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Grass No. 35 - Friends

Grass No. 35 - Friends
By Hudson Gardner • Issue #35 • View online

In March of last year Anna & I rolled our bikes onto a train in Portland, Oregon and headed south to LA. We unloaded our bikes at 1am in downtown LA, and rode about 15 miles to Burbank, where her brother and sister-in-law live. We hung around for a few days, preparing to ride to Joshua Tree from San Bernardino, a town at the far end of the San Fernando valley. 
While we were in LA, another friend let me know someone named Alex was doing an interesting project in and around the San Fernando valley. Alex was riding, for 49 days, wherever the roll of a die (that’s singular for dice) took him. The project was called 49 Days X Miles. Check out more here:
Alex’s route, which he hoped would take him consistently in one direction, instead had repeatedly drawn him all over LA. Sometimes it was tough to find a place to camp, he admitted, but fortunately the valley is surrounded by mountains and national forests.
I contacted Alex and asked where he was. His roll ended up being North that day, and his route ended up taking him not far from where I was staying. We met up and rode 30 miles to a spot in a canyon that he had camped recently.
Alex is an ultra-marathon runner and accomplished athlete. Me? Not so much. The stubbornness of my mind manages to convey my body far further than it should go. Yet I kept up with him, and as we rode out of town the buildings and roads faded away. We climbed a steep canyon, passed a reservoir, all the while getting to know each other for the first time. Who was this dark, mustachoed, piston-legged LAer with a drawl in his mouth? Some renegade artist? A bygone from old times, when people had as much character as the rocks, gnarled trees, and narrow valleys of this landscape? His Instagram handle, @moderndaymuir, truly checked out.
We stopped at a grove of ancient oak trees, bent and dry, their leaves still green in early spring. Live oaks, as I came to know them, covered many of the hillsides in this part of the country. We deadlifted our hundred + pound bikes over the closed and locked gate (take that car drivers!) and began to crawl, in our lowest gear, up a steep two track road. Alex totally left me in the dust at that point. I got off and pushed for a while, but then the road flattened a bit, and we made camp high above the road and valley below.
In the night Alex read a book to me, “On The Loose”, and I recorded him reading it. You can listen to the recording below:
Alex Ertaud
That night we woke to a bobcat passing by. It yowled into the darkness, three times, it’s tiny voice echoing off the sides of the valley. And we slept well together in the tent: new friends, yet familiar and comfortable together already.
Alex is currently recounting his project via a newsletter (like this one). I highly recommend checking it out. And look for me as I make a cameo appearance near the end.
Thanks for reading. Until next time!
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Hudson Gardner

Writing & Photos covering place, ecology, and existence.

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