The Steve Hartt Ride

Steve Hartt was a friend of mine. Well, maybe he was an acquaintance who was so gregarious and talkative that he seemed like a friend. He and his wife came to my home a few times for parties, and I went to their home for the same. I guess that makes him more than just an acquaintance, but it seems like he had hundreds of similar relationships.

Steve with friend Teresa Steele

Steve with friend Teresa Steele

Steve was a Hermosa Beach CA cop before he retired from work. One time I was riding down The Strand in Hermosa Beach (the bike/ped/skate strip of concrete between homes and the beach sand) and saw a police cruiser slowly rolling along up ahead. Mind you, The Strand normally was not a road for vehicles, it was perhaps 1 & 1/4 lanes wide. But there was the cruiser, slowly rolling along on a lovely and sunny summer afternoon.

I rode up next to the driver’s side of the cruiser, and sure enough, there was Steve behind his shades, taking in the sights at the beach. By that I mean, of course, shapely gals in minimalist swimsuits, doing whatever it is they do. Rollerblading, biking, surfing, walking the dog, displaying their tans. Steve did not hesitate to use the excuse of flying the cop flag in order to put himself in a prime viewing location during his work hours.

I also biked a fair amount with Steve, and I think that is where he made most of his friends/acquaintances, especially after he retired and increased the riding miles. Despite being ten years younger than Steve, I simply could not stay with him if he started pushing the pace. Lots of people could not stay with him, people who were good, strong riders. Being that he had been a cop, he knew thousands of jokes, and would be reciting them to fellow riders while climbing steep ramps, the other riders practically unable to laugh at the jokes because they were sucking wind so badly trying to stay with Steve. I often wondered if there was a dark side to his capabilities.

Despite his strength on the bike, it was riding that eventually did him in. One day after a ride in Palos Verdes CA that ended at the top of a climb near where Steve lived, he started homeward by descending a steep, narrow, curving, paved path through a park area. It was springtime and the brush had grown up alongside the path head-high. You could not see very far ahead due to the curve of the path and the overgrown brush. No doubt Steve was descending pretty fast, that’s just the way he was.

Coming the other way on the path was a pickup truck, driven by a maintenance worker heading to the top of the park to do a job. I found the spot where it happened, it was on one of those curves. Steve went into the front of the truck, bounced off the windshield side pillar and landed in the brush. He was on life support for several days, but was brain-dead, so they pulled the plug.

Steve was such a well-known and charismatic guy that soon afterward a memorial ride was scheduled to take place from south Redondo Beach, into Palos Verdes, and up to the top of the climb where he had been before heading down to his fate. I joined the ride that day and I swear there were a thousand riders, along with a police escort the entire way. Normally they would have been writing tickets for the cyclists.

But that wasn’t “The Steve Hartt Ride”.

In San Pedro CA, where Steve lived, there is a bike shop called the Bike Palace. Back when Steve was still with us, folks from the Bike Palace were running a century+ ride from San Pedro to San Diego, with showers and dinner at the end, along with transport back to the start. I was on one of the first editions, shown below are a couple pictures of Steve from that ride maybe ten years ago.

Since Steve left us, this San Pedro to San Diego ride has become “The Steve Hartt Ride”, the cycling equivalent of having a stretch of highway named after you posthumously. Back in June I signed up to do the ride scheduled for a Saturday in late July, because 1) I had to be in LA the following Monday anyway, 2) I’d be able to ride with a lot of folks I know from that area, 3) it would put me in proximity to perform at an open mike being held in San Pedro on Sunday, and 4) to honor the memory of Steve and all the pain he put me through trying to ride with him.

After training diligently for six weeks prior to the ride, I was able to complete it with only a bit of complaint from my knees in the last 10 miles. I stuck to my strategy of saving myself by sucking wheel as much as possible, and it paid off when I was able to ride away from people on the big climb up to Torrey Pines near the end. Thank you Strand Brewing Company for the keg of cold IPA at the finish.

The Bike Palace folks seem to be procrastinating about posting photos from the ride, so I have just a few that I have cobbled together from other sources.

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