Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in DC.

CicLAvia Takes to the Streets

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CicLAvia’s “Iconic Wilshire Boulevard” event this Sunday brought the masses out to Wilshire Boulevard on foot, bikes, skateboards, and even some creative ‘freak bikes’ to see their city streets in a new way: without its usual stream of cars. The six miles of Wilshire blocked off to cars and opened to people became the stage for spontaneous activity, crowds drifting between music and food vendors and art, families lounging on the lawns and people-watching.

CicLAvia 2014 Wilshire Boulevard

I’m fully supportive of these open streets events, modeled off of Bogotá, Colombia’s successful and recurring Ciclovía event (it happens weekly – can you believe it?). I loved being able to volunteer during Santa Barbara’s own version of it, SB Open Streets, which took place for the first time in November 2013, and it was inspiring to witness another such event close to home. CicLAvia, a larger event that has now been running for four years, has two more events planned for this year: “Heart of LA” on October 5th and “South LA” on December 7th.

Written by Crystal Bae

April 6th, 2014 at 8:34 pm

Views of the Getty Center

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A long overdue new blog post. We finally made it out to the Getty Center to tour the grounds and explore their exhibits.

The Getty Center sits nestled in the mountains and they don’t allow you to drive all the way up to it. You exit off the 405 and enter a monstrously large parking garage – the sensors detecting open spots list numbers in the hundreds for a parking section – then hop onto a tram from this utopian station.

Tram ride from parking garage to Getty Center

The layout of the museum complex is designed to cast you outside as you browse the exhibits. Plenty of picturesque spots to sit, too.

Seating area between wings of the Getty

Getty cafe and lawn

We took a short architecture tour of the Getty and our guide pointed out a great variety of details that architect Richard Meier worked into the buildings and the complex.

Tour group admiring fossils

Fountain at the Getty Center

The Pollock exhibit was packed. But overall it didn’t feel crowded during our visit. The other wings of the museum were mostly quiet, especially for a place that has a parking capacity of over 1,000 cars.

Popular Pollock

Views of downtown LA

And the views towards downtown Los Angeles are very welcome. If the sky had been more clear, you could have made out another set of LA skyscrapers in the historic downtown core. Here you can see the skyscrapers of Century City and Westwood areas well.

Written by Crystal Bae

March 25th, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Taking to the Frontage Roads

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I finally got around to taking the New York Times’ dialect quiz that’s been making the rounds online. I hadn’t yet seen anyone sharing results that were very off-base for them, so my “most similar” cities in terms of dialect surprised me: San Francisco, Fremont, and Santa Rosa. All California cities, all in the Bay Area.

NYT Dialects Map

This is peculiar because I’ve spent my life – except the past few months – in a fairly compact area in the Washington DC metropolitan region, between DC proper, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. So that little red cluster you can see on the east coast on the above map describes my home region to a tee. Looking into what this quiz determines were my “most distinctive answers” (biggest differentiators), it seems that what tilted the results towards the west was this answer:

What do you call the small road parallel to the highway? frontage road

This one’s easy. I blame my use of Adventure Cycling maps for this, as I adopted the term “frontage road” into my vocabulary when cycling through the northern US this summer. I didn’t have a term for those kinds of roads before, nor did I see a need for one, but their bicycling maps frequently route you onto frontage roads paralleling higher-traffic roads. You’d better believe I’d have a term for it if I was a rancher or farmer growing up in Montana.

NYT Dialects Map

Besides vocabulary, it would be interesting to learn more about how long it takes more subtle linguistic differences to settle in, such as accent, and how that process differs between people. In Santa Barbara, I wonder what gives me away as an east coaster first: slang and vocabulary, demeanor or mannerisms, intonation, some other obvious cue?

Being that San Francisco is my favorite California city, and I’ve been told by both coasters that it’s the most “east coast” city in California, perhaps it’s not too surprising that it’s similar linguistically and culturally. Or maybe those similarities are exactly what draw me in.

These quiz results are more interesting to me than if they had managed to point directly to the east coast cities nearest to where I had grown up. Guess I’m soaking up that California lifestyle just fine. If you’re interested in more of the same, don’t miss the Pop vs. Soda map by Alan McConchie or the wonderously detailed North American English Dialects map by Richard P. Aschmann. Here’s a relevant paper on linguistic differences within California as well. Happy Holidays!

Written by Crystal Bae

December 24th, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Los Angeles, First Take

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Reached Los Angeles on the day after Thanksgiving – a rainy one – after two days of riding from Santa Barbara. Adam and I had decided on a short Thanksgiving weekend bike tour since we finally had a chunk of free time off from work and school. Despite the rain, which left us thoroughly drenched by the time we reached LA, we enjoyed being back in the saddle and exploring new places on the California coast.

Day 1, clouds

Trail along the beach in LA

Entering Los Angeles via the Strand trail from Will Rogers Beach past Santa Monica was as relaxing as any weekend bike ride. We rode along a mixed-use path that cut right through the beach – no need to deal with traffic other than the occasional brave jogger. The path itself continues further south for a total of 22 miles in length, but we headed in towards downtown once we got to Venice. The mix of rain and sand led to lots of accumulated grime on our bikes, but the wet day also meant very light traffic once we got back to on-street riding.

It was neat wandering around Koreatown in the afternoon (eventually the rain did lighten up), as it was my first time visiting LA and because I’d been missing easy access to good Korean restaurants. We also enjoyed trying a selection of pastries from the local panaderias. It’s true that LA’s Koreatown is home to about as many Mexican immigrants as Koreans, and apparent when you walk around the neighborhood. Some streets have more Spanish-language signage while others are dominated by hangul. A vibrant neighborhood overall, with lively street life and families with young children walking around in the evening. We did also see a little bit of downtown in the early morning, though I’m sure we’ll be back to see more soon.

Entering Koreatown LA

Written by Crystal Bae

December 9th, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Coffeeneuring 2013, Part Two

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Here’s the continuation of my coffeeneuring in 2013, with part one here. It was nice to complete this run in a new city, as last year’s trips took me around the Washington, DC area. My new home base has proven itself a fine land for coffee adventuring thus far.

Visit to Handlebar Coffee Roasters on Saturday, November 9th
128 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, California
Ride distance: 14.7 miles

This place is uber-hip and serves delicious coffee. The patio, tucked in an alley and open to the cafe counter, is small but welcoming, and on this particular weekend afternoon happiness seemed effortless. It’s amazing what a space for enjoying the art of coffee can do for the neighborhood.

Handlebar Coffee Roasters in Santa Barbara

Latte at Handlebar Coffee

See? The art of coffee.

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Written by Crystal Bae

November 19th, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Volunteering with Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition

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I wanted to do a quick write-up on what it’s like to volunteer with the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition (SB Bike) since we’ve had a great time working with this organization over the past couple of months. SB Bike is involved with bicycle advocacy work and is an incredible part of the community here. Bici Centro is the leg of SB Bike that operates as a community bike shop, teaching people how to fix up their bikes and refurbishing donated bikes. You can volunteer or work on your own bike during the Bici Centro open shop hours. Volunteers share their know-how and almost every tool you might need is on hand.

Bici Centro Open Shop

There are other ways to volunteer as well: joining in advocacy efforts like working towards new bike lanes; checking bikes at the valet for Santa Barbara Bowl events; educating youth about bike safety; and helping out at various special events listed on the SB Bike calendar.

Last weekend, SB Bike was out at the first (annual?) Santa Barbara Open Streets event, tabling with information about bike resources and advocacy in Santa Barbara. Open Streets is a worldwide project – modeled off of the weekly Ciclovía in Bogotá, Colombia - to close streets to motorized traffic for a day and take in the pleasure of people-powered movement. Bici Centro was also set up at Open Streets, helping with quick mechanical fixes for riders.

SB Bike at Santa Barbara Open Streets

This weekend, SB Bike hosted a volunteer appreciation barbecue in its backyard space. SB Bike loves its volunteers and definitely made us all feel recognized – with live music, great food, bike-related giveaways, and a fire for all to gather ’round. This is a great city for cycling that’s only getting better. If you want to get involved in the cycling community in Santa Barbara, check out the website for the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition at www.sbbike.org.

Written by Crystal Bae

November 10th, 2013 at 10:38 am

Coffeeneuring 2013, Part One

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Currently I’m very much in the exploratory stage of settling into our new home: learning best routes to get around, acquiring a sense of how things are oriented, and seeking out the best cafes. This last point is helped along by my friend Mary’s annual autumn Coffeeneuring Challenge, which inspires many utilitarian cyclists around the country – and perhaps around the world – to bike to seven different coffee shops by Sunday, November 17th and report back, well-caffeinated. Any reason for riding bikes and sipping coffee is fine by me, so here are my first four rides.

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Written by Crystal Bae

November 2nd, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Road Trip to Big Sur

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A great weekend trip up north to Big Sur, a scenic part of the central California coast where I had last been on the bike trip with Adam. It was definite change to see things from inside a car, with the tight curves of the Pacific Coast Highway passing in a blur. I was both pleased to see other cyclists enjoying this beautiful stretch of coastline and anxious about how little space they really had on the road, with a constant stream of fast-moving cars and motorcyclists enjoying the drive. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d ride the PCH again on a bicycle, at least not on a busy weekend.

Big Sur Panorama

Big Sur is an interesting area. The first time we passed through we couldn’t figure out when we were actually in Big Sur. The signage seems to disagree on what bounds the region. There’s a little community that calls itself “Big Sur” toward the northern reach of Big Sur, but the region continues quite a bit further south along the PCH. The shift in landscape is very apparent as you leave Big Sur, however.

We hiked through stands of coastal redwoods and set up a miniature tent city at our site. With the decreasing daylight, we donned headlamps and finished cooking dinner into the darkness. We consumed close to twenty heads of garlic in one meal (almost 2 heads of garlic per person). An early start that morning, a good uphill hike, and 10 o’clock quiet hours meant we were all in our tents with plenty of time to sleep off the long day.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a great choice if you’re looking to camp in the area. It’s popular but large enough to accommodate hundreds of people, and offers hiking trails in walking distance of your site.

Big Sur Redwoods

Valley Trail Hike in Big Sur

Big Sur Waterfall

In the evening, we took time out to admire the stars. You can see so many out there.

Written by Crystal Bae

October 6th, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Settling on the West Coast

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The quality and abundance of produce here is staggering. The first time we went to the neighborhood farmers market here was eye-opening. So much grows here, and availability of certain fruits or veggies depends less on following the seasons than it did back east. In DC, we shopped much more seasonally: the market only ran from May to November, and what you could purchase was highly dependent on what was available that time of year. At the Goleta farmers market, I found not only peaches, berries, tomatoes, kale, squash, meats, and dairy, but local dates, figs, nuts, and honey, as well as many, many vegetables I couldn’t identify.

Goleta Farmers Market

Did you know there are many varieties of avocado? I had no idea. The flavor varies: some are nuttier than others, some grow much larger, some are rounder while others are more pear-shaped. One of the many avocado vendors this morning gave me three free avocados when I paid for mine. That’s something you wouldn’t get at the supermarket.

It never registered in my mind that in Washington, DC, it’s just not as easy to get fresh, local produce without going out of your way. The produce stocked at the supermarket is shipped in from hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away. The farms represented at the DC farmers markets came from further away than you’d expect, too. The Washington, DC metropolitan area is growing too urban for farms – look at how much Loudoun County, an exburb of DC located about 40 miles from downtown, has shifted from its historic roots as a farming community – so they’re located further out in the rural parts of Maryland, Virginia, or Pennsylvania. And produce is much more expensive in DC. In Goleta, many of the farmers market vendors are from within Santa Barbara County, and at least one of them (Fairview Gardens) only has to drive their produce two miles to bring it to market. Most of the farms are right in Goleta or Santa Barbara. You can get fifty-cent avocados or a huge bunch of kale for a dollar at the regular supermarket. We’ve been eating well.

But that’s an inevitable difference between being located right in the middle of a huge agricultural area versus being on a more built-up coast. Besides the people, whom I miss above all, there are other things I prefer about DC living:

  • The abundance of Asian supermarkets in the suburbs. We have small Asian markets in Goleta and Santa Barbara, but they’re overpriced.
  • Our favorite Ethiopian takeout place, Zenebech Injera in Shaw. Washington, DC has the largest concentration of Ethiopians in the U.S. and Ethiopian food is some of the best affordable cuisine around.
  • All the neighborhoods in DC – and parts of Arlington – are only a few miles away. Things are much less dense here, and it seems like a lot of the places we go to are in suburban-style shopping centers. Going through busy parking lots on a bike is the worst.

I’ll surely miss the crisp autumn weather that should be approaching DC soon. Even the winter holds fond memories of getting bundled up to ride to work in the dark, with only my thoughts and a bright beam of light leading the way, and the sudden comfort of leaving the outside freeze and entering a heated building. Everyone here tells me I won’t miss winter. I think it’ll depend on reading the more subtle cues that mark the passage of seasons here.

Written by Crystal Bae

September 8th, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Claims to Fame

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I love arriving at a new place that welcomes visitors with a sign that goes beyond the standard highway sign. They show off local pride and give you a sense of place that helps you distinguish it from any other town. Small towns in America often plaster their claims to fame on their welcome signs, ranging from the modest (Twin Bridges, Montana: “The Small Town That Cares”) to the baffling (Alexandria, Minnesota: “Birthplace of America”). I looked that one up later.

Birthplace of America

Many towns, of course, merely describe their physical location. Portland, Michigan, for example, calls itself the “City of Two Rivers,” which I suppose you won’t argue; it sits at the confluence of the Grand River and the Looking Glass River. Some towns pay respects to the local fauna, which I like to think may be more abundant than the people there. This could be the case of Norwalk, Wisconsin, “The Black Squirrel Capital of the World.”

Others were amusing to me when read in succession. We were welcomed by a sign to Fargo, North Dakota: “Gateway to the West” only to find that a few days of riding later we were in Mandan, North Dakota: “Where the West Begins.” I guess the gateway to the west is positioned two hundred miles east of where the west actually starts. It goes to show you how flexible place boundaries are depending on who you ask.

However, my favorite small town claim to fame may have to be the welcome sign for Marion, North Dakota: “Why Not Stop & Stretch” – simple and self-effacing. And a perfect suggestion if you’re cycling through.

Written by Crystal Bae

September 1st, 2013 at 5:04 pm