Category Archives: RV

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.

 

 

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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.  

 

 

 

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.

Cape Disappointment State Park, WA Camp ‘n Ride

Video Diary, by Richard Fox

Cape Disappointment State Park is a gem, situated at the southwest corner of Washington State near Long Beach, where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean. A jetty built in 1917 to aid in shipping navigation resulted in the formation of most of the land comprising the lowlands of the park, including the campgrounds and the beautiful sandy ocean beach. Dramatic Cape Disappointment and North Head lighthouses stand sentinel over the entrance to the Columbia and the region known as “The Graveyard of the Pacific” because of the over 2,000 shipwrecks that have occurred in this area.

This very popular park near the resort area of Long Beach contains a large campground for RV’s with hookups or tents. We explored the park by bike, riding along the firm sands of the beach, then up past “Waikiki Beach” and several installations of the Confluence Project, which features structures replicating those used by Native Americans. The return ride is through the idyllic park road for a total of about 5.5 very scenic and flat miles.

Following is a video of our experience from May 2016.

Those wanting more of a challenge can ride on the hilly roadways to the two lighthouses.

Nearby is the 8.5 mile Discovery bike/hike Trail, that runs mostly behind sand dunes and through forest between Ilwaco and Long Beach, skirting the State Park but not connecting to the park’s flat coastal section.  We will be exploring that trail on our next visit to the area.  In the meantime, here is a nice description of it:  http://outdoorsnw.com/2012/escapes-long-beach-wash/

New Years Day San Diego Coast Bike ‘n Brunch ‘n Rail

Perhaps the most popular cycling route in San Diego County is the coastal highway between Oceanside and Del Mar. On weekends and holidays hordes of cyclists zip up and down the roadway, enjoying the ocean vistas and breezes.   Riding southbound, the blue Pacific is ever present on your right and wide bike lanes make the route fairly safe.  The terrain is mostly flat except for a view manageable grades.  Navigating through the coastal cities is a bit trickier, but they have all installed either bike lanes or sharrows to help you along, and you can often escape down side streets to get off the main road.   We also tend to duck into the two State Park campgrounds that run for long distances parallel to the roadway.

Steve and I started the New Year by cycling from Oceanside to Encinitas, a casual 14 mile ride.  We started by following the Rail Trail route, a 44- mile work in progress as a combination of trails and on-road bike routes.  It served us well through Oceanside, however in South Carlsbad we opted to stay along the coast rather than heading inland to follow that route.  We stopped at the South Carlsbad State Beach campground and watched from the seaside cliffs as dolphins surfed the waves next to the humans.  Weather was sunny and brisk but perfect for cycling.

Dining choices are endless as you cycle through Carlsbad, South Carlsbad, and Encinitas, each with its own train station which is handy if you’d like to do a one-way ride.  We love train travel, so it adds more fun to our bike trips.   Farther along, Solana Beach has a station, but after that the next coastal station is downtown San Diego.  Certain Amtrak Surfliner trains stop at all stations, but a free reservation is required to take your bike along.  The local Coaster line welcomes bikes on all of its trains.  Look for a car with a bike insignia, which indicates it has spaces for two bikes.  The fare between Oceanside and Solana Beach is only $4 since it is considered one zone.  Weekend and holiday schedules are reduced, so some advanced planning is required.

We met friends for an al fresco lunch at Lobster West in Encinitas, and started the New Year with their delicious lobster rolls.  We then boarded a Coaster train and returned to Oceanside in about 20 minutes, in time for a spectacular sunset at the beach there. What a fantastic way to start the New Year!

Class II biking along the coast highway in Carlsbad.
Class II biking along the coast highway in Carlsbad.
Rich along Coast Highway near Carlsbad.
Rich along Coast Highway near Carlsbad.
View from Coast Highway.
View from Coast Highway.
Campers at South Carlsbad State Beach, a great Camp 'n Ride destination. Expensive and no hookups though.
Campers at South Carlsbad State Beach, a great Camp ‘n Ride destination. Expensive and no hookups though.  We watched as dolphins surfed the waves and chased fish while pelicans tried to grab them. 
Meeting with good friends for lunch in Encinitas.
Meeting with good friends for lunch at Lobster West in Encinitas.
Closeup of Lobster West's delicious lobster roll.
Closeup of Lobster West’s delicious lobster roll.
Steve awaits the Coaster train at Encinitas station. It's only $4 fare to Oceanside.
Steve awaits the Coaster train at Encinitas station. It’s only $4 fare to Oceanside.
View from the Coaster window.
View from the Coaster window.
Steve emerges from the Coaster car. Note the bike insignia. There was a space for our two bikes on this car.
Steve emerges from the Coaster car. Note the bike insignia. There was space for our two bikes on this car.
Returning to Oceanside. Steve with the pier beyond.
Returning to Oceanside. Steve with the pier beyond.
Sunset at Oceanside beach.
Sunset at Oceanside beach.

 

Homolovi Camp ‘n Ride – A Hidden Northern AZ Gem

Located in expansive grasslands at 4,900 feet elevation near Winslow, Arizona along I-40, Homolovi State Park preserves the 14th century ruins of the Anasazi people that thrived along the Little Colorado River.   A scenic campground with RV hookups ($25) makes a great base to explore this lightly visited park by bike.   Park roads provide inspiring vistas of the surrounding Colorado Plateau and the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff to the west.  The gentle grades and wide open viewscapes create a template for an enjoyable easy ride of 10-15 miles. Expansion cracks found at regular intervals of the pavement will be better suited to those with wider tires, until repairs are completed.  The two major sites are Homolovi I, about a mile ride from the campground, (followed by a 1/4-mile hike), and the more scenic Homolovi II, about 5 miles away followed by a short paved rideable trail to the sites.  The ruins are not as well preserved as others in the region.

Campground with spacious sites and panoramic vistas.
Campground with spacious sites and panoramic vistas.
Little used park roads for scenic rides of up to 18 miles. Better for fatter tires because of frequent stress fractures.
Little used park roads are perfect for scenic rides of up to 15 miles — better for fatter tires because of frequent stress fractures. Watch for snakes!
Kiva at Homolovi II ruins. Most of the ruins are now piles of rubble, compared to other more preserved sites.
Kiva at Homolovi II ruins. Most of the ruins are now piles of rubble.
Sunset, looking west to San Francisco Peaks from campground.
Sunset, looking west to San Francisco Peaks from campground.

Cycle the Exciting Long Beach, California Waterfront and Beyond

By Richard Fox

Updated November 2018

Long Beach is a SoCal star when it comes to bicycle advocacy and infrastructure, Silver-rated by the League of American Bicyclists. As far as easy scenic cycling goes, coastal Class I trails provide a ton of excitement, interesting vistas, and even some good exercise where bikes and peds are given their separate lanes. For more cycling fun connect via bike-friendly surface streets to the Belmont Shore district, the very Italian Naples Island with its canals, and the laid back beach town of Seal Beach, with the option of riding along Pacific Coast Highway to reach the great Huntington Beach trail along the sand. Also available for a good workout are somewhat less scenic river trails up the Los Angeles River (the LARIO trail) from Long Beach and the preferred San Gabriel River Trail from Seal Beach.

The annual Tour of Long Beach event with several levels of rides benefits pediatric cancer and starts along the downtown Long Beach waterfront. Next event: May, 2019. enCYCLEpedia Southern California had its book launch at the finish line festival in 2014.

Trail near Shoreline Village in Long Beach affords fabulous vistas including the Queen Mary.
Trail near Shoreline Village in Long Beach affords fabulous vistas including the Queen Mary.
Bike trail passes the Long Beach Marina.
Bike trail passes the Long Beach Marina.
The 3.2-mile beach trail has a separated pedestrian lane for smoother travel.
The 3.2-mile beach trail had a separated pedestrian lane for smoother travel, however….
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A new ped path adjacent to the Belmont Shore bike path has vastly improved the experience for both cyclists and peds. A digital sign counts number of trail users.
Cycling toward Shoreline Village and its great selection of waterfront restaurants.
Cycling toward Shoreline Village and its great selection of waterfront restaurants.
One of the THUM oil islands, Island Grissom, adjacent to a bike trail.
One of the THUM oil islands, Island Grissom, as seen from a waterfront bike trail.
A trail though Harry Bridges Park leads to the Queen Mary.  Expect lots of trail improvements on the Queen Mary side of the channel in the future, which is accessible from the Shoreline area via a separated bike path along the Queensway Bridge.
A trail though Harry Bridges Park leads to the Queen Mary. A number of additional trails are planned for the Queen Mary side of the channel in the future, which is accessible from the Shoreline area via a separated bike path along the Queensway Bridge.
Trails wind around and up to the lighthouse at Shoreline Aquatic Park. Enjoy great vistas of downtown and the Queen Mary from the top of the knoll.
Trails wind around and up to the lighthouse at Shoreline Aquatic Park. Enjoy great vistas of downtown and the Queen Mary from the top of the knoll.
Busy area along the trail near the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Busy area along the trail near the Aquarium of the Pacific.
The trail passes Golden Shore Reserve and Golden Shore RV Park.
The trail passes Golden Shore Reserve and Golden Shore RV Park.
Naples Island is a delight to explore by bike.
Naples Island is a delight to explore by bike.
Cycle for miles up the Los Angeles River and the LARIO (Los Angeles/Rio Hondo Rivers) path, but scenic value tends to decrease as you leave the coast, and it also passes some areas known for higher crime.
Cycle for miles up the Los Angeles River and the LARIO (Los Angeles/Rio Hondo Rivers) path, but scenic value tends to decrease as you leave the coast, and it also passes some areas known for higher crime.