Escape from LA

It's 6:15 p.m. on an acceptably balmy Tuesday afternoon in the Boss Angeles and I'm bracing for the ugliest part of my day –
WORDS: Tim Carrithers

It’s 6:15 p.m. on an acceptably balmy Tuesday afternoon in the Boss Angeles and I’m bracing for the ugliest part of my day – the five miles between this Palatial Primedia Tower and the Hollywood Freeway. It’s a bit less than 17 percent of the ride, but thanks to the rampant pathophysiology in L.A.’s large intestine of automotive inhumanity, this little light-to-light knife fight sucks up at least 50 percent of a ride that takes 45 minutes on a good night, and over an hour if the Smolensk Philharmonic is tuning up at the Hollywood Bowl. The PPT, you see, is nowhere near any freeway. Thus each day’s entry and egress means running a gauntlet of surface streets.

[Tonight promises to be a particular joy. Sunset, according to the U.S. Navy’s Time Service Department site (http://tycho.usno.navy.mil) is at 6:24 p.m., which means the last half-hour or so between here and my garage will be spent weaving between strings of stationary taillights. There’s also an inexplicable patch of road deconstruction on Highland, just past Sunset.

Anywhere else, the Ducati Sport Classic I’m riding would be pure joy. Here, with the 1078cc hot-rod twin’s Termignoni exhaust concerto echoing between a new Buick Lucerne and the FedEx truck presently impeding my forward progress, I’m busy coming up with a trajectory to keep these Napoleon bar-end mirrors from taking an expensive divot out of said Buick’s Ruby-Slipper-Red paint.

Way back when gas and chiropractic adjustments were cheap, this sort of pain was penance for a motorcycle that would actually go around corners. Now it’s just the epitome ergonomic imperfection. The clutch pull is stiff, and up against the fourth-roughest streets in America according to The Road Information Program (www.tripnet.org). They say L.A. streets beat $671 worth of extra wear and tear out of the average four-wheel commuter. And judging from the wheel-sucking chasms and bomb craters I slalom through every day, that’s a conservative estimate. If BMW’s R1200GS doesn’t make any sense, either you don’t live here or you don’t ride much. Maybe both.

[Still, as the sun sinks into the western horizon somewhere over beautiful downtown Moorpark, traffic relents and the big air-cooled Desmo settles into its natural 75 mph cadence. The view of Los Angeles has always been best from a distance, and there’s still no better way to get there than on two wheels.