, cracked tarmacadam, with the large buses, and cars strangely enough giving me quite a wide berth, and discover that the guy who does trackosaurus Rex, who was super cool and was arranging for me to go and have a look at swrve’s (cycling clothing manufacturer) office space, runs the shop, or is one of the bods who runs the shop.

Orange 20 is a cool not so little store that is down on Heliotrope, opposite the bike kitchen, which was closed when I was down there, but I’m going to go back as I hear they have a very good bike map of Los Angeles and at this point in time that is what I really need.

Orange 20 felt like a bigger version of Brixton cycles, cool staff willing to answer your questions without any attitude, interesting selection of bikes and bits, obviously more track than geared, young men coming in with their bikes to be repaired or buy parts, or just joke and laugh with the staff. It’s good to be back amongst bikes and bike people.

Grabbed a couple of t-shirts, some caps, and hung out for a little while. They also let me know about a track day for Fast Friday which was happening out in Encino, on the weekend, and the critical mass that was happening on the friday. All in all, I had a lovely time there, and was well fucking stoked to have found it.


In miami, stateside, travelling on November 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm

So apart from riding the bike and going to a couple of less than stellar club nights in Miami Beach, the only other thing I do is head out on a tour to the glades. Where the water is everywhere and the green fronds bend but don’t break, and alligators sit with only their eyes and nostrils above the waterline, waiting.

Ever since Miami Vice I’ve wanted to travel on one of those propeller driven flat-bottomed boats, with the driver high up back there, moving those long, long controls. So I pays my money and get driven out in a truck full of old folk, along long straight, non winding highways to a large roadside cafe beside what looks like a creek. The roadside cafe/diner has an extensive souvenir shop attached and there are a myriad of alligator/Everglades/Miami related tat available for purchase.

We wait around whilst another tour group is called out to the dock and I try not to be too impatient for the whole thing to get started.

Then we’re walking down to the propeller boat and being loaded aboard. four or five abreast, and the boat is being wound up, the propeller howling behind us and we’re off.

The driver guide is a laconic man, whose jokes feel as well-worn as the handle of an old man’s umbrella from a very wet country. They spill out of him one after another, some are amusing, most raise a chuckle from the majority. But I can’t help but feel that he’s regurgitating the same jokes over and over again, so much so that even he’s bored by the setup and punch lines he’s producing. Wonder whether he needs to take a break, go away and come back with some more material. If he was a stand up, he’d never get away with his schtick.

We whizz down the greenlined waterways, blue sky above, tree branches, overhanging the water, whistling close by, until we float to a stop to inspect the alligators, weeny ones that lurk on the edges. Oohs and aah’s are elicited as they are pointed out and we peer into the shadows by the water’s edge to see if we can spot them.

One european woman, I think she is German but can’t be sure, is adamant that the alligators are fake. The boat driver is unimpressed with this supposition, and bats away the idea, but she won’t let it go, and then he won’t let it go, starting off each sighting with a note that it’s probably fake.

The little critters move swiftly when disturbed, and a couple drift right up to the edge of the boat, hands that want to reach out, are quickly admonished to keep themselves inboard. But the urge to  waft your hands through the surging wake still rises…

I’m in miami bitch!

In miami, stateside on November 17, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Not sure why I took a dislike to Miami, might have been the cheap ass plane that I flew across on with American airlines, no LCD screen in the backs of the headrests, no video on demand, an uncomfortable nights sleep, as I lay sprawled across three seats, constantly waking, never fully getting to a restful state.

What is it with American Airlines, their planes are like old buses in the sky. Where you are served by old people who’d rather you weren’t there, and charging me a $100 a pop for the privilege of letting me carry my bike on their plane, describing it as oversized luggage, and requiring special treatment, even though it goes down the same carousel as all the other checked luggage, and comes out the other end on the same luggage carousel and sits there forlornly waiting for me to pick it off the slowly eternally circling run of rubber.

Maybe it was arriving at the hostel at five in morning and sweating furiously even with the moon high in the sky, the humidity of a Florida summer already annoying the hell out of me.

Maybe it was the fact that the diner I was sent to was closed and my dreams of an American breakfast were dashed.

Whatever the reason I didn’t enjoy my time in Miami. Beach resort, and to be fair, Miami beach was longer and whiter than Copacabana or Ipanema, but it suffered in comparison where they felt so filled with life and energy this one was just filled with sunbathers.

Miami beach is a resort town, everyone hustling to get you to use their thing, eat their food, hire their equipment. I’m not comfortable here. Where are the people who live here, who work here. It’s full of tourists and I’m not into that if I can help it.

My party hostel isn’t helping much with its group trips to bars and clubs which aren’t that great, filled with people dressed to the nines and ready to drop three hundred bucks on a bottle of alcohol.

I’m happiest out on the bike, sweating my ass off as I turn the pedals in the vicious humidity, which has my glasses steaming up as I move from aircon indoors to sweltering outside, eating corned beef hash in the thirteenth street diner, drinking bottles of rose out front of the hostel.

I ride over the Venetian causeway like seven times and each one is a magical mystery tour to a deserted downtown, and aimless wandering, wondering where everyone is??

I head up to an English pub miles away from anywhere and drink deep of strongbow, chilled in a glass and get freaked out by the Multi touch on my iPhone going tits up, as it ghostlike hits buttons and opens apps. I swear to god someone is trying to remotely access my phone, that I switch it off and don’t turn it on for two days.

But the ride back is worth it, sky darkening as the sun sets, swollen and purple and the cooling breeze as the humidity eases for the first time in days rubbing itself catlike across my skin.

So as you can see from the paltry amount of photo’s I didn’t really do that much with my time in Miami. Even though there was a fixed bike shop pretty much opposite my hostel, which I popped into when I first arrived to build up the bike. But the blank stares and the incoherent semi grunts, put me off conversing with them, kinda made me realise how it felt to be a woman in a record store, with them being all dismissive and who are you, and me being like fuck you sideways you clowns…

But I did meet up with some nice bods and got to ride back with them from out past coral gables. Members of the Miami Fixed forum, who were as welcoming as cyclists usually are. My only regret is that I didn’t get to hang out with them more…

miami off

In all about the ride, miami, stateside on November 17, 2010 at 5:57 pm

So apart from the cold/chest infection I caught in Tokyo and the shingles/not shingles I had in Argentina/brazil, I’ve been pretty healthy on this trip and the only bike accidents I’ve had have been alcohol induced and my own fault, and haven’t been faster than 5/10mph.

Until I hit Miami, 1st full day on the bike and I’m just tooling around, trying to figure out the lay of the land, cruising up to the stretch of street where the shops and bars are, checking out the beach, just turning left and right, oh and trying to find a currency exchange – to change over some Brazilian reais and Argentinian pesos (who knew changing money could be so hard in America), rolled over to the apple store – to buy a new charger for the iPod and iPhone as the old one just quit working in Rio, and a bookstore – to grab some maps of the immediate area so I can navigate around this motherfucker.

So I’m heading back down a road, wide as all American roads are, car parked on the right before the junction, cars on my left, coming to a halt as the lights ahead are red. I can see the car immediately in front of me and to the left wants to squeeze the gap between the car in front and the parked car to its right to turn right at the junction – for y’all that don’t know you can turn right on red in the states, dependent on the state/city laws and junction rules – most junctions you can, some you can’t. So I can see what they want to do but I decide to hit the gap between them and the parked car anyway because they are making abortive attempts to squeeze that gap like a first time wrist slasher.

And I believe foolishly that they’ll be checking their mirrors.

They aren’t.

The abortive move becomes a positive one and I clip moving cars wing mirror, which sends me into parked cars wing mirror and fender and the world takes that crazy slow/quick Dutch angle tilt, like a camera on a tripod falling over as it films. And I’m on the floor, clips springing me clear of the bike, rolling over and ending up on my arse, as usual. And I’m standing up checking myself for injuries.

Grazes on elbow and knee, which promptly issue forth slow streams of crimson. The female driver is out of the door, telling me that she didn’t see me and i want to tell her if she’d used her mirrors she would have, and there’s an old man on the kerb, close to where I’ve gone down whose staring saying next time I won’t be there,because I shouldn’t be there and I feel to ask him where should I be, adding a, for fuckssakes on the end for good measure.

But I don’t. I examine my wounds, reassure the older woman that I’m alright, examine the bike, straighten the stem and ride off towards the pharmacy wondering how much plasters will cost in this town as the ones I’m carrying aren’t big enough to cover these new road rashes…

Get to the pharmacy and spend some coinage on plasters and antiseptic salve, and whatnot. Woman working in the big pharmacy/corner store/whatever it is, informs me that I’m bleeding all over the floor, as if I didn’t know. I really want to laugh at this point, but I don’t I think it should have been obvious that I knew I was bleeding, who is generally oblivious when they are bleeding?

So anyway long story short, I purchase the necessary and head back to the hostel for the cleansing/covering of wounds. What I don’t take into account is the humidity making it practically impossible for plasters to stick to flesh as I’m sweating so much. I return to the pharmacy a couple of hours later and buy some durable coverings, and they don’t stick either.

I then decide that letting it air dry and scab over is the best thing for it. Must not pick scab, must not!


In Braaaazil, Rio de Janeiro, Sud America, tunnnneeeee! on November 12, 2010 at 5:05 pm

The street party that is Friday nights in Rio is a riot of people and sounds, and smells. Street vendors serve beef or chicken on a stick. But it’s the music that holds the attention, it throbs from every corner, from every bar front. The connection that Brazilians share with their music makes me smile. A samba band plays under cover, a crowd has gathered and the song starts but before the intro has even finished they have started singing, the words known by all. Lapa is filled with these spaces as everyone crowds in to be closer to the band, to be closer to the music, to merge with it. And I lean on the edge a smile on my face, tapping my foot and wanting it to never end.

We break out as a massive, and head over to Lapa with Thomas, a crazy Frenchman who works at the hostel and lives over in Lapa itself, in one of the blocks by the tiled steps. Its raining, and we sit in his cramped bed sit, getting drunk on beer, and straight cachaca, about ten of us all crushed in, waiting for the water to stop falling. It gets messy, so fucking messy. Even before we hit the streets and the bars, and the clubs. Dancing till the wee hours, losing people, finding them again, and generally just having messy brazilian fun. So good, oh so good.

ilha grande

In Braaaazil, Rio de Janeiro, Sud America, travelling on November 12, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Ilha grande is an island resort, about 3 hrs, drive and ferry away from Rio. I don’t get the chance to go down to the beaches around Paraty, or Florianopolis, so I make the break and decide to head to Ilha Grande, to meet up with a friend that I met in Buenos Aires. I leave the bike and most of my belongings behind, and get whisked down to the island in a car driven by a man who likes to drive very very quickly…


Arrive, its glorious weather, hot and bright, and the wait for the ferry is languid and relaxing, lying back on the dock, as a group of brazilian guys, joke amongst themselves, their luggage consists of a couple of duffel bags, and a couple of cases of beer. They drink most of it on the ferry ride over.

Walk along the beach to the hostel, feet digging into the sand, bag on my shoulder. Look around at the long crescent of the beach. The island has a festival on and the locals are out in force for it.

Meet up with Eugene, a friend I met in Buenos Aires, after sitting around taking in the view from the dock/patio that sits out over the rocks at the water’s edge.  We head into town and eat pizza as the locals get liquoured up, its nice to see drunk Brazilians on holiday, loudly carousing, even though I’m a tourist its nice not to feel like one, just another body on the island, surrounded by locals having a good time.


It rains on and off all day. This isn’t what I signed up for. It isn’t fun. To get to the majority of the beaches on Ilha Grande, you have to either hike for a couple of hours, or get a boat round to them. Eugene’s a hiker so we decide to hike to the closest (relative) beach which is two hours away. I’m not one for hiking/walking, don’t get me wrong I’ve always enjoyed walking around, of getting to know a place by foot. But I’m a biker now, pure and simple and the pace of walking now feels too damn slow. But I’m up for a challenge so follow Eugene’s lead, bitching and moaning every so often.

The rain relents, starts again, stops again, as we walk along the coastline, up into the hills, and down through the forest. Its quiet except for our breath, occasional swear word from me and the digital whirr and click of camera’s taking shots. Even with the grey day upon us, the views from on high are magnificent, gloriously wide open panorama’s of sky and sea.

As we make the final ascent and descent to the beach, Brazilians are appearing in their droves, leaving the beach as the rain comes down heavier. The slippery conditions making walking both uphill and downhill treacherous. There’s alot of squealing and shrieking as tourists unprepared for the rain slip and slide, whilst trying to navigate the slick path.

The beach is wide and long, and spectacularly deserted apart from the clumps of people sheltering in the trees at beaches edge. Eugene hits the surf straight away and I stand hoping it dries out, sipping on a beer, looking after the bags. Finally throw off my clothes, I didn’t walk this far just to stand shivering on the edge. The water is warmer than I expected and the force of the waves as they hit your chest is bracing. Apart from me, there are a couple of surfers out in the water, but I get to splash about unmolested for a good while.

We trek back barefooted, which is hilarious, as my mud caked toes, slip and slide over the moss-covered rocks and boulders that we have to use as the path itself is a muddy water slide. I manage to get back to the next beach, only falling over once, and showing some catlike reflexes in doing so, to prevent more serious damage. But I’m laughing even as it happens, because I’d seen it coming for a good while.

The night is damp, damp, damp! The festival is in full swing and we head out to it. But the continual drizzle makes it hard to enjoy. But the locals are out in force, determined to enjoy the music, and the big marquee provides enough cover and the music is rocking. I stand with a small group and enjoy the music, for as long as possible, drinking beer, dancing a bit, and then grabbing a couple of great burgers to end the night.


Its glorious and we’re determined to get out and enjoy the beaches whilst the sun’s out. But the hostel informs us there are no boat trips to any of the beaches today. Fffffffuuuuu…….!

A couple of israeli guys tell us that they know of a boat cruise to a couple of beaches, only problem is we’ve only got like twenty mins to get there, we shit, shower and shave and are out of the hostel in record time, marching across the beach to the tour operators office, handing over our cash and are on the boat, before you can say boat tour.

It’s a fantastic day, of lazing on a boat, swimming, snorkeling and general tomfoolery. The sun is burning hot, and the boat is heaving with people, and the caiparinha’s come thick and fast. It’s what I had hoped the whole weekend would be like.

Returning to town, I’m taught how to cart-wheel, I am very bad at, learn the basic steps/form to capoeira, and try to teach our group how to shuffle, its much harder than I thought, obviously having learnt it when I was thirteen.

The day ends with a delicious dinner of moqueca, a traditional bahian stew, with fish and prawns. God my mouth’s watering even as I write about it.

outside cities

In Braaaazil, Rio de Janeiro, Sud America on November 11, 2010 at 6:27 pm

I’m falling in love with outside cities. Cities where you can spend two-thirds of the year out and about the sun on your skin, shades covering your eyes. Rio is an outside city, the blocked off beach roads on Sundays and public holidays, of which brazil has 40, becoming thoroughfares for runners and walkers, rollerbladers and skateboarders, dog walkers and lovers. Everybody comes out and enjoys the weather, at the beach, in the surf, on the football pitches and basketball courts, round the lagoa. Cars fade to the outside, a trickle rather than a flood as everyone takes to their feet.

Sitting in the long grass, enjoying an ice cream, watching the world go by, sun hot on my skin. Ride a little, sit a little. Drink a little. God it feels good, it’s a far cry from the rush to the parks and commons of London on the weekends when the sun deigns to make an appearance. Everyone here takes it as their due, the sun will be out, it will be hot, I will wear whatever I want to show as much skin as possible, to tan as darkly as possible, to be out in the sun for as long as possible.

It puts the single days and weeks when the sun comes out to play in london, seem so laughable. I wander from one park to beach to park, watching how louche and languorous everyone is, how so much time is devoted to doing so little. I enjoy the lack of doing, the non desire to be busy. I settle into being busy doing nothing. I feel I have found my niche.

I don’t want to do anything, and so I don’t. I watch, I take photo’s every so often and I work on my tan. I am getting proper black. Darkness black! They should have never given me any money…


In Braaaazil, Rio de Janeiro, Sud America on November 10, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Brazilians dance. Samba feet blurring from left to right, hips dipping and slipping. There is no song too fast for the Brazilians to step together and grind hips, or gently bounce them, faces pressed together, eyes closed as if in a trance. For those moments the heat rises, and the languor slows their movements, for those musical moments it as if they are in love, until the woman turns away at the end of the song and leaves the man with a wave.

Tuesday night in Rio, there’s a supposed to be a good samba night on just down the way in Ipanema, it turns out to be another tourist festival in the bar of a hostel. It’s not much cop, from the tiny, narrow smoke-filled smokers area, to the heaving dance floor, filled with hunters and prey, and fey travellers, trying to find the right steps. I am nonplussed, and determined to find something more authentic

On the Wednesday we head out down to Lapa, on the recommendation of Michael who works at the hostel. He’s phoned ahead and put us on the guest list. From the moment we walk up the stairs into the half filled room as the band prepares to play, I am smiling from ear to ear. This is why I came to Brazil, for this musical melange, this joy of playing/listening/dancing/singing music.

The dance floor gradually fills, but it is never totally packed, but the band play beautifully, and as always there is an old man who sings, and sings, and sings. His tone pure and ragged, and yearning and joyous all at once. We sit and drink beer, and I am envious of the sinuous nature of the dancers, how they are molded to each other, the swirl of hips and the tinkle of their feet, how quickly they spin and move. I want to dance like this, I want to be able to have my hips be so fluid, and my feet so nimble.

favela funk

In Braaaazil, Rio de Janeiro, Sud America on November 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm

The funk parties that happen down at the base of the favelas on the weekends, especially the Sundays are raucous events, filled to bursting with people of all different skin tones.

They are sweatboxes. Pure and simple, muscled men roam sans tops, girls are dressed in the usual lack of clothes. Queue to pay for tickets to buy drinks, then queue to give tickets to man to get drinks. If you just want beer go to the man standing on the box for quicker beer tickets.

The girls dem bow! Dem bow, dem bow, dem bow. Girls dancing to the favela funk shake that ass, then continue to shake ass as they bend knees and shake it ever lower and lower and lower. They stand and then repeat when the mood hits them or a particularly big tune comes out of the wall of speakers. And I do mean a wall of speakers, it is so loud conversation isn’t possible, though people do, exchange names, numbers, email addresses, saliva.

Tourists stand out, we are the sore thumb, but the Carioca’s don’t mind, if your fair and female you are given all sorts of tactile man attention, if your dark and female you get all sorts of male tourist attention. It is courtship at its most shortened, lack of words creating a straight line technique, smile, hold, dance, kiss. Repeat for the rest of night.

The music blurs into one beat filled mix, the only change is when the favela dwellers signal their approval for this song or another. There is no threat or hint of violence, we are far from the men with the gold plated machine guns, who circulate high up the hill.

But the fever that pervades the place, the electricity that circulates, the thunder of the bassline, it is impossible to talk, impossible to think, just imperative that you dance, however you dance, the intro’s are short and the songs are long, the beats rolling, rolling, rolling. And when the doors are thrown open at the end of the night and you are spat out into the street, wondering which bus to take to get back into town, you can’t but feel bereft.

These parties are throwbacks to what we no longer have, warehouse raves, filled to the rafters with people who want to dance, and to shake, and to make new friends/lovers. Easy come, easy go. Everything is easy apart from the beats..