Active Pregnancy

We often think of adventure as something that is outside ourselves, I would say that having a new human being growing inside your body is one of lives greatest adventures and not something every person is privy to experience. Considering all a women’s body is going through many people would like to encourage pregnant people to sit on the couch with their feet propped up for an entire pregnancy. If I did this I would feel like a big blob, forget about all the excess weight I would gain, I would feel pretty gross. Luckily for active women out there who enjoy getting up and moving, confinement (the medieval sort) is no longer a universally recommended practice and in normal circumstances movement and exercise are highly encouraged.

Exercise has all sorts of health benefits and in my experience if you stop moving during a pregnancy it become even harder to resume as the baby gets bigger. Being active can tremendously help with pregnancy related symptoms, such as nausea, mood and keeps joints lubricated with the aches that can come with carrying another human being inside.

Here is the disclaimer; in any activity the most important thing is to be attuned and aware of the signs and symptoms of our bodies and this holds true especially during pregnancy. It’s important to develop the art of being able to realize when something is too much. In many athletic communities there is an attitude of I can push through everything and anything, yes we can do a lot more then we think we can, but its important to stay cognizant of real preventable dangers. At any time is important to be able to tune into our inner cues but especially during pregnancy when the stakes are higher and a women’s body is experiencing all sorts of added demands and pressures. So be attuned and aware of your body be aware and adjust if something does not feel right. We often come into a situation with a certain agenda; it can be a process to recognize when hazards abound and when our agenda is just not working.

I really enjoy pregnancy yoga and have been taking classes.   It’s uplifting and inspiring being surrounded by other expecting mothers and seeing how other women are able to retain fitness and flexibility. We can only do our job as mothers if we take care of ourselves first. It’s inspiring to see women approaching there due dates, exhibiting beautiful and athletic yoga poses. Whereas in a regular yoga class working on stomach muscles or “core” is often emphasize, in prenatal yoga in accordance with doctor’s orders core work in avoided and strengthening other parts of the body and learning to adjust to the transformation your body is undergoing is central and the yoga studio I go to I get a great workout.

Hiking is also great and although it is to be expected that as the baby grows you will slow down, it’s always nice to be in the great outdoors. I have been hiking and camping while pregnant and yes at times there are quirks to work out such as needing more padding in order to sleep comfortably. I even have gone backpacking, as long as the weight of my pack was less then 20 pounds the doctor said it was fine, the hubby had to carry an extra load.

I tried ice skating at around 7 months of pregnancy and found my balance to not be adequate, so after circling the rink a couple of time and having a close moment of imbalance I realized that ice skating would have to wait for another time.

Apparently one can even go rock climbing late in pregnancy with the right kind of harness, I attempted to indoor rock climb while being in my first trimester and even though theoretically there would not be a safety issue in me doing so, I felt much more comfortable with both feet on the ground and ended up belaying the hubbie. I was nervous each time he climbed and relieved each time he made it safely down to the floor. I don’t usually get nervous about such things, but for some reason the whole hanging by a rope dynamic made me anxious, I’ll blame it on pregnancy hormones.

I really wanted to keep up biking during pregnancy, a women’s balance changes as her baby grows. Theoretically I should have been able to adjust my balance as my body changed, and bicycling can be a great low impact exercise. I kept up biking until about 7 months pregnant, my baby bump got so big that every time I pedaled my knee’s would touch my stomach, rather awkward and a little uncomfortable, so I did not continue to bike late into pregnancy.

The more you keep on being active during pregnancy the more active you will be able to remain, but even so there still is as slow down factor. Feel proud and happy if you can decrease the aches and pains of carrying another 20 plus pounds of weight on your body. Toward the end of a pregnancy taking a trip to Costco and walking through the long aisles of the store could be activity enough. I wonder if you can borrow one of those electric scooter things while shopping there.

 

Quick Nutritious Food Found for Kosher Adventurers

Wonderful news for kosher outdoor adventurers, a friend just discovered a line of backpacking food certified kosher by the OU!  This is the first I have heard of meals designed for backpacking which are certified kosher.  The brand is called  Harmony House and apparently it is carried at REI and Amazon.  They have a wide variety of dehydrated and freeze dried ingredients such as beans and veggies to full on quick prep meals of chili’s and soups that cuts out the work and planning of figuring what in the world to eat.  This has the potential to be a real game changer in terms of convenience for the kosher consumer looking to eat on trail.  I have yet to try these meals, but look forward to it!  I am sure these products will not only be helpful for the kosher consumer on trekking trips but also for travel in places where kosher food is not easily accessible.

The open road is not calling my name

There have been times in my life where I have been up for just about anything. Drop me in an unknown city, without kosher food or knowing the language. Awesome! Put me in a canoe with provisions in the middle of the wilderness somewhere, I am on it. Tell me about a new place I have never been to and I am aching to go and explore. Lately I have been more subdued, appreciating creature comforts and the safety of routine and familiarity. I guess tragedy can do that. I feel like I have a case of major whiplash, initially after the metaphoric truck ran me over I got up and just kept running, with adrenaline and fear coursing through my body. But I can’t run from my wounds and a melancholy has set in. The melancholy appreciates safety, comfort and familiarity.

Tragedy hits people differently and for some adventuring and travel is a way to escape what is currently the plague. A way to run from whatever it is that is causing pain and discomfort. Travel can be healing in this way. In the context of unfamiliarity a person is forced to look outside of oneself and stay present in the moment. So much energy is needed to just contextualize oneself in a strange and different society; it’s easy to be distracted from the pains of the past. There are the adrenaline seeking adventurer’s who seek the latest rush in an attempt to combat or deny inner darkness, and it’s easy to get into hazardous situations when coping this way.

What I really needed in terms of adventurous coping was something like the John Muir Trail, a month or so of being out in crisp pristine wilderness following a clear path set before me. Even while experiencing the pain, blisters, sweat and aches, I would just put one foot in front of the other. Even with the time to think and process, all there is to do is continue hiking forward.   Yes, circumstances have not allowed me to get out in the great outdoors and hike along an epic trail. But in reality despite the pain and struggle that life has thrown me what I can do and what I am doing is continuing to put one foot in front of the other.

Yes I currently cherish safety and security and do not have the energy for grand uncertainty and unknown situations. I cannot imagine at this point being able to gumption the energies to be in a foreign land. Sometimes we have to acknowledge our need to be nurtured and times in our lives when it is ok to embrace our comfort zones. With that acceptance I already feel that I am slowly healing, energy and vibrancy are returning and I continue to put one foot in front of the other.

Wilderness Backpacking and Eating Well

Sometime this summer, we plan to take a backpacking trip. Backpacking is a sport where you lug around a huge backpack as you hike on a trail. On the surface it would seem to be an unpleasant activity, but oddly it is absolutely wonderful and gratifying, your hard work pays off as you pass through stunning vista’s and scenery to be a part of a place that is so honest raw and refreshingly beautiful. With a little bit of hard work and persistence the beauty of Hashem’s world is there to experience.

Backpacking in the wilderness presents unique food challenges, not just for a kosher consumer, but for anyone. You are physically exerting yourself all day so you need to bring food with enough calories and nutrients to fuel your activity and keep you satisfied. Then you carry all this food with you, so the issue of weight is critical, food is heavy especially carrying enough for multiple days. Food needs to be non-perishable as there is no refrigeration in the wilderness and food is subjected to harsh conditions, being smushed and jossled in a backpack, experiencing heat and all sorts of weather conditions. Another requirement is that it needs to be able to cook fast. After a long day of hiking I don’t have enough energy to wait a long time for dinner and short cook times means less fuel to lug up that steep mountain.

Truth is there are hardcore backpackers that skip the whole luxurious hot meal thing and opt for food provisions of protein bars, and tubes of peanut butter. I have seen weird things people eat on the trail, this one guy was eating these black pellets that looked to me like a cross between tar and rat turds. Although our friends think we are hardcore in the scheme of things we really are not at all, this is our vacation and a good hot meal always enhances any experience.

When you walk into a hiking store, there is a wide selection of prepared dehydrated meals that meet all the above requirements, there are even companies that make vegetarian meals for backpacking. So if you don’t keep kosher, are not concerned about the healthiness of the meals or your sodium intake and have money to spare the average person can buy up a bunch of these prepared meals stuff them into a backpack and are all set. For the kosher consumer meals designed for backpacking do not yet exist. The closest thing to lightweight backpacking meals are its cousin MRE meals which can be found with a hecsher (kosher certification).   MRE’s are sterilized and sealed meals with practically no expiration date.   Originally designed for the military, MRE’s they can be helpful for the kosher consumer in a bind. But they are heavy and through trail and error we deemed them impractical for backpacking (and not particularly tasty either, think the worst airplane meal you have ever eaten).

Osem makes a line of food that are quick cooking called heat and serve, I thought that they could work for backpacking so we tried them. They are lightweight, and cook fast. Many of the products in the line don’t contain any protein so in terms of nutrition they are not ideal and they are loaded with chemicals and preservatives. If you use them you need to supplement your meal with protein. Our favorite was the Mejadara Lentils (basically rice and lentils), which seemed less chemically then the others and has protein because of the lentils. This line of food were pretty tasty, but with all the preservatives and unknown gunk it made dinner clean up very difficult as our bowls and cooking utensils became coated with grease. It also made our bowel movement (poo in laymen’s terms) irregular and quick onset, which is no fun when you have to find a suitable spot to dig a few inch hole to do your business. So all in all Osem was a failed experiment.

I started getting more creative with meals utilizing normal supermarket products and ingredients to make satisfying meals. I also found this great website North Bay Trading Company that sells freeze dried and dehydrated ingredients they have a whole list of their products which are kosher certified.

It’s been easiest for us in terms of kashrut to stick with dairy or pareve meals while backpacking. Many of the snacks we bring are dairy so it’s nice not to worry about waiting between milk and meat and being able to use our pot with everything we bring with. So to make sure I bring enough food for our trip I plan out a meal for breakfast lunch and dinner and 2-3 snacks a day for each of us. Dinner is our hot meal, for breakfast we will often boil up some hot water and we eat a cold lunch (room temperature to be more accurate).

Breakfast items can be instant oatmeal, cereal bars, cliff bars, cereal based trail mix, there is also always cereal and milk powder. If you spend time cooking in the morning you can get really creative, making pancakes with brought pancake mix, I even have found dehydrated hash browns.

For snacks dried fruit and nuts and an assortment of trail mix, granola bars, cliff bars.

For lunch we will bring a block of cheese and cut slices, peanut butter, chummus or packets of tuna or salmon and eat it on a tortilla, bagels or crackers.

Dinner is where I am trying to get increasingly creative, coming up with great meals using rice, rice noodles, quinoa and lentils as my base. In the past I have use TVP (texturized vegetable protein) to boost our meals protein content, the stuff is a little strange and lacks flavor and we found it did weird stuff to our digestive systems so I am trying to be more creative and use more legumes to get protein into our vegetarian meals. Most legumes take a long time to cook so they would seem ill suited to backpacking.   A backpacking friend of ours suggested the idea of precooking food items at home then dehydrating them in the oven. So I have started experimenting with this concept, I made a delicious lentil based Indian dish for dinner one night and put the leftovers in a baking dish lined with parchment paper, set the oven on 150 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. My oven did the job dehydrating the food and it was a really quick process to add hot water and rehydrate them, the lentils once rehydrated retained a nice texture, although a lot of flavor got lost in the dehydration process. I am going to do some more experimenting and hopefully I can cup up with some great meals.

Tzniut- Adventurous Clothing

In recent years the active apparel scene has exploded and people have adopted to wear sporty clothing just about anywhere. But for a frum girl the super tight yoga pants trend is just not going to cut it in terms of tzniut. Finding tzniut clothing for any given activity is a challenge and sometime the ensemble I have gathered look ridiculous. It can seem impossible to find the right pieces of modest clothing suitable for real activity. I sometime look at the active apparel women wore in years past (circa pre 1930) for inspiration on what to wear on my next adventure. It is true that yards and yards of thick fabric that make up a some circa 1800’s swimming dress, is unwieldy and potentially dangerous, but at least these women were able to get out and do it.   No women should feel she couldn’t be involved in an adventure because she can’t find what to wear.  So I continue to explore and troubleshoot the best modest attire for biking, swimming, surfing, hiking etc.

Some general tips, those super tight yoga pants (which I would never dare to wear alone out in public) are great under knee length skirts for running or cycling. Stretchy synthetic skirts (mixes of nylon and spandex) allow for movement and are quick drying. During the fall and spring, I buy up long sleeve, lightweight quick drying shirts which are great for all kinds of sports.

Hiking from Meiron to Tiberias, Israel

I am sure I am not the only one with the experience of unlikely situations actually working out more frequently in Israel. People say this is because it is the holy land and God’s presence is so much more present and there we all are endowed with a greater degree of hashgacha pratit, or God’s providence. I have experienced this personally in small ways like crossing the entire Jerusalem in a matter of minutes, when normally it would take 45 minutes or longer, and somehow managing to catch a bus. So maybe it was a good thing our first wilderness backpacking trip, not fully prepared, took place in the holy land. As newlyweds, spending the first few months of our marriage in Israel, I convinced Ari to go backpacking, hiking from Meiron to Tiberias. Since my outward bound trip five summers prior, I had always dreamed of returning to the wilderness, so no longer under the protective eyes of my parents and with my young husband there to protect me, I was ready to get back into nature.

We were so excited to finally use our fancy new ultra light two person backpacking tent, and the latest and greatest gear we had gotten for our wedding (we registered at REI). Naively we packed heavy cans of corn and canned tuna fish, and an entire bag of fruit and veggies from our refrigerator. We figured 3 liters of water each should be sufficient for the two day hike. Early in the morning we got on a bus to drop us off in a wilderness area near Meiron.

By the time we got off the bus and found the start of the trail, it was later then we had planned. The trail started off mellow meandering through shaded forests and pebbly terrain, it did not take long for the topography to change and we hiked along steep and narrow cliff faces. It got later and later the sun was rapidly going down and we had not yet found an appropriate place to pitch our tent. We started hiking faster in hopes of getting past this steep narrow stretch of ravine and find a safe place to camp. We had not yet eaten dinner and as the sky darkened we both grew more anxious. Ari, although had car camped before, never had never slept in the wilderness so far from other humans. We both were growing weary and afraid, as the trail continued to wind up and down along the ravine without a decent spot to rest for the night.

Just as we thought we were getting to the top of the ravine and the topography would flatten out it began to sharply drop downhill. The sun had long fallen below the surrounding cliffs and we were cloaked in the near darkness of dusk. Up ahead the trail began to rise steeply and kept on climbing as far as I could see, but there right before the trail began its ascent was a small area of semi flattened land barely sufficient room for our compact two-person tent. I looked at Ari and said “looks like we are pitching our tent here” and with the help of our headlamps we set up our home for the night. In this small space between the mountains, we quickly ate something. We had been instructed to hang our food on a tree branch far away from where we were camping, for wild boars that are known to prowl in this area. It was dark already so we did our best to find an appropriate spot to hang our food that was by this time dripping with rotting fruit juice. Finding a place to hang was a challenging task considering the crevice we were camping in. The wind whipped through the canyon as we snuggled into our sleeping bags, I was so glad and thankful we had managed to find a place to camp and we were not forced to dangerously scale the mountains around us in darkness, so grateful to be back out in nature again, it had been way to long.

I could hear the night animals coming out to play, the chirping of crickets and the yelps of jackals, something scurried along right near our tent, maybe a mouse or a rabbit. Ari looked nervous “could it be a wild boar?“ The sounds of nature can be intimidating; it had been a long time since I experienced the nighttime noises of the wilderness. Still unlike Ari I had the confidence of many nights out in the wild, and I had woken up every day safe. So I had the experience that there was no creature in the darkness out to get us.

Sure enough we woke up safe and sound the next morning, albeit with a buzz of bees surveying our tent, we noticed how alarmingly close our tent was pitched near a beehive. Somehow we managed to pack up our tent and belongings without getting stung and were on our way. A few hours later we finally climbed up and out of the ravine and were in dry flat lands, sprinkled with an occasional tree with white twisted branches.

We continued to hike along and noticed an oddity, tied to some of trees were water bottles hanging off the branches like Christmas ornaments. We wondered why there was such an artistic expression hanging out the middle of nowhere, we each still had more then a liter of water on us so we moved on. The day warmed and grew hot, extremely hot. We passed a jackal eating remnants of a boar carcass. Sweat dripped down my face, back and arms as the summer sun beat down. We were consuming our water far quicker then expected and had many miles to go until Tiberius.

We continued on hiking through the beautiful but dry chaparral, it became apparent we were not going to have enough water to make it to our destination. Ari looked at the map “it looks like a road crosses near to the trail, maybe we will be able to hitchhike into town and get water.” We came upon the small road, no cars passed by. We continued walking along the road, up ahead we saw a building. Eagerly we walked toward the gated facility, maybe someone there that could help. All the gates were locked and nobody was there. We sat down alongside the road not sure what to do, we were dangerously close to being out of water on a brutally hot day.

Suddenly a car came driving down, could it be we are saved? Ari went up to speak to the man in the car and explained, in Hebrew, the situation we were in. Not a problem he could absolutely fill up all our water bottles, but we would have to wait for around twenty minutes. He had to turn on the machinery for the water to pump up from underground, for the building we had happened upon was a site of a well tapping into ground water. Once a month this man came to the site for about an hour to check and test the quality of the water. We in our waterless predicament just so happened to catch him on his once a month rounds. He gladly was able to help us out, the water he gave us was fantastically fresh, crisp and delicious. Was it merely serendipity, which saved us that day. We were able to continue along our way hiking our way down through chaparral and then banana groves to the ancient city of Tiberius. Oh how it was hot, it was one of the hottest hiking days I have ever experienced. What a relief it was when we finally came up to the shores of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), dropped our bags and dived in fully clothed to wash off the sweat and grit. How much we appreciated that water coursing over our bodies. Despite quite a few potential mishaps, everything turned out miraculously ok. We finished our hike healthy and in one piece and this was just the start to many more adventures to come.

Kosher Traveling

One of the first questions I get from other people knowing I keep kosher and finding out how much I have traveled to far off places is, what do you eat? Sometimes the question comes from a place of genuine curiosity and amazement that my husband and I would be willing to stick ourselves in a place with no kosher restaurants and somehow manage to survive, and other times the question is asked in a more of a come on I know the truth you must be cheating kind of way. Keeping kosher is much harder outside of a jewish community and especially outside the USA. There have been times that keeping kosher has been extremely difficult while traveling. The more trips I have taken the better I have gotten at it.

On some of my first trips I brought a lot of food with from the USA. Food items like tuna fish and cliff bars, microwavable non-perishable meals (MRE’s) were staples. But when my husband and I started going on longer trips there was no way to pack enough food for the entire duration. We had to take the plunge and rely on local food. Truthfully my husband and I find it so much more pleasant to shop and prepare food with local ingredients then to eat processed food for weeks at a time. Seeking out marketplaces where locals shop and few tourists venture, gives us an authentic experience we would not tap into if we were just regular tourists eating prepared food. Keeping kosher has also saved us many times from the food borne illness that commonly affects travelers in developing countries.

But even self-catering has had its challenges. Many hostels boast self-catering facilities, so in Australia I brought a small pot with me and had no trouble preparing food for myself. I attempted to do the same thing in Asia (China and Korea), but all the available cooking facilities had only induction cook tops so the lightweight stainless steel pot I brought turned out to be useless. In Peru, influenced by our outdoor hiking adventures, we brought a compact gas stove. It was very simple to find fuel in Lima and we enjoyed preparing local fare including quinoa. But in Thailand and most of Southeast Asia they use a different type of fuel that was incompatible with our stove, so we had a few hungry days of scrounging around for food before we managed to hunt down an adapter piece for our stove in Bangkok.

In some places it is much easier to track down marketplaces then in others. In Bali, Indonesia it was easy as many local accommodation have cooking facilities and there are chains of western style supermarkets. In Thailand, it was difficult to track down the local marketplaces as many locals themselves rely on prepared street food. When in a small village in Vietnam we tremendously enjoyed bartering at the local farmers market that was only open in the early morning. Often locals have been surprised to see us bartering for basics like rice, eggs and vegetables, but that just adds to the experience. Keeping kosher while traveling can be difficult, but is totally doable. Kosher does not have to prevent someone from experiencing the glory of God’s world.

Nature’s lessons- Cause and effect

The thrill of starting out on a new adventure is exciting, but that first day out on the Snake River in northern Ontario, on the Outward Bound trip was exhausting.   We hardly paddled 2km, had trouble keeping the canoe in the right direction and when we finally reached the camp for the night my arms ached terribly. The work was not over then either, we had to drag our canoes up shore away from the water, unpack our gear, set up our tents and make dinner. All after being thoroughly exhausted from paddling. It was hard to imagine how I would be able to endure this for the next few weeks.

Being out in nature there is not the modern conveniences of takeout and if somebody doesn’t prepare dinner, you just won’t eat. If you don’t set up your tent well for the night and it rains (which there was high probability of) you will get wet and cold. Being out in nature is truly a humbling lesson in cause and effect.

After a few days of paddling along the river each day, my arms grew stronger and we all became more proficient in the art of river navigation. Our traveling pace quickened, the journey no longer slow and tedious. A meditative rhythm developed with each paddle stroke through the water. Rather than focus on the exertion we sang and laughed and soaked in the amazing raw beauty of it all. I was in awe of the ancient forests, tranquil connecting lakes and the roar and excitement of navigating through river rapids. A positive lesson in cause and effect; the more we engaged in paddling down the river the better we got at it. Journeying by canoe became easy and natural and we became strong by doing!

But lessons of cause and effect are often sobering, they are the shadows and embitterment of mistakes made. One night a girl left her fleece out hanging on a tree, it rained her fleece got wet. With a wet fleece to wear under her rain jacket, she was cold. In the luxury of modern society, between other clothing in her closet and the convenience of an electric dryer, she would have not been forced to wear a wet fleece. Out in nature there is not that that kind of safety net negligence and stupidity have dire consequences (ie; getting the wrong gear wet along with cold temperatures can put someone in danger of hypothermia).

We can be so removed from the direct affect of our actions; there are so many protections in place to save us from the harsh reality of our mistakes. Albeit despite our protective efforts there is no way to protect us from the natural consequences of bad decisions. Would we as a society be healthier stronger people had we learned to deal with the gentler but harsh consequences of cause and effect as children? Suppose our teachers had strongly suggested we stayed indoors on a rainy day but allowed us the freedom to experience getting wet in the rain and supported us in the misery of sitting in our wet clothes the rest of the day. Would we be healthier as a society?

How to Bike Los Angeles- Valley to Downtown

One of my favorite rides is to traverse the city from my home in the San Fernando Valley through downtown Los Angeles to Union Station and exhausted at the end I can take the subway home. I know many people, for safety reasons, do not feel comfortable riding on the street and the nice thing about this route is a good portion of it has a dedicated bike path.  Most of the way riding across the San Fernando Valley starting in Chatsworth through to Burbank there is a dedicated bike path (no cars yay!) There is a 3 mile stretch between Fulton Ave and Vineland where there is no dedicated bike path only bike lanes.  After Fulton Ave the bike path funnels you onto bike lanes that run along Chandler Blvd the bike path resumes after the metro station on Chandler Blvd and Vineland Ave.

The part of this bike path that runs through the city of Burbank starting on Chandler Blvd and Vineland Ave and ending at North Mariposa Street is a great ride for kids and adults alike.  The city of Burbank does a particularly nice job of maintaining this section of the bike path and the industrial neighborhood of North Hollywood melds into the beautifully maintained houses, and family oriented neighborhood of Burbank. To make this a family outing, bring your bikes and scooters and park anywhere along Chandler for a fun walk or ride up and down through this charming area.

Biking on Chandler Blvd City of Burbank
Biking on Chandler Blvd, City of Burbank
Bike Path on Chandler, North Hollywood
Bike Path on Chandler, North Hollywood

From this portion of the bike path it is easy to continue to Downtown, it is a great ride with so many fun things to see and do.  With all the wonderful places to stop and explore, Union Station, China town, Olvera street to name a few, you can very easily make a whole day of it, or do it multiple times and experience different things each time you ride it.

If you plan on continuing the ride to downtown, turn south on keystone (keystone does not have a bike lane but is a quiet residential street) and continue to enjoy this peaceful residential neighborhood.  As you continue on keystone toward Riverside you will pass right through Walt Disney Studios.  Make a left on Riverside (there are bike line and this part of Riverside Blvd is fairly quite) and enjoy the equestrian neighborhoods of Burbank and then Glendale. Continue on Riverside, the street will get a little congested when it meets up with Victory Blvd and Sonora Ave and you will see the beginning of Griffith Park on your right.  Riding is a bit tricky in terms of traffic for about a block until you make the turn to The LA River Bike Way.  Right between the freeway on ramp and off ramp there will be a metal gate with an opening large enough for a bike make a left, be safe take the whole car lane if you need, or get off your bike and walk to make this turn onto the start of the bike path.

Entrance To LA Bike Riverway from Riverside Blvd
Entrance To LA Bike Riverway from Riverside Blvd

Yay!!! You have made it to the Los Angeles River, a river that before the 1930’s supplied Los Angeles with all its water; it was paved over in the late 1930’s to prevent disastrous flooding.  As you ride along and see all sorts of water fowl, vegetation and an occasional fisherman (or women) you can just imagine how beautiful the river must have been at one time.

Los Angeles River
Los Angeles River

Parts of the Riverway are pretty loud when the path runs alongside the Freeway. In recent years there have been many projects to revitalize the river and you can feel it coming back to life.  The last time a rode the riverway, there was a new park, a housing development, and a delightful new coffee shop called Spokes Bicycle Café. Spokes is brand new and right now only open on weekends, they had a nice assortment of drinks and snacks (many being kosher; Chobani yogurt, Kind bars etc).  I had a delicious Iced Tea, and the day we were there was a man playing live acoustical guitar.  The place had a great vibe!  I spoke to the owner about his plans and they will soon be opening a bike shop (with bike rentals), building a full service café menu and maybe one day a microbrewery.  He hopes to kickstart a movement to repopularize the river and take back this forgotten resource right in the midst of Los Angeles.

Spokes Bicycle Cafe
Spokes Bicycle Cafe

Soon after Spokes Bicycle Café the Riverway comes to an end.  Traversing through downtown is the trickiest part of this ride as you are riding in the streets of Los Angeles.

At the end of the LA Riverway, the exit to the street will we on your right, the street will curve up toward your left and recently there has been a lot of construction.  You may need to hop off your bike and use the pedestrian path, this street curves around and then straightens out.  You will make a right at W 26  Ave.  A right onto Humbolt Street, this neighborhood has a large Korean population and on Sundays you may see people coming and going from church.  Then take a left onto 19 Ave and then a right onto Spring Street. You will cross a bridge, the bridge is pretty narrow, and I recommend either walking your bike across using the pedestrian ledge (which even that may be too narrow) or taking the whole lane as you ride across.   On your right you will pass by a large park with excellent views of Los Angeles. Stay on Spring Street, downtown can get pretty congested, so feel free to take a whole lane of the road. Don’t worry if car’s honk at you for being so much slower than they are, you have the right of way!  Soon after the park you will pass by Chinatown, another place you can stop and enjoy.

Continue on Spring Street, soon on your right you will find Olvera Street which boasts, Mexican culture and the oldest house in Los Angeles. Get off your bike and walk through the bustling trinket market place of Olvera St, on Sundays there is usually live Mexican music blasting from the plaza at the end of the street. From Los Angeles Plaza Park make a left and go straight crossing the street, ahead you will see Union Station.  Union Station was built in the 1930’s with beautiful high ceilings and Art Deco architecture, and it was recently renovated. Enjoy.

Olvera St.
Olvera St.
Union Station
Union Station

There is so much to do and see along this wonderful bike ride. I hope my instructions are clear enough, use Google Maps to confirm the way, although they may take you on a different route that with fewer wonderful pit stops. Enjoy!