Sunday, July 29, 2012

Where to Be Merry: Cycling through the City @ Bikes and Hikes LA

The Merriment: Hours of exploring various Los Angeles neighborhoods…on a bike

The Vibes: Eye-opening and exciting; relaxing yet most certainly a workout

Good for: Experiencing Los Angeles in a unique manner; learning more about the city’s well-known landmarks and learning the city's history in a fun way.

With-Whom-to-Go: The bike tours consist of a guide and other guests, creating groups that can range from as little as three or four to as many as fifteen. You could go alone, but it’s more fun to tour with a friend. They also provide tours for private groups, Kids are welcome.

The $ Factor: $$: Tours range from $52-$162 and last from 2.5 hours to 6 hours, with anywhere from 11 miles to 32 miles to cover.

The 4-1-1: Bikes and Hikes LA provides the bike, helmet, safety vest and a bottle of water, but make sure to bring extra water, a snack (like an energy bar) and of course, your camera.

I’ll Be Back…: For the 32-mile LA IN A DAY tour, now that I’ve conquered the HOLLYWOOD tour. 

A recent 4th of July holiday trip to NYC inspired me to get out more when I returned to LA.

On the East Coast, I walked miles upon miles each day, trekking up steep subway platform stairs and simply being out and about in the city. Here in LA? The most time I typically spend outside are the 55 minutes on my lunch break – sitting – and stuffing my face with food.

So when Bikes and Hikes LA owner Danny Roman was kind enough to offer a complimentary tour (quick story: I met him about a year ago and we’ve kept in contact throughout the months), I immediately jumped at the opportunity.

I won’t even lie; I signed up for the HOLLYWOOD TOUR because it was the shortest distance and was ranked as “easy” on the website.

And even then, I was extremely nervous about going. I hadn’t been on a bike in over six years, and 11 miles sounded considerably far, especially when you’re talking about weaving in and out of traffic, hopping on and off curbs. Plus, the day prior to the tour, I had tried to ease back into my workout plan by running and failed miserably. I had to stop because my legs began tingling. Yeah, I'm that out of shape.

I arrived at the Bikes and Hikes LA Tour stop at the Hollywood & Highland Center on a gorgeous Saturday morning, anxious and already sweaty. My thoughts were dangerously wandering to what I would do if I couldn’t keep up with the group or worse, if I got hit by a semi-trailer truck…

Our friendly tour guide (pictured below) brought me back to reality.

She gave us some standard release forms to sign, got us situated on our bikes, shared a few safety tips and then we were off. 

Wait a minute. No time to practice?! Guess not…

Our group of seven started from the Hollywood & Highland Center, winding east through Hollywood residential areas...

We headed to landmarks like Capitol Records and the Pantages Theatre....

...then to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (pictured below),
and onwards through Larchmont Village and Hancock Park.

We ventured west on Wilshire Blvd., going through Miracle Mile until we briefly stopped at the
La Brea Tar Pits for quick rest, pictured below.

Then off we went to LACMA (pictured below) and through Park La Brea before reaching the Original Farmer’s Market, where we had a ten-minute break. 

We then ventured up Beverly Blvd., La Brea Ave. and Fountain Ave., back to the Hollywood & Highland Center to conclude the tour.

But it wasn’t over.

Included in the package is a complimentary ticket into the nearby Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, so we got up close and personal with celebrity wax figures, including Justin Bieber, President Barack Obama, Audrey Hepburn and lots more... 

At the end of the day, I guess the saying is true:
you never forget how to ride a bike!

Overall, the entire tour was great. It offered the perfect balance of cycling and breaks to stop and hear fun facts about where we were. Being a native Angeleno, I’ve spent thousands of hours at places like Miracle Mile and Larchmont Village, but it was extremely eye-opening to hear their history: how streets received their names, why neighborhoods were formed, what places looked like 100 years ago, and even current events trivia, like which celebrity did what at which place. Our tour guide offered up the good, juicy facts, so it didn’t feel like we were on a boring school field trip, learning random, useless tidbits of information.

There were times our ride was so peaceful and relaxing, especially when we were winding through picturesque neighborhoods with tree-lined streets providing ample shade and cool breezes. It felt like it was straight out of a movie scene.

Then there were a few other times when I kept thinking, “OK, are we done yet? Where’s the finish line? Can someone push my bike for me?” Those occurred more towards the end, after pedaling for three hours, when the sun was maddeningly beaming down our backs and the traffic jams on La Brea Ave. (pictured below) felt stifling.

As for the fitness level, it’s not too bad at all. If you’re a little rusty (like I was), you might be somewhat sore the next day (like I was). If you’re in shape, you’ll definitely have no problems at all.

I say the next time you’re looking to exercise, want to learn more about Hollywood, or want to show an out-of-towner the city in a novel way, definitely try the HOLLYWOOD Tour by Bikes and Hikes LA. It’s worth it, especially with a complimentary museum ticket thrown into the mix, and you’ll get the 4-1-1 on the streets, neighborhoods and landmarks that you pass all the time, gaining a deeper appreciation of this quirky city we call Los Angeles.

See you on a tour soon!


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