Once a month hundreds of us would meet at a random location, ready to bicycle a mysterious pre-planned journey through the Los Angeles night. This night we would be travelling south, through the heart of Los Angeles to an actual farm in South Central that was set to be demolished later that week to make room for a new strip mall.
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“There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness,
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The leaders of this bike ride had planned a beautiful route, traveling right by stores and landmarks that we knew from our cars that seemed bigger and brighter from a bicycle – the famous Happy Foot Sad Foot sign, Pioneer Chicken from Carmelita, the Warren Zevon song. The ride leaders were black clad, faces hidden under bandanas. They would ride ahead and forcibly block intersections, the large group of us would ride by as all the cars honked, stuck at a green light, blocked by aggressive anonymous cyclists.
The ride down to the farm was smooth and easy, a gentle gradient downward towards the ocean. The night was crisp and nice, everyone talked and drank and smoked as we rode. Some bicycles were equipped with stereos, people danced by bouncing up and down on their bikes. When we reached the farm we could see the farmers and protestors gathered around it, vainly trying to stop the slow march of development. We looped all the way around the farm, a wide turn of bicycles circling acres of lush, enclosed farmland in the middle of South Central Los Angeles.
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I watch you walking with your machine.
At the back of the farm was a huge old walnut tree and chained to that tree was a six foot tall, thin blonde woman. She seemed to glow in the dark night, taller and blonder than anything around her. Word spread through the bike horde, it was the actress Daryl Hannah, she had chained herself to the walnut tree, one last desperate attempt to stop the bulldozers. We all waived to her as we biked by, wishing her luck in her doomed attempt to save the farm.
As we rode home, a harder ride climbing the slight hill back towards the north of the city someone called LAPD on us. The police responded in force, with two patrol cars and a helicopter. The patrol cars rode alongside and in front us, the helicopter followed us overhead, its massive spotlight shining on almost the whole crowd of us bikers. No one was scared, there were too many of us to arrest for just riding bicycles around the city, so we enjoyed the light it – enhanced the party atmosphere. As we got closer to our homes, bikers peeled off going their own way home. Eventually the LAPD peeled off as well, the patrol cars drove off and the helicopter shut off the spotlight and circled away. The last of us ended up at a taco truck under an overpass. We all sat on the curb and ate tacos late into the night.