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Talking the Walk: The Great LA Walk 2010 Does Wilshire Blvd.
There was probably only--thankfully--one moment during Saturday's Great Los Angeles Walk when my companions and I sang a cheery chorus of "Nobody Walks in L.A." We were walking in L.A., part of a larger group of determined urban hikers, journeying through rain, then sun, then dusk, from Downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean, trekking the length of Wilshire Boulevard.
This was my first Great Los Angeles Walk, and the second time host bloggers Mike and Maria of Franklin Avenue selected the magnificent and historic Wilshire for the annual event. Although this morning my legs are still aching, and my photo collection not as robust as I'd hoped, doing the walk was a phenomenal way to get to know this incredible city on a whole new level.
I learned a lot, though not what I expected to, from the walk. It turns out that not doing much in the way of yoga or running the weeks leading up probably made doing the walk a little harder, though I suspect there's no real way to "train" for a 15.8 mile walk on (mostly) concrete, except to be an overall fit and active person.
Having driven Wilshire countless times in my life as an Angeleno, and absorbed many words written about and photos taken of the historic street, I knew that I had a strong sense of the neighborhoods, and an awareness of many of the street's architectural and significant landmarks, many of which are hard to appreciate from the sidewalk right outside. What you can't appreciate from the car window as you whip past, though, are the details at these buildings, like the Gaylord, Los Altos apartments, the Masonic Temple. Thanks to the printouts the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council had for us, we had some history in our hands to guide us along a storied stretch of the Boulevard...If only the mansion from Sunset Boulevard hadn't been torn down! It also is amazing how gaping the distances actually are between major intersections; we have some mighty long blocks here that aren't necessarily geared towards strolling.
Oh, and on the issue of sidewalks, I learned that the zig-zagging, winding, grassy portion of Wilshire between Beverly Hills and Westwood isn't friendly for pedestrians--there isn't even a sidewalk! However, I also learned that the Metro Rapid 720 bus is pretty awesome, because I discovered about myself that I can't actually walk all 15.8 miles of Wilshire, and needed to hop on the big red bus around La Cienega. We passed members of the Walk group, narrowly escaping being pummeled by the fast-moving passing bus, as they walked shoulder to brush up Wilshire into the Beverly Glen area.
Before our legs betrayed us and prompted the bus-boarding, however, I also realized that the food trucks are on to something. No, none of them came out that day to feed us (scared off, as many intended walkers were because of the morning rains), but at lunchtime, as we cruised the Miracle Mile on foot, it became painfully evident that there is nothing worth eating around there. There is a reason why they park there, and a reason why they are doing killer business.
Once off the bus (we rode it about 6 miles, forgoing the very hilly, windy segment, don't judge) at 26th in Santa Monica, it was just a matter of counting down blocks before we hit Ocean Avenue. It didn't take long before we were passed up by some very fit women powerwalking the trek, and ultimately, thanks to our more leisurely stop-and-go pace, before we checked Twitter to see that the remaining walkers (many bailed part-way, as expected) were on our heels. Have you had the Salted Caramel Bar at Huckleberry? What a treat to duck in to the cafe and bakery with just a dozen blocks to go to warm up with a hot tea and some snacks.
The last few blocks were treacherous for me. Sheer will pushed me past the Third Street Promenade towards the glowing statue of Santa Monica presiding over the terminus of the grand Boulevard. (I don't know what got me back on the 720, or onto the Red Line, or into my car, or up my apartment steps, but that's another story.) All told, my little group did just under 10 miles of walking, and made it to the beach in time to watch the sun slip off the horizon of the Pacific. What an incredible experience.
Check out host blog Franklin Avenue's recap and pics from the event.