Backdropped by the little-known highly active Vernon Volcano Fields, that’s my good friend and cyclista extraordinario Steve being braced by two of that incorporated municipality’s law enforcement personnel last Saturday morning.
What the hell were we doing in Vernon by choice on a Saturday morning? That very well could be considered a crime by itself in some circles, and if you asked these two cops charged with protecting and serving the 90-odd people who actually reside in their deserted jurisdiction (aka: with nothing better to do) and who’d already aggressively recon’d us once in their suckgass SUV for a first look a few minutes earlier, they’d tell you we were obviously up to no good. None whatsoever. Fucking cyclists.
I’d beg to differ after the jump.
Truth is, Steve and myself along with another fine fellow named Elon made up one of several teams of volunteers coordinated by the tireless Colin Bogart for the L.A. County Bike Coalition. Each team was tasked with posting specific sections of the LACBC River Ride route with southbound and northbound directional signage from Griffith Park down to Seal Beach and back.
The stretch that Steve, Elon and I traversed began south of Mariachi Plaza at 4th Street and Boyle Avenue in Boyle Heights and the turnaround point was here in Vernon at the entrance to the L.A. River Bikeway just south of Atlantic Boulevard on District Boulevard. I had just finished posting the first northbound sign of our return trip when I turned to find the SUV racing into the parking lot across the street where Steve was. Both officers were out of the vehicle quickly, heading for him with hands on their holstered weapons. As I made my way closer, my view of the confrontation was blocked by their vehicle and all I saw was Steve down on one knee. Were they pronating him? For trespassing?!? Thankfully they weren’t; as I came around I saw that Steve had simply dropped to retrieve his ID from his bag.
Elon and I were ordered to stay off the private property and we were too far to hear what was going on, but I observed the officer to Steve’s left first search his bike’s seatpack without permission before moving to his messenger bag, which he did ask permission to look through and Steve gave it. A few moments later, the officer stood up having extricated Steve’s tire pump and proceeded to swing it baton-like somewhat menacingly and I freaked inside a bit thinking the cops were going to ludicrously trump up a concealed weapon charge. But no. Instead when the officer was finished with his little demonstration he pitched it carelessly toward Steve’s bag and for the next five interminable minutes everyone stood around waiting for dispatch to report back that Steve was just a guy on a bike helping give a little back to the bike community and not a fugitive from justice.
When they finally released him, that’s when the fun kept going. He made his way over to us and said that in the course of their questions they asked him what the three of us were doing in Vernon on a Saturday in the morning. He told them about the river ride. Yet despite it being the eighth straight year that the ride has come through Vernon, these two officers had somehow never ever heard of it until now and of course if they hadn’t heard of it then we were obviously some sort of guerrilla signsters — unless we could prove our efforts were properly permitted and duly authorized.
If we couldn’t these two officers charged with protecting and serving the 90 people who actually reside in the deserted burg that is their jurisdiction (aka: with nothing better to do) told Steve they’d personally be seeing to the signs’ immediate removal. Then they split to go shoot turkey vultures or joke about how much the workers stink coming off shift at Farmer John or nap or whatever it is a police officer in Vernon does on a Saturday morning there.
So I did the only thing I could, which was go back to hanging the signs and calling Colin who was all “Are you kidding!?” before calling someone at the LACBC who called someone of rank at Vernon PD headquarters who blessedly had heard of the river ride and I can only hope said “Are you kidding!?” before getting on the radio to tell all officers on duty to leave the three cyclists with the arrow signs the hell alone — repeat: alone!
And they couldn’t even do that. While crossing northbound Downey Road on Bandini a horn honked and it was the same two officers. “We spoke to someone about the signs and everything’s OK!” said the officer who’d been swinging the tire pump pulled from Steve’s bag. As if they’d taken the initiative to do so, pffft. I nodded in faux appreciation, but didn’t really concur with the officer’s upbeat assessment until another mile or so and we were out of that exclusively industrial wasteland.
Small set of photos mostly of the less eventful
aspects of the route marking are here on Flickr.