This is part of a special Great Eskape series: Where is Francis? Following GE member Francis on his personal tour of California.
Words and Photos by Francis
Before heading out to tour the Sierra Cascade route this July I headed to the City of Angels to see just how much #lasucksforcycling. Does it ever! No fun to be had here. Don't ever visit.
I landed in LAX, built my bike up from a box and started riding to Glendale to stay with my hosts, a house of animators that are friends of my brother. The ride across town is a bit of a slog and hot as ever. This was all redeemed though by meeting the Golden Saddle crew in Silver Lake for a climb to Griffith Park. It's a real treat to have miles of roads closed to cars that cut across the steep hills overlooking the city.
I spent the following days visiting friends from photo school that work on editorial and commercial projects around the city. This included long rides to Santa Monica fueled by endless supply of vegan eateries.
I met Ari who sells home made bagels on her bike in Echo Park. Frank who tows his son Casch in his space horse up Griffith Park. Sun and Agyei at the amazing Burgerlords, who shared some of their favorite veggie spots in the city.
Staying in Glendale meant i was just miles from the Verdugo trailhead. A short ride and run up the hills before dawn allowed me to see the city trapped under the marine layer. All the more striking as you run past lizards and hummingbirds through wild flowers, sage, and succulents.
Given the level of party on GSC Griffith Park ride, I knew the upcoming #swiftcampout they plan to host was going to world class. Shop founder Kyle went over the game plan, "were gonna take it super chill through town and superfuckingchill up the mountain."
We rolled out at 9 to start a 22 mile ride up 4500' to Mt Lowe. The best thing about an overnight is anything goes. You can show up fully loaded, or as I was told, "John Muir style, just a handkerchief and some bread crumbs." All bikes and forms of bikepacking were present. The climb was brutal, steep, exposed, and hot as hell. After an hour of climbing the road switch to dirt and you were treated to vista after vista behind every turn. We quickly pitched camp and rode up even higher to Mt Wilson through tunnels and gorgeous roads to Cosmic Cafe for banana splits.
Camp kitchen was super pro. The group hauled out some hidden cast iron skillets from the woods and went to town. Folks brought tomatoes from their garden and homemade pickled onions. Tons of grillables for the 30 plus riders. Even more folks arrived through the night from different parts of town.
One of highlights of the ride was turning back east to camp, retreating from the illuminated tentacles of LA, and slipping into darkness of the mountains.
The ride down in the morning was a great way to test your brakes, riding a loaded long haul trucker screaming down the side of dirt roads as fast as possible.
I can't thank the crew enough for an awesome event and great vibes through the weekend. Kyle, a Chicago native, says this is favorite city to ride in and with good reason. You can have the culture of a international city and then climb from sea level to ride amongst 8000 foot mountains in the same day.
Next I'll headed south through Orange county to San Diego to spend some much needed time on the beach. You know a vacay on your vacay. After that it's to even bigger mountains in the Sierra.