Category Archives: brunch

TOUR D’OL’ BLUE EYES – A SINATRA DESERT BIKE TOUR

by Richard Fox

Frank Sinatra was my mom’s heartthrob as a teen. Not mine! Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, listening to The Beatles, The Stones, Aretha and other greats on the radio, I would cringe when Strangers in the Night would interrupt the magic of the contemporary sound. Although I still cringe when I hear Doo-bee-doo-bee-doo, I’ve gained an appreciation of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ craft over the years, and some of my favorite songs to listen to are Summer Wind, New York New York, Luck Be a Lady, Fly Me to the Moon, The Girl from Ipanema, and even That’s Life.

I’ve also enjoyed watching him on TCM in some of his classic film roles like his Oscar winning From Here to Eternity, The Detective, The Manchurian Candidate, Guys and Dolls, Pal Joey, Can-Can, Anchors Aweigh, Robin and the 7 Hoods, and even Tony Rome.

 

 

 

From the 1940’s until a few years before he passed away in 1998, Sinatra was an integral part of the fabric of the Coachella Valley, a very special place for him. He had four wives, three homes and many of Hollywood’s elite surrounding him while here. Although known for his legendary temper, he was also a philanthropist, contributing to local charities, and performing benefit concerts with friends such as Jerry Lewis and Bing Crosby. His “Rat Pack” friends also spent time in homes in the area, including Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Dean Martin, although an infamous 1962 kerfuffle over a JFK visit created a rift between Sinatra and Lawford, who Frank blamed for JFK’s decision to stay at Bing Crosby’s place instead, after Sinatra had made elaborate preparations.

Many of the sites of Frank Sinatra’s points of interest lie along enCYCLEpedia Southern California safe(r) bike routes, so fans of the crooner can do a two-wheeled scavenger hunt to visit them. Clusters of sites are found in Palm Springs, where he first lived, and Rancho Mirage where he spent his later four decades. A bike ride combining all of these sites is about 33 miles long. Those not up for that distance can transport their bikes in between and do it in two separate rides of about 8 to 15 miles each depending on route. Route maps are posted on the enCYCLEpedia.net website Bonus Materials page for book owners, but you can of course find your own routes. Some outlying Sinatra features are not part of the tour, including his private Villa Maggio compound way up the Palms to Pines Highway in Mountain Center, and a couple of churches he was known to have visited in the valley.

Palm Springs

Let’s start spreading the news in downtown Palm Springs where you can find Sinatra’s star on the expansive Walk of the Stars along the main drag of Palm Canyon Drive. Frank’s is located at 135 N. Palm Canyon Dr. The star was awarded for his many achievements in a ceremony on January 15, 1994 that was attended by 2,000 people. It truly was his kind of town that day. You can find other stars listed on this website or i phone users can check out this special app.

Heading north on the side streets of the Old Las Palmas neighborhood you can ride past some of his fellow rat packers’ former homes including Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Peter Lawford.

At the northeast corner of Vista Chino and Indian Canyon is the Riviera Resort and Spa (1600 N Indian Canyon Dr), the site of charity shows Sinatra organized featuring buddies such as Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. But, the best is yet to come…

From the Riviera Resort’s website.

 

Riding south like a Summer Wind into the Movie Colony where so many Hollywood stars kept homes, we visit Sinatra’s first valley residence. Twin Palms was designed by E. Stewart Williams and built in 1947 at 1145 Via Colusa (formerly addressed as 1148 E Alejo Rd). Frank lived here with his first wife Nancy, until their divorce in 1951, and then second wife Ava Gardner until their tumultuous split a few years later. The 4-bedroom, 7 bath, 4,500 square foot home features a pool shaped like a grand piano. This was indeed a party house with Hollywood’s A-list celebs frequenting its grounds. It was later sold, went into disrepair, was refurbished, and is currently available for rent. According to its website “Twin Palms Frank Sinatra Estate is available to rent for a variety of events including private vacations, corporate events, retreats and functions, private events and dinner parties. Commercial uses include photo, film, television, magazine and movie opportunities.”

From the sinatrahouse.com website.
View from 1145 Via Colusa

Frank was known to frequent many of the area’s bars and restaurants, but only a handful remain. You can ride by two of them in Palm Springs. Make your way south, perhaps on the Sunrise Way side path, to Hwy 111. Make sure to stick to the side paths along dangerous Hwy 111. A block east of Sunrise check out the Purple Room in Club Trinidad, now known for its popular Judy Garland impersonator show. Previously, as its website states, “The Purple Room is where Frank, Sammy, Dean, and their pals cavorted on and off the stage in the swinging 60s.”

From the Purple Room’s website

Next head west and then north through the Deepwell Estates district where former homes of Jerry Lewis, William Holden, and others are located. Exit via the Riverside Drive bike path and up to Baristo. At the northwest corner of Baristo and Ramon is Melvyn’s Restaurant & Lounge at The Ingleside Inn, 200 W. Ramon Rd, a hangout for Frank and buddies Jilly Rizzo, Patty Henry and Danny Schwartz, who’d sit at the bar and drink whisky. He also held his pre-wedding dinner to Barbara Marx here in 1976.

Melvyn’s as seen from Ramon Rd at Baristo.
From Melvyn’s website.

You’re now close to completing a Palm Springs loop of 9 or 10 miles. Check out other enCYCLEpedia rides to explore other areas and aspects of Palm Springs including a more comprehensive Vintage Star Tour.

The next set of stops is in Rancho Mirage, which lies east past Cathedral City, about 7 miles away. To connect the two areas you can use Tahquitz Creek Loop, then make your way to the Coachella Valley bikeway, aka the Whitewater River trail. In the future, the CV Link regional pathway will be a great option to get through Palm Springs and Cathedral City. You’ll wind up on the sidewalk along Hwy 111 or along Gerald Ford Dr, and end up at Wolfson Park, our starting point for the Rancho Mirage loop.

Rancho Mirage

Located south of the T-intersection of Da Vall Drive and Frank Sinatra Drive, the small but beautiful Wolfson Park was donated by Sinatra himself to the city, and allowed it to be named for Rancho Mirage politician Michael S. Wolfson. Several parking spots are available on the adjacent street. If these are full you can start the ride a couple miles east up Frank Sinatra Dr. Turn left at the first light on Thompson Rd and park after the “No Parking” signs cease.

Near the beginning of the sidewalk that is lined with Brail Trail interpretive signs, look for a pedestal with a button on top. When you push it, Frank’s voice resounds from a speaker next to the shrubbery, talking about this park and surroundings. Also find a fountain, a drinking fountain, benches and picnic tables, but no public restrooms here.

Frank Sinatra’s intro message is found here.
Blooming giant ocotillo in Wolfson Park.


Enjoy pretty vistas throughout Wolfson Park.

The ~1-mile Butler-Abrams bike trail heads south from Wolfson Park along the Whitewater levee. It dips down into the usually dry Whitewater River channel (closed during and after flows) and up the other side, ending at Country Club Drive.

The west portion of the Butler-Abrams trail is more pastoral.
If the Whitewater River is flowing, use Morningside Dr instead of the Butler-Abrams trail. The Frank Sinatra Dr bike path across the river will also be closed.

To the right up Country Club, across Highway 111, is Lord Fletcher’s restaurant, 70385 Highway 111, where Frank dined for 30 years in the peaceful upscale atmosphere, and held his 70th birthday party here in 1985. There’s no need to cross Hwy 111 since you’re probably not going to be eating at this dinner-only establishment during the ride.

Interior of Lord Fletcher’s from their website.

Our next site is Frank’s final resting place, at Desert Memorial Park, 31705 Da Vall Drive at Ramon Rd, at the north end of Rancho Mirage, but just over the border in Cathedral City. Enter off Da Vall if the Ramon gate is closed. It is closed weekends, so there’s no reason to ride up there then except for the joy of the ride itself. By cutting this out, your ride will be about 8 miles instead of 15. There’s several options to get there (see enCYCLEpedia); the most direct is back up Da Vall Dr. Sinatra passed away in 1998, and his plain headstone simply reads “The Best Is Yet to Come.” From the Ramon Rd entrance, go straight up the road a couple of pedals and look to the right between markers B-8 and B-9. Frank’s and widow Barbara’s (d. 2017) graves are 4 and 5 stones up from the road. Fans leave mementos such as bottles of Jack Daniels or dimes on Frank’s grave at times in tribute.

Also buried around here are his prizefighter father Anthony Sinatra, his mom Natalie Sinatra who was killed in a plane crash en route to seeing Frank perform in Las Vegas, Frank’s buddy Jilly Rizzo, and composer of some of his standards Jimmy Van Heusen. Famed composer Frederick Loewe (My Fair Lady, Gigi) is also here. At the north end of the cemetery near a pretty monument garden is former Palm Springs mayor Sonny Bono’s stone, “And the Beat Goes On.”  If you’re out of water there are water fountains near the office, and possibly restrooms if open.  

Head back south on sidewalk paths that circumvent Mission Hills Country Club to reach a rare un-gated upscale community accessed via Los Alamos south of Gerald Ford Dr. Before the traffic light was installed this intersection was the site of the tragic end of Frank’s close buddy, night club owner Jilly Rizzo, who burned in his car after being hit by a drunk driver who fled the scene. Jilly lived in this neighborhood, which you can explore.

Many of the homes in the south portion of this area are along fairways of Tamarisk Country Club, including Frank Sinatra’s compound, coming up in the next section. Frank was a loyal member of this club for four decades, which opened in February 1952. Its website mentions that it welcomes “diversity,” alluding to the fact that four of the Marx Brothers and George Burns who were Jewish, helped found this club where other clubs such as Thunderbird were anti-semitic and banned Jews. A group of 65 movers and shakers started this all-inclusive club and never turned back. You can catch a nice glimpse of the course from the south end of Palm View Road.

If you’re interested in checking out historic homes and examples of mid century modern architecture in this area, here is a list. One outstanding example of a unique Tamarisk fairway home is the Val Powelson-designed home at 70551 Tamarisk Lane circa 1960:

Off of Tamarisk Lane is a cul de sac named “Andrews Circle.”  The Andrews Sisters owned the homes at the end of the block.  Exit this area via the thru streets such as Tamarisk Ln or Sunny Ln that lead back to Thompson Rd and Frank Sinatra Drive. Turn right on Frank Sinatra. Those comfortable riding on busy roads can cycle in the bike lane, since this will make it easier to find our last point of interest. Others can cross the street at the light and ride carefully in the winding sidewalk/bike path. In a half mile notice the gated entrance to a compound on the right at 70588 Frank Sinatra Drive. Those on the sidewalk will need to carefully walk across the boulevard to check it out after the Morningside gated entry, or just look at the photo of it below, and get a better glimpse of the property from the higher elevation. The plaque explains that Old Blue Eyes lived here from 1957 to 1995. The compound, not visible from the road, consists of a series of cottages named for his songs, a main 8,000 sf house, pool, a cottage with model trains, and other features. You can tour the property via this Huell Howser 1-hour PBS documentary. It is now owned by Canadian billionaire Jim Pattison, used for corporate meetings and retreats, but not open to the public.

The compound is along the westbound side of Frank Sinatra Dr, a half mile west of Morningside Dr.

Wolfson Park is just down the road, the starting point for this loop.

An option: The magnificent Sunnylands property is located nearby. Also known as the Annenberg estate, the home, grounds, and private golf course was developed by the Readers Digest magnate in 1966. It has seen an endless stream of dignitaries and celebrities over the years, including Frank Sinatra, who married Barbara Marx, his last wife, here in July 1976. The estate is open for tours (fee) with advance reservations. There is also a free facility consisting of a wonderful visitors center and elaborate gardens open to the public seasonally. Access by bike requires riding in the bike lane along busy Bob Hope Dr, where the un-signaled entrance is located halfway between Frank Sinatra and Gerald Ford Drives.

Sunnylands Visitors Center, gardens and cafe, open to the public several days a week in season.

If you’ve combined the ride with the Palm Springs loop, make your way back via the sidewalk along the northeast side of 111, reaching the Coachella Valley Bikeway off of the Date Palm bridge over the Whitewater channel. Another good connector is the continuous south sidewalk/bike path of Dinah Shore Dr, but just after the bridge over Whitewater channel you’ll need to make your way down a dirt path to 34th Ave to connect to Tahquitz Creek Loop. Or, do it “your way”! Just stay safe, please.

The film Sinatra in Palm Springs documents his life and times in the valley. Available to rent on Amazon Prime.

BIKE TO SOCAL PICKLEBALL! BEST BICYCLE RIDES TO PUBLIC OUTDOOR COURTS

by Richard Fox

The only sport taking off faster than bicycling in Southern California is pickleball, that wacky, fun, addicting combination of tennis, badminton, racquetball and ping pong. While popular with all ages, it’s the senior citizens that are embracing it the most enthusiastically. With courts one quarter the size of tennis courts, it has a similar feel, but with less ground to cover, and the required underhand serve is much easier on the shoulder. It is more frenetic than tennis, however, and seniors have been getting injured fairly regularly, with pulled muscles and other injuries. That’s certainly not scaring too many away though, and pickleball courts are springing up everywhere to meet the demand.


Being able to combine your pickle with an easy scenic bicycle ride makes for the perfect day, especially if you bike to an al fresco lunch or brunch afterwards. It serves as a good cross training warm up for one’s muscles as well. Or, do what I do and bring your bike with you and use it as a starting point for your ride. If one of you wants to ride and the other wants to pickle, knowing which courts are close to bike rides is helpful.

Many communities with HOA’s, resorts, etc. have courts open to just their residents, but others are open to the public, some for free, some run by clubs that charge a membership or daily fee. This article highlights some of SoCal’s most popular public pickleball facilities with notable easy scenic bike rides nearby. These are mostly outdoor, although you can also find indoor courts in public recreation buildings in many cities.

The bike rides are referenced from my book enCYCLEpedia Southern California – The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides (2nd Ed 2017) and most of the pickleball facilities are plotted on the downloadable maps available to book owners at enCYCLEpedia.net.


The DESERTS
The Coachella Valley is overflowing with senior snowbirds starting late October, peaking in February-March-April, then fading into May through the hot summer. Year round residents still play in the hot seasons, but need to either start at the break of dawn, or try one of the several indoor public gym facilities.


Palm Springs (enCYCLEpedia Rides PS1,2,3): Demuth Park is the only game in town for outdoor play, with 12 permanent courts. It’s popular most mornings, especially Saturdays, and most late afternoons as well, making pickup games a cinch. It is located along Mesquite Blvd, east of El Cielo, along the Tahquitz Creek bike loop (PS3). In fact a new state of the art path, a CV Linker that will connect to the valley-wide CV Link path in the future, runs along the south perimeter of Demuth Park (photo). There are also indoor facilities in the Demuth Park Community Gym and in North Palm Springs, with two courts at the Desert Highland Unity Center.

A post-pickle ride near Demuth Park on the Tahquitz Creek Loop (PS3).


Rancho Mirage (Ride RM2): Two very nice new courts are located in Rancho Mirage Park along San Jacinto Dr north of The River center. This is more of a BYO situation with no set play times.

Great al fresco dining awaits at The River, a few blocks from the courts. How about a pickle, bike and brunch?


Palm Desert: Freedom Park is a public facility with 8 courts located along Country Club Drive west of Washington. In peak season it’s easy to get a pick up game here in the mornings. There’s no specific enCYCLEpedia rides here, but it is easily accessed from other rides such as RM1,2 or PD2 via the Country Club sidewalks or bike lanes. Across Country Club is Palm Desert Resorter, a private club that is the largest pickleball community in the desert, most popular with higher level players. Palm Desert Community Center has a gym facility with indoor pickleball courts, available for a drop-in or modest annual fee. It is in Palm Desert Community Park, one of the highlights of Rancho Mirage/Palm Desert bike tours.

Riding around the Rancho/Mirage Palm Desert area gives you a choice of nicely landscaped sidewalk bike paths or boulevards with bike lanes.


La Quinta (Rides LQ1, 2, 3): The very popular Fritz Burns Park has 8 permanent courts located at the southeast corner of Eisenhower and 52nd, a few blocks south of Old Town La Quinta, and at the base of La Quinta Cove. Even if you don’t ride to here, bring your bike and enjoy a cruise up the Bear Creek Trail afterwards, or to other La Quinta locales, with lots of Bike ‘n Brunch options available in Old Town. One day in peak winter season it was so crowded I went for a 20 minute bike ride while waiting for my paddle to come up, and still had to wait 5 minutes.

Fritz Burns Park, permanent courts in La Quinta
Scenic Bear Creek Trail in adjacent La Quinta Cove.


Indian Wells (Ride IW1, LQ3, PD2): The world-renowned Indian Wells Tennis Garden offers pickleball drop-in play several days a week ($5). Either ride in on the paths off of Warner Trail to the west entrance bike racks, or if that entrance is not available, such as during the National Pickleball Championships in November (participants only are allowed in that entrance), ride around on the north service road to the main entrance off of Washington to the bike racks in front of the box office.

Margaritaville National Pickleball Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

THE COAST
SAN DIEGO COUNTY

Coronado (Ride SD7): This is one of the ultimate bike ‘n pickle places, with scenic flat Coronado for great riding, and two pickleball options. The Coronado Marriott has six good permanent courts and a couple of temporary nets, with peak times Monday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. A $5 drop in fee gets you access to the courts and rec center locker room, with 2-hour validated parking ($10/hr after that, though that’s been inconsistent. To be safe park on the adjacent street). The waterfront bike trail passes nearby as well, about ¼-mile south of the ferry landing from downtown San Diego, so even if you don’t ride to here, bring your bike by all means. You can go for a short jaunt, a cruise down the Silver Strand rail trail, or book it all the way around the bay using the ferry to return. The other pickleball facility is at 555 6th Avenue, with 8 temporary courts put up Wednesday eve and Saturday afternoon ($4).

Bike/ped ferry connects the San Diego Waterfront with Coronado Island, near the Coronado Marriott.


Santee (Ride SD12): There’s a paucity of outdoor public pickleball in south San Diego County, so Big Rock Park gets packed when its 8 temporary outdoor courts are set up. From here you can easily ride to the east entrance of Mission Trails Regional Park, west on Mission Gorge Road, without having to ride up and over the big hill to the main entrance. Mountain bikes give you the most options here. There are also trailheads at Big Rock Park itself into another section of the park, mostly for hiking though.

A dedicated group sets up temporary nets several days a week at Big Rock Park.

Encinitas: Bobby Riggs Racket and Paddle club (drop-in’s welcome ($5) has 12 courts featuring clinics, lessons and organized play. However, it is over a mile inland from the coastal route (SDC1) in south Encinitas, at 875 Santa Fe Dr, with a so-so busy class 2 road to access it by bike. You could always bring your bike, then afterwards drive to the coast for that very scenic ride. Or take your bike on the Coaster and ride to the club. https://www.bobbyriggs.net/

The Vista at Swami’s Beach in Encinitas near the junction of Santa Fe Drive.

Carlsbad: (Ride SDC1) Poinsettia Community Park in Carlsbad has 6 new state of the art open-play permanent courts with no fee. From South Carlsbad State Beach, ride east up Poinsettia Road. After I-5 turn left on Paseo Del Norte, right on Camino de las Ondas, left on Hidden Valley Rd to the park on the left at #6600. This route is hilly but bike-friendly.

Also in Carlsbad, St. Michaels Church near town center has two popular drop in courts, 2 blocks from the ocean. Enter off Beech west of Carlsbad Blvd. $5.

St Michaels church in Carlsbad.
You don’t want to miss the biking along the north San Diego County coast. It’s on-road but to me it’s worth the “danger.”


Oceanside (Ride OC1): Melba Bishop Recreation Center in east Oceanside is a very popular facility, with 8 courts open most mornings ($4). It can be reached from the fabulous San Luis Rey River Trail at the College Ave crossing. It’s across the river, then back to the east on North River Road. Ride to the beach in 8 miles from here, and in the afternoon, the breeze will most likely be with you heading inland to the courts.

The Melba Bishop courts during a sanctioned tournament in November 2019.
The San Luis Rey River Trail is a 9-mile bike highway to the Oceanside beaches. Note the rare snow in the local mountains.


San Marcos : Innovation Park has 4 popular permanent courts at 1151 Armorlite Dr. (No fee). Courts are open daily but for drop in try the designated mornings. The Inland Rail Trail (Ride SMR2) runs near the park, and there is a Sprinter train station nearby, which runs between Oceanside and Escondido. The rail trail is accessible from bike routes around Cal State San Marcos and the city’s bike trail system (Ride SMR1).

Cycling around San Marcos needs to include the short loop round Discovery Lake.

ORANGE COUNTY
San Clemente (Rides DP1, SC1, 2, 3, SJ1): The very active San Clemente pickleball community plays at San Gorgonio Park, up a big hill, which is no biggee if you have an e-bike. From El Camino Real at the San Clemente – Dana Point border, head up Camino Capistrano, and make your way UP Vaquero and Calle Vista Torito to the park in less than a mile. Don’t miss out on bike riding here, though, as trails connect from San Clemente through Dana Point to eastern San Juan Capistrano.

Great viewpoint at the west end of Dana Point Harbor behind the Ocean Institute.


Laguna Niguel (near Rides SV1, 2, 3, 4): The Laguna Niguel Pickleball Club organizes very popular drop-in play at Community Roots School with 8 courts split roughly by ability, so all are welcome every morning. It’s located up a small hill off Crown Valley on Adelanto, and then a long walk behind baseball fields to the courts. Nearby, Laguna Niguel Regional Park has four permanent drop in courts, but no organized play. Ride SV2 connects that park with Salt Creek Beach via a hilly route. SV2 also connects to the Aliso Creek Regional Trail (SV1) and Aliso Woods Canyon road and mountain bike area (SV3,4). Perhaps drop off a non-pickling cyclist at the north end of SV1 (Aliso Creek Trail) at Cooks Corner and they can cruise all the way down to meet or join you.

The reward for tackling a few hills is the beautiful Salt Creek Beach below the Ritz Carlton.


Irvine (New Ride IR4): The new Portola Springs Park in the Great Park district of northeast Irvine has 6 pickleball courts with no fee. By bike take Portola Pkwy northeast from Sand Canyon (side trail or bike lane) to Pearblossom. Turn left on the road or take paths up to the park. This is a fairly hilly but not daunting route, though e-bikers will be happiest.

Portola Springs Park during a spring 2019 tournament.
Great bike riding abounds in Irvine. Paths in the Great Park are part of a nice loop mostly on bike trails that can include Portola Springs Park.

Tustin (Near Rides IR1, TU1): The active Tustin Pickleball Club plays at a school facility 3 days a week at 1302 Service Road. The closest enCYCLE ride of note is TU1-3, the Mountains to the Sea ride, and the connection to the courts is not the greatest. From Harvard in Irvine take Class II Edinger northwest, past the Metrolink Station. Turn right on Red Hill and a quick left on Service Road.

The Mountains to the Sea route ends up in scenic Irvine Regional Park.

Fountain Valley (Ride FV1): Pickleball is offered at the Fountain Valley Tennis Courts at the north end of Mile Square Park every day ($3). Also access the park via a one mile on-road connection from the the Santa Ana River Trail (SAR1) that begins at the Huntington Beach bike path (HB1).

Mile Square Park was home to the Western Regional Tournament in Sept 2019. I rode via the SART to the Huntington Beach and Newport Beach trails.
Santa Ana River Trail can be busy on weekend mornings. Take it between the beach and Mile Square Park.

Huntington Beach (RIdes, HB1, 2): Four free outdoor lighted permanent courts hosted by Surf City Pickleball are located at Worthy Community Park, 1801 Main Street (at 17th Street). From the fabulous Huntington Beach coastal trail (HB1), take the bike route up 17th Street for less than a mile to the park. The August annual Surf City Pickleball Tournament is located at Murdy Park on temporary courts set up for that purpose, and is not as good to combine with a cycle, although you can access the pleasant paths around Huntington Beach Central Park (Ride HB2) via road or sidewalk from there.

A great rest stop along the Huntington Beach path above the dog beach, north of the pier.


LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Hermosa Beach: Located a few blocks from the South Bay Beach trail, the four courts here are crowded and competitive. From The Strand (Ride LA2) take 8th or 10th Streets east toward the Kelly Courts off Valley Drive. Don’t come here to just pickle with one of the best, most scenic bike trails in the country a few blocks away.

The south half of the Marvin Braude Bike Trail along the LA County beaches spans the South Bay region.

Claremont (Ride CL1, PET): About 1 mile south of town and enCYCLE bike routes, locals play at Wheeler Park’s lighted courts. Check for play times, currently Saturday mornings and several late afternoons; $3. Find bike lanes south on College and west on San Jose.

The Pacific Electric rail trail starts in Claremont and runs about 21 miles through Montclair, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana ending in Rialto. It is serviced by Metrolink trains.


SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
Santa Barbara: The active Santa Barbara facility ($5 fee) is situated adjacent to the noisy 101 freeway. From the beach trail (Ride SB1) take Cabrillo Blvd east, under the freeway and just past the ramps (caution through here!) look for a short paved path across the road and before the traffic circle that cuts up to Old Coast Hwy. Ride left on the sidewalk (or bike lane) for a mile to the first left on Park Place to the courts.

Combine a pickle with a delightful pedal along the Beachway waterfront path, ride into town, or do a more extensive ride up or down the coast. Amtrak stops nearby.


SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
Morro Bay (Ride MB1): Four very nice permanent courts ($1 fee) are located in Del Mar Park. From the north end of town, cross Hwy 1 either on Yerba Buena or Sycamore. Ride on Class II Main Street right or left (respectively) to Island Street. Ride UP the hill a couple blocks to road’s end and turn right to the park. Take the park path over to the courts on the right.

Biking around Morro Bay on a sunny day can be heavenly. You may want to pickle when it’s overcast and bike when it’s not!


Cambria (Ride CA1): Cambria’s six excellent courts are at the Old Cambria Grammar School, 1350 Main St, between the east and west villages on the west side of the road. The venue is popular with upper-level players but all are welcome. (No fee).

Cambria’s pickleball facility.
Don’t miss out on cycling around Cambria if you come to pickle. This is the Moonstone area.

Palm Springs Stars’ Homes of Yesteryear – A Fun Bike ‘n Brunch

by Richard Fox

Palm Springs is one of the most interesting and fun towns to ride around in Southern California, especially when the weather is picture-perfect from fall through early spring.  A stunning mountain backdrop, frequently capped with snow, contrasts to the modified desert landscape of palms, cacti and colorful flowering shrubs. Whereas much of the Coachella Valley is hidden behind walled communities, most of Palm Springs’ communities are available to explore by bike. Architecture ranges from Palm Springs modern to Spanish colonial, and a vibrant downtown is bursting with inviting restaurants, many of which are al fresco and perfect to combine with your ride.

In the mid 20th Century, Palm Springs was the playground of the Hollywood elite, with many of the biggest stars spending time here in a myriad of homes, whether rented or owned. Although they came here to escape the pressure and scrutiny of Hollywood, they created their own melodrama here in the valley.  Details on who lived where is more reliable for some stars’ homes than others’, but the scavenger hunt through history makes this cycle down memory lanes a rewarding exercise. Pictured above is the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, which he and Priscilla rented in the 60’s.   

I recently led 10 enthusiastic friends on enCYCLEpedia Southern California Ride PS1, “Palm Springs Vintage Star Tour – Where YOU Are the Star,” except instead of having them recite movie lines or sing songs of the various stars as outlined in the book, I played audio clips from movies or their songbook to bring history alive, and had them guess the former occupants based on those, while also regaling tales of yesteryear.  The stops came in clusters, with welcome cycling mileage in between as we explored the Old Las Palmas, Deep Well and Movie Colony Districts in a ride of 14 miles.  I actually added to what is in the book, which may have been a mistake, since the 40-odd stops ended up taking 4 hours, and we didn’t make it to lunch until 2:15, a delicious repast on the El Mirasol (North) patio.  Next time I’ll reduce the stops or plan the lunch for mid-ride.

PS1Kaufman
The Kaufmann house, once occupied by Barry Manilow, has been sold as an art piece.

PS1LiberaceMailboxAlone
Casa Liberace is one of several of his homes on this tour. Check out the piano mailbox.

PS1GroupRobolights2018
The bizarre seasonal Robolights installation in the Movie Colony. Go inside to see rows of art pieces made out of toilet seats or microwaves.

PS1RiversideGroup2018
The 1-mile scenic Riverside bike trail near Deep Well is a rarity in Palm Springs, so we rode it back and forth on the ride between districts.

PS1DesertScene
Enjoy beautiful desert landscapes with dramatic mountain backdrops while cycling through Palm Springs.

 

PS1
Paused in front of Clark Gable/Carole Lomard’s Casa Del Carazon.  Theirs was a tragic tale. (This photo was from an earlier ride).

PS1GroupLunch2018
Our just reward, lunch at the El Mirasol (north) patio in the Movie Colony near the ride start/end.

South San Diego Camp ‘n Ride – Sweetwater Hills to the Sea

by Richard Fox

Here’s a fun Camp ‘n Ride, or an option if you are cycling around San Diego Bay (enCYCLEpedia Ride SD7 Option 2) and want to explore some new territory.

Sweetwater Summit Regional Park is located east of the southern San Diego suburb of Chula Vista.  This San Diego County Park has a large spacious campground on top of a hill with RV hookups, adjacent to the Sweetwater Reservoir, which is not accessible to the public.  A series of packed sand trails meander through the park, and down to a pedestrian bridge over the SR 125 toll freeway.  This is the only hill involved in the route, and the return back up to the summit campground may be strenuous for some.  The bridge leads to wide packed sand paths popular with cyclists, strollers, and equestrians, running adjacent to Bonita Golf Course and Chula Vista Golf Course, and past the town of Bonita where there are lots of restaurants. There is only one street crossing along the entire path to the sea.  Road bikers stick to the main roadway, Bonita Road.

After crossing under Willow Street the path veers away from civilization and becomes a bit narrower and more isolated but also more scenic with riparian riverbottom vegetation, and resting benches. At about mile 5 this “Sweetwater Riverbottom Trail” meets a paved path.  To the left leads to Bonita Road, and straight ahead continues to San Diego Bay.  It emerges at Plaza Bonita Road in front of the Plaza Bonita Mall with several restaurants, where it becomes a painted path on a wide sidewalk. It veers off onto the Sweetwater Bikeway that follows the channelized Sweetwater River for 2.5 miles to San Diego Bay at National City’s Pier 32 Marina, crossing under several roadways en route including I-805 and I-5.

Near the end it crosses and becomes part of the 26-mile Bayshore Bikeway route that encircles San Diego Bay by way of the San Diego-Coronado ped/bike ferry, discussed in another blog post. The Waterfront Grill at the marina is a popular spot for cyclists with its large patio, open for lunch and weekend breakfast.  At this point you’ve cycled a little under 9 miles.

Safety note: Except for the section between the campground and Bonita, this seems to be a “ride with a friend” trail because of the isolated sections in the thick brush, and homeless encampments as you get closer to Plaza Bonita.  The path along the Sweetwater River has a lot of graffiti and abandoned shopping carts, and the section between the freeway and the river has no exit options.  I rode it solo on a summer Saturday morning with no issues.

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Sweetwater Reservoir, adjacent to Sweetwater Summit campground. It dams the Sweetwater River that starts in the mountains at Cuyamaca State Park.
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Dirt paths meander around Sweetwater Summit Regional Park. Ride right from the campsites, across the bike bridge over SR125 to continue through Bonita on dirt paths. Road bikers use the roadways and connect to the Sweetwater Bikeway near the Plaza Bonita Mall.
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Dirt paths past golf courses and riparian areas through Bonita connect Sweetwater Summit Regional Park with the Sweetwater Bikeway to the bay.
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Sweetwater Bikeway runs 2.5 miles between the Plaza Bonita (Westfield) Mall to National City’s Pier 32 Marina and joins the Bayshore Bikeway that circumnavigates the bay. The river here has a natural bottom, and is tidal, attracting bird life. The last 2 miles are between the SR54 Freeway and the river, with no exit until Hoover Ave, just before I-5.
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Sweetwater Bikeway rounds a bend to reach the Pier 32 Marina in National City. This section is part of the Bayshore Bikeway.
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End of the ride at Pier 32 Marina and the Waterfront Cafe for an al fresco lunch. The one-way ride is under 9 miles. Of course you have the option of adding the 26 mile Bayshore Bikeway loop around San Diego Bay, which requires a ferry ride between downtown San Diego and Coronado.

A Eurostyle Bicycle and Train Holiday Along the Southern California Coast

by Richard Fox

Europe is known for it’s extended bike trail systems like EuroVelo 6 through lovely villages, pastoral countryside, and medieval cities. The routes along  pretty rivers such as the Danube attract thousands of cyclists, and easy access to rail enables hopping from place to place.  Although Southern California does not offer the same wealth of cycling infrastructure, it does have its fair share of bike trails and pleasant bike routes that are conducive to touring the region on two wheels. Using its bike friendly rail system, cyclists can experience a Euro-style holiday, particularly along its spectacular coastal region that attracts visitors from the world over to its beautiful beaches and charming towns, many with Spanish-influenced architecture. A trip can last a weekend or a month, depending on schedule and budget.  If being away from your car is too inconvenient, you can still use the trains to cover more ground on day trips. 

EncyclePedia_022014_FCID.inddMy guidebook enCYCLEpedia Southern California – The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides (2nd Ed, 2017) contains detailed ride descriptions through the most scenic areas, and these are referenced throughout this article. enCYCLEpedia‘s rides are geared for the average cyclist who prefers to stay away from traffic whenever possible, and avoid high speed, dangerous, or very hilly roads.

The goal of this journey is to use the train to access the most desirable areas, and skip over the parts that are overly difficult, dangerous, or uninteresting. Based on our experiences, the zen of taking a bike on the train adds to the excitement of it all. Options are also mentioned for more advanced riders who may prefer to ride through some of those areas anyway rather than taking the train past them.  

You’ll find lots of accommodation options in the featured locales, and if you prefer bike camping, many of the coastal State Parks have reservable tent sites, but they fill fast at peak times, so advance planning is required. A few also have non reservable bike-in campsites, although spaces are not guaranteed, especially on summer weekends.

The northern part of our trip (San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles) is serviced primarily by the bike-friendly Amtrak Surfliner line that runs from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, stopping at many of the lovely locales described. To travel on the Surfliner, you will need some advance planning, since a free reservation is required to bring your bike along. The good news is it doesn’t have to be boxed like on other Amtrak lines. From LA’s Union Station and south, lots of options open up for less expensive and more bike-friendly commuter lines.

 

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Amtrak Surfliner on rebuilt “trestles” next to San Clemente’s famous Trestles surf beach (SC3).

Whistlestop 1:  San Luis Obispo (SLO)

Taking the Amtrak Surfliner north from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo, or SLO Town, is a world class spectacular ride, with California coastal scenery on display between Ventura and Pismo Beach, much of which is not even accessible to the public past Santa Barbara. If you arrive in SLO from the north via Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train, it is also scenic but is not along the coast, as that would mean it would be along the Big Sur coast, which can barely handle a roadway. The Coast Starlight (between LA and Seattle) is not as bike friendly, since bikes need to be boxed and incur baggage and box fees.

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View of the Santa Barbara County coastline from the Surfliner. 

SLO Town is a charming university city about 13 miles inland from the coastal town of Morro Bay. While SLO Town does not have much in the way of bike trails, it does have bike friendly streets and plenty of desirable places to sleep and eat in the vital downtown sector west of the train depot.  It is a good place to spend some time to explore, provision and get oriented. You can try a wine country tour, or a popular bike route to the coast at Los Osos/Morro Bay via Los Osos Valley Road.

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Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, downtown SLO

At the coast you can explore Morro Bay, which offers some delightful coastal riding (enCYCLE Ride MB1), and lots of accommodations (reserve for best selection in summer) and popular waterfront seafood restaurants.  To its south is Montana de Oro State Park (Ride MB2), a coastal gem with a couple of great easy rides on packed dirt, some more challenging mountain biking, and spectacular hiking trails.  Bike-in or reservable tent camping is available at Morro Bay, Morro Strand, and Montana de Oro State Parks.

The existing short and sweet Harborwalk path leading to Morro Rock.
Bike path to Morro Rock in Morro Bay (MB1)

Whistlestop 2:  Grover Beach/Pismo Beach

Pubic passage south down the coast from Morro Bay is blocked by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant property, so you’ll need to ride back to SLO. Continuing south from SLO you can either ride along Class II roads adjacent to Hwy 101 (or a steep route over the hills on dirt roads) or take the Surfliner to the next stop in Grover Beach/Pismo Beach.  If you cycle, your next destination can be the small, quaint beach community of Avila Beach, with the last few miles along the lovely creekside Bob Jones Trail, that will someday connect to SLO, making that a must-do stretch by bike (Ride AV1).  Continue riding south to the Pismo station from Avila Beach. You can also reach Avila Beach on a scenic coastal Class II bike route north from the Pismo station if you choose that option.

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Avila Beach Pier  (AV1)

Pismo Beach is the southern end of our recommended exploration in SLO County, and the train station is just south of town in Grover Beach.  There’s no bike trails in town, yet, so hop on the bike lanes along Hwy 1 and head north into town (Ride PB2), past several public campgrounds, and the spot where the Monarch butterflies congregate in winter. The delightful downtown has a bunch of restaurants and accommodations.  At lower tides, you can ride on the compact sands of the wide beautiful beach here, our only recommended SoCal beach ride (Ride PB1).  The route north of downtown (Ride PB3) is on Class 2 lanes of a fairly busy roadway, but the ocean vistas are  spectacular in places.  If you chose to ride all the way south from SLO, you’ll be southbound on that route toward downtown and the Pismo station.  And now, back to the Surfliner for our next destination. 

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Riding the compact sands of Pismo Beach  (PB1)

Whistlestop 3:  Surf Beach/Lompoc, Santa Barbara County

An optional stop, Surf Beach is the loneliest Amtrak stop along the coast, located in a beach parking lot adjacent to Vandenberg Air Force Base. You can walk for miles along the beautiful beach, but signs warn against swimming here due to two fatal shark attacks.  Amtrak doesn’t stop here often, so schedule carefully. 

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The lonely Surf Amtrak Station, 9 miles west of Lompoc  (LOM1)

From here you can easily ride to pretty Ocean Beach County Park at the delta of the Santa Ynez River.  For grub and overnight accommodations, including hotels, B&B’s, and camping (River Park), the city of Lompoc awaits (Ride LOM1).  The City of Arts and Flowers with murals on its downtown buildings is reached via a flat 9 mile ride along Class II Ocean Ave (55 mph speed), an interesting stretch when the fields of cultivated flowers are in bloom in spring and summer. Lompoc is not as appealing as some of the other coastal towns, but is a good place to restock and refresh.

Those in tip top condition may consider a road trip over substantial and steep hills and windy rural roads, to isolated Jalama County Beach, where there is a beach campground and general store and grill.  If you took the Surfliner northbound you would’ve gone right by it. This would make an epic weekend trip on its own from the big city.

Another option, though risky logistically, is to take the Wine Country Express bus from Lompoc to the Danish tourist village of Solvang, and explore the beautiful Santa Barbara Wine Country in Los Olivos and Santa Ynez by bike (Ride SO1). Buses have bike racks, but can take only a couple at a time.  You could also leave your bikes at your Lompoc accommodation, take the bus, and rent bikes in Solvang.

Whistlestops 4, 5, 6, 7:  Goleta, Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Ventura

The ride between Lompoc and Santa Barbara is very hilly and/or along the 101 Freeway, only for the most advanced riders. So, all aboard the Surfliner at Surf!  The corridor between the next stops of Goleta, Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and Ventura is rideable by most cyclists, so you can pick and choose where you’d like to explore, how far to ride, and when to use the Surfliner to help you out.

From the Goleta Station, ride to the coast and explore the beautiful paths along the University of California at Santa Barbara (Ride SB2).

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Paths around the UCSB Lagoon (SB2)

Class I and II routes connect to the downtown and waterfront district of Santa Barbara (Ride SB1).  A scenic beachfront path passes a multitude of restaurants and accommodations there, although there is no bike camping in town.  The Amtrak station is in the center of town, so if you disembark there, you can easily explore the extensive Spanish-influenced downtown and beautiful waterfront.

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Cabrillo Beachway, Santa Barbara Waterfront (SB1)

A Class II route leads through the tony community of Montecito, then Summerland, to the lovely low-key beach town of Carpinteria, and the next Amtrak station (Ride SB1, Option 2).  Find lots of great restaurants and choice of accommodations from B&B’s to bike-in and reservable campsites at Carpinteria State Beach.

Someday there will be a bike path connecting Carpinteria to the new path to Ventura, but for now there is only a 3-mile fairly hilly on-road route.  If you are willing to tackle that, the reward is the new waterfront bike path adjacent to the 101 Freeway that leads to the north end of Ventura (Ride VE4).  You could also access it if you take the train directly to Ventura and ride north.

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Rincon Bike Path along US 101 between Carpinteria and Ventura (VE4)

The bike path ends on the Old Rincon Hwy, a popular bike route that leads to the Ventura waterfront trail system (Ride VE1).  Via that path you can access the historic downtown center, enjoy the beautiful coastline and pier, and find all sorts of restaurants and accommodations.  The depot is downtown between the beach and Main Street. Bike-in and reservable camping are available at McGrath State Beach nearby in Oxnard.

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Path through San Buenaventura State Beach near downtown Ventura (VE1)

From Ventura consider riding up a scenic rail trail about 16 miles inland to the lovely spa resort town of Ojai, either as a day trip and lunch stop or an overnight destination (Rides VE2 and 3).  Camping is available at two county parks near the route.

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Rail trail through the Ojai Valley  (VE3)

Ventura is the last stop for the northern part of our adventure. Cycling south from Ventura is only for very experienced cyclists.  The subsequent 50-mile coastal route first passes through the city of Oxnard, while the last 35 miles is along the busy, hilly, speedy, Coast Highway to and through Malibu. The reward is that it ends up on the fabulous 22-mile Los Angeles beach trail. But you can also access that path by taking local rail from downtown, along our rail route. So, most of you will want to hop on the Surfliner in Ventura and head to downtown LA. Or, make your way across town to Oxnard and take the more bike friendly Metrolink commuter train from that route’s western terminus (weekdays only).

Whistlestop 8:  Los Angeles Union Station

Historic Union Station is an attraction in itself, but riding in downtown LA is not for the faint of heart, except perhaps early on a Sunday morning.  However, if you can very securely lock up your bike and belongings, or find an accommodation nearby, it is a worthwhile area to spend some time exploring on foot, with attractions such as the touristy Olvera Street, El Pueblo de Los Angeles, Chinatown, and lots more.

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Historic Olvera Street near LA’s Union Station

From Union Station you have a choice, depending on your timing and preferences. Logistically, the easiest thing to do is hop on Metrolink’s Orange County Line, and head south to our next stop, San Juan Capistrano.  Or, if you would like to experience LA and Orange County’s  best and most fabulous coastal trails, joining up with the train route further south, make the following extra trip using local Metro Rail:

Extra Trip: The Urban LA and OC Coastal Paths

LA’s world renowned beach trail runs some 22 miles through Santa Monica and Venice, Hermosa, Manhattan and Redondo Beaches (Rides LA1 and 2). Metro Rail’s new Exposition Line can get you there: Take the Red or Purple lines from Union Station to meet the Expo Line, and get off at its terminus in Santa Monica. There’s no tent camping along the coast, so you’ll need hotel accommodations near the beach communities, preferably as close to the beach as possible to avoid some dicey areas and possibly dangerous street riding

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North end of  LA coastal bike trail aka Martin Braude Trail (LA1)

Believe me you don’t want to ride between the LA beach trail through the industrial districts to Long Beach, so head back to a Metro Rail train, either the Expo Line in Santa Monica or the Green Line accessible further south.  Connect to the Blue Line southbound and get off in downtown Long Beach, a bike-friendly city. Explore the world class rejuvenated waterfront area and visit the Queen Mary or Aquarium of the Pacific (Ride LO1). There’s no tent camping but find oodles of accommodations, dining and shopping.

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Bike path through Long Beach’s Shoreline Village restaurant area  (LO1)

A state of the art bike trail runs along the beach to the Belmont Shore district, a great place to stroll and dine.  Explore the canals of Italian-inspired Naples Island (Ride LO2), and ride across the San Gabriel River and into Orange County and the delightful beach community of Seal Beach (Ride SE1).  Carefully navigate a couple miles on the Class II Coast Highway into the community of Sunset Beach, taking the parallel residential street when able, that leads to the fabulous 8 mile Huntington Beach coastal trail (Ride HB1). Camping along here is only for self contained RV’s, so find accommodations and restaurants in Sunset Beach or halfway down the trail in the revitalized downtown core near the pier.

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Huntington Beach path near the pier (HB1).

From the south end of the beach path connect via residential streets to the Newport Beach coastal trail that runs along the Balboa Peninsula, where you’ll find plenty of accommodations and food (Ride NB1). Take the cute 3-car ferry across to Balboa Island to continue the ride south.  An expensive tent-camping option is at Newport Dunes resort in the Back Bay, a great place to get some fun riding in (Ride NB2).

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Newport Beach’s oceanfront path.

Only very experienced cyclists should do the through-ride south along the coast from here. It is indeed a scenic journey, however, perhaps warranting an up-and-back ride for the first few miles. It starts with the Corona del Mar waterfront, connecting to the spectacular Crystal Cove State Park with its blufftop oceanview bike path (Ride NB3) and option to stop at the historic Crystal Cove district for lunch on the beach. Mountain bikers may be able to access a primitive campsite in the inland section of the park. The hilly coastal highway into Laguna Beach is a busy 4 lane road. Once in town, alternate routes are available through most of it (Ride LB2), but in South Laguna there are no good options to get off of the highway until you reach Dana Point, where bike lanes widen as you pass beautiful Salt Creek Beach Park, the Ritz Carlton, and the main business district. From Dana Point you can access bike trails to the San Juan Capistrano or San Clemente train stations.

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Laguna Beach is the jewel of Orange County, with its rocky coves, sandy beaches, and lovely downtown right on the beach, but it can be a bitch to bike through (LB2).

Those who prefer bike paths to busy roadways should skip the route through Laguna Beach and follow the excellent paths along Newport Back Bay (Ride NB2) connecting to the San Diego Creek path inland through Irvine (Ride IR1) and end up at either the Tustin (Ride TU1) or Irvine train stations.  From either station, take the Metrolink train south to San Juan Capistrano, joining those who skipped the urban coastal section and took the train directly there from Union Station, or braved the ride through Laguna Beach.

Whistlestop 9:  San Juan Capistrano

The Santa Fe Depot is in the center of the restored historic Spanish downtown that includes the popular and beautiful San Juan Capistrano Mission and the Del Rio district, the oldest neighborhood in California (Ride SJ1). Bike paths lead one way into horse country, and the other way to the sea at Dana Point, another area to explore at its harbor (Ride DP1).  A coastal bike trail connects to San Clemente, and coastal tent camping is available in Dana Point at Doheny State Beach and at San Clemente State Beach, atop a bluff at the south end of its lovely beach trail (Ride SC1).

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San Juan Capistrano’s historic Los Rios District next to the train depot (SJ1).

Most cyclists will want to hop on the Metrolink at San Clemente’s North Beach Station for the scenic oceanfront trip south to Oceanside.  More adventurous cyclists may enjoy the ride past classic surfing beaches like Trestles (Ride SC3) and perhaps ride into San Diego County through Camp Pendleton (register in advance, subject to closure) all the way to Oceanside.  Tent camping is available near the north end of the route at San Onofre State Beach’s inland San Mateo or summer-only coastal Bluffs campgrounds.

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Elevated portion of San Clemente’s Beach Trail (SC1).

Whistlestop 10: Oceanside

Oceanside is a transit hub, where LA’s Metrolink ends and San Diego’s Coaster and Sprinter train lines begin. Amtrak’s Surfliner also stops here. You can ride inland on the 9 mile San Luis Rey River Trail, visit California’s largest mission en route, and access camping at Guajome Regional Park at trail’s end. Oceanside’s waterfront has a bike lane along its beach promenade, a pier, and a revitalized downtown core.

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Oceanside Harbor, a great place to stop for a meal after the ride through Camp Pendleton from San Clemente (SC3) or just riding around town (OC1).

Those who prefer to stay off of busy roadways should continue on the Coaster train to the San Diego stations.  Otherwise, make your way down the very scenic Class II coastal highway through the lovely beach cities of Carlsbad, Encinitas and Solana Beach. We do this ride frequently, it’s one of our exceptions of road riding since it’s so much fun (Ride SDC1). Tent camping is available at South Carlsbad and San Elijo State Beaches. Advance reservations are needed at both, and they do not have bike-in sites.

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A typical view heading south along the north San Diego County coastal highway (SDC1).

Whistlestop 11: Solana Beach

I recommend for those who rode down the coast to hop on the southbound Coaster train in Solana Beach.  After Solana Beach the train bipasses the next city, Del Mar, then heads inland.  If you choose to cycle to San Diego, the route becomes extremely hilly past Del Mar, recommended for experienced and top-shape riders, who can make their way through La Jolla and reach the Mission Bay area.

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A Coaster station in north San Diego County

Whistlestop 12:  San Diego Old Town

This major transit center is adjacent to San Diego Old Town State Historic Park, a restored settlement and mega tourist attraction with lots of museums and Mexican restaurants in and around it.  You’ll need to lock up and walk or wheel your bike through here, but it’s worthwhile to do so.  From here, you can connect to the fabulous bike trails around Mission Bay and the boardwalk along Mission Beach/Pacific Beach, and also access Sea World by bike (Ride SD1).  Tent camping is available at private Campland-on-the-Bay.

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Scenic north end of Ocean Front Walk in Pacific Beach (SD1)

From the Mission Bay area you can ride to ritzy La Jolla (Ride SD2) and laid back Ocean Beach (Ride SD3).  A Class II route leads to the stimulating bike trail along San Diego Harbor (Ride SD4). From there, a bike/ped ferry accesses the beautiful bike riding on the Coronado peninsula (Ride SD7: Cover photo – Hotel del Coronado). And, on-road bike routes lead up to the very European Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo (Ride SD6).

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The amazing San Diego Zoo (SD6).

Whistlestop 13:  Downtown San Diego Santa Fe Depot

The historic downtown depot, just a couple of blocks from the harborfront trail, is our final stop, and the best station to access the harbor ride (SD4), Coronado via the ferry (SD7) and Balboa Park/Zoo (SD6).  More advanced riders can continue UP the hill to the spine of the Point Loma Peninsula to visit the spectacular Cabrillo National Monument at its tip (Ride SD5).

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A moving bike statue along Coronado’s scenic waterfront path (SD7)

Return to your origin from downtown San Diego, either taking the Coaster, transfering to the Metrolink in Oceanside, or Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner the entire way.

 

Casual Cycling at Big Bear Lake, CA

Big Bear Lake sits ~7,000 feet above the urban valley floor in the spectacular San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. Long known as a year round recreation playground with winter ski resorts and summer lake activities, cycling has mostly been of the hard-core variety, with little to offer to the more casual cyclist… until now.

The long-established Alpine Pedal Path runs ~2.4 miles along the northeast shore of Big Bear Lake, connecting campgrounds to the Stanfield Cutoff that leads to town.  It’s not flat, but it is easy enough, with plenty of gorgeous lake views and forest scenery.  In summer 2017 it was widened during a re-paving project making it much better for bikes and peds to coexist. Still, weekdays are much preferred in that regard. Meanwhile, the City of Big Bear Lake has developed a system of bike routes through serene residential streets, leading to the quaint Village, the hub of dining and tourist shopping. There’s even a new bike path that parallels Pine Knot Ave.

Plans are in the works to make a better connection between Alpine Pedal Path and the rest of the city bike routes, but for now cyclists can carefully cross Stanfield Cutoff and hop on a sidewalk for a half mile to make the connection. Future plans also include a bike path from the Bear Mountain ski area all the way down to the lake and connecting to the existing bike routes, as well as bike lanes along treacherous Big Bear Boulevard, the main thoroughfare through the area.  Several agencies, including the US Forest Service, CALTRANS, Riverside County and the City have been coordinating all of these projects.

The other option for casual cyclists with fat tires is the Sky Chair lift at Snow Summit ski resort that leads to a choice of a fire road or the new Skyline Trail east down the mountain, as well as other options, depending on ability.  Unfortunately the lift cost has doubled in the last few years; still not too bad if you use it the whole day but the single ride cost is out of step.

We spent a month camped near the lake in July 2017, and enjoyed near perfect weather (high 70’s – low 80’s, sunny, with an occasional fun thunderstorm) while the valley below was baking. We rarely needed our truck; we just hopped on our bikes to explore the paths and new routes, which I mapped out for enCYCLEpedia’s 2nd Edition.  We look forward to experiencing the great cycling here again when more of the master bike route plan has been completed.

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Newly paved and widened Alpine Pedal Path, north shore.

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Steve relaxing at the west end of the Alpine Pedal Path along the lake. The Solar Observatory in the background offers free tours to small groups weekly in summer.

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Rich pausing along the bike routes on the south shore near town.

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Steve on Pine Knot, the main Village street, with horse and buggy going by.

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The Towne Trail is a fairly hilly forest path, an alternate route to taking the city streets from the Snow Summit lifts west to The Village.  It also serves as a feeder for MTB’ers who descended the west side of the mountain, returning to the lifts.  

 

 

 

Riverside – A SoCal Cycling Paradise

by: Richard Fox, Author of enCYCLEpedia Southern California

Most people think of Riverside as the home of the Mission Inn with its spectacular Mission Revival architecture, holiday festivities and Sunday brunch.  But we come to Riverside to experience something else: it’s great bicycling.

The Mission Inn is the centerpiece of a restored historic downtown district that includes a 3-block long pedestrian mall, giving it a European flavor. Mount Rubidoux is a prominent landmark north of downtown, next to classic mansions in historic districts, beyond which is the Santa Ana River. Fairmount Park is east of downtown, containing beautiful Lake Evans with a mountain backdrop.  All of these features can be handily explored by bike.

The upper segment of the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) runs about 19 miles from near Norco to the west to San Bernardino to the northeast, with Riverside near its midpoint. With no speed limit or road crossings, and light pedestrian traffic, it is one of the premier paths in Southern California for a good off-roadway workout.  Even better, it is a scenic path, running alongside a wide natural section of the Santa Ana River drainage, with vistas of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains that are often snow-covered in winter and spring.  We do consider this a  “ride with a friend” path, especially the more deserted stretch to the east of Riverside.  A detour off of the path takes you to the downtown district, and a surprisingly doable climb up Mt. Rubidoux on a gradual paved path reaps rewards of a spectacular vista of the surrounding region. Another path off of the SART brings you to lovely Fairmount Park.

The best time to ride here is when the air is clear and temperatures reasonable, which can occur any time of the year, though less so during the heat of summer.  These rides are described in enCYCLEpedia as Ride R1, with options 1 through 4, including maps, route descriptions and particulars.  Also in Riverside, the historic Victoria Avenue corridor takes you back to the glory days of citrus gold.  That is a subject for a future post (enCYCLEpedia Ride R2).

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Mission Inn in downtown Riverside.

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Euro-style pedestrian mall with sidewalk cafes runs 3 blocks downtown, starting next to The Mission Inn. Signs now prohibit bike riding.  enCYCLEpedia wishes the city would paint a bike trail through it, with a 5 or 8 mph speed limit rather than banning riding altogether since it’s such an integral part of a bike tour of the city.

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The path up Mt Rubidoux and the World Peace Bridge. The very gradual incline makes a great bike ride, but be very courteous to peds on the downhill so that bikes are not banned!

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Beautiful mountain vistas on the path up Mt. Rubidoux.

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West of town, the SART follows gently rolling hills next to the beautiful vegetation of the river with mountain backdrops.

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Dramatic views of the San Gabriel Mountains near the west end of the SART.

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SART heading northeast out of Riverside, 10 miles to San Bernardino. It is fairly isolated and lightly used (best to ride with a friend) but scenic and uninterrupted.

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Some scenic mountain vistas on the trail northeast nearing San Bernardino. Find lots of dining options near trails end along Hospitality Lane.

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For the most unique lunch experience, visit Tio’s Tacos in downtown Riverside for good al fresco Mexican dining, and explore the grounds filled with statues made from recycled materials.

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A scenic pause at Lake Evans in Fairmount Park.

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The path between Fairmount Park and the SART with Mt Rubidoux beyond, all drenched in springtime greenery. This stretch burned after this photo was taken in Spring 2017, but the vegetation is recovering.

An LA Urban Oasis – Puddingstone Reservoir Camp ‘n Brunch ‘n Ride

By Richard Fox

At the east end of Los Angeles County, at the junction of Pomona, San Dimas and La Verne, lies Puddingstone Reservoir, a flood control and groundwater recharge facility that for decades has been a draw for its fishing, boating and swimming.  It is surrounded by Frank Bonelli Regional Park and the huge Raging Waters water park, while the LA Fairgrounds (Fairplex), and Bracket Field small plane airport are adjacent.

East Shore RV Park (some tent sites too) has some 500 sites, although 300 of those are long term. Built in the hills above the lake, many sites have panoramic views of the lake and the San Gabriel Mountains.

At the lower, or “Unit F” Loop, two trailheads lead to our main attraction, a fairly easy bike route around the reservoir, with only a handful of manageable hills. It is a combination of paved lakefront promenades along the north and south sections of Bonelli Park, a scenic novice mountain bike trail, and a long easy scenic cruise across Puddingstone Dam.  It is a 5-mile loop, or 8-9 miles if you opt to cycle on Class I/III roadways around the airport, perhaps stopping at Norms Hanger cafe for breakfast or lunch, a popular thing to do with cycling groups.

Bonelli Park has a lot of trails throughout, and much of it is more challenging mountain bike singletrack.  For those who like to stick to roadways, there are both easy and difficult hilly options around the lake.  East Shore RV Park is expensive, and is full well in advance most weekends.  We take advantage of the 3-for-2 weekday special.

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View of lake and dam from our site at C Loop of East Shore RV Park.

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Path leading from Unit F along east side of lake.

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Path winding along southeast shore of lake.

Scenic mountain bike trails on west side of reservoir.

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Long flat road over Puddingstone Dam.

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Nice promenade along north section of Bonelli Park.

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Closed road next to Bracket Field leads back to Unit F of the campground. Norm’s Hanger is a popular spot to park/stage from, and have an al fresco meal on the patio watching the small planes take off and land.

CAMBRIA BIKE ‘N BRUNCH – CENTRAL COAST BEAUTY

By Richard Fox

Cambria is an upscale jewel of a coastal community near the north end of San Luis Obispo County, and is the gateway to San Simeon, home of the fabled Heart Castle.  Its historic downtown is located inland, east of Hwy 1,  a popular destination for shopping and dining.  The spectacular coastline is accessed along Moonstone Beach Drive, a short bike ride from the downtown.  The coastal Fiscalini Ranch Preserve contains some welcome open space and provides a mile-long bike cruise on a fire road, or some hilly singletrack for mountain biking.  A very pleasant ride on trails and low speed limit roads will take you to all of these Cambria highlights.  Those who feel comfortable with rural road riding can amble inland up scenic Santa Rosa Creek Road to the Stolo Winery and Linn’s Fruit Stand, famous for its Olallieberry pies. The perfect way to explore the town nicknamed “Pines by the Sea” is via a two-wheeled cruise, as described in the book “enCYCLEpedia Southern California- The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides.”

It's beginning to look a bit like Big Sur as Cambria is the gateway to the fabled Hwy 1 along spectacular coastline. Here is the boardwalk along Moonstone Drive, great for a stroll but not a bike ride.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Big Sur since Cambria is the gateway to the spectacular Hwy 1 coastline.  Pictured is the boardwalk along Moonstone Beach Drive, great for a stroll but bikes must ride on the adjacent low-speed roadway.

Find free parking and restrooms at Leffingwell State Park at the north end of Moonstone Beach Drive, a good starting point for your ride.
Find free parking and restrooms at Leffingwell State Beach at the north end of Moonstone Beach Drive, an option for your ride start.

The hardpacked fine gravel fire road provides a very scenic 2 mile round trip ride across the coastal Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.
The hardpacked fine gravel fire road provides a very scenic 2 mile round trip ride across the coastal Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.  A hike-only path closer to the sea allows better views of the sea otters foraging in the kelp beds.

Beautiful coastal vistas from the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. A hike-only path closer to the sea provides glimpses of those darling sea otters foraging in the kelp.
Beautiful coastal vistas from a neighborhood park en route to the  Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.

Singletrack MTB trails in Fiscalini Ranch Preserve lead to a grove of rare Monterey pines.
Singletrack MTB trails in Fiscalini Ranch Preserve lead to a grove of rare Monterey pines.

Downtown is split into the west village, and the East Village, where you'll find historic Linn's restaurant.
Downtown is split into West Village, and East Village, where you’ll find historic Linn’s restaurant, among others.

Choose from many restaurants in town. This interesting Danish breakfast is at the Creekside Garden Cafe, popular with cyclsts.
Choose from many restaurants in town. This interesting Danish breakfast is at the Creekside Garden Cafe, popular with cyclists.

Lovely Stolo Winery, open for tastings, is 1.5 miles up scenic Santa Rosa Creek Road.
Lovely Stolo Winery, open for tastings, is 1.5 miles up scenic Santa Rosa Creek Road.

Linn's Farm Stand sells fresh pies and fruit-related gifts.
Linn’s Farm Stand, 5 miles up Santa Rosa Creek Road,  sells fresh pies and fruit-related gifts.

Linn's is famous for their olallieberry pie.
Linn’s famous olallieberry pie.

October is a great time to visit Cambria, when most businesses and organizations create a scarecrow that represents themselves.
October is a great time to visit Cambria, when most businesses and organizations create a scarecrow to represent themselves in lighthearted satire.

Here is a humorous entry for Cambria's dog park.
Here is a humorous scarecrow at Cambria’s dog park.

 

 

Video: A Ride Along the Beautiful Foothills Rail Trail near Tacoma, WA

By Richard Fox

The Foothills Rail Trail is one of our favorites, located southeast of Seattle between Tacoma and Mt. Rainier, and here’s a short video with soundtrack depicting a ride on it on a beautiful late spring day.  There’s great Mt Rainier views, rivers, mountains, forests, ag land, a cute town midway, Orting for lunch, good paving, and it’s busy but not crowded. It’s 15 miles long now between Puyallup and South Prairie,  but someday will double in length and reach from the mountains all the way to Puget Sound at Tacoma.  As described in last year’s post “The It Can Happen Tomorrow Ride” (http://wp.me/p4pOXg-8a), the trail lies in the shadow of an “episodically active” volcano.