Sunday, May 1, 2011


This Thursday kicked off the Bicycle Commuter Challenge at UCSD, and I dove in to do my part. But previously, I had to negotiate a new, power pop fueled preparation. Vacation over Finals Week and Spring Break had to be taken, but on the days of good weather, I had doctor's appointments at the hospital next to the university where I work. Thus, commutes eerily similar to the ones I do when not on vacation were done. However, leaving the hospital, I could take the long way to the train station, and I could take in an alternate view of the Penasquitos Lagoon.

In fact, on the second day of vacation/doctor's appointments, I took my bike home on the train. I used to do this on a daily basis, and I hated it because bicycle-by-rail culture is not very advanced in North San Diego County. However, on an early afternoon Coaster in March, conditions aren't so bad.

This winter's blend into spring was quite rainy for this here locale, and it seemed to rain every day I had off. When I returned from vacation, I had gotten out of the cycle commuting rhythm I'd established. I took to walking down to the train station from work, because the idea of transporting a bicycle to UCSD by riding it there seemed more and more difficult. However, I got really drunk on a Sunday, and the next day's hangover somehow inspired me to make my long commute. No matter what, no commute will seem that bad, so, of course, the first ride back home involved this vision.

In fact, it was quite a traffic stopper.

So, I had no problem going a little out of my way to pick up a beer or two on the way home. I also planned for the weekend hangover to occur on Sunday, so Monday I was up bright and early to take on the more hilly, but shorter, College Blvd/Cannon Rd variant of my commute. The dawn broke over the Cerro de la Calavera East of College Blvd:

The descent of College ends at a 90 degree right-hand turn, and the road becomes Cannon. A long, flat stretch that crosses El Camino Real ends with a climb, the beginning of which gives a view across the Agua Hedondia Lagoon and its intricate maze of transmission lines from the Encina Power Plant:

The transmission lines used to give me the unsettling feeling of death because they interfered with my wireless heart rate monitor, which I wore when I cared about such things. The little climb does get the heart rate up, but when you see it drop to zero you wonder if you've died and gone to a hell where every road goes up.

The remainder of the commute was pleasant since it didn't involve a hangover, and I resumed my usual complex combination of trains, lockers, and bicycles for commuting the rest of the week. However, in the news was a report of a mysterious mosaic of a surfing Madonna being surreptitiously mounted in Encinitas. Frustratingly, it was mounted on one of the towers of a trestle that my train passes over, so I had to wait for Friday when I would cycle past to see it.

Public art on the coast has been controversial at best. Carlsbad's Split Pavilion is a fine example of that sort of controversy. Hire an outsider to capture the coastal feel, and the results are what you'd expect. A New Yorker put Carlsbad in prison. Later, Cardiff hired a dude from Hemet to sculpt a surfer, but unlike how Michelangelo made David an idealized Palestinian rather than a historically correct one, the Cardiff Kook looks like how I surfed--that is when I wasn't desperately trying to avoid the negative consequences of having a buoyant, spear-shaped object attached to my leg with an elastic band. However, rather than removing the Kook, the unintended humor of his appearance is constantly lampooned.

So, I was intrigued by the idea of someone bypassing all the bureaucratic public art approval process, and just sticking their work on the wall and seeing what happens. I happily didn't space out and ride past Encinitas Blvd, but rather, turned right, and discovered that the mosaic was on the north tower, facing south. I tried a shot from the south side of the boulevard, but it's a both a popular piece and it's on a busy road (as well as it being Friday afternoon commute time).

I walked to the corner, crossed the street, and tried to, from a number of acute angles, better capture the piece.

Up close, one is struck by both the exquisite detail of the work and also by how totally unprotected it is. Whether or not the City of Encinitas allows it to stay is an open question because it will involve a creative solution to an unexpected circumstance. While I'm not optimistic about the chances for such a solution being derived by that body, I still have hope.

Well, tomorrow it's back to work and back to racking up miles for the commuter challenge. Also, I hear there's an Easter Island head being carved out of a stump at Swami's, so I'll try not to space out and pass it without snapping a pic or two.


  1. I think your Giant Beer Keg sighting beats my Oscar Mayer Weinermobile sighting!

  2. I've come across many a Virgin Mary in my wanderings through SF's Mission District, but this is the first Surfin' Virgin. Love the underground art aspect of this piece appearing somewhat mysteriously. I hope it lasts!