Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Two-Wheeling around la Beaches

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Two-Wheeling around la Beaches

Article excerpt

THE BEACH BOYS sang of a sand-and-saltwater Elysium, where nothing mattered but playing in the ocean, romance and tanning rays. And millions of '60s kids became daydream surfers, fantasizing their way to Southern California and the Pacific.

The fantasy endures on LA's South Beach, a crescent of wave-washed shoreline more than 20 miles long. The very strand that inspired the Beach Boys is only about 20 minutes by car from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). It still looks like the old album covers, and it feels like the surf songs sounded, a dream of warmth and freedom.

Doing LA's South Beach is one of the country's great urban outdoors experiences. It's also unlike any other LA experience. For one thing, it's possible to go to the beach and envy, rather than pity, the Los Angelenos who live there. LA's heavily publicized recent cataclysms and problems - earthquakes, riots, smog and congestion - are little in evidence.

And you don't need a car. Vehicle of choice for exploring LA's South Bay, which has great beaches and a rock-and-cliff-bound peninsula, is the bicycle.

The South Bay Trail follows the beach for 21 miles, paved and entirely free of cars, from Santa Monica southward to Redondo Beach. South of Redondo a marked, seven-mile bike route on roads follows the higher and more rugged coastline of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Biking the LA oceanfront is a worthy recreational end in itself, or the means of getting to great ocean sport. The beaches have near-infinite possibilities for swimming, surfing, body boarding, skimboarding, boardsailing, sunbathing, ogling, showing off and practically anything else human beings might want to do at the ocean's edge.

Bicycle and equipment rentals are legion, and guides and teachers are available. Palos Verdes, a miniature of more rugged, wild Central California coasts, has good tidepooling and diving. The peninsula's Point Vicente, dominated by a lovely lighthouse, offers whale-watching.

Besides the recreational possibilities, the trail is a living cultural essay on beach life, taking in Santa Monica, once frowzy but now ridiculously chic, and Venice, where public weirdness is an industry. …

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