Bearings and how to find them (part 2)


Where was I? Ah yes, the scents of LA’s streets and disorientation in general and in detail.

To better find my way around, I started using imaginary names for streets so I could better remember them. A fun game once you start it because there is just no end to the many permutations often strange-sounding names could end up with. Let’s take Hilgard Ave., just up from the UCLA in Westwood, leading up to Sunset Blvd. I couldn’t remember that one for the life of myself, so I turned it into Hildegard Ave. (R.I.P. Hildegard Knef, the only Hildegard I know of). Much better. And why not, given the many Germans that have put their mark on California – a story in itself, which is better read here.

From this point, no holds were barred. Unremarkable Mildred Ave. in Culver West turned into Mildew Ave., the Dashew Centre into nutty Cashew Central, Lincoln Ave. to Lockdown Ave. (had to drive around it several times on account of some police crime action), and Woodruff Ave. – where I once ended up by mistake, heavens knows why – became Dandruff Blvd., as a form of cheap revenge.

And then there was the parking ticket. Now, it is quite difficult to get a parking ticket on a motorbike in LA because parking is generally free for motorbikes. But not everywhere as I found out to my detriment. First, I didn’t park my scooter in the prescribed out-of-the-way UCLA multi-level park dungeon but on a car space. BIG mistake, which nearly set me back 50 dollars in fines (I got off after some pleading with the uni’s central parking fine admin office (this does indeed exist, since UCLA functions a bit like a small town).


Next stop: Hollywood, right off the Chinese Theatre. I was so lucky to find a space there, right behind a large SUV in an empty mini-slot, where I could stand the Enfield in a diagonal position. It was all beautiful until I found a little piece of paper fluttering under the tachometer, after some star-hunting on the Boulevard and an excellent showing of Kubrick’s “Shining” in the Chinese. That was a whopping 90 dollars fine (they call it a parking citation), and no way getting out of that one. However, I managed to wriggle out of the extra 15 dollars they wanted from me because the rental service hadn’t bothered with a proper number plate. Seems a lot of Angelitos are driving around without correct number plates.

I had a lot more fun driving around on two wheels in LA. This includes:

  • nearly ending up on the freeway (prohibited for Vespa drivers) after taking a wrong turn – had to push the bike back on the sidewalk (yes, LA has sidewalks, no matter what you’ve read about this car-crazed city)
  • driving around by night after some party or late-night movie, and passing several times some obvious crime scenes, with police cars swarming around
  • repeatedly, having really fun conversations with strangers who would stop next to me (both motorbikes and cars) or cross the road at a red light in front of me (pedestrians – yes, there are pedestrians in LA, no matter what…) and ask me things like: what is the horse-power of your ride; top speed; how fast off the mark; where did you buy it; and: is it really a vintage (in the case of the Enfield).

All in all, it was worth it. Apart from the one time when I tried to turn right a bit too close to the curve and fell into a ditch (a small ditch – the asphalt had crumbled near the sidewalk), I never had any issue exploring LA on two wheels, and really don’t regret having had the idea. In fact, even the ditch experience had a positive side-effect, namely that I found out how friendly Angelitos really are – when I had to get up and stand the Vespa back on its wheels (it didn’t even have a scratch), several people rolled down their windows and asked if I was alright and whether I needed any help. Even though the lights had already turned to green. Quite wonderful.

Perhaps the only regret I have is that it was much too cumbersome to explore the entire city on a bike. The city is so large that every ride took forever and since the freeways were barred for me, it would have taken me nearly two hours just to drive to Downtown. So I didn’t see as much as would have liked to. Oh well, next time.

The first part of this post can be found here.