My friend told me once that she moved back to LA after living in Manhattan, because she needed to air out.
I fully appreciated that on a recent Thursday as I bobbled blissfully down Santa Monica’s beach bike path. I brought too many bags and was juggling recording devices; I wasn’t moving gracefully. But it didn’t matter. No one was paying attention to me—it was sunset. All eyes were gazing west.
In my quest to help Los Angeles lay claim to the most beautiful transit trip in the U.S. as part of Curbed’s Transportation Week, I hopped onto a Metro bike-share to show off a route that’s quintessentially California: The Strand.
Known formally as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, the entire path runs for 22 miles parallel the Pacific Ocean, from Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades to Torrance Beach in the South Bay.
My 2.2-mile, 22-minute-long trip started at the Expo Line light rail station in Downtown Santa Monica, where I paid $3.50 to rent a beach cruiser from the Metro bike-share hub. It ended, very strategically, just shy of the Venice Boardwalk, where the vibe tends to go from very relaxing to very weird.
From the bike-share docks, I took off down the charming Colorado Esplanade. It’s festooned in overhead twinkly lights and it boasts a dedicated bike line. I pedaled safely across Ocean Avenue, and rolled down Santa Monica’s famous wood pier before landing on the cement path, which hugs the curve of the Santa Monica Bay.
It was 75 degrees, and the air felt crisp and salty but clean on my sweaty face. There was no exhaust, no pollution, no honking; heck, there were hardly any crowds. To my right, foamy ocean waves lapped at soft sand the color of ecru. At my back, the sun sunk over the Santa Monica Mountains, painting Malibu hues of lavender and pink.
I was drunk on this sunset. I forgot about deadlines and the gross heatwave and power outages that hit a few days before. I waved at tourists.
Just short of my destination, I stopped to snap photos and overheard a conversation between two stopped pedicab drivers. They were, very audaciously, critiquing Los Angeles sunsets. “Sometimes,” I heard them say, “it’s just too golden.”