As a boy growing up in an uncool suburb in the frigid Midwest, even I knew that there was one region of LA that was cooler than all the others:
It had sunshine, Mr. Miyagi, karate tournaments, vintage convertibles, and Elizabeth Shue....This alluring place also inspired my older sister to wear pony tails off the side of her head and say things like, "totally tubular" and "gag me with a spoon" without irony.
Like I said. Cool.
The first time I set foot in The Valley was when a college classmate informed me that there was an actual Ben & Jerry's retail location on Ventura Blvd. At that time, Ben & Jerry's seemed impossibly exotic since they had just recently expanded to the West Coast, so I spontaneously drove my friend and I two hundred miles to sample a scoop. On our way to the ice cream shop, we swung by her dad's house to surprise him.
This part of my time with her family is crystal clear to me: My friend recounted to her father that one of her high school buddies had recently dropped acid, gotten into his car, and then crashed it. To my naive, Midwestern raised ears, this sounded like a clear-cut, Nancy Reagan "just say no" case study. After my friend finished telling her father this shocking story, he grimly leaned across the table, and in the most parental voice you could possibly imagine lectured, "If I've told you guys once, I've told you a thousand times, never, ever do drugs...alone."
I nearly did a spit take.
In The Valley, it wasn't DON'T DO DRUGS. It was don't do drugs ALONE...
On that note, I needed to transport my child from Silver Lake to the West Valley to meet my college roommate, his wife, and my wife for dinner. We had options for traveling the twenty-four mile trip. I could strap the Little Dictator into our hybrid SUV and enjoy this:
Fifty-seven minutes of hell? Driving an extra thirteen miles instead of the direct route to "avoid" traffic? No, thank you.
Option two: The Red Line subway to Orange Line Busway. According to Google Maps, it takes ONE HOUR AND TEN MINUTES to travel from NoHo to Reseda Blvd. on the dedicated Bus Way. That doesn't include the subway ride or transportation to the subway or biking from the bus stop five miles to the restaurant. That is way too effin' slow. I am still amazed that Valley politicians, in their zeal to block alternatives to driving, managed to ram through a state law that banned light rail from parts of the San Fernando Valley in 1991.
They just overturned that law recently because now, all of a sudden, they want to convert the Orange Line from a busway to a light rail line. Perhaps, it might have been cheaper if the Valley politicians had thought of that in the first place? Until the conversion to rail happens, bring a Russian novel along for the bus ride across The Valley.
Option three: Red Line Subway to the Chandler bike path. Tempting...But, it would've been a fifteen mile ride (approximately 75 to 90 minutes) with a tired, hungry kid. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.
Behind door number four was: METROLINK.
Whenever I say the word, METROLINK, the clouds part and the angels sing. METROLINK trains are "heavy" rail trains, unlike the Gold Line or the Expo Line which are "light" rail trains. METROLINK trains are double decker luxury barges that comfortably, quietly whisk you across the city at super-fast speeds. If you close your eyes, you can pretend you're in France or Japan or any other civilized democracy.
Guess which one I chose?
The bike ride to the Glendale Metrolink station on a Thursday at 4PM was completely stress free with the exception of the gap in bike lanes between Rowena and the LA River. I hate "taking the lane" on Glendale Blvd. to descend out of Silver Lake, but there is no other practical choice since the sidewalk is unusable, the right lane can't accommodate a car and a cyclist, and the alternative streets take you away from your destination. (As a quick side note, there was not a single, solitary moment of delay for the cars driving through the "controversial" road diet on Rowena. That's right. NO back ups at 4:15PM on a Thursday. Nada.)
Once you cross the LA River, the Glendale Blvd. bike lane takes you all the way to San Fernando Rd. Careful salmon cycling on the sidewalk a couple of blocks gets you to Cerritos Avenue; which is a nice quiet street leading you to the train station. How cool is this vintage railway station?
Following our twenty-five minute bike ride to the station. We explored for ten minutes as we waited for our train:
The Little Dictator LOVES riding the METROLINK. We carried my folded bike up to the top deck where he was enthralled with this:
If we had ridden a full-size bike, the bike racks where we could've safely strapped our bike inside our train car were empty.
I did pull one parenting whoops-trick. We somehow ended up in the "quiet" train car. It's for commuters who want quiet...you know, like a four year old. Next time I'll have to figure out how to identify the "obnoxiously loud" car prior to boarding.
The METROLINK only took 26 minutes to beam us from Glendale to Northridge at the peak of rush hour. Read that again: 26 minutes. Upon disembarking it was only a ten minute bike ride to the restaurant. Let's do some math:
Driving: 57 minutes of hell.
Biking/Metrolink: 25 minutes of fun biking/playing with my kid + 10 minutes of exploring train station + 26 minutes of awesomeness train + 10 minutes of biking to restaurant = 71 minutes of adventure.
Difference: 14 minutes.
I'm a parent. It's not like those 14 minutes I would've "saved" by driving would've been mine to use how I wished. I love this argument against riding a bike. Other parents act like they really NEED those 14 minutes. Bullshit. I would've spent 14 extra minutes outside a sweltering strip mall in the valley trying to keep a 4 year old occupied. Or an extra 14 minutes in a park near our house where I have already slogged through COUNTLESS hours "watching" my child play. Incidentally, If I'd timed our train arrival properly the difference would've been a whopping 4 minutes...
What about cost?
DRIVING: 37 miles + the 24 mile return journey (since my wife and I would've had to drive home separately) = 61 miles. With 30MPG and $3.00/gallon of gas = about $6.00 of gas. Our per mile insurance rate would be 5.4 cents per mile = $3.29.
DRIVING SUB-TOTAL: $9.29 (This still doesn't take into account oil changes/maintenance/opportunity cost on a $18,000 used car/depreciation/Car insurance base rate, etc.)
TRAIN FARE: $8.62.
SAVING THE WORLD: Priceless.
Besides the train ride being > than rush hour car hell, my family also got to drive home in my wife's car together. The BEST part is the journey entertained my child, so I didn't have to.
We disembarked in Northridge then rode over to Reseda Blvd. to explore the new bollard protected bike lanes. Look at this thing of beauty:
Further up the street cars parallel parking are on the outside of the bollards, so bikes and cars only mix at driveways and intersections. THIS is what bike infrastructure should ALWAYS look like. If you can't put a ten year old riding alone in the bike lane, then it's not a bike lane as far as I'm concerned.
This bike lane is objective proof that The Valley has not lost its cool. Just keep an eye out for those mean kids from Cobra Kai.
Oh, and don't do drugs alone..?
HOW WE GOT THERE
TURN BY TURN DIRECTIONS
Crappy HOOVER Sidewalk
Veer right at LUCILLE (then swear your way up the hill)
Left on GRIFFITH PARK BLVD.
Right on ROWENA BLVD.
Left on ROKEBY (1 block West of Glendale Blvd.)
Left on GLENDALE BLVD.
Left on SAN FERNANDO RD. (salmon on sidewalk for a few blocks remembering that the safety of pedestrians is your responsibility. Also beware of cars pulling out of driveways)