Best friends for 65 years: A bike-loving L.A. couple shares advice for a long marriage
Take a morning ride on the Marvin Braude Bike Trail on the Westside and you might spot them — Melba and Aubrey Provost, married for more than 60 years, astride their matching black-and-white bicycles.
The Provosts are among L.A.’s most-devoted cyclists. They’ve advocated for bike safety, participated in CicLAvia since its beginnings in 2010 and once cycled on an empty freeway from downtown L.A. to Pasadena.
In addition to all the time they spend together cycling, the Provosts own and operate two L.A. businesses, Palmer Addressing & Mailing Service Co. and IVAN Gallery. It’s a lot of togetherness, but that seems to be the way they like it.
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Ahead of Valentine’s Day, The Times spoke with Melba, 81, and Aubrey, 83, about their love of cycling, Los Angeles and each other.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
How did you two meet?
Aubrey: It was 1956. Melba was in high school, and I was going to Los Angeles City College. I saw her, and the rest is history.
We married on August 22, 1959 at Holy Name Catholic Church in L.A. Melba and I are still dating, and she became my best friend.
Melba: We had a lot in common. We enjoyed movies. We enjoyed traveling. We enjoyed cycling. It just goes on and on.
How did you get into cycling?
Aubrey: After getting our business up and running, we started riding our bikes to Venice and taking trips to ride in Santa Barbara. We enjoyed a lot of weekends up there.
Melba likes bicycling. I like bicycling. It’s healthy and fun, and you get to see a lot of L.A. up close that you don’t see in automobiles.
Melba: Sometimes we would ride the L.A. River. You could go over to the zoo and the Gene Autry museum and go downtown to visit the bookstores and libraries. And health-wise, let’s face it, cycling is great.
Aubrey: Every time I’m on a bike, I smile. I think the biggest part of cycling is that you never see anybody frowning on a bike. It turns you into a kid again.
But being romantic on a bicycle can be dangerous. The only big scar that I have is from a time when Melba and I were riding on the beach path. I tried to hand her a candy bar. And we went down, and I tore my leg. That’s the only time I tried to be romantic on a bike.
As much as I fantasized about my life with a partner, I also fantasized a life without one. But then I met Andrew, just as the world around us was shutting down. Did this fledgling romance — my first — have a chance to survive?
What kind of bikes do you ride?
Melba: We don’t ride tandem. I don’t trust that. I like to be on my own bike.
Aubrey: They’re matching white-and-black hybrid KHS bikes. They’re very light, with skinny tires. And the frames are very durable. We get regular tuneups at Mike’s Bike Shop on Pico Boulevard. He keeps us rolling.
You’ve been part of the L.A. cycling community for a long time. How have things changed over the years?
Aubrey: It started with former Mayor Richard Riordan’s rides. He had some mayor rides that he did all over the city. We didn’t miss any of those.
That was before CicLAvia came to be. After he stopped, CicLAvia picked up the pieces.
We participated with all the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition tours and all the L.A. bicycle marathons. We would start at 6 o’clock in the morning when it was pitch dark. We’d end up in Santa Monica and back around. The path was a loop back then. We did all of those until they kicked the bicycles out.
I also belong to the Bicycle Advisory Committee, representing the eighth district — Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson. Before him, I represented Bernard Parks. And before him, I represented Mark Ridley-Thomas. It’s a small group, but we make a lot of noise.
Melba: One of the best rides was when they shut down the freeway from downtown to Pasadena. That was really weird riding on the freeway.
Aubrey: The Pasadena freeway ride — that’s a bragging thing for us.
We just kept riding and we still ride every weekend. We rode last weekend. It was a bit cold, but we got out anyway.
CicLAvia is one of the most-beloved cycling traditions in L.A. Could you tell me a little about your involvement?
Aubrey: I was at the first meeting the CicLAvia organizers had. We sat around and looked at some little pencil map of what our first ride would look like. We met two or three times before that kicked off.
We had to get permission from the Metro stations to stop the trains so we could get through. It seemed like it was impossible. But here CicLAvia is some years later.
Melba: CicLAvia just grew and grew and grew. It would always be in the paper the next day — how many people came out for it and how they had their children and baby buggies. It’s amazing how it grew.
You meet a lot of friends with CicLAvia, that’s for sure.
Give yourself a little love, a gift and a big hug. You deserve them.
What do you hope for the future of biking in L.A.?
Melba: It’s a big city, so it takes forever to get bike-riding streets perfect. And the potholes can make things dangerous. We used to ride in the dark, but people are driving faster. So I stay off the streets when it’s late at night.
Aubrey: I would like to see safer bike lanes and more riding in the city.
And I’d like to see the speed limit of Los Angeles toned down a few miles per hour. You can see on the news what happens when these cars collide. They get demolished, and that spreads out onto the bike lanes and paths. So I just hope that the city has enough smarts to do something to tone down the speed limits.
It sounds like your mutual interests — cycling, art, travel — have led to a lot of happiness in your 60-plus year marriage. What advice do you have for the rest of us?
Melba: People always ask, “What are the things that have kept you together?” And I say, “I just married the right man.” Aubrey always was working hard. You could just see his character.
Aubrey: We both give and take the same amount from one another. So if you give 60 and you accept 40 — and it goes both ways — it’s a win-win situation.
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