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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, and The Manchurian Candidate.

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 kerfuffle over a JFK visit created a rift between them.

Many of the sites of Frank Sinatra’s points of interest lie along enCYCLEpedia Southern California 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. Optimized safe routes are (pending) posted on the enCYCLEpedia.net website for book owners, but you can find your own routes using Google maps to connect the dots. Some outlying Sinatra features are not part of the ride, including his private Villa Maggio compound 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 DaVall Drive at Ramon Rd, at the north end of Rancho Mirage, but just over the border in Cathedral City. 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.” Find it just north of the marker for B-8, near a tree.

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. Fans leave mementos such as bottles of Jack Daniels or dimes on his grave at times in tribute.

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:

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. 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 been the site of 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 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!

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

Fun Pandemic Biking on Palm Desert’s Closed Desert Willow Golf Course

By Richard Fox

The horrible Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating to people around the world, while Mother Earth has been able to breath a sigh of relief as our skies and waters have been the cleanest in years.

Southern Californians have been sheltering in place since late March 2020 to avoid overwhelming hospitals with Covid-19 cases, but have been allowed to exercise out of doors in small groups. Along the coast beaches have been closed because of dangerous overcrowding conditions. Out in the desert however crowds are much lower, as the snowbirds have fled, festivals and all tourist activities cancelled, and hotels and B&B’s shuttered. For a while the golf courses were closed as well, but they were eventually re-opened with safety precautions in place.

While the golf courses were closed, many of them allowed local residents to use them as parks for strolling and biking. I rode the cart paths in the golf community where I live for the first time in my 9 years of living here, and that was pleasant. However another nearby course called Desert Willow is the most beautiful in the desert, with rolling hills of native vegetation, lakes, waterfalls, expansive lush fairways, and being the high point in the Coachella Valley, panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges. The colorful desert fauna, blue skies, and fresh mountain snows from an unusually heavy April snowstorm combined to make this as beautiful a place as any. Perhaps you were able to cycle or stroll on a closed nearby golf course as well?

Desert Willow is a Palm Desert municipal course that contains two 18-hole courses, the original Mountain View course and the newer spectacular Firecliff course. Golf cart paths meander around both courses, resulting in a 12-mile paved bike trail when the course was closed. Although it became a fairly popular place to walk, there were only a handful of bikes taking advantage of it and the walkers were spread out nicely on the paths or fairways and did not create much of a hindrance to cyclists.

I rode the paths 8 days straight from when I learned about the possibility to when the course sadly (for me) re-opened. It was akin to having a fantasy bike park nearby, and I rode up to 20 miles at a time, taking in the vistas and watching the wildlife including road runners, a coyote (not chasing a road runner thankfully), colorful birds like the Vermillion Flycatcher and Scott’s Oriole, California Quail, giant lizards, and lots of bunnies. It was a “once in a lifetime” experience I shall never forget. Here are some photos from the experience.

View over the Mountain View course from the 1/2-mile entry road bike trail that is always open to us. (Part of enCYCLEpedia rides PD1 and RM1 and 2).
Heavy April snows in the surrounding mountains as seen from the Firecliff course.
Steve at Hole 18 of Firecliff.
We saw numerous road runners. This one was cooing and bragging about his lunch, possibly to a female.
Great White Egrets roosting along the Firecliff Course.
Vermillion Flycatcher.
Very bloomy prickly pear near a Firecliff tee.
Ocotillo mixed in with other trees.
Big lizard!
Steve on a typical Firecliff cart path.
Paths meandering around the Mountain View course.
Firecliff course.
Giant ocotillo from the Mountain View Course cart path. The wild lands surrounding the course are available for a hiking loop of about 1 mile when the course is open.
Beautiful Firecliff Course from the cart path.
Native vegetation along the entry road, always open.

IRVINE, CA – BIKING THE GREAT PARK AND JEFFREY OPEN SPACE

Irvine is still expanding in leaps and bounds, and with that new development comes lots of new bicycling infrastructure that the city is famous for. In June 2019 the new Bosque trail system officially opened, part of the master development of the Orange County Great Park, formerly Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. The Jeffrey Open Space Trail project has been underway over the last decade, and the 2.4-mile portion north of I-5 is now opened. When completed to its full 5-mile length it will connect all the way to the San Diego Creek Trail (enCYCLE ride IR1) and the Quail Hill area (enCYCLE ride IR2). Currently that connection can be made via the side path along Sand Canyon Rd.

It’s fun to explore the huge Orange County Great Park, which is a work in progress, but with lots of completed sections containing athletic fields, some paved bike paths, and a giant orange tethered balloon that you can ride 400 feet into the air. With the Cypress Village Trail, the Portola Side Trail, and the Round Canyon Trail cyclists can now do a very scenic 11-12 mile loop bike ride, which encompasses enCYCLEpedia’s new ride IR4, downloadable on its website.

The Bosque trail system on Great Park lands had its grand opening featuring a “High-Five Chain” across its length on June 15, 2019.
Upper Bee and Bosque open space and trails sign.
The Bosque open space area with trails.
Exploring the Great Park, shown here on a former runway.
A pleasant bike path system on the west side of the Great Park connects to the Bosque trails.
A tunnel under a roadway along the Jeffrey Open Space Trail.
Colorful tile plaques describing the agricultural history of the area are found along the Jeffrey Open Space Trail.
A roadway overpass along the Jeffrey Open Space Trail.
The Portola Side Path that connects potions of the loop ride is very well constructed.
A new path through Round Canyon in the developing Portola Springs area connects Portola with Modjeska.

Coachella Valley Safer Bike Route Alternatives at Locales of Fatal Bike Accidents

by Richard Fox Author, enCYCLEpedia Southern California

While bike lanes are always welcome on roadways, they don’t guarantee cyclists’ safety, especially on high-speed boulevards where they are not sufficiently separated from traffic lanes. All too often distracted or impaired motorists swerve into the lanes and collide with cyclists with disastrous consequences. In the Coachella Valley of the Southern California desert, cyclists that have the need for speed have no good off road options compared to other metro areas, and are relegated to ride on these dangerous byways.  The CV Link regional trail, when completed, will help improve that situation.

More casual cyclists, like those who ride our enCYCLEpedia offerings, can enjoy a much safer alternative in this region. Many of the valley’s sidewalks have been designated as bike paths and are a delight to ride on, with beautiful landscaping, and in the areas with large gated communities, long uninterrupted stretches. There’s no reason for a casual cyclist to risk being hit by a speeding car on the 55-mph boulevards when there’s a perfectly good sidewalk bike path adjacent. However, bike paths come with their own set of hazards, and cyclists must ride defensively, using extreme care at every crossing of a road or driveway. Attention to obstacles is also important, especially in unfamiliar territory, and although sprinklers can be refreshing on a hot day, they can also make the path slippery in places. Helmets are also still highly recommended on any bike path.

I just added a new ride, RM3, to the enCYCLEpedia family of rides, comprised of 10+ miles of beautifully landscaped sidewalk loops around the Mission Hills Country Club area of north Rancho Mirage. Along that route alone there have been 3 fatal bicycle accidents in the adjacent roadways in recent years. That inspired me to look up other fatal bike accidents to see whether there were alternate off-road paths adjacent or safer routes nearby. Not to say that the victims would have selected to ride on sidewalk paths versus the roadways, but it illustrates that for the casual cyclist, safer options are available. I hope and pray that no additional incidents occur in the future; enough is enough. Following are some of the reported fatal accidents since 2007 where safer alternatives exist:

Too many ghost bikes have been installed around the valley, like this one for William Campbell.

March 25, 2019:  Alberta snowbird Paul Jackson, 67, riding along the Hwy 111 shoulder near Cook in Indian Wells, crashed into a parked minivan. What resembles a bike lane is actually just a wide shoulder with parking allowed. Sidewalk bike trails run along both sides of Hwy 111 (enCYCLE ride IW1). Bike riding on the sidewalk paths are “functionally allowed” in Indian wells (i.e. cops will not hassle well behaved cyclists). The city removed the Bike Route signs along the south sidewalk path a few years ago, most likely for liability reasons. Extending the CV Link regional path through Indian Wells would get a lot of cyclists off both the roads and sidewalks, but the city has banned CV Link within its boundaries.

Indian Wells Hwy 111 south sidewalk path was formerly a signed bike trail, as shown below, but the city un-designated it. The shoulder along Hwy 111 is not a designated bike lane and parking is allowed.

March 23, 2019: This is not the Coachella Valley, but is a nearby Riverside County enCYCLE  ride used as illustration:  Family man and outdoorsman Brian Sabel, 52, was the victim of an early morning hit-and-run in an ample bike lane along beautiful and historic Victoria Avenue in Riverside. This road is very popular with road cyclists and seems like a safe place to ride.  However, enCYCLE ride R2 uses the adjacent paved Rosanna Scott Bike Trail instead, which is much safer.

The bike lanes along Riverside’s historic Victoria Ave are very popular with cyclists.
The lesser-used Rosanna Scott Bike Trail adjacent is a safer alternative.

December 13, 2018:  William Campbell, 32, a local avid cyclist, was struck in the Ramon Road bike lane near Rattler in Rancho Mirage. New enCYCLE ride RM3 is along a wide sidewalk path adjacent to the bike lane, although the path does not continue east past Los Alamos.

William’s memorial is adjacent to the Ramon Rd bike lane he was hit in. A nice sidewalk path makes a safer alternative through here.

May 14, 2018: Diana Lynn Young, 61, was struck in the bike lane of Country Club Drive in front of the Marriott Desert Springs resort in Palm Desert where she worked. enCYCLE rides RM1, RM2 and PD1 all use the beautifully landscaped sidewalk bike paths available on both sides of Country Club through there.  They continue for miles in both directions.  I sometimes rode in the bike lanes through here to get a good sprint going, until this incident.

The beautiful sidewalk paths surrounding and into Desert Willow Golf Course (shown here) make a safer more scenic alternative to riding along Country Club.

April 2, 2018:  BC Snowbird Peter Harvey, 74, was hit in the bike lane on Bob Hope Drive near Ginger Rogers in Rancho Mirage.  New enCYCLE ride RM3 is along the pretty designated bike/golf cart path along the west side of Bob Hope between Gerald Ford and Dinah Shore.

A typical sidewalk bike path in this area. This is actually around the corner on Gerald Ford.

June 26, 2017:  Larry Lee Ortner, 81, hit a parked landscaping truck when gliding down the Avenida Bermudas hill in La Quinta Cove.  While this seems to be a safe road to ride on, always watch out for what is in front of you, even in a bike lane. We prefer to ride both up and down the paved Bear Creek Trail (enCYCLE ride LQ1) in The Cove instead to avoid vehicular traffic and enjoy the great scenery in both directions.

Scenic Bear Creek Trail in La Quinta Cove.

February 7, 2015: Todd Barajas, 52, was struck while riding late at night on Hovley Lane near Corporate Way, where there is no bike lane. However, there is an ample sidewalk path along the north side of the road. This is an alternate route to Country Club when riding enCYCLE ride RM2.

January 6, 2015:  Rose Peters, 73, a cycling enthusiast who’d ridden cross country several times and was using a hand-cycle because of hip replacements, was broadsided while riding in the Hwy 74 bike lane in Palm Desert by a vehicle turning left onto Mesa View, which is one of the routes to The Living Desert.  enCYCLE’s ride in that area (RM2) uses Hwy 74’s frontage road and corresponding paths rather than busy Hwy 74, but that still involves side street crossings that require extra caution because of turning vehicles.

There are a lot of less-busy options than Hwy 74 to ride to Palm Desert’s Living Desert.

November 30, 2012: Corey Holley, 38, was struck along South Palm Canyon at Palmera (near Stein Mart). This road is not safe.  Much better alternatives now exist along South Belardo Rd to the west between downtown and South Palm Springs, or through the Deepwell District (enCYCLE rides PS1, PS2).

Paths like the new CV Linker near Demuth Park and other new infrastructure provide more and more options to stay off dangerous roadways in Palm Springs.

June 2, 2012: Gerald Weiss, 52, a well respected physician and family man, was hit on very dangerous Fred Waring Drive west of Eldorado, in traffic lanes after dark. Indian Wells lost a lawsuit because the road was determined to be unsafe, and as a result erected signs banning bikes along there. It’s not an enCYCLE recommended stretch because the sidewalk alongside Fred Waring between Eldorado and Cook is narrow, though it still is rideable. We detour south, down Class II Eldorado to the 111 sidewalk paths, and back up on the Cook sidewalk path to avoid this stretch that CV Link would otherwise bridge if not banned in Indian Wells (rides IW1, RM2).

From the Eldorado Bridge, showing where CV Link would be an alternative to the dangerous stretch of Fred Waring Dr where bikes are banned, in the background.

April 8, 2012:  Donald McCluskey, 49, was on Da Vall waiting at the red light to cross south past Ramon in Rancho Mirage when a minivan heading north blew through the red light, was hit by a westbound vehicle on Ramon, and overturned onto McCluskey and the vehicle next to him.  Our new ride RM3 uses the east sidewalk of Da Vall at that location on both sides of Ramon, which would have been out of the line of fire in this case. However, in situations with sudden catastrophic vehicle crashes, cars can just as easily end up on a sidewalk or bike path, so vigilance at all times can’t hurt.

Da Vall sidewalk path near Ramon.

December 4, 2010:  Joseph P. Szymanski, 56, was the victim of a hit-and-run midday while riding westbound in the ample bike lane on 54th between Madison and Jefferson in La Quinta.  It would seem like a safe road to ride on, but I guess not.  We use the pretty landscaped sidewalk along the south side of 54th for enCYCLE ride LQ2, and pay careful attention if sprinklers make the sidewalk wet and slippery.  

Many La Quinta boulevards have ample bike lanes, but we opt for the sidewalk paths alongside them when riding between Old Town and Lake Cahuilla Regional Park, its RV park shown here.

March 7, 2007:  Athlete Kim Raney, 26, on vacation from Washington, fell off her bike and was hit by a truck while riding on Hwy 111 in Cathedral City.  enCYCLE feels Hwy 111 is too dangerous to ride on.  All of our rides that encounter Hwy 111 are either on sidewalk bike trails alongside it, or via alternate routes.  This includes PS1 – PS4, CC1, RM1, and RM2. The CV Link path will add some great alternatives to riding along Hwy 111 for all cyclists, although it is hindered by its boycott by the cities of Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells.

The completed 3-mile section of CV Link in Palm Springs/Cathedral City is a model of things to come.

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.

CA_SD7SwtWtrReservoir
Sweetwater Reservoir, adjacent to Sweetwater Summit campground. It dams the Sweetwater River that starts in the mountains at Cuyamaca State Park.
CA_SD7SwtWtrSummitBrdg
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.
CA_SD7SwtWtrDirtPath
Dirt paths past golf courses and riparian areas through Bonita connect Sweetwater Summit Regional Park with the Sweetwater Bikeway to the bay.
CA_SD7SwtWtrRiverPath
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.
CA_SD7SwtWtrMarina1
Sweetwater Bikeway rounds a bend to reach the Pier 32 Marina in National City. This section is part of the Bayshore Bikeway.
CA_SD7SwtWtrMarinaEnd
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.

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.  

 

 

 

Desert Trip Music Festival By Bike

By Richard Fox, Author, enCYCLEpedia Southern California – The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides

It was hyped as the biggest music festival since Woodstock,  and this baby boomer who grew up on Rock and Roll and just barely missed Woodstock (my parents wouldn’t let my older brother take me at 12 years old to the venue that was 60 miles away) was reeled in hook line and sinker. My partner Steve and I live in Palm Desert, and have resisted going to Coachella and Stagecoach over the years, but I couldn’t pass up this amazing lineup, even though I had seen them all before so couldn’t call it a “bucket list” event.  I purchased reserved seats for Weekend One when they went on sale in May at $1,100 (incl. fees) each. Although not general admission, they were the “cheap seats” in the grandstands, compared to the $1,700 seats closer up. General Admission tickets were around $400, but we didn’t want to have to arrive early and wait in the hot sun to get a good seat, which were all inferior to the reserved seats, the stage being just a blip in the distance for them.  All summer I wondered if I had made a mistake and been a victim of hype spending so much money on one concert festival. As it turns out, it was all worth it, as we had the most enjoyable weekend in recent memory.

deserttripticketboxLogistics of getting to a massive event (70-80,000 folks expected) was a concern, but as avid casual cyclists we decided to try and ride our bikes to the event. The venue maps that came in the Desert Trip box with the tickets (along with the 3D view master) showed designated color-coded routes and bike parking areas; it looked simple. On Day 1, we visited friends that live near the northeast corner of the venue, left the car there and biked in.  It was a nice and flat ride, only a couple of miles.  However none of the many people directing traffic knew where to direct bikes.  There was supposedly a “Yellow Path” starting near Madison and 49th, but we never found it.  Instead, we rode with cars through the very dusty dirt Platinum lot, for those that had purchased the $1,700 tickets. We were told to lock our bikes to a fence near the venue entry, and we went in with the VIP ticket holders, a short distance from the main venue.  Security was tight, with no liquids allowed, similar to airport security, only empty bottles with water fill up stations inside. They had metal scanners and guards with wands.  I was glad for the extra security, as this event would seem to be a high profile target.

Once inside we saw a row of diverse food stands, all with long lines.  We got large slices of Spicy Pizza for $7 each, which were delicious and turned out to be one of the best values in the venue.  Our seats were in the north grandstands,  about 2/3 back and 1/3 up in the giant structure.  I was disappointed that the floor section was so wide that the grandstands were much farther from the stage than in a typical arena.  Even those with $1,700 grandstand seats were not that close.  However, we liked our position being able to see the stage, all the giant screens, fireworks that erupted at the end of each night’s performances, and across to the entire venue, the psychedelic lit carousel, desert sky, and the moon after dark.  We needed binocs to see the performers in person, although they were shown on the giant screens, except for Roger Waters’ Pink Floyd show, where all the front screens were reserved for special effects; only the screens facing the general admission section showed the performers. The sound was great, loud but not deafening, and the seats were padded with backs and fairly comfortable.

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From the grandstands, looking across past the rear floor seats toward the general admission section and carousel.

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Looking toward grandstands and the stage.

Bob Dylan started on time, much to the chagrin of many who were caught in gridlock traffic on the first night. Even some of the shuttles were stuck for hours, with people missing part or all of the Dylan show.  Neither of us are big fans of Dylan’s voice, although I respect his songwriting and poetry as one of the all time greats.  I was hoping he wouldn’t do the set list of his current tour, which included Sinatra covers, and he didn’t.  Instead he gave us many of the classics including Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (and yes the smell of pot wasn’t uncommon in the venue).  Interesting black and white videos were displayed on the three huge building-sized screens behind the stage, showing 60’s scenes, cars, highways (to Highway 61) and lots of birds. He never spoke to the audience, and just left the stage when he was done, although those in front realized what was happening and generated enough applause to call him back for a Masters of War encore (the lucky Weekend Two people got Like a Rolling Stone instead, but not with Mick Jagger, a duet that was on my wish list and even seemed like a requirement for this event! The Stones did a great version of it on their Stripped acoustic live album). During the first break between acts, I was glad that Golden Voice had provided enough high end air conditioned bathroom trailers so that there was no waiting.  Food lines were once again long, but soon enough we had spent $27 on a couple of tacos and bowl of chile verde from the Jackalope Ranch stand, putting our food total for the evening at $41.

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The Desert Trip app provided photo frames. This is looking at the stage from our seats.

The Rolling Stones came on next with a flurry of flashing lights and “Ladies and Gentleman the Rolling Stones!” announcement. Mick Jagger was in top form and the show proved to be phenomenal.  I melted hearing the cowbell intro to Honkey Tonk Woman, and was blown away by the back to back Gimme Shelter with an amazing female vocalist pitching in, and Sympathy for the Devil, with Mick in his smoking jacket backed by a huge devilish pulsating video screen.   Encores included a choir singing the intro to You Can’t Always Get What You Want, and of course Satisfaction.  I went away thoroughly pleased with our first day of Desert Trip.  We exited easily, hopped on our bikes, and rode through the parking lots, along the closed lanes of Monroe, and back to our car in our friends’ driveway.  The ride back was much easier and less stressful since we knew where we were going and didn’t have a concert deadline. We were then caught in about 15 minutes worth of traffic backups in the car getting out of the area,  not too bad.

On Day 2 we decided to ride our bikes directly from Lake Cahuilla Regional Park, where we were staying in our RV. (Featured photo, Steve with Desert Trip T-shirt getting ready to leave). We reserved a spot as soon as rumors of the festival emerged, as this camp books solid during festivals, and even has a shuttle stop.  Although 5 miles away and not as convenient as staying in the RV on site, the cost of $120 for 4 nights contrasted to $1,000+ for staying at the venue with electric hookups. Lake Cahuilla is a public park, whereas most of the private campgrounds in the region gouge for Coachella festival weekends. Tent campers, however, can stay in a 10’x30′ spot at the venue for tent and car for $100, although you can’t take your car out for the 4 days and have to rely on shuttles (or bike!) to get around the area or use the venue’s general store for supplies.

It was 98F on Saturday when we rode in to the festival around 4-5 pm.  We rode slowly, mostly on safe sidewalks along Madison Street with shade, and it worked out well, we weren’t drenched in sweat upon arrival.  The “Green” ped/bike route to the venue starting at Madison and 52nd was easy to follow, although the route was on packed sand and grass, fine for our Townies but no picnic if you had a skinny-tired bike.  We had to take our bikes through a preliminary security checkpoint (water, food and alcohol allowed since it’s the security level for the campgrounds), then continued riding.  We locked our bikes to a row of bike racks located where they were labeled on the venue map, and started walking.  After a while we saw a sign that said “Bikes This Way.”  It turns out the bike parking area for the Green Path was just outside the main venue entrance.  We could have saved about a quarter mile of walking had we known from any of the employees that watched us lock our bikes there, or if the map had been labeled properly. After the concert though, the way was so packed with pedestrians that we would’ve had to walk our bike much of the way anyway.

We wandered around the grounds. There was not a whole lot to do besides buy food or merchandise, ride the ferris wheel, or visit the giant rock and roll photography exhibit tent, which had a long line to get in.  Since the food stand lines were fairly short around 5:30, we spent $26 on a Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich and a way overpriced bowl of fried rice.

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Classic albums to pose next to.

Neil Young’s show started 30 minutes later than the advertised 6:15 start time.  Neil and his band Promise of the Real were incredible. Neil was in top voice as he played a mix of classics, especially from the Harvest album, a thrilling 22 minute superjam to Down by the River, and several newer well done socially conscious songs, ending with Keep on Rocking in the Free World.  During intermission we had another slice of Spicy Pizza (food total now $40 for the evening) and got together with a childhood friend that I used to go to lots of concerts with in the 70’s, and his wife. I hadn’t seen them in 25 years but had recently re-connected via Facebook.  It was apropos and fun to reminisce about old times during this monumental celebration of classic Rock and Roll, really adding to the total experience of the weekend.

Steve and I had seen McCartney in 2002, which was one of the biggest concert thrills ever, it was like being at a Beatles concert.  This time though his voice had weakened significantly.  It was still great to hear the master Macca do his songs from A Hard Days Night to Blackbird and Band on the Run, sing along to Hey Jude, and watch all the special graphics and the explosions to Live and Let Die, but the highlight was when Neil Young came on stage to duet on A Day in the Life/Give Peace a Chance and Why Don’t We Do it in the Road.  This was the only collaboration during Week One, despite rumors of guest stars like Eric Clapton and Bono.  Guest stars weren’t needed though, the shows were great just as they were.  Weekend two attendees were treated to Rihanna singing a duet with McCartney.

By the time we had walked all the way to our bikes and gotten out of the venue and onto Madison Street heading south, it was past 1:00 AM.  I was concerned about riding in the bike lanes at that hour on a Saturday night, so I stuck to the sidewalks, which was a bit of a challenge at night, but doable with my bike light.  Steve got fed up and just rode the bike lanes.  We found it a “moment of zen” to have just ridden our bikes back and forth to the show with no vehicles, although we were very tired after the long day/night and not a lot of sleep the night before.

On Day 3, we spent the day with my childhood friends, having a lovely brunch at Lulu’s in Palm Springs. Temps were the warmest yet, near 100F, helping sway our decision to forget the bikes and just carpool with our friends from their AirBnB rental in Palm Desert. They had found easy access to Lot 2A (free with admission) by going south on Jefferson and turning left on 50th Street, and we got in around 4:00pm with no traffic.  The walk from there along the Red Path was long, but a good way to burn off some calories.  For those not up for walking, bicycle cabs provided rides along the path.  Once inside, the line to the photography exhibit was very long once more, but then someone came by and said “There’s no waiting if you go in the side entrance.”  So we did. It was an extensive and fascinating exhibit of all the performers from the 60’s to the present.

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Old friends Elizabeth & Gary pose as part of Pink Floyd.

We explored the food booths behind the General Admission area, which were even more interesting than those behind the grandstands.  Lines were about 10 minutes long, and we had a delicious chicken aoli sandwich and date bacon whole wheat flatbread ($27).

This was my favorite day of music.  The Who played all greatest hits including several songs in a row each from Quadraphenia and Tommy, most of my favorite Who album, Who’s Next, and a bunch of 60’s oldies. Roger Daltrey hit almost all of his trademark notes, and Pete Townsend was in a feisty mood, playing a mean guitar as well. I enjoyed this performance much more than in 1997 when I saw their Endless Wire tour show at the Hollywood Bowl.  Intermission was once again spent reminiscing with my old friends, leading up to the highlight of the weekend for both of us, Roger Waters’ Best of Pink Floyd set.  The venue rumbled with surround sound of a beating heart, helicopters, trains, sirens, alarm clocks, and beautiful spacey music, while amazing graphics displayed on the giant screen, including the Animals album cover stadium sized factory with smokestacks and steam coming out of them.  They played most of the albums Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and selections from The Wall (with kids singing on Another Brick in the Wall) and Animals, including an over the top condemnation of Donald Trump as a giant floating pig, which angered some in the crowd, like the man in front of us who shouted a few “What about the Lies?” (ie Hillary) before he stormed out (g’bye!). Waters’ band has a David Gilmour sound-alike singer and two Sia-looking backup singers who wailed on The Great Gig in the Sky.

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Pink Floyd combined Pigs and The Wall and made it all about Trump.

They concluded with the Dark Side of the Moon finale Brain Damage/Eclipse, followed by Vera and Bring the Boys Home, a Roger Waters Poem and one of my favorites, Comfortably Numb.  Meanwhile the moon had moved across the sky from one side of the venue to the other.  It was a stellar end to a stellar weekend.  Weekend Two folks were treated to a super full moon under which to enjoy the Dark Side of the Moon spectacle, but hey, we got see the actual dark side of the moon the previous week!  We were on such a (natural) high, not wanting the evening to end, that we went to the nearest 24 hour restaurant, IHOP, for more laughter and reminiscing with our old friends.  There were a lot of people with concert wristbands in there, as well as other restaurants across the valley throughout the two weekends, indicating the economic impact these festivals have on the local economy during the shoulder seasons. Concert goers had to leave their wristbands on throughout the time of the festival.

It took a day or so for this 59 year old to recover from the excitement of the event, the amazing music, camaraderie, late nights (4AM the last night) and little sleep, however, I don’t feel like an “Oldchella” person by any means. If anything this experience revitalized me, and the energy of the performers proved that they are going to rock ’til they drop.

I do recommend biking to the festivals at the Polo Grounds if possible.  However the problem with taking your bike may be where to park your car if you’re not staying within reasonable biking distance.  If you have friends who live in the vicinity who don’t mind you parking at their place, that’s a good option.  Or, if you are staying in an accommodation in La Quinta/Indio /Indian Wells, you can find bike routes leading from there.  Keep in mind you will be riding home late at night in the dark, so make sure to have the best bike light possible and ample rear light, and take them with you into the venue to prevent theft.  I don’t trust drivers on the road late at night, so I will always stick to the sidewalks. Try to notice any sidewalk hazards along the way when you ride to the show in daylight so you can avoid them when it’s dark. It goes without saying, don’t drink too much! It’s unsafe, and actually illegal to bike drunk, so if you plan to drink, consider Uber /Lyft or buy a shuttle pass (in advance) instead. In the future the CV Link Bike Trail will run through the region along the Whitewater River, and I hope festival promoter Golden Voice participates in creating a safe route from the trail to the venue, about 3 miles south of its closest point.  A connecting path along the Coachella Canal may do the trick, and while they are at it they can continue that path to Lake Cahuilla!

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