A doable adventure for those looking for a longer ride is the trek from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, a distance of 95 miles by car or 105 by bicycle, give or take, depending on exactly where in the vast metropolis of L.A. you begin. Some ride up and take the train back, while others spend the night and ride back the next day. I was worried we were not quite up to the challenge of a century ride at this particular time. We also had no intention of taking the usual and more direct route along the coast the entire way, as the stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway (“PCH” to locals) between Santa Monica and the far reaches of Malibu is a harrowing place for cyclists. It’s true that many bike along this stretch, and most do live to see another day, but the high-speed motorists, the narrow shoulder that occasionally disappears, the many surfers preoccupied with loading and unloading their gear from cars parked alongside the highway, make for a stressful experience. So we decided to split the ride into two days, and add some extra miles by routing the first half of the ride through the San Fernando Valley. This meant no need for the stress of riding on PCH.
A ride planned by a friend a few years ago inspired the plan. She invited a group of us to meet at the Amtrak train station in Chatsworth (in the San Fernando Valley) and start the ride from there, following an 85-mile route through Simi Valley and into Camarillo before hitting the coast in the Oxnard/Ventura area, and then heading north to Santa Barbara. We then took a train back to Chatsworth that same evening, where we’d left our cars. I prefer to leave cars out of it entirely, when possible, and we already know how to ride our bikes from our home to Chatsworth, so why not just append our route to Chatsworth onto my friend’s route to Santa Barbara? That brings the total mileage closer to 120, but split between two days, that’s not bad at all. We developed a 60-mile route to get us to Thousand Oaks, and it was another 60 miles from there to Santa Barbara – perfect.
Saturday morning, we fed the cats, made arrangements with our houseguests to feed them while we were away, fixed ourselves breakfast, packed our essentials into a single pannier, and off we went. Knowing we only had to cover 60 miles, we were able to leave without rushing. All we had to do was make it to our hotel in Thousands Oaks. We didn’t get out the door until 9:15 AM, but we had plenty of time to complete our task for the day, even allowing for some stops along the way.
We headed north into Hollywood, and rode over the Cahuenga Pass. It’s not the most pleasant bikeway, but it’s doable, and there just aren’t appealing options for getting over to the San Fernando Valley from central Los Angeles. If you’re willing to approach the Valley from farther east, there’s a much more pleasant route through Griffith Park or the Los Angeles River Trail, but Cahuenga is more direct and it’s not too bad going northbound in the morning. (Southbound is a completely different story: DON’T TRY IT!)
After navigating a few busy, stressful streets, like Lankershim Boulevard, we got onto Vineland Ave’s buffered bike lane to connect us with the Chandler bike path, which continues west, and then north, as the Orange Line Bikeway to Chatsworth. That got us close to the home of a friend, where we took our first rest stop. We were about 30 miles and 3 hours into our journey, so it was perfect timing. We enjoyed a pleasant social call, had a snack, and used the facilities before heading on again. From there, we were close to Box Canyon. That meant a somewhat narrow winding road and a grueling climb, but with gorgeous scenery. We pulled over a few times to catch our breath, guzzle some water, and let some traffic pass us by. The climb was steep enough that we could just manage it, but not without a few stops along the way. I kept thinking I could not recall doing a climb like this on my friend’s route to Santa Barbara a few years ago. As it turns out, we were not following my friend’s route for this part; it was just so much more convenient to go this way from the location of our friend’s house where we’d stopped. If you are planning your own trip out of Chatsworth, you can consider whether you prefer a gentler route heading straight north on Topanga Canyon Blvd to Santa Susana Pass Road, or going west and following Box Canyon Road, with it’s challenge and beauty.
After the climb, Box Canyon Road ended at Santa Susana Pass Road, which took us to Simi Valley. After a short stretch on East Los Angeles Ave, we next hopped onto the Arroyo Simi Bike Path. This is a great bike path that takes you a good 7-8 miles across Simi Valley. From there, we headed southwest on Madera Road, which took us all the way to Thousand Oaks. A little pro tip in case you decide to take this route: when you turn left to head south on Madera Road, DO NOT make a full left turn into the southbound traffic lanes! Instead, take an immediate left onto the side path that runs along the eastern side of the Road. Madera Road at this point is one of those suburban highways and it does not have a bike lane in the road. Luckily, we noticed the side path and crossed over at one of the intersections after a rather stressful stint in the rightmost traffic lane. Later on, Google maps will also guide you onto Country Club Ct, which gives a break from Madera Road and a proper bike lane for awhile. When you get back onto Madera Road, this time, DO NOT take the sidewalk, as it will come to an abrupt end. There is a proper (but unprotected) bike lane on Madera Road beginning at this point. Soon thereafter, Madera Road becomes Olsen Road, which then becomes Lynn Road. While on the Olsen Road portion, we enjoyed riding past California Lutheran University, a place we both knew was in the Thousand Oaks area, but had never seen.
From Lynn Road, we hung a right onto Hillcrest Road. After a couple miles, that brought us to our destination for the evening, the lovely Premier Inns of Thousand Oaks. Okay, maybe not exactly lovely, but perfectly adequate for our needs. They were nice enough about letting us bring our bikes into the room, which had plenty of room for them, but we couldn’t get a room on the ground floor, so had to lug our bikes up the (external) stairs and wheel them around a maze of angled breezeways to get to our room, all the while bathed in the stench of cigarette smoke. I hadn’t realized the room I had booked was a “smoking” room, but the way the whole place smelled as we made our way to the room, it seemed perhaps all of their rooms are smoking rooms. We were looking for an inexpensive place to crash for the night, and that’s what we got. We were also able to walk to a nearby strip mall that offered lots of restaurants to choose from. We enjoyed a nice dinner at Stella’s, and, along the way, spotted an IHOP that was positioned perfectly for grabbing breakfast when it would be time to head out in the morning.
Day two started out with a hearty breakfast at IHOP, which put us in position to continue west on Borchard Road. After about two and a half miles, Borchard fed us into Rancho Dos Vientos, and then to Portrero Road. There appears from the map to be a more direct option, but we liked the scenic route. And next is where the ride gets extra fun: going west on Portrero serves you up with a few gentle rollers, and then, despite not having climbed any significant hills, you get treated to a delightful descent into the coastal flatlands. A memorable thrill.
We continued through farmland, heading towards Port Hueneme (pronounced hu-NAY-mee, although it always sounds to me like folks are saying “wuh-NEE-mee”). We rode past acres of strawberry fields, which smelled delicious, and resisted the urge to stop and try to “sample” the sweet-smelling fruit.
As we entered the residential areas of Oxnard, it was interesting to see the neighborhoods and various styles of apartments and houses, imagining this is where the workers of the nearby fields are living. As we got closer to the water, the homes gradually became larger. We rode though the Channel Islands area, taking Channel Islands Boulevard, which I’d not seen before. Closely packed houses, some quite large, line the channels, with boats docked in front of each one. It’s quite picturesque, and you just can’t ride by and not take photos. From there, we turned north, following Harbor Blvd into Ventura.
Soon thereafter, we came to the entrance to the bike path along Ventura Beach, where we found ample opportunities for a restroom break, and much to our delight, an ideal place to stop for lunch. Right along the bike path, is the Jolly Oyster, which has two trailers and several picnic tables. At one trailer, you can buy fresh oysters to take home and prepare yourself. At the other, you can buy prepared oysters to eat right there. The menu offered several appealing choices. We shared one plate of raw oysters, and one of grilled, plus had some scallop ceviche. It was awesome. We felt like we’d won the lottery to have stumbled across such a perfect lunch spot at just the right time.
After our little feast, we filled up our water bottles and continued north on the beach path. Okay, well there was an odd little section shortly thereafter where we had to wangle our way on a road (not so clearly marked to guide cyclists) for a short bit before the beach path resumed, but from there on out it was quite delightful riding along the ocean, separated from the cars. We rolled along with that beautiful soul-enriching ocean view for nearly 30 miles into Santa Barbara.
We rode into town, not sure of where we wanted to hang out next, until we came across Dune Coffee Roasters, along Cota Street. We parked our bikes next to an outdoor table and enjoyed some refreshments as well as some interesting characters, making it a true Santa Barbara experience. Actually, we later took the true Santa Barbara experience to a more typical level by heading over to State Street, which is closed to cars and filled with people. There we parked our bikes again, and slurped up some margaritas. We followed that with a slow roll around town and found ourselves a little park where we could hang for a bit before heading to the train station for our ride back to L.A.
The platform at the Santa Barbara train station was quite the party scene. There were lots of folks in good spirits, many part of a large group that appeared to be celebrating an occasion together. The atmosphere was noisy and rambunctious, but luckily didn’t veer into obnoxious. Once the train arrived, we secured our bikes in the lower level of the special car for bikes, and proceeded to find us some seats on the upper level. Turns out the party from the platform was continuing in our car of the train, and we enjoyed their good humor for our ride home.
Another year, another round of coffeeneuring. Whataneuring, you ask? See my coffeeneuring reports from previous years to get the backstory. Quick answer: Coffeeneuring is a challenge put out each Fall to bike (or run) to seven different coffee shops (or coffee outside locations) over the course of seven weeks, providing documentation. There are a few more rules, but that’s the gist of it. Each year the challenge has a theme, and participants have the option of embracing the theme in their own way, or creating a theme to add to the fun. This year’s theme was “C+1”, and I decided to make that about inviting someone along for each outing. I also find myself unable to resist keeping track of which Bloomers I wore each time (because that’s my thing, as in literally, that’s my side hustle).
The following is my report:
#1: Date: October 24, 2021
Where: La Tropezienne, Mid-City Los Angeles
Distance: 23.5 miles
Bloomers: Dazzling Amethyst
My friend Angie and I sometimes ride to Griffith Park together, so when she reached out to ask if I’d like to ride together this time, I was happy to do so. Then another friend, Lynn, ended up joining us. Turns out Angie needed to skedaddle on home right after our ride through the park, but Lynn was game for a coffee run. I hold fond memories of delectable goodies from La Tropezienne, and wanted to visit them again this year. Along with my cappuccino (they do those right), I enjoyed an almond croissant that featured all the perfect flakiness and almondy goodness.
#2: Date: October 30, 2021
Where: Lot 38, Washington, D.C.
Beverage: Macchiato Caramello
Bloomers: Pinkadot Black
C+1: Spirit of Frederick Douglass
Every year, during coffeeneuring season, I make a trip to our nation’s capitol to attend a conference, where I make use of their bikeshare system and bike routes. One year I was lucky enough to meet up with one of the many coffeeneurs in the area, and share a coffeeneuring ride together, but this year I was unable to find a ride buddy who was available at the same time I was free. Through the marvels of Instagram, I had been following the development of the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge (I love biking over bridges), so I decided to designate the spirit of Frederick Douglass as my C+1. We had a great time despite getting a wee bit lost on the way there (missed my turn off the Mt. Vernon Trail, so took the Arlington Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River instead of crossing by way of Hains Point). Before getting to the new Frederick Douglass Bridge, however, I had to get to Lot 38, a coffee shop nearby that was going to close soon so I had to save the exploration for after my treats. The macchiato caramello and cinnamon bun were well worth the trip. Afterward, I had fun riding across the new bridge with its fantastically generous bike lane as well as exploring both sides of the Anacostia River. It was a glorious adventure, and I relished the opportunity to see some autumn colors along the way.
#3: Date: October 31, 2021
Where: Stories Books & Cafe, Echo Park
Beverage: Drip Coffee with Milk & Caramel
Bloomers: Rustica Leggings (not Bloomers!)
The very next day, I was back in L.A., and was able to join the Street Librarians for their monthly visit to re-stock some little free libraries in the Silver Lake / Echo Park / Koreatown areas. The group meets up at Stories Books & Cafe in Echo Park, typically enjoying goodies before the ride begins. This time I had the pleasure of meeting someone new to me, Quoc, my C+1 for this ride. It was Halloween, so we embraced a spooky theme, and I had fun dressing for the occasion.
#4: Date: November 6, 2021
Where: Sidecar Donuts, Fairfax District
Beverage: Vintage Brew Coffee
Bloomers: Conventional Black Bike Shorts (again, no Bloomers!)
C+1: El Cochinito
This was an unplanned coffeeneuring excursion of the best kind. El Cochinito and I had simply planned to ride one of my favorite routes togethers, the Nichols Canyon / Franklin Canyon Loop that features quiet roads, beautiful scenery, and just enough climbing to feel legitimate without being too taxing. As we were back on the flats and working our way home, he surprised me with a stop at Sidecar Donuts. I was delighted to try this new location, and the Dulce de Leche Churro donut I had was divine, complemented by a brewed coffee with milk and honey. Sweetness with my Sweetie!
#5: Date: November 14, 2021
Where: Mendocino Farms, Culver City
Bloomers: Party Pants
So maybe the theme this year was really figuring out how to turn each weekend’s bike ride into a coffeeneuring ride. Certainly that was the case here, as I didn’t want to miss a tour of the urban forest in Culver City, led by Patricia Bijvoet. Patricia is a local urban landscape architect whom I met through Women on Bike Culver City. I was unfamiliar with urban forestry and what that meant, and this was a fascinating educational experience. Does having lemonade with the ride leader count as coffeeneuring? I think so.
#6: Date: November 20, 2021
Where: Akasha, Culver City
Beverage: Drip Coffee with Caramel
Bloomers: Dazzling Amethyst
I found myself back in Culver City the very next weekend, this time not wanting to miss the grand opening celebration of the new mobility lanes that transform the streets through Culver City’s charming downtown from scary-insane to delightful. After all, they didn’t just add bike lanes and a bus lane, they painted pretty flourishes along the way. Afterward, Jennifer gladly joined me as my C+1 for coffee and treats at Akasha. I had a drip coffee with caramel and half & half, and a delicious pistachio croissant.
#7: Date: November 27, 2021
Where: Pailin, Hollywood
Beverage: Thai Iced Coffee
Bloomers: Red Hot Aqua Dot
Time was running out, and here I was, looking for a way to turn my next outing into a coffeeneuring ride. El Cochinito had made arrangements for us to meet up with a former student of his at a nearby Thai restaurant, so we biked there and I made sure I had me a Thai iced coffee with my lunch. I had some time hanging with the former student’s partner, Kat, while our respective dates were outside for a bit. Kat was fun to visit with, and was gracious about letting me photograph her to document my C+1.
And with that, just under the wire, another season of coffeeneuring was completed.
The world is in turmoil right now, as we are more than two weeks in to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Not wanting to support war crimes in progress, much of the world is shunning Russian oil. Gas prices were already high, and now they’re even higher. I only know this from watching the news, as my primary vehicle has no gas tank. It doesn’t have a battery, either. I prefer biking for lots of reasons, mostly because it’s more fun than driving. The current situation, however, is bringing one advantage to the fore: I don’t have to buy gas!
Which brings me to the biggest reason why I share my biking stories, and the biggest reason why I created Bikie Girl Bloomers: I am a bikevangelist, and I want to share the bike love! I live in Los Angeles, and I remember how I felt when I first moved here back in 1996: how is it even possible to bike in a crazy car-centric city? It should not require special bravery and skill; biking should be available to everyone. Once you learn the tips and tricks, though, urban cycling is really quite delightful.
Back in 2017, I was inspired to create a handout for visitors to a New York pop-up shop I participated in for a week with several other brands that cater to urban cyclists. Some of the brands sponsored events as part of the pop-up shop experience, and Bikie Girl Bloomers offered a workshop for bike commuting. I made a handout that included tips for getting started on bike commuting as well as showcasing how each of the products offered in our pop-up could help make bike commuting more enjoyable. Afterward, I posted a version of it here on the site. Just this week, I revised my handout so I could post it to my virtual booth at the National Bike Summit coming up March 27-30, 2022. I realized that nearly five years had passed, and it was time for an update. Here’s the updated version:
Keep it simple. Establish a small goal: to bike to a nearby store for an errand, or to bike home from work one day this week. You will be going through the planning and execution logistics, and perhaps overcoming some trepidation, and that is enough for the first time at it. Make sure you are ready by thinking through the following items to ensure a positive experience. If you are new to city riding, you might start out with recreational social rides led by a bike advocacy group or a local bike shop, or you can search for a licensed cycling instructor (see Bike League Directory Search to find local resources). Riding with a group can make city riding safer, teach you city riding skills, and introduce you to others who like to ride. It’s also a great way to discover parts of your city you never knew. You can find local groups to ride with through sites such as MeetUp.com and Facebook. Look for “no drop” and beginner-friendly rides to match your riding level.
If you will ride your own bike, consider taking it to a local bike shop for a tune up and safety check. If you don’t know how to fix a flat tire, now is the time to learn and practice (you can find tutorials on youtube). The weekend before your first ride, check your ABC’s: A – air in the tires; B – brakes working; C – chain is clean and lubed. Re-check these before each ride. It’s normal for your tires to need a little more air, or for your chain to need some cleaning, about once a week or so. Checking these items regularly will also make it easy for you to notice when the brakes are getting worn, or another repair is needed.
If you will use bike share, go to the web site for your city’s bike share system and familiarize yourself with how it works, what you need to check out a bike, and where the docking stations are for your start and stop points. Download an app to make it easy to find bike share stations while out and about. Many bike share systems changed during the pandemic, so be sure to get up to date information. Google maps has a feature (select “more” to reveal the “search along this route” box and type in “bike share stations”) that will show bike share stations along a route you are considering.
The basic gear needs include: helmet, lights, and something to carry your stuff. Helmets are available in stylish designs (see those by SawakoNutcase and BikePretty), and with lights to signal braking and turning (see the Lumos helmet). If taking your own bike, you will want to carry a patch kit, extra inner tube, a pump, and bike tools, such as a multi-tool. Keep a quality lock with you, even if you can park the bike inside, as you may need it when stopping for an errand. High quality theft-resistant locks can be heavy, but TiGr offers titanium locks that are strong, light and stylish. The best way to lock a bike is to combine a strong cable with a high-quality U-lock, to ensure the wheels cannot be removed and the frame is secured to a bike rack. (See here for examples.)
Gear that makes the commute more pleasant: fenders, a chainguard, a good saddle properly adjusted, a basket and/or rack, phone holder, and a kickstand. Other gear that can be worth the investment: handlebars/bike that support upright riding position, dynamo lights, panniers, platform pedals that work well with street shoes, and a power bank to re-charge your phone or lights. An electric assist bike can be practical if the commute is long and/or hilly. Although electric assist bikes cost significantly more than regular bikes, they are a fraction of the cost of a car, and well worth it if it makes it possible to commute by bike more often or at all. There are also kits that can turn a regular bike into an electric assist.
You are likely able to ride in whatever clothes you wear to work. Exceptions are avoiding or adjusting for long, flowy items that might get caught in the spokes, or dealing with hills, distance, or weather that leaves you too sweaty or wet. For these situations, you can bring fresh clothes with you and change at work. Some work places offer shower facilities or have a gym close by. Many bike commuters keep extra clothes at work, or bring a week’s worth to the office at a time. You can also keep a kit of toiletries at work to use for freshening up. Consider a small towel, cleansing wipes, deodorant, and a comb or brush.
Experiment with different clothing to find what is most comfortable. Some prefer pants, others prefer the freedom of movement provided by a skirt or dress. BikieGirl’s Hitchable Flounce Skirt comes with the patented Skitch® skirt hitch to lift the hem out of the way while riding. Pants can easily wear out from bike riding, so consider a style designed for the durability and flexibility biking requires. Skirts and dresses can be combined with BikieGirl’s lightweight bike short or leggings for coverage and/or warmth. If needed, you can wear a padded bike short for the ride in, and switch to regular pants upon arrival. Let the bike shorts air out during the day so they are at least partly refreshed for the ride home.
Planning Your Route
The best route for biking to work is likely different from the route you would take by car or other means. Most cities provide a map of bike routes, bike paths, and bike-friendly streets. Google mapsKamoot and other bike routing software can help you figure out a suitable route (in Google maps, select “layers” to see the option to show bike-friendly streets). Test ride your route on the weekend to make sure there aren’t any unpleasant surprises and get familiar with the streets and turns when there is less traffic on the roads. Keep in mind that occasionally Google maps will direct you to cross a major street without a traffic light. If you get stuck in such a situation, consider taking the sidewalk (walk the bike if sidewalk riding is not legal in your city) to access the nearest crossing with a traffic light.
Carrying Your Stuff
Options for carrying your things include: a messenger bag (make sure it is stable while riding), backpack, basket or panniers. A bag that is against your back will create much more sweating, so many prefer a basket or a pannier that attaches to the rear rack. Po Campo provides stylish options that includes bags that hook on your bike and can also be your professional-looking briefcase or handbag. Rear-mounted bike baskets allow for a more stable weight distribution, while front baskets provide easy access while riding. Your choice will also be influenced by what you need or will have to carry with you upon arrival. Think also about whether your arrangement will be used for shopping or carrying children.
I find a pannier that clips onto the rear rack, yet looks like a suitable shoulder bag for the office, meeting with clients, or running errands is a good first choice. When I need to carry more stuff, however, I like the easy of the Nantucket pannier baskets that simply hook onto the rear rack, and can hold a sizable amount of groceries. I also keep a bungee cargo net on my rear rack for those times when I get carried away with too many extra items. When all I need to carry are my essentials, including my tablet, wallet, a snack and perhaps a few toiletries, such as when visiting a client or attending a conference, I like using a stylish trunk bag that securely attaches to the rear rack and also looks like a normal purse when slung over my shoulder.
Know your local bike laws. The most important keys to safety relate to being visible and predictable to others and being prepared for the unexpected. Ride with the flow of traffic, and take the lane when sharing the road with motorized vehicles. Riding too close to the edge of the lane makes you less visible to motorists and can encourage drivers to pass you too closely. Allow 3-5 feet between you and parked cars to avoid getting doored. Avoid weaving around parked cars, as that can catch motorists by surprise when you re-enter the traffic lane. Signal your turns, and call out or ring a bell to let others know you are approaching to pass. You can increase your skills and confidence by taking a class (see link in first paragraph). Click here to see some examples of the skills that will help you handle dicey situations that can arise on city streets.
Riding At Night
Wear reflective clothing at night, and use a white light in front and a rear light in back. Brands like Vespertine NYC provide stylish reflective vests, jackets, scarves, and dresses. Flashing lights can make it harder for others to gauge distance and are unsafe (to others) as front lights. Lights vary, so be sure you know how effective the lights you have will be. Consider also whether they will require battery replacement or can be recharged. Lights are often stolen from parked bikes, so consider lights you can easily carry with you. Alternatively, dynamo lights whose power is generated by the front wheel and integrated into the bike design are less easy to steal from a parked bike.
Multi-Modal Options & Back-Up Plan
If the distance is too great, one direction is too hilly, or you feel more comfortable knowing you don’t have to ride both ways, look into the options for public transit. Some cities allow bikes on trains, buses, and/or subways, others allow them only during non-commuting hours, or have limited space. Some commuters use public transit for part of their route, or in one direction. Others take public transit (or drive) at the beginning and end of the week to carry clothes and other items for the week, and use the bike in between. These options can also be your back-up in case of weather or an equipment mishap.
Keep It Stress-free & Fun!
When it’s unfamiliar, city riding can seem quite stressful. Finding yourself on a too-busy street, worrying about cars passing too closely, navigating around broken glass and potholes, these are challenges that will become manageable once you’re a seasoned rider, but can ruin your experience when you feel unprepared for them. If this happens to you, pull over as soon as you find a safe spot to do so. Walk your bike on the sidewalk if necessary, or find a bench where you can sit down and take a breath. Use a smart phone to look at your route and see if you can find a better option to get to your destination. Often there is a parallel street or alley that is much calmer and more enjoyable to ride on. If a major thoroughfare is the only option and it’s just not feeling safe to ride in the street, I will ride on the sidewalk. In some cities that is not legal, but depending on the circumstances, it may be your best choice. I would prefer to feel safe and get ticketed than to get hit by a car, but I’m white and female.
I have found that, over the years, it gets easier and easier to find the better, more bike-friendly streets. Wide residential streets can be pleasant and offer plenty of room for motorists to safely pass. Sometimes, however, narrow streets are better because drivers have to slow down and fewer cars will choose such streets. Roads that curve, have lots of shade trees, feature historic homes with gorgeous architecture can be great choices for creating an enjoyable biking experience. It can be fun to explore a different street each day of your commute and discover all that you’ve been missing out on when getting around by car.
Other tidbits that contribute to a more enjoyable ride include: using a bike that keeps me more upright (I feel more easily seen, and I find it easier to look around), decorating my bike with flowers, wearing a cute helmet, riding in a skirt, leaving early to give me plenty of time so I don’t get nervous about being late or sweaty from riding fast. I do sense that drivers are more courteous to me when they see me as a commuter rather than as a recreational road biker. I believe the flowers and pretty helmet soften their reaction to me. Even if I’m only imagining these things make drivers treat me better, I am certain they make me enjoy the ride more. Even fake flowers can remind us to enjoy the beautiful things in life.
What’s a pair of empty nesters in Los Angeles to do when all of their adult offspring move to the northeastern United States? Especially after being cut off for a year or two by a lousy pandemic? The only logical solution: take our bikes out east and visit them.
In the Summer of 2019, our eldest and his wife moved from northern California to Chicago. I was planning to pay them a visit the following Spring, but then, along came COVID-19. Shortly thereafter, a new career opportunity arose, and they left Chicago in the Summer of 2020 for Rochester, New York. Next thing we know, our youngest decided it would be more fun to quarantine with them than to keep living at home with the old folks. Go figure. Then this summer, our middle child and her fiancée decided to move to Philadelphia. Just like that, we found ourselves without any of our kids nearby, and the summer was soon going to run out on us. So we started making our plans for the Epic Tour de Kids.
We are AirBnB hosts, renting out one of the no-longer-occupied kid’s rooms, so first we identified an 18-day stretch after the last booking and before El Cochinito had to resume his teaching duties. Then we had to consider the essential visits to include in a trip out east: friends in the DC area, and another who had recently moved to the Catskills. The routing of our adventure flowed quite easily from there: fly to DC, visit El Cochinito’s college buddy, take our bikes on the train to Philadelphia, spend a few days visiting our daughter and her fiancée, ride our bikes from Philly to West Fulton, New York, visit our friend there for a couple days, then roll on to Rochester, New York to spend a few days with our kids there before we fly home.
Next, we needed to plan the actual biking part as well as get our bikes in touring condition. El Cochinito tackled the first portion of the routing: Philadelphia to West Fulton, and I took on the West Fulton to Rochester part. Each portion was about 240 miles or so, and we decided to spread those miles over 4 days to ensure we wouldn’t be rushed or stressed about making each day’s goal. Once we had that figured out, we started booking accommodations, and with that, our daily routes could be planned out.
This was near the end of June, and the trip was planned for August 3rd-21st. That meant we had to begin our training in earnest. Not just because we had a lot of miles to prepare for, but especially because we had both encountered some unfortunate unintended contact with the pavement while biking in recent months, and we needed to make sure we were sufficiently recovered from our respective injuries and up to the task. In December, El Cochinito had taken a super bad fall after hitting an abrupt ripple in the asphalt at the intersection of Sunset Blvd & Highland in Hollywood that left him with a 3rd degree separated shoulder, then another fall in early March that caused some minor fractures and rang his bell, which was followed a few days later by yours truly having her own spill biking to the office the morning after a little rain and going down hard upon hitting some slick pavement, resulting in a fractured pelvis. It was as if we were competing to see who could have the more pitiful solo crash.
Alas, although we suffered some significant aches and pains, we both gradually recovered over the course of a few months, with the help of some physical therapy and determination. As of May, I had remained quite frustrated at what seemed then like a serious lack of progress. By June, I was feeling increasingly confident. So, on June 26th, we took our bikes to Ventura and road a 49-mile loop from Ventura to Ojai, on the Ojai Valley Trail, then on to Santa Paula, where we stopped for beer, and then a final leg back to Ventura. It was a hot day, and we covered more miles and climbed more elevation than either of us had done thus far in 2021, but we did it!
To make sure we could also handle back-to-back riding days, we got back on our bikes the following day. This ride was flat, but long, as we logged 69 miles by first riding the San Gabriel River Path down to Seal Beach, swinging through Long Beach with a stop for lunch, and then riding back on the Los Angeles River Bike Path. Our fannies felt it, but we were able to do it, and that was a big boost to our confidence.
The following weekend presented an opportunity to work on our climbing. I was not at all sure I could do this one, as the most challenging part of my recovery from the fractured pelvis was regaining the ability to ride uphill. Even the slightest inclines had been hard. But I did not want to miss the chance to ride Glendora Mountain Road / Glendora Ridge Road while it was closed to cars for the 4th of July weekend. This is one of those bucket list rides: spectacular scenery from an undulating ribbon of road that traces the crest of Glendora Ridge as you climb up to Mt. Baldy Village. I had only done this ride twice before. In 2019, I did it right after returning from my Colorado trip in which I rode from Denver to Estes Park and back, so, hey, I was definitely able to handle it that year. In 2020, I did it again, but struggled with the heat and had to stop frequently to keep from bonking, especially during that final slog to the top. I had no reason to think it would be any easier in my not-quite-fully-recovered state this year, but I did have a fancy new Bianchi Infinito carbon bike, giving me a chance to see if a lightweight bike might make it manageable. After 46 miles and 6,423 feet of climbing, I am proud to say we did it. I also PR’d the climb. Not too shabby.
With life and all that, the next few weeks’ training rides consisted of an occasional ride up to the Griffith Observatory or up Nichols Canyon, nothing too challenging. Finally, on the last day of July, we put in one last serious effort before the big trip. We rode south to San Pedro, up that steep little bugger of a hill to visit the Korean Friendship Bell, and then rode back up through Palos Verdes and along the coast, returning via the Ballona Creek Bike Path, with a final and very steep climb up to the Baldwin Hills Overlook. That gave us a total of 73 miles and 2,415 feet of climbing for a decent confirmation that we were ready to take on our big bike tour. Which is good, because that was our last opportunity to train for the tour.
Turning Our Road Bikes Into Touring Bikes
I had recently decided to put gravel tires on my Volpe, since I knew it could accommodate wider tires than the 28mm tires it came with. And with a newer, fancier, carbon Bianchi Infinito in my collection, it made sense to devote the Volpe to more adventurous riding on varied surface conditions and for touring. El Cochinito wanted to use his aluminum-frame road bike for our tour, and consulted with our local bike shop about how to adapt it for touring and riding trails paved with crushed gravel and the like. The shop was able to install a rear rack despite the lack of braze-ons, and switched out his 23mm tires with 25mm Gatorskins. They also did a bike fitting, and made several key adjustments to make long distance riding much more comfortable.
Getting our bikes to DC
We had our local bike shop tune up our bikes and box them for our flight to DC. That gave us confidence the bikes were packed right and protected for the journey. And I had planned ahead to find an airport transportation service that could handle getting two people and two bike boxes from our house to the airport, as we needed to get us to LAX very early on a Tuesday morning. I found one company that offered van service, and carefully reviewed the stated luggage capacity for their private van service. I almost booked with them, but then noticed a number of bad reviews complaining that the service did not show up for many of its customers, so I kept looking. I found another company that offered what appeared to be very similar private vans, but no explicit information about their luggage capacity. I figured a large van with no other passengers could surely handle us and our bikes, so I booked it. There was no FAQ or chat or phone number I could use to confirm that capacity, but then two days before our flight, the confirmation email did provide a phone number. I called to make sure we would be okay, and learned that, no, their vans were not big enough to meet our needs. Flummoxed, I decided to reach out to a bike friend who lives near the airport and ask if she could help. She was great about it. We drove our boxed bikes and ourselves in El Cochinito’s pick up to her house early the morning of our departure, and she rode with us to LAX. She drove the truck back to her house, and kept it there until time to come pick us up on the return. Thank you, Lynn, you’re a lifesaver!
At LAX, we donned our KN95 masks and drug our bike boxes into the terminal to get them checked in. We were flying American Airlines, whose baggage policy treats bike boxes like any other form of checked baggage – no extra charge just because it’s a bike. But, there was no clear indication as to where we should go with said bike boxes. We tried one line and then another, and when we eventually made it to the front of the line, we were told we hadn’t needed to wait in that line, but did need to take our bike boxes to a special drop off location. The check in agent was kind enough to walk us to this mysterious other location.
Our direct flight to National Airport in DC was uneventful, but all we had to eat on that flight was one Cliff bar apiece plus the cookies the airlines hands out. We were starving by the time we landed, but afraid to stop for food lest our bikes be picked up by someone else before we got to baggage claim. Once we had our bikes, we had to get to work assembling them, right there in the baggage claim area. The bikes were a little more dismantled than I had expected, and we had some work to do: reinsert the stem and tighten the handlebars so the bike steers straight, reattach the front wheel and the rear brake, replace the pedals, reinsert the seat post, and replace the bottle cages (arrgghh, why did those have to come off??). Finally, we had to reinflate the tires using my mini frame pump. Doing all of this is hard enough on a good day; doing it while sleep-deprived and hangry is a serious challenge. And that latter part, about inflating the tires, turned out to be a bit of a problem, but not right away.
DC & Maryland
We managed to get our bikes in working order, attached our panniers to the rear racks, and headed for the Metro station. We got our fare cards loaded up, a station attendant let us know that we needed to take our bikes around the side to an elevator to get to the platform, and we made our way to the Yellow Line train that would get us to Metro Center, where we could transfer to the Red Line. A lot of squeezing our two bikes and our two bodies onto elevators, but it was all doable. I was a bit confused by the DC Metro bike policy, as the center doors of each train had a “no bikes” symbol, but the center door was the only way to get to the wheelchair zone, which has enough space for the bikes. Does DC prefer that folks with bikes use the doors at the ends of each car and just stand in the aisle with their bikes? That didn’t seem to make sense, so we used the center doors. Luckily, our trains never got too terribly crowded.
We disembarked at the Grosvenor Station, and from there, rode our bikes 6 miles to Potomac, where our friends live. My bike felt a little sluggish, but I wasn’t sure if it was because I wasn’t that accustomed to my new GravelKing tires (although I did ride on them for the last few training rides), or because of the weight of my pannier and handlebar bag, or because my tires weren’t properly inflated. Or maybe I was just feeling slow in the way I often do when I can’t keep up with El Cochinito. We figured we’d borrow a floor pump from our friend to make sure the tires were adequately inflated, but then the floor pump couldn’t be found. Oh, well. We just pumped them up again as best we could with the mini pump.
Taking Our Bikes on Amtrak
After two nights and a full day spent with El Cochinito’s old college buddy, we were ready to roll out, reversing our route to the Red Line, and taking that to Union Station. There we grabbed some breakfast and tried to figure out where exactly we needed to go in order to board our train to Philadelphia with the bikes. There was no guidance at the station, but once we got to our train, each door had a bicycle symbol by it, so we figured we could board anywhere. But it was not easy lifting our bikes onto the train, as we had to go up a few steep steps. Once on board, we could not see anywhere for our bikes to go. We ended up trying to make our way through the passenger car’s narrow aisle with our bikes and panniers – not easy at all, and a bit annoying to the other passengers, also trying to make their way to an available seat.
I kept looking around for a train attendant, conductor, or someone who might be able to give us a clue as to where we were supposed to put our bikes. We’d paid an extra $20 each for the bike reservation, and yet there did not appear to be any suitable place for them. Finally, in the second or third car we tried, there was an attendant. Her reply was to “put it in the bike rack”. I asked her where the bike rack was. She pointed in the direction of a luggage rack next to the restroom at the end of the car. I asked again where the bike rack was. She explained that I needed to move the luggage off the rack, and then put the bike in. That seemed odd. The rack had lots of large suitcases on it, and I started trying to lift them off, one-by-one, without losing control of my bike. It was a bit crazy and stressful, and I was blocking the aisle that was full of folks waiting to pass by in both directions. A woman came up to me and asked me why I was moving her suitcase, and I told her I was doing what the attendant told me to do so that I could park my bike there. She seemed rather miffed. After the shelves were cleared of luggage, it was possible to lift the two shelves up, revealing a hook against the back wall and a sign that said “reserved for bicycle storage”. Sure would be nice if that sign were visible when the shelves were down. The other thing we learned is that each car of the train has storage for only one bicycle, so El Cochinito had to keep moving on down the train, looking for an available bike rack.
Next, I had to lift my bike up to get the front wheel onto the hook. That was not easy at all. The shelves kept falling back down. I needed about six hands to be able to manage this maneuver. Luckily, a nice person helped me keep the shelves from falling while I lifted my bike. Even then, it was hard to get it aligned on its end and inside the little cubby and then get the front wheel onto the hook.
Once that feat had been accomplished, I wondered where and how I might be able to find El Cochinito. I start heading down to the next car, and the next, and the next, through a dining car, and on to the next passenger car, and so on. Finally I found him. Some kind conductor/attendant person had seen him trying car after car, discovering that each bike rack was already occupied by a bike, and they’d opened up another car at the far end, where he was able to store his bike, and also find us two seats together. At last, we were able to sit down and enjoy our train ride!
The two hour ride from DC to Philadelphia was interesting. We passed through cities like Baltimore, Maryland, and Wilmington, Delaware. I never tire of gawking at train stations and seeing the often older architecture of houses that are near the train tracks.
Our daughter and her fiancée met us at the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, and guided us to the adjacent SEPTA station so we could hop onto a local train to get to our AirBnB. We had a little apartment that looked like it used to be a storefront, fluorescent tube lighting and all, that was conveniently right next to (literally right next to) the SEPTA elevated train tracks. The host had thoughtfully provided ear plugs with the apartment, for which I was grateful. The good thing about our place, besides being within walking distance of our daughter’s new digs, was that it was a street-level walk-up, making it easy to roll our bikes inside. I was most glad we wouldn’t need to heave the bikes up a skinny staircase.
Our visit to Philly included time to do some exploring by bike with our daughter and her fiancée who had just moved there. They weren’t feeling ready to bike on all the city streets, but were interested in the bike path along the Schuylkill River. So we took SEPTA to get us closer to the Philadelphia Art Museum, where we were able to rent some Indego bikes. We rode north a few miles and back, got some ice cream treats, and then walked to Dilworth Park. We switched to SEPTA for the rest of our transportation needs, up until realizing, after dinner, that I didn’t have my SEPTA card with me. But I knew we still had time left on our 24-hour Indego rental, so El Cochinito and I decided to bike back to our AirBnb that night. Ah, but we were able to get some e-bikes at the Indego station, so then we decided to extend the ride and do a little more urban exploration. We rode through the Sharswood area (no, I’d never heard of that), and saw an interesting mix of older, modest buildings, and some quite new developments, including one that looked like a Virgin Atlantic version of an apartment building, complete with neon glow.
We finished off our time in Philly by visiting Reading Terminal Market, where I had my first whoopie pie, after which we did more walking, with some brief exploration of Independence Hall and Penn’s Landing. We did get on our bikes a bit that day, riding them over to a nearby bike shop to make sure we had reassembled our bikes correctly and to purchase some CO2 cartridges. We then continued riding to make sure the bikes felt right, and it was an interesting part of Philly we ended up exploring. There were moments when I have to admit I felt a little unsafe on my Bianchi as we passed through some rather desperate-looking neighborhoods. But we made our way right back to Fishtown and our AirBnb by following under the elevated train.
And the Adventure Begins: Philly to Long Valley, NJ
Bright and early on a Sunday morning, we packed up our panniers, rolled by our daughter’s place for goodbye hugs, and began our tour. We got an early start, as we knew we had 80 miles ahead of us, and we didn’t want to be rushed or worried about getting to our Bed & Breakfast in Long Valley too late to be able to enjoy it. As we worked our way out of town, a Dunkin’ Donuts offered just what we needed: breakfast sandwiches and coffee! We dined al fresco in an adjacent parking lot to get some social distance from the peculiar guy hanging out in front of the donut shop, and soon we were well-nourished and ready to roll. As we headed northeast out of Philadelphia, El Cochinito let me know that he had a surprise in store for me. I was filled with curiosity: would it be a funky old cemetery? A famous person’s house? A historical site? Some weird public art? I kept looking around me for clues.
It was fun seeing the varying neighborhoods as we got farther out. Two-story row houses are the norm throughout this area, but the style shifted to more porches; places that made me think of classic blue collar families, like the one depicted in All In the Family back in the 70’s. Then it shifted to a more industrial setting. Then I saw my surprise: Four Seasons Total Landscaping! The iconic “Four Seasons” where Rudy Giuliani held his rather infamous post-election press conference (which, by the way, has its own Wikipedia entry). It was a delight, indeed. The green awning over the door, the parking lot where the press conference was held that is so recognizable from the TV coverage, and, yes, the adult bookstore right next to it.
We rode alongside the Delaware River, taking our first little inadvertent detour when I saw a sign for the Delaware River Trail, only to realize I was following it into a park in the wrong direction. We doubled back to see that all we needed to do was continue straight from where we’d been in order to follow the Trail in the correct direction. It didn’t go for long anyway, but, oh well. Our next detour was entirely intentional: we turned left at Tullytown to explore the historic suburb of Levittown. The planned community of look-alike homes and curving streets was built in the 1950’s to provide suburban homes for the blue collar workers of the Delaware Valley, particularly as US Steel was opening a new division in the region. We saw a lot of white picket fences.
We continued northeast, delighted to hop onto the D&L Towpath / Delaware Canal Trail, which was beautiful. I was downright giddy. The earth had a reddish hue, the canal was lined with wildflowers, and the trail was enveloped by lush greenery. I noticed my new wider gravel tires felt a little mushy on this trail of crushed stone and dirt. Was that normal for this type of tire, or did I have a flat? I stopped to check, and sure enough, I had my first flat. The tire wasn’t completely flat, so I tried to see if I could pump more air back in, and keep pumping to the max, and see how much farther that would get me. I suppose I was hoping to make it to the end of the trail and find a bike shop to help me get it right. Alas, after stopping to pump more air into it a few times, I accepted that we would just have to fix the tire right there along the trail. El Cochinito did the dirty work for me, and we continued on our way. We were planning to turn right from the trail at a road that would take us over the Lower Trenton Bridge, but when we got to it, there was just a very steep staircase up to the street, and no way to continue on the trail. Our first google maps fail of the trip. We backtracked a short way to a parking lot we’d seen for a motel, and did a little wandering. Another cyclist helped us find our way to the bridge, and that brought us to an exciting moment: crossing the Delaware! We later realized that Washington’s army had crossed the Delaware much farther north, and then approached Trenton taking a longer journey southward from there. Nevertheless, after an awkward realization that we had to cross over to a pedestrian access on the far side of the bridge, we managed to complete our crossing of the Delaware, heading in to Trenton, where we stopped at the Battle Monument, and I learned a thing or two about the significance of the Battle of Trenton in the Revolutionary War. (You learn some things when your spouse is a history buff, whose graduate studies focused on the American Revolution.)
We continued on toward Princeton, and took our next little side journey at the Princeton Battleground, where we just so happened upon a tour. We were able to listen in as a tour guide explained the critical days between December 26, 1776, and January 3, 1777, culminating in the Battle of Princeton. After a fascinating history lesson, we decided to skip our planned foray into the town of Princeton, and continue on our way north. Good thing we moved on when we did, as a couple more flat tires, this time on El Cochinito’s bike, meant we were falling a little behind schedule, not that we were on a strict schedule, but, hey, the second flat left us realizing we were out of inner tubes, and that was a problem. Luckily, El Cochinito found, through the wonders of Google, a bike shop not too far away, in Hopewell. We decided I would ride on ahead to the bike shop to get ahold of some inner tubes, and El Cochinito would start walking and also see if he could get an Uber to take him and his bike to the shop. If not, I could ride back to him with the inner tubes.
The bike shop, Sourland Cycles, was a godsend! The owner, upon hearing of our predicament, offered to hop in his car and go retrieve El Cochinito and his bike. First, he was kind enough to top off the air in my tires, and Mike confirmed my suspicion that we were riding on underinflated tires. My tires were actually even lower than I suspected, and very much in need of proper inflation. Mike pointed out that the frequent flats were a direct result of riding on the underinflated tires, especially when carrying the added weight of our panniers — likely the reason we were getting our flats in the rear tire. I browsed the store, used the restroom, and filled my water bottles while Mike went off to find El Cochinito. That was particularly good, since by the time I called El Cochinito to let him know help was on the way, he had just concluded that it was not going to be possible to put his bike into the Uber that had come to pick him up. The alternate rescue was successful, our bikes were put into good working order, and we stocked up on extra inner tubes and a few other just-in-case items before getting back on the road.
We revised our navigation to take the most direct route from Hopewell to Long Valley, our target destination for that first night. Of course, the only way to get into a valley is to go up and over whatever hills line it, right? So we were already more than 80 miles into our day’s ride when we got to the hill climbing part. That was not easy, but we did it, and we were very glad, no downright excited, when we finally arrived at the Neighbor House Bed & Breakfast in Long Valley, New Jersey! It ended up being a 91-mile day, about 13 miles longer than the original plan, and a total of 3,558′ elevation gain. Our hosts, Iris and Rafi, were most gracious, and brought us a pitcher of ice water to enjoy on their back porch while we savored some rest and recovery. We were much too tired to go out to dinner that night, and so ordered pizza for delivery. We thoroughly enjoyed that dinner!
Sixty is the New Sexy: Long Valley, NJ to Unionville, NY
The next morning, I woke up a year older, and entered a new decade: 60. This brought up memories of the summer I was turning 50, when my goal was to get back into good enough cycling shape to be able to ride up Latigo Canyon (a favorite ride of mine that is a delight when I’m in shape, and a bummer when I’m not) by my birthday. Here I am, a decade later, and I’m tackling so much more. That feels good.
We enjoyed a delicious breakfast that included hard boiled eggs and fresh fruit, and said our good byes to Iris and Rafi. Iris had given us some tips about how to access the Columbia Trail from a driveway just across the road, rather than taking the longer way per Google maps. It was a beautiful morning, and I was excited about getting onto another bike trail, but the thrill went chill real fast. The Columbia Trail, at this segment at least, is a surface of big, loose rocks, much more suitable for a mountain bike than a road bike. El Cochinito was NOT happy, especially after all the flat tire trouble we’d been through the day before. I started getting nervous that this did not bode well for the rest of our journey. I began developing a steaming case of anger in my head, directed at our local bike shop guy back home who had convinced El Cochinito he could adapt his skinny-tired-aluminum-frame road bike for bike touring on trails. As soon as we got to an intersection with a road, we got off the trail and switched to Old Route 24. I was grumpy about being on the road instead of a trail, and struggled with thoughts running in my mind like: “What if the next segment of the trail was better and less rocky? or more beautiful?” “I was so excited to be riding trails on this trip, and now we have to ride on the shoulder and hope the drivers are nice. Is this what it will be like on all the trails?” “Why didn’t El Cochinito take my suggestion to get a proper touring bike for this trip?” Not a great state of mind to be in on the 2nd day of biking with my partner! But I knew the simple reality is that the trail was really rough, regardless of what kind of bike or tires we had, and it simply didn’t make sense to stay on it. No sense grumbling over what might have been anyway. Not that I was so quick to stop grumbling.
Soon enough, we got to the turn off for Bartley Road, where we would have left the Columbia Trail by the originally planned route, and the roads were fine, and we were fine. I was able to snap out of my silly little funk and embrace the beauty that surrounded us. The valley was lush and verdant, and we knew at some point soon we would need to confront the inevitable landscape feature essential to getting out of a valley: some kind of steep-arse hill. We turned off Bartley Road, and quickly took a second turn onto Tinc Road. Just like that, it was time to get down into low gear. Make that the lowest possible gear. Thankfully, the Volpe offers very low gearing, without which, I probably couldn’t have done that climb. It was hard, I mean really hard. Looking back now at the elevation profile on Strava, I see that the grade at the beginning of that climb was 18.6%. It was a little curvy-windy, and I dreaded the thought of some car trying to come down this narrow, winding road toward us while we were struggling our way up. Luckily, that didn’t happen. I also worried that I might reach a point of not moving forward enough to keep from tipping over. I considered getting off the bike and walking the rest of the hill, but dismissed the thought as it would likely be even harder to walk my loaded bike up that steep hill, especially wearing cleats. Plus, it was hard to tell how much longer the uphill would continue, and if I stopped riding, it would be that much harder to start up again on such a steep incline. I pedaled on.
We reached a slight leveling off point and took a rest at the entrance to someone’s driveway. Sweat came gushing down my face. It took me awhile to catch my breath and mop up the sweat. We guzzled some water, slurped energy gels, and collected our strength to finish off the hill. The rest of the climb wasn’t quite as hard, and once I realized I’d made it to the top, I stopped again to savor my triumph and snap a selfie. Another gushing stream of sweat rolled down my face, but I was exhilarated. THIS is what sixty looks like!
We had a glorious ride the rest of the way. We rode the Sussex Branch Trail, which treated us with a lake visible through the trees to our left, a nice crushed gravel surface that was great for riding on, and a bright green assortment of shrubs and trees lining our path. Eventually, we had to leave the trail to head north on Ross Corner Sussex Road, which had a decent shoulder. It was deceptively smooth, however, and at some point El Cochinito hit an unexpected something while we were traveling at a good clip. Shortly thereafter, he realized he had another flat tire. At least by now, he had gotten real efficient at changing a tire, plus we were finally equipped with the know-how to use a CO2 cartridge to get a proper inflation. Soon we were back on the road and continued to enjoy decent pavement, right up until we crossed the state line and entered New York. What a night and day difference in road quality! Suddenly we were navigating potholes, cracks, and bumps in the road.
Not far over the state line, we rolled into Unionville, our destination for the night. It has a cute little main street, where we noticed the Wit’s End Tavern before turning up (oh, yes, UP!) towards our AirBnb. Our host for the night, together with her young daughter and her daughter’s friend, greeted us with warmth and enthusiasm, and lots of “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” greetings directed at me (I guess a little birdie told them), and a tour of their lovely historic home. There was even a bottle of wine waiting for us in our room. After showering up, El Cochinito and I walked back into town and enjoyed a birthday dinner of barbecue ribs, fries, and beer. We returned to our room and tried to enjoy the wine that awaited us, but we could only handle so much alcohol in one night. Normally, I would just save it for another day, but when you’re on a bike tour, you have to be selective about what is worth adding weight to the bike. A half (or maybe a little more) of a bottle of wine is not worth carrying along!
Day 2 of our 8 days of biking took us 51 miles and 2,462′ of elevation gain. Good that it was a little shorter today, as our tushies were feeling it. So glad we brought along the Bag Balm.
We had been so worried we might have underestimated the challenge of biking in the heat and humidity that would be typical for August in the Northeast. The forecast for this particular day included a heat advisory starting in the late morning, and in the area where we were headed. We decided to get an early start and seek out breakfast later.
That next morning, as we left Unionville, we were graced with a soft cloud cover as we rolled through farmland on gently rolling terrain. It was such a gorgeous day, and so far, so cool. One of the farmers whose home we passed must be a cyclist, or at least a supporter of cyclists. When we saw their silo, we absolutely had to stop and snap a photo. That blissful roll through farmland came to an abrupt end when we next had to manage a tense three-mile stretch on US6-E. We rode the narrow shoulder, alongside a couple of lanes of fast-moving traffic that emanated that familiar tension of impatient drivers in no mood for giving ample space to cyclists. It was stressful and miserable, but thankfully it didn’t last forever, or even for too terribly long, and despite feeling quite unsafe, we managed it without incident. Best of all, it was followed by a tranquil mile or two on the lovely Orange Heritage Trail, a freshly paved, forest-lined trail that took us into the town of Goshen. There we headed for Joe Fix Its, a bike shop, where we stocked up on CO2 cartridges and a few extra inner tubes for good measure. Conveniently, right next door was a cafe, just when we were feeling ready for a hearty meal. Howell’s Cafe has outside tables, allowing us to sit right by our bikes, and enjoy the beautiful architecture of this quaint town. As we rolled on through Goshen, we got more architectural eye candy, a feature that puts Goshen on my list of favorite towns to bike through.
We later got to ride some more nice trails. First up was the intermittent Shawangunk, Walden, and Wallkill Trail. Some segments of this trail are quite civilized, with pavement, benches, and good signage. A few spots were a little more adventurous. The beauty didn’t let up throughout. The best part of the day, however, was the 15-mile stretch on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, which forms part of the Empire State Trail that covers 750 miles running the length and width of New York. We took a rest stop in New Paltz, which has a colorful and quaint pedestrian zone of shops and eateries.
The trail continues through some gorgeous scenery and several beautiful bridges, and these visual treats only got better the farther north we rode it. The most spectacular was the Rosendale Trestle, a 940′ former railroad bridge, first built in 1870, that runs 150′ above Rondout Creek. I would gladly go back and ride this trail again.
Following our rail trail thrills, we had another 10 miles of rolling hills before we got to Olivebridge, where we had booked a small fishing cottage for the night. There isn’t a whole lot of commercial activity in Olivebridge. We saw a post office, and not much else. After our 67 miles of riding, we were ready for a good dinner, but discovered there were no stores or restaurants of any kind that were open in the area. We certainly did not feel like biking another 30 miles round trip to get dinner. Oops, now what? We searched the kitchen of our little cottage. There wasn’t much in the cupboards or the refrigerator, but we scored when we looked in the freezer: a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a half a bag of curly fries, some sliced pineapple, and a little bit of vanilla ice cream at the bottom of a pint container of Ben & Jerry’s. El Cochinito found some garlic salt to season the chicken breasts that he fried up in a skillet, while I put the curly fries in the oven. Before long, dinner was served. Perhaps it would have been nice to have the rest of that bottle of wine with us from the night before, but we were just grateful we had managed to pull together a meal. I hate to think what we would have done had it not been for those freezer finds. There may have been some reference to the Donner party during our conversation that evening.
What’s a Few Extra Miles: Olivebridge to West Fulton
We split our remaining Cliff bar for a quick breakfast and got a bright and early start on another beautiful morning. We knew we were near a big butterfly-shaped lake, so the first order of business was to check out that expanse of water. Olivebridge borders the southern shore of the Ashokan Reservoir, below the lower left wing of the butterfly. This puts it at the opposite side of the reservoir from Woodstock, New York, a place of which you may have heard, positioned a tad north of the upper right butterfly wing. We had initially considered routing our trip through Woodstock, but the accommodations in that area were quite pricey. Now we know that, perhaps one feature that justifies the extra cost of accommodations in that northeastern side of the reservoir is availability of restaurants and markets, but we don’t really know.
Shortly into our ride, we veered right to explore a bridge that angles along the edge of that butterfly’s lower wing toward the middle of the reservoir. It was a tranquil morning. Scattered clouds reflected off the glassy surface of the lake. Eventually the bridge crossed well above a creek passing through a crack in the middle of a densely packed forest. We took a few minutes to savor the magic of that moment, the spiritual power of the stillness.
Our route began by tracing the left wing of the butterfly. Once we hit the northwestern wing’s tip, we turned southeast for a bit on NY-28, in search of the Bread Alone Bakery so we could get some real food for breakfast. We passed the Boiceville Inn, which didn’t appear to be open, a construction site, and then came upon Fabulous Furniture and their funky roadside display of flying saucers, rockets, and other attention-grabbing sculptures. As the detour dragged on, it became apparent we needed to double-check the google maps. Sure enough, we had flown right past the Bread Alone Bakery — it was hidden in the middle of that construction site. It turns out to be a very popular spot. The parking lot was busy, the line to place an order was steady, and the coffee and baked goods were well worth the detour.
That turned out to be just the first in a series of google maps anomalies and unintended side trips for our day. But we were riding through the Catskills, and the scenery was non-stop luscious. Pretty wildflowers lined the shoulder of NY-28. Dense forests provided a dark green backdrop for the wildflowers and tall grasses. More dark green rose up over mountains all around us as we continued north.
The road curved right, and took us a bit southeasterly to Lexington, where we crossed a bridge over Schoharie Creek, before turning left to continue our northward journey. We were out of water at this point, and I was hopeful that the town of Lexington would have a place where we could refill our bottles. Just after crossing the bridge, we noticed a couple of women sitting on a front porch. We asked if they knew where we might be able to buy some water. They offered us their garden hose, which was wonderful, especially since Lexington didn’t seem to offer a market or other amenities as I’d hoped. We got into some extended conversation with our porch-sitting friends, and learned about the challenges that community faces when the Schoharie Creek overflows. They told of a recent flood that required evacuation, of particular concern for them, as one of them uses a wheelchair. As bad as it was for their creekside home, they said the flood pretty much wiped out the town of Prattsville, farther up the road.
After filling our water bottles and learning about the local communities, we got back on our bikes and continued north. As we approached Prattsville, we could see a number of homes and buildings that looked as we’d been told–likely too damaged to be saved. The town also turned out to be a good place to get lunch, and I liked the idea of supporting this community that has been through an exceptionally rough year. The folks at the Prattsville Diner were friendly, and the food hit the spot.
The gorgeous scenery continued. Soon the Schoharie Creek widened to form the Schoharie Reservoir, and Google Maps had guided us to take a less-traveled road, 990V, along the west side of the reservoir that appeared to give us a more direct route to West Fulton, our destination. North of the reservoir, at Gilboa, the routing had us veer right onto Flat Creek Road, which fed us some hills. We then turned onto Valenti, which fed us some more hills. This led us to Power Access Road, the name of which was our first big clue. El Cochinito had raised a concern about the wisdom of a route that required using a road with such a name, but by the time we were having that conversation, we were already at the turn off to Valenti, half way into that hilly commitment. I couldn’t resist giving it a try, as this route seemed to take us on less busy roads.
Alas, at the junction with Power Access Road, we encountered a large, high-security gate, where we picked up a telephone, hoping against hope that someone on the other end of the line might mercifully let us through, or at least guide us to an alternate route. Unfortunately, we were told in no uncertain terms that there was no way through, no matter that we were on bikes and needing to get through to NY-30. We proceeded to re-trace Valenti Road and Flat Creek Road, hills and all, back to 990V, which unfortunately dipped back south a bit before connecting us with NY-30. I know El Cochinito loves me because he never once said, “I told you so.”
The ride up NY-30 was okay. Sure there was some traffic, but not too bad really. We encountered some light sprinkles that never quite turned into full-on rain. We then turned off onto Bear Ladder Road, which was pretty, lined with dense, dark greenery, and featured a series of rises, like a compound hill. By this time, my knees were really feeling the Catskills. I wasn’t sure I could manage any more hills. I began to worry that I was doing some damage to my knees that could prevent me from being able to keep biking — an unacceptable possibility. I was glad to know we would be taking a couple of rest days in West Fulton, hoping that the rest would be enough to restore my knees.
Bear Ladder Road was a 5.5 mile stretch, by the end of which we were damp with the mist of a light rain. I was excited, knowing we were almost to our destination. According to Google Maps, we needed to turn left at the T intersection onto West Fulton Road, and our destination would be on our right in 0.5 miles! But as soon as we looked left, we saw the steepest hill of the day. Okay, not a hill, really, more like a WALL. If only that white house at the intersection with Bear Ladder Road was the Waterfall House we were seeking. But, recognizing there was no point in entertaining such fantasies, I mustered up my courage, dropped into my lowest gear, and reminded myself that, after this one last hill, we would be done biking for the next few days. We powered up that horrendous hill, searching for the address we had for the Waterfall House. But there were no houses and no driveways or even mailboxes on the right, none at all. Finally, El Cochinito stopped a pick up truck that was driving by, and asked the driver if he could help us find the Waterfall House. He kindly informed us that it was that white house at the bottom of the hill! Once we dropped back down the hill to have a good look at that white house we’d passed, it was obvious from the objects sitting out on the porch that this was the place where our friend Lazaro lives.
So, that made two Google Maps fails in one day. Three, if you count our overshooting past the Bread Alone Bakery that morning. With that, our planned 60-mile, 2600’ day became a 70-mile, 4600’ day. Today’s tally: 0 flats; Roadkill: 1 beaver and 1 porcupine.
Rest Days in the Catskills
The whole reason we routed our trip through the Catskills was to work in a visit to El Cochinito’s brother from another mother, Lazaro, who had moved to West Fulton this past year. The two met back in 2013, on El Cochinito’s first trip to Cuba, when he was taken by Lazaro’s artistic creations: his salsitas, formed from string, paste, and the official newspaper of the Cuban government, and which come to life as delightful creatures with big, mouse-like ears, pointy noses that curve upward, and extended arms that exude joy. Since then, we have visited Lazaro in Havana, and he has visited us in Los Angeles, including a stay of a few months just before the pandemic shut everything down. It was great to see him again, meet his boss and the pets of the house, get some laundry done, and visit the adjacent waterfall. The Waterfall House is an historic treasure that served as a Bed & Breakfast for many years, and has a magical quality to it. Part of its magic comes from its furry inhabitants: a fun dog and two cats, one of whom seems to be a dog living in a cat’s body.
The highlight of our stay was a trip to nearby Cobleskill, where the Jeff Tufano gallery was exhibiting some of Lazaro’s work. It was a delight to see his work on display there, and then to walk the cute main street of Cobleskill. On our way back to West Fulton, we stopped at the Breakabeen General Store — a real general store, as in very small, yet carries everything you need. We even filled the car’s gas tank at an old timey (pre-digital era) gas pump right outside the store. Yes, these things are thrilling after living in Los Angeles for the last 25 years.
There was some heavy rain during our two days of rest in West Fulton. The afternoon before we were to get back on the road, I gave the bikes (that had spent the last couple of days on the porch) a look-over, wiped down the grime, topped up the tire pressure, and made sure our steeds were in good working order. El Cochinito’s chain had gotten a bit rusty, so I cleaned that up a bit and applied some Tri-Flow. It felt good to acknowledge, through time with the bikes, where we’d been and where we had yet to go.
Onward to the Erie Canal Trail: West Fulton to Utica
We woke to a gorgeous morning. I was struck by the beautiful puffs of steam rising over the hills in the distance as we rolled north out of West Fulton. We’d had a choice between a longer route and a couple of shorter-but-hillier options. We chose the longer route, taking route 30A through Middleburgh, Schoharie, and Sloansville. That was an excellent choice! We rolled along, up and down gentle grades. After Sloansville, we curved onto Route 162, which angled us northwest toward the Mohawk River near the town of Spraker. Just before Canajoharie, we got onto the Erie Canal Trail. That was exciting, as we knew this was a relatively flat trail that would take us all the way to Rochester. My knees were relieved to know that we were done with hardcore hills. We stopped for a yummy breakfast in Canajoharie.
The trail was delightful and peaceful. We continued along the Mohawk River. At times the trail veered through parklands, and led us past the home of General Herkimer, where we learned a wee bit about the Battle of Oriskany, another tidbit of Revolutionary War history.
We rode through Ilion, where we encountered some other cyclists riding the Erie Canalway in the opposite direction. At Ilion, there is a substantial park area and a Marina with facilities, including restrooms and water. While stopped there, we met two enthusiastic bikepackers, Mohammed, who had started in Niagra Falls and was riding the Erie Canal Trail all the way to Albany, and Tekken, who had started his journey in Astoria, Oregon, and was riding all the way across the country, self-contained. We continue to follow each other on Instagram. We watched some boats pass through the locks, including one notable fancy boat with four engines across its stern heading westward, “Destination Blue”. We watched Destination Blue rise as water filled the lock and a woman made sure the boat stayed clear of the wall we were looking over. We chatted a bit with her, and then watched Destination Blue move on when the lock opened up on the west end.
At Frankfort, the Trail crosses over to the north side of the Mohawk River, and riders have to take the shoulder of NY-5. That last part of the ride, well, it sucked. The shoulder really wasn’t adequate, the traffic was moving fast alongside us, and it was quite unpleasant the rest of the way to Utica. We did enjoy a brief stretch “drafting” behind an Amish horse-drawn carriage, where we felt safer for awhile. It was a short-lived thrill, but we made the most of it.
At the end of our 80-mile day, we rolled in to the historic Pratt Smith House Bed & Breakfast. We arranged for a delivery of burgers and fries from Five Guys, and called it a day. Today’s tally: Dunkin Donuts: 1; flats: 0; Roadkill: 1 bird, 2 frogs, 2 unrecognizable mammals; Elevation gain: 2,055’
All Roads Lead to Rome: Utica to Syracuse
We had less miles and no hills in our route today, so we took it at a leisurely pace. We wandered a bit through downtown Utica, just to check it out. I hadn’t known before this day that Utica has its own replica of the Liberty Bell, cracked and all, on display in downtown. This little detour put us past the turn off for the designated bike trail along the water, but we enjoyed seeing the various industrial and residential neighborhoods as we headed west out of town on city streets. We rode through Yorkville, then Whitesboro, and Oriskany (as in, the battle site). We eventually got back onto a trail, and headed into Rome. Not that it was glamorous in any way. It was more like being on a trail, and then riding through a suburban stretch of strip malls and ridiculously wide roads. Then, at some point, we needed to turn left off of the over-wide, multi-lane road to get back onto the trail. A strange left turn, with no assistance from a traffic light or clear signage.
Later we met more trail riders at another of the locks along the canal. It was fun to meet people, find out where they’re from, and hear that we weren’t the only ones wondering why there weren’t more places along the trail to get water. One couple we talked to lives in Utica, and does a different part of the trail here and there, scoping it out for a future trip in which they plan to do the whole Erie Canal Trail from end to end.
We took a slight detour south from the trail to check out Oneida. It’s a quaint little town, and we found a cool place to stop for lunch and beer, called Pop-A-Top. We picked it mostly because they have an enclosed patio, which provided a perfect spot to park our bikes. It was also a colorful and festive patio, and we had it to ourselves. Then we came to realize that the regulars hanging out at the bar inside, as well as the woman tending bar, were delightful people who wanted to ask about our bike trip, and made us feel quite at home, despite our spandex and cleats. One gentleman came out to the patio to visit with us some more, and even bought El Cochinito a second beer.
After that thoroughly leisurely and enjoyable lunch break, we returned to the trail, and rolled on next through Canastota. Like in many of the towns we rode through on this trip, we saw LOTS of American flags on display, both on residences and lining the main streets through a town’s central business district. It felt like the 4th of July everywhere we went. Another interesting find along the route from Oneida to Canastota: the largest greenhouse imaginable, or maybe even larger than one could imagine. A google search reveals that the place is Green Empire Farms, a giant hydroponic farm.
We enjoyed the varying terrain and trail surfaces we encountered along the way. Spinning my pedals for all these hours gave me lots of time to let my mind wander. I know some folks like to chat while riding together, and I don’t mind that, but my primary tendency is to get lost in the meditative state induced by the rhythm of the pedal stroke. My thoughts can go just about anywhere while I’m riding. I might try to imagine the day ahead, or what it will be like to reach our destination and see the faces of our kids again after such a long gap. Sometimes I look back on all that has transpired in the previous year or two. Just two years earlier, El Cochinito and I had gone through the most challenging strain on our relationship, one that nearly broke us. One of the things that helped us as we found our way back to each other was biking together. And look where that led us! Sometimes I reflect on how amazing it is that I have a riding buddy to do this kind of trip with me, and that we can do this without getting on each other’s nerves. At times, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for being able to do this trip. It’s incredible how all that needed to line up and fall into place for this trip did just that.
Eventually, we came across a trail side repair stand that had a pump, enabling us to top off the air in our tires. That pumped up our confidence as well as our tires. In the late afternoon, we rolled into Syracuse where our AirBnb host graciously offered use of his washer and dryer, and guided us toward a nearby street with places to get dinner. It was nice to be able to walk to dinner, and to get some clean clothes again. We were staying in a nice neighborhood near Syracuse University, and took delight in the way the medians through the center of Meadowbrook Drive are not only beautifully landscaped with flower gardens at each intersection, but also feature odd sculptures, like one of a basketball with a big “S” on it. Another had a tower of colorful bird houses.
Today’s tally: 66 miles; no roadkill; no flats; 1 Dunkin’ Donuts.
Charm, Gardens, History: Syracuse to Canandaigua
We swung by Recess Coffee, a place we’d spotted when walking back from dinner the night before, to get our morning coffee and a bite to eat. From there, we decided not to head north through town in order to get to the Erie Canal Trail, but instead to just take the most direct route west out of town. We were pleased with that decision, as we rolled through some older, industrial areas, and through some less affluent residential areas. I loved gawking at the changing architecture and neighborhoods along the way.
Somewhere between Fairmount and Camillus, we got back on the Erie Canal Trail. The trail is especially beautiful in this area. Camillus wins for the most picturesque stretch of trail, with its bridges and boathouses. We passed several areas where flower gardens were being actively cultivated along the trail. Thanks to some large murals in Jordan, we learned a bit of the history of the canal in tis area, and why within 10 years of its completion it was obsolete. The city of Jordan has an impressive aqueduct built in the 1840s as part of the Enlarged Erie Canal that was in use until 1917. It is now a park, with grass covering the surface of the aqueduct, punctuated by stone arches. We continued along the Erie Canalway through Weedsport and Port Byron until the trail started to veer north, whereas we wanted to continue west and slightly southward into the finger lakes region.
We hopped off the canal trail and rode some rolling hills, past farm after farm, enjoying an easy spin for the remaining 40 miles to our destination for this second to last day. We stopped for that night in Canandaigua, a very charming town that’s close enough to Rochester, we invited the kids to come out and join us for dinner. First we hung out in the back yard of our Airbnb to visit a bit. There aren’t words for how good it feels to see and hug your kids after such a long time apart. It was a Monday night, and finding a restaurant that was open wasn’t easy. On our third try, we got lucky, as the Bee Hive Brew Pub was open, and we were able to get a table on the patio. Turned out to be just the ticket.
We could have taken a direct route from Canandaigua to Rochester, and finished off the tour in just 27 miles. But that’s just not how we roll. For one thing, it would have meant no more riding the Erie Canal Trail. For another, 27 miles would be over in a little more than two hours. First and foremost on my mind that morning was realizing that we had gone out of our way to venture into the finger lakes region, and yet we hadn’t seen any of the lakes. People travel to Canandaigua to experience the big, beautiful lake, so we were not going to just leave town without seeing the lake! I looked at maps for a route that could have us biking alongside the lake, but that just wasn’t practical. We would have to travel pretty far south to get to a park or something to “see”. We decided to just ride by the north end of the lake so we could have a look and then be on our way. It’s an astonishing lake; you can’t see from the north end to the south. It was a cool morning, and once we’d had our look at the lake, and felt the wind blowing around, we were ready to get on with our day.
Canandaigua features a lot of gorgeous old homes that provide pleasant eye candy for the ride through town. I routed us by the famed Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion, hoping we could at least ride through the gardens, but shortly after we rode past the signs announcing that the place was closed, we saw folks zipping around in a golf cart, looking like they’d be ready to kick us off the property. We gave the place a cursory look, much like we gave to the lake, and got back on our way. No harm in saving something for our next visit.
Soon we were rolling on country roads again. By far this was our easiest day. We began with a fast, beautiful 13 mile spin through farmland heading north out of Canandaigua to Palmyra, where we stopped for a hearty meal at the Yellow Mills Diner. Then it was time to get back on the Erie Canal Trail. But first, there was a bridge that begged to be appreciated. El Cochinito had brought along his GoPro, and knowing how much I love biking over bridges, he was capturing them on video. I waited at the adjacent trailhead while he started across and got in position to ride back over the bridge. By this time, however, he realized it is a one-lane bridge, and a couple of motorized vehicles were waiting for him to finish up before taking their turn to cross. One vehicle was waiting at the north end, and another at the south end. It was a wee bit comical as the various participants in this dance tried to gesture and figure out who was going next.
Biking along the Erie Canal in this next stretch involved some exceptionally gorgeous scenery. A delightful variety of bridges, trees, and waterway alongside us. We even caught yet another sighting of Destination Blue. I gave a hearty wave and greeting, but I’m pretty sure the woman on board with whom we’d chatted at Ilion Marina a few days ago did not recognize us as familiar in the slightest.
After unbelievably great weather for each of our bike days, we finally got caught in some rain, I mean real rain this time. It was a major downpour for the last ten miles or so. It felt good, though, like a blessing as we finished up our trip. The trail got a little confusing as we got close to Rochester. Or maybe it’s not the trail, but Google Maps (I suspect both). The latter seemed to be telling us to get off the trail a bit early, at Pittsford, and take NY-31 (part of the NY State Bicycle Route 5). Looking at the map, it does appear to take one in to Rochester on a diagonal that is much more direct than continuing on the Erie Canal Trail into town, and then heading north. But NY-31 looked to be an insanely busy highway, and not the sort of road we would enjoy riding on. So we stopped to review our options. A kind gentleman asked if he could help us. We explained our confusion about whether we really should be getting on that busy street, or if we could continue on the Trail, which seemed to be hard to find at this point. He admitted he didn’t really know this area well, so he flagged down a woman in a van who apparently works for the Erie Canalway, as does he. She didn’t know how to help us either, but she sure was nice. We visited with the friendly gentleman for awhile. He gets paid to walk the trail and notice conditions, reporting back about things needing attention. Eventually, we found the resumption of the trail and decided to stay with the trail until we got to Rochester, and then head north, even if it was less direct. Along the way, we got a good soaking, and made it into Rochester thoroughly drenched.
I’m so glad we stayed on the trail for our ride into Rochester. Not just to avoid the heavy traffic on NY-31, but also because the trail experience was special. At one point, the trail had water on both sides, like we were on a long bridge over a lake. It felt magical. I wanted to record this feeling in my mind so I could call it up whenever I needed to feel this magic again. I also felt a well of emotion rising up as I reflected on our journey, how far we’d come, how lucky we had been, how fortunate we are to be able to have a vacation like this. I have long fantasized about a retirement life filled with bike adventures like this, and the success of this journey gives me confidence that my retirement dream is possible.
Particularly special to me, at this point in my life, is gratitude for being able to share this experience with El Cochinito. We have been married for almost 15 years, plus dated for a couple of years before that. Biking together was something we did often during the early years of our relationship, and along the way, that diminished to occasional bike dates (biking a few miles to see a movie or go to a restaurant) and somewhat annual bike overnights, but more and more, the bigger bike adventures had been something I did either with friends or on my own. During our separation in the midst of that major crisis in our relationship that nearly split us up two years ago, I knew he was worried about attracting new guests to join him for his next trip to Cuba, and I suggested he could find travelers to join him if he made it a bike trip. Soon he was dusting off his road bike and getting back into riding. We both did a lot of riding that year, sometimes separately, sometimes together. Then a corner was turned. Not on the bikes, but in our marriage. We made a conscious decision to scrap our old marriage and start over fresh. We each worked on ourselves and on our relationship skills. It’s an ongoing process, but much like biking, there’s no reason not to just keep going.
Two years later, El Cochinito is my best riding buddy. We just rode over 500 miles together, spent two and a half weeks in each other’s constant presence while traveling, and we managed to roll together in harmony. A few tense moments here and there, yet none of them led to conflict or resentment (okay, so maybe there was one lingering issue we had to work out after we got home, but we did it). We seem to have finally learned how not to let issues that arise between us fester and turn into stony deposits into the First Bank of Resentments. We have found a way to take a step back or take a deep breath when necessary, and turn back towards each other and keep talking until we figure it out together.
We got off the trail at Brighton Town Park in the outskirts of the Rochester area, riding a trail alongside a small lake or large pond, and soon it seemed we might be in the wrong place. Maybe it was a parking lot, but soon we found our way. Then we were on South Clinton Ave for quite a long stretch, never quite sure if it was better to be on the road or the sidewalk. It was still quite wet, and I felt like we really had to keep our eyes out for wayward motorists who might not notice the two cyclists amidst all the mistiness and gray. But then I saw the sign and, despite the rain and needing to stay well to the right and out of traffic, I just had to stop for a photo – we had officially entered Rochester!
Within a couple more miles, we rolled into the driveway of our kids’ house. We were thoroughly soaked and thoroughly exhilarated. We had made it! We were greeted with a fantastic dinner and the best company you could hope for. Finally we were getting to see where our kids have been living and meet their newest dog, Santo, in real life.
The next day was another rainy one. We returned to the finger lakes area, this time by car, and this time near Seneca Lake, where we visited Watkins Glen State Park. We gawked at the amazing waterfalls and rock formations, whose beauty is enhanced by the rain.
The following day brought better weather and we toodled around Rochester by bike. We rode along the Genesee River Trail and visited the University of Rochester campus, where we got to see the building where our oldest works. From there we ventured on to Mt. Hope Cemetery, which features some very old and some very famous graves as well as a few steep hills. After paying our respects to Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, we rode through downtown to High Falls, and then our daughter-in-law led us on her secret route to the Lower Falls.
This final ride of 15 miles brought our grand total for the entire trip to 581 miles, and a total elevation gain of 20,311’ in 54 hours of riding time. Not too shabby.
It felt so fitting to end our Epic Tour de Kids biking with our kids. So glad we were able to do that in both Philly and Rochester. It warms my bike mama heart to be able to ride together as a family, and to see that each one of our kids, including the kids-in-law, is smart enough to see the genius in using bikes for both transportation and exploration. Maybe they do it because it’s cheap, maybe they do it because they know it’s one important way to slow the demise of our planet, maybe they do it because it’s an easy way to get exercise, maybe they do it because it’s often simpler and less frustrating to get around that way, maybe they do it to take in the fresh air, maybe they do it just to humor me, maybe they do it because it’s the best way to really see a city, and maybe they do it because it’s just plain fun. I like to think they see the value in all of the above.
Our final day in Rochester was spent laundering our wet and muddy clothes, cleaning up our wet and muddy bikes, and figuring out how to get our bikes disassembled and packed into boxes for the trip home. Glad we gave ourselves plenty of time for that, as figuring out just how to make it all work was rather challenging. One drawback to having had our local bike shop back home pack the bikes for the outbound trip is that we had to figure it out for ourselves now. Of course, there are youtubes aplenty to help, and we did have the tools we needed. It still seemed much more involved than what I remember from packing my bike for travel 35 years ago when I was a young’un too cheap/broke to pay for such services.
There were many amazements on this trip, but one last amazement was how our two bike boxes actually fit into the back of our son’s Honda HRV, with enough room to spare that a passenger seat remained available in the back. That meant our son was able to drive El Cochinito and me and our two bikes and our panniers to the airport. One thing (of many) we learned from this trip is that you have to figure out how to transport two people with two bike boxes to and from airports. You can’t just call a taxi or an Uber or even an airport van service for that. Believe me, I tried. On the Los Angeles side, the only way we could manage was to put the bike boxes in the back of El Cochinito’s pick up, drive over to the home of a friend who lives close to LAX, and have her drive us to and from the airport with our bikes. Thankfully, she was a good sport about having the truck at her place while we were gone and picking us up on our return.
With our hearts warm and full, our sense of adventure both sated and titillated, our bodies and our relationship strengthened, we returned home to our cats, who’d been well-cared for by a friend during our absence. Now we can start dreaming up our next bike adventure.
Yes, another challenge. I seem to love these things. Perhaps because they give me a sense of accomplishment without being too taxing. We’ve all been through enough this past year plus, so we don’t need to tackle Herculean tasks, but a little motivator can go a long way. Biking through the pandemic has definitely been a major factor in making these strange times more enjoyable. It keeps me active, it provides a safe way to be social, and it gets me out of the house and back in nature. I believe the structure of the challenge provides just the nudge I need to overcome that pandemic-induced inertia that imagines I’m just fine hanging out at home, even though I know better.
The Guiding Force behind the Errandonnee modified the rules a bit to fit the unusual circumstances this year, dubbing this the “Hyperlocal Edition”. The full details can be found here, but the upshot is to complete 12 errands in 12 consecutive days, and ride, run, and/or walk a total of 30 miles. In a special twist for this year, participants could pick the 12-day stretch, so long as it is be between April 15 and June 30. I was particularly grateful for this last bit, as I had to defer my participation until June due to a minor matter involving some fractures to my pelvis pursuant to a little unexpected contact with the pavement while biking to the office one morning in March. It has taken a couple months, but I’ve recovered sufficiently to be able to do bike rides again, so long as I stick to the flatter, lower mileage type.
Of course, not just any 12 errands will suffice. One must complete errands falling within at least 6 of the 9 categories, with no more than two qualifying rides in any one category. While that can seem intimidating, I found that several of the errands I was inclined to perform could quite soundly fit within multiple categories. Check out the 9 categories:
Discovery (See something new while you’re out and about!)
Helping Hand (e.g., helping a person, helping the environment)
You carried WHAT?!
Wild Card (Any trip that does not fall into any of the above categories.
Here is my report:
June 1st: Personal Care
I biked to my last of six physical therapy appointments that helped me recover from the fractured pelvis. This was my first experience of breaking a bone in my body, and I had no idea how much such an incident screws up various muscles. Some muscles had become super weak, and others were in spasm, either from the impact or from working overtime to compensate for the weakened muscles. I was grateful for the physical therapy, and eagerly embraced the daily exercises I was given to do at home. I’m still doing them, but I’m recovered enough that I walk and bike normally; I just have a limit to how much I can strain myself right now.
Took my bike to my local bike shop for a brake adjustment. I’d recently had new, wider tires put on my commuter. I had been thinking for several months about turning the Volpe into even more of an all-purpose adventure/gravel bike since I knew it could accommodate bigger tires, and I now have a fancy new road bike that I use for my hillier and longer distance non-touring rides. Since the aging tires that had been on the commuter might have been a factor in the unfortunate incident of March 11th, when I wiped out on a slick patch of pavement, I decided it was time to get the new tires. But the front wheel kept catching in the brake pads, and my attempts to adjust them myself were not successful, I just swung by the shop and they took care of it for me lickety split.
3, 4, & 5. June 3rd: Non-Store Errand + Helping Hand + Wild Card
As much as I love my fancy new road bike, a Bianchi Infinito, I was unable to love the gorgeous coordinating Fizik R7 Aliante saddle that came with it. It’s supposed to be a great saddle, but it just wasn’t a fit for me. I tried tilting the nose down, which usually is the ticket for me and that did help a bit, but I found myself no longer the who-needs-a-chamois rider, and I kept developing one troubling problem or another in my delicate regions, so it just had to go. After many hours spent reading saddle reviews, I decided to go with the Specialized Power Expert with MIMIC. The day it arrived, I put it on my bike and took her for a test ride.
I also wanted to mail a sweater I’d just finished knitting to my daughter-in-law. She had requested a big, ugly sweater to help her stay warm in Rochester, New York. That was last Fall, but I warned her it likely would not get done in time for this winter. I did have just the right yarn and pattern to knit up what she wanted. I managed to finish the sweater just in time for Summer! I’m counting this as my helping hand errand. She may not be needing it now, but it will be ready for her when the seasons change again.
Satisfied that the new saddle is so far so good, I was eager to try something wild. Although I have ridden my bike up to the Griffith Park Helipad many times, I hadn’t attempted that kind of climb since February, before the unfortunate incident of March 11th. I was eager to see if I could handle it. The other wild thing was that it had been a long time since I’d been to the helipad for the weekly happy hour meet up. Socializing has become a big, wild deal this year. El Cochinito and I decided this was the day to give it a go, and we did. I made it up that hill, albeit slowly, and it was nice to see my bike friends again. The ride also showed me, however, that I’m not quite ready for this. I was okay, but I felt it and knew this was just a bit too much too soon.
When a postmenopausal woman fractures her pelvis, the topic of osteoporosis gets raised. The orthopedist noted that the x-rays revealed a little less bone density than they like to see, and I was referred for a bone density scan. That scan confirmed the expected diagnosis: osteoporosis in the pelvis and spine. That led to an appointment with an endocrinologist, who then ordered some tests. That testing meant I needed to pick up a special “collection device” (I will spare you the graphic details) from a lab not too far from home, but in a neighborhood in which one would not want to leave their bike unattended. So I got out the Volpe and my best Pee Wee Herman bike lock & cable set and set out to fetch the device.
I was feeling a real hankering to start increasing my mileage a wee bit, and to ride a hill that wouldn’t be too much for my current state of recovery, but could help me build some strength. That called for an old familiar loop through Griffith Park along Crystal Springs Drive. I knew this ride would get me a total of 22+ miles and a couple of doable hills without overdoing it. This route passes by the Pony Rides, through the Wilson and Harding Golf Courses and continues past the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, the Zoo, Travel Town (a kid’s delight of old trains), and back around through some picnic areas. Since I started tracking my rides in Strava, I’ve done this loop at least 45 times. You’d think I’d seen whatever there is to see on this ride by now, and yet, on this day I had to stop and gawk at what was, for me, a first: three deer grazing on the golf course!
Now that folks around here are vaccinated, some social events are coming back. One that I missed was the biweekly coffee meetups with Women on Bike Culver City. Every other Monday (in prepandemic times), they would pick a different coffee shop and invite others to either meet at the coffee shop, or join up for a ride together. It’s a friendly, welcoming group that makes a point of supporting and encouraging women who might not be seasoned riders to venture out and get more comfortable biking around town. Although they’d had some socially distanced meet ups at parks during the pandemic, those meetups had not lined up well with my working-from-home schedule. But here was a Monday when they were back to meeting at a coffee shop (one with outdoor seating), and I was free that morning. It was a small group, but a delight to see two familiar friends and meet a new one. The downside was, it had been a long time since I’d last biked the Venice Boulevard bike lanes during morning rush hour, and that was stressful and miserable. Drivers have always been bad on that street, but they gotten worse during the pandemic: driving much too fast and passing bicyclists much too closely as we navigate the door zone bike lane.
9 & 10. June 9th: Non-Store Errand + You Carried What?
While commuting to work is not part of this year’s Errandonnee, it surely counts as a Non-Store Errand. I’m self-employed, and I’ve been paying rent for an office I haven’t been using except as a place to receive mail these last 15 months. Now that the COVID-19 case rates are down in Los Angeles, and the vaccination levels are up, I am gradually going back to the office a little more each week. The only part that worries me is that darn ramp down into the parking garage, which is where I wiped out that ill-fated morning in March. I’d biked down it a jillion times before, and I know what got me was a slick patch where oil from idling cars must have built up on the surface and had been wetted by the rain we’d had the night before. It’s not like I’m expecting that same thing to happen to me again, but I find myself anxious about how fast it feels I am going as I descend the ramp now. But I’m okay, really (or so I tell myself each time).
I had a couple of BikieGirl orders to ship out that day for two of my best customers. One reason for going to the office was because I needed a product that was not available in the stash of inventory I keep at home. Plus I knew I had a bigger shipping box at the office that would be just right for the larger order. While the mail carrier does pick up outgoing packages from the office building, I prefer to take them directly to the post office when I can, as it is more reliable. The office pick up sometimes appears to result in an extra day before the package actually is officially “accepted” into the USPS system, and that annoys me. I feel better putting the packages directly onto the “ready to ship” counter at the post office. Plus, there is a post office near by that is well-suited for rolling the bike inside, so I don’t have to fuss with locking up the bike.
So, I figured I could use my bungee net to secure the packages to my rear rack for the short ride to the post office on my way home that afternoon. Except I also needed to carry my pannier with my computer and other necessary commuter items, plus I wanted to take a six pack of soda cans home since I now use those more at home than at the office. As I went to pack it all on the bike, I realized I’d put myself in a “you-carried-what” situation. Luckily, I was able to fit the six pack into my handlebar bag (phew, as I don’t always have that bag mounted on my handlebars for regular commuting). The handlebar bag wouldn’t close with the six pack inside, but I was able to use a disposable medical mask to create a strap that would secure the lid of the handlebar bag to the mount for my smartphone.
Next I tried to stack the boxes onto my rear rack, but the bungee net wasn’t big enough to accommodate both boxes. The smaller box could almost fit into the pannier, and by snapping the handles of the pannier bag together, I was able to secure the box there. Finally, with a bit of scooching and nudging, I was able to get the bungee net to secure the larger box onto the rack. Off to the post office I went!
The “Wild Card” category is defined as any trip that does not fall into any of the other 11 categories. Well, the lawyer in me wants to argue both sides here. You see, I biked to the office on this day. Now, this year’s errandonnee does not have a commuting to work or school category like we’ve seen in years past, so that means a ride to the office qualifies for the Wild Card. On the other hand, I managed to submit a previous trip to the office just two days earlier as a “Non-Store Errand”. So how can I argue that my trip to the office does not fall into any of the other categories when I just logged a trip to the office under another category? Ah, but wait a minute: wouldn’t ANY trip that did not involve going to a store fall under the “Non-Store Errand” category? If so, then the Wild Card category would be rendered meaningless. Under the Errandonnee Rules of Statutory Construction, therefore, I proclaim it improper to construe a rule in such a manner as to render it meaningless. Besides, per Rule 9 of the Errandonnee Official Rules Blog Post, we must have fun, and I am having so much fun ruling on the rules here.
And if that doesn’t sound like a “Wild Card” ride, what about my Hot Pink Zebra Bloomers, worn under a tropical floral print dress? If that isn’t wild, what is?
Don’t laugh, but I planned this ride by opening Google Maps and typing in “public art”. I know there is public art hiding in plain sight everywhere, so I figured this might be one way to discover something worthy of a bike trip. Sure enough, at the top of my results list was a piece of public art that I did not recognize (by name or by photo) that is in a location I know I have passed by dozens of times, both in a car and on a bike. And it had an interesting story. And I had a pretty good guess that my bike friend Jennifer would be interested in exploring it with me.
“The Freedom Sculpture” or “Freedom: A Shared Dream” (2017) by Cecil Balmond is a 20,400-pound, 15-foot high by 20-foot by 9-foot sculpture of water jet-cut powder-coated stainless steel double cylinders, supported by two 15-foot diameter high-polish stainless steel gold and silver half-rings, mounted on an approx. 10-foot by 18-foot by 4-inch travertine stone platform, and has internal LED lighting at night. The sculpture is modeled on the Cyrus Cylinder, and has been referred to as one of the Best Public Art in Los Angeles. It sits in the median of Santa Monica Boulevard at the intersection with Century Park East.
Along the way, we rode the bike lane on Santa Monica Blvd as it passes through Beverly Hills, and were delighted to notice a beautiful garden of cacti and succulents. [Surprise!] We just had to stop. I was so taken with the agave in bloom that bordered the bike lane. We wandered around the garden, took lots of pictures, and marveled that we hadn’t known of this place.
We took Charleville, a favorite bike-friendly street through Beverly Hills, for the return trip, and stopped for coffee along the way. All in all, a perfect outing for the twelfth and final day of my Hyperlocal Errandonnee run.
So how did that go? “That” being my attempt to lift some spirits by nudging folks to take on a doable challenge to finish off a strange bike month, the second year in a row that our month of May was overshadowed by a pandemic. The doable challenge is described in this prior post. In short, the Challenge involves 5 different ways to incorporate an activity that lifts the spirits into a bike ride, which bike ride, of course, is enough to lift one’s spirits by itself. Sometimes, though, we need an extra nudge to get out there and ride. The 5 ways: 1. Dress up Fancy; 2. Go Social; 3. Be of Service; 4. Try something new; and 5. Bike to Beauty.
I was most excited about #1. There’s something about riding a bike in style that feels so fantabulous. To feel the breezy freedom that I always feel while riding a bike, and to do so while dressed up, especially in a skirt or dress, well, that brings on a nirvana all its own. I love also how clearly it proves that a simple bike ride does not require a pair of padded shorts and a pocketed jersey. Not every bike ride is the Tour de France (not that there’s anything wrong with the Tour de France, except for the exclusion of women). I also love the romantic imagery of a Tweed Ride, or that elegance depicted in those old timey pictures of women in full-length skirts, high collars, and bloomers flouting convention as they rode through the late 1800’s.
In the pursuit of elegance for our fancy bike ride, I invited my husband to join me for a ride to Beverly Hills. It’s just a few miles from our home, and offers over-the-top mansions and beautifully manicured gardens worth gawking at, on streets that are wide and quiet. I pulled up Google maps and started scanning for good streets and places to explore. A few key spots caught my eye, and I proceeded to plan a little loop for our tour de Beverly Hills.
It was easy to choose my outfit, as I had purchased a pair of dresses in anticipation of a local Tweed Ride a few years ago, one being my first choice dress (adorable, but I was nervous about the somewhat mermaid-style shape), and the second a backup in case the first choice dress didn’t allow enough room for pedaling. I’d assumed the backup dress could be saved for the following year’s Tweed Ride. But there hadn’t been a second Tweed Ride, so that backup dress was still waiting its turn. The bright red of that yet-to-be-worn dress, and it’s 40’s era vintage styling, meant the perfect choice of matching Bloomers was obvious: the Red Hot Aqua Dot Bloomers. I completed the look with some red earrings and a matching necklace I’d inherited from my mother, and a comfy yet cute pair of red Jambu Mary Janes. Oh, and the brightest red lipstick I could find.
We rode past the architecturally notable Beverly Hills City Hall, making our way to the Virginia Robinson Gardens. The Gardens were closed that Sunday, but it was fun to get a glimpse and see enough to know it would be worth a return trip when it’s open. From there, I wanted to check out the “Hillhaven Lodge” that Google maps indicated was just a little ways farther up Benedict Canyon, but alas, it’s one of those things on the map that isn’t really a place you can visit. Our next stop was the Spadena House, also known as the “witch house”. We rounded out the tour with a pass by the Wave House. And since I’d never before biked to these Beverly Hills sites, I decided this ride also ticked the box for #4.
Oh, did you think the Challenge required 5 separate bike rides? Ah, don’t read anything more into the rules than necessary! (Forgive me, I’m a lawyer.)
#5 was super easy, as biking to beauty can be done just about anywhere, especially if you are on the lookout for nature’s treasures and/or public art. One street I use frequently to traverse the mid-city area of Los Angeles is 6th Street, as it passes along the back side of the La Brea Tar Pits and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It’s the less stressful alternative to busy Wilshire Blvd to the south and hectic 3rd Street to the north (despite Google maps always suggesting 3rd Street instead — don’t do it!). I’ve ridden 6th Street so many times, it’s easy to forget to take in the treasures. One fine day, riding home after a medical appointment, I noticed lots of colorful flowers peeking through the wrought iron fencing that surrounds the La Brea Tar Pits.
In between these rides, I did work in a bonus ride, that could be stretched to fit a few categories. I rode to my favorite bike shop to get some new tires for my commuter/adventure bike. This Bianchi Volpe had come equipped with 28mm tires that served me well for the last 2+ years, but those tires had worn down quite a bit, and after a bad wipe out on slick pavement one March morning that left me with a fractured pelvis, I had decided it was time for not just new tires, but something wider and grippier. Especially now that I have a newer, fancier Bianchi for road riding, it makes sense to turn my trusty steel Volpe into a gravel bike. I figure visiting my local bike shop counts as a social experience that helps someone, and I’ve never bought 35mm tires before, so there’s 3 categories right there! But since it’s a bit of a stretch, I’m treating this as a bonus ride.
On the last day of May, I got in #2 and #3 by inviting a friend who had no quarantine buddy for the whole 15 months of pandemic restrictions out for a ride and to treat her to a goodie. Riding a bike is fun, and socializing is fun, but social riding is even better, especially with a friend who can appreciate a leisurely pace. Enjoying goodies together is all the more fun, which is what we did as we swung by California Donuts. I love this place because, in addition to good donuts, they serve from a window you can roll your bike up to — no locking up required. Having just watched The Donut King, I was eager for some local donuts, so I bought a box of 6: horchata, cinnamon crumb, M&M’s, Reese’s, chocolate glazed, and a cronut. Jennifer and I sampled a bit of the horchata donut, and I took the rest home to share with my hubby. Jennifer was more interested in a Thai Iced Coffee than a donut, so that was her treat. Over the next few days, my husband and I sampled the donuts. In my opinion, the cronut was the best.
I gave folks who opted to take the BikieGirl Bike Month Challenge until June 15th to turn in their ride reports, but so far, I’ve only seen one. Joni shared her 5 dares completed on the Club BikieGirl Facebook page: hooray for Joni! Some others indicated that they’d done a few, or had thought about it, so I’m thinking maybe we don’t have to limit this to Bike Month. If you’re still toying with the idea, well, it’s not that hard, and I will give you the summer to finish it up. We’ll leave the Challenge open through the end of August. Now, I double-dog-dare you!
It’s been one heckuva year behind us, and if you’re feeling like I do, the pandemic fatigue has settled in. There’s good news for some of us, and bad news for others. Some things are sort of getting back to normal, but not really. We all need a boost, or at least a distraction, yes?
And here it is: Bike Month 2021. There are bike month events, sort of, in most locales, but many remain virtual, and it just isn’t the same as the bike months of years past. So let’s make the most of this one.
I dare you to take on the following five dares between now and May 31, 2021. Think of them as five easy pieces. They are doable. Some might be things you do all the time. Or you might have let some of these things slide, or never tried one or more of them at all. Yet each is something that is known to lift the spirits. So, whether these strike you as no big deal or feel a bit intimidating, I dare you to just do them. Do them with mindfulness and intention. And then claim your reward.
THE FIVE DARES:
1. Dress up fancy for a bike ride. You can define fancy as you like: elegant, formal, colorful, sparkly, fishnet stockings, high heeled shoes, vintage attire. Maybe even decorate your bike. Get creative!
2. Go social. Ride to visit a friend you haven’t seen in awhile, or plan a ride together.
3. Be of service. Use your bike to help someone out. Suggestions: pick up groceries for someone who needs the help, drop off a donation to a charity or collection site, clean up litter, bike to donate blood, fix somebody else’s flat tire.
4. Try something new. Have you never biked to your workplace, or to run an errand, or on a bike share bike, or with your kids/partner/friend? Have you taken your bike on a train or bus? Bike camping? I bet there’s something you’ve thought about trying — this is your nudge to just give it a go!
5. Bike to beauty. Nothing nourishes the soul like the beauty of nature, or extraordinary architecture, or the delight of public art. Bike to a beautiful place and snap a photo of your bike there.
THE DIRTY DETAILS: Each of these dares is designed to encourage you to break out of the blahs of pandemic fatigue by doing an activity that is known to lift the spirits. This should be your guiding principle: make it fun and/or inspiring! Document your dare. Remember to have a camera or phone with you so you can take a photo that shows how you met the dare, and that you did so by bike. Share your dare. Social media sharing is encouraged (remember to use the hashtag #BikieGirlDaredMe). You can email me directly with your report — letting me know the dates and what you did for your 5 dares. Get rewarded. Usually with bike month, I feel the need to offer a sale or some kind of marketing gimmick to boost sales for my side hustle, Bikie Girl Bloomers. This year I decided to offer a credit towards the purchase of your choice. The email you use to send me your report will be the basis for a $20 Gift Certificate valid at BikieGirlBloomers.com. That means you can use it toward a full price items that may have been out of your price range, or on an item already on sale — giving you a superbargain.
If you already have an account with the BikieGirl website, the email associated with that account would be the ideal one to be associated with the Gift Certificate. If you have more than one email I should know about, please tell me so the credit goes to the right place!
Complete your dares by the end of May 2021. Send me your report by June 15, 2021 (extensions can be granted upon request).
I look forward to seeing your photos and hearing your stories. Let me know if the experiences served to lift your spirits. Did you discover anything new? What was most fun?
This activity is part of BikieGirl’s mission to empower more women to experience the joy and liberation of biking — in your own style and at your own speed. If you are female-identifying and would like to join our Facebook community, Club BikieGirl, just click here.
My first few years participating in the Coffeeneuring challenge were heavily-planned exploits with carefully crafted themes. Last year, things had devolved into a matter of simply ticking the essentials off the list. Then, along comes 2020, a year that will go down in infamy for so many things, most notably a global pandemic that has thrown a monkey wrench into just about everything. Enter the official theme for this year’s challenge: One Good Thing. An excellent way to ground and focus us on an attitude of gratitude, key to managing during crazy times.
Since the challenge requires seven rides over seven weeks, the extent of my overall planning consisted of deciding I would come up with something each week that would qualify, including being open to whether or which coffee shop I might visit when I headed out on my bike. I let myself off the hook from past notions that involved extensive planning and placed greater value on only visiting coffee shops that were new to me, or making sure I ventured to different cities or parts of town with each ride. With all that is disrupted this year, and so much time spent at home, just getting out for a bike ride is a super important thing, and there’s no value in ruining it with pressure to push special rules.
So this blog post is my control card, a full report of my sixth year completing the Coffeeneuring challenge. It is presented here so that I can link to it for my formal submission to the Chief Coffeeneur, enabling me to claim my prize. If anyone actually reads this, well, then, bless your sweet heart. If you want to check my submission against the rules, you can find those rules here.
Beverage: Cortado for me & Cappuccino for him (with croissants)
Bike ride: My beloved, also referred to as El Cochinito, had invited some of his students to meet him at the Baldwin Hills Overlook, one of L.A.’s treasures that many overlook (pun intended). More accurately, many Angelenos haven’t heard of it. It was an easy ride, except for the one steep hill, a necessary element when one seeks to ride to a view point. I knew this outing would put us in a good position to head east on Jefferson to visit Highly Likely on our return to home, one of those cafes I want to support, as I hope they can make it though the pandemic.
Bike ride: A group of bike friends has a summer tradition of meeting once a week at the helipad in Griffith Park to watch the sun set while enjoying a beverage and the good company. This year, someone had the bright idea to shift it to Sundays after the sunsets start coming too early for weekday work schedules. This was the first such re-scheduled Helipad Happy Hour. An easy way to socialize outdoors and while maintaining social distance.
One Good Thing: We may not be able to participate in the same organized group rides and events as in the past, but we can still find ways to hang with our bike friends. The helipad provides a great space for safely distanced social interactions.
Bike ride: I have ridden up to the Griffith Park Observatory so many times, it would be impossible to count. This is my go-to ride. Most times, I ride up to the Observatory via the Crystal Springs loop to Mt. Hollywood Drive (aka Trash Truck), and sometimes I ride up Western Canyon from the Fern Dell entrance. Either way, I descend via Vermont Canyon. It’s been bugging me that I had never ascended via Vermont Canyon. It’s so fun to come down (you can hit some sweet speed on that one), that I’d assumed it must be a steep climb to go up that way. Of course, this was a deficiency I had to address: what is it really like to ride up the Vermont Canyon way? That’s what I did, and guess what? It’s not such a hard climb. Yeah, there’s a steep part, but it’s not that bad. According to Strava, there’s a 3/4 mile ascent with a grade of 7.6%. There’s a little more to it than that, but that just means you start climbing (with a lesser grade) before you get to that part. The advantage, I realized, is that by going up this stretch, instead of down, I noticed a lot more as I rode past the Greek Theater. For example, after riding past it dozens of times, I discovered a cafe that I’d never noticed before because it had always been on the opposite side of the road while I was flying downhill, with all my attention focused on the road. So that’s where I just had to get my coffee this time.
One Good Thing: Griffith Park is so amazing, there’s always more to discover. I’m so lucky to have this gem in my neighborhood.
Control No. 4: Zia Valentina, Fairfax Farmer’s Market, Los Angeles, California
Beverage: Waffleshot (an affogato in a chocolate dipped edible cup)
Bike ride: My beloved was going to teach his classes (over Zoom) from the crepe stand at the Fairfax Farmer’s Market, a place I love to visit, and it was Election Day (who can concentrate on work during this crazy election?), so I offered to meet up with him when he was done teaching, and take this opportunity to make up for having skipped a weekend of coffeeneuring. I knew there had to be a coffee shop there I hadn’t yet tried, so I did some research. That quickly led me to the discovery of Zia Valentina and their Waffleshots. It’s a shot of espresso served in an edible waffle cone in the shape of an espresso cup. I was tempted to get the hot chocolate in the edible cup, since it was already afternoon, but the affogato (espresso over ice cream) was irresistible. By the way, those dipped cones in the shape of an espresso cup can be ordered online, in case you’re eager to give it a try at home.
One Good Thing: Another treasured gem of Los Angeles is the Original Farmer’s Market, a collection of shops and restaurants that has been there since 1934. I’m so glad it’s there, and I hope these small businesses are getting enough to get them through the pandemic. I’m grateful it’s a pleasant bike ride away, even if there are no bike-friendly streets to get you there (they do have bike parking, and I just ride the sidewalks when the street traffic is too wild).
Bike ride: I reached out to a couple of bike friends I used to ride with all the time, but hadn’t seen lately, to see if they’d like to help me celebrate the election of our first female Vice President. I was curious to try a new coffee shop that was on a list of black-owned coffee shops in L.A. The Echo Park location was appealing, and leant itself to serve as the beginning or ending to a ride to Elysian Park, which I proposed to my friends. I’d mistakenly pitched Bloom & Plume to them as black-women-owned, thinking it was a great way to celebrate our black female VP-elect, only to later realize I’d confused this one, owned by a black male floral designer named Maurice Harris. So at least we can like the idea that the owner shares the new VP’s last name. We loved the place as soon as we laid eyes on it. Clearly someone with a real sense of design and color is responsible for the whole look, and I ate it up. Had to take a lot of photos here. We started out with treats and drinks here, and then meandered our way through Echo Park, alongside the Echo Park lake (but on the street because the path inside the park says “no bikes”). At the north end of the park, Lynn noted that we were close to Aimee Semple McPherson’s architecturally interesting church and, well, we just had to swing by. I enjoyed hearing Lynn’s telling of the story, as I had only had an impression that McPherson was a bit nutty and had developed a bit of a cult following and had some story involving a potentially staged death/kidnapping. Lynn described her as the founder of the Four Square Church and someone who had intentionally started her ministry in what had been a neighborhood of the poor and destitute, and who reached illiterate followers through the use of drama and theatrics. From there, we moseyed our way to Elysian Park, stopping to take in the view from Angel’s Point before riding around to the exit onto Broadway and then taking the Spring Street Bridge to Los Angeles State Historic Park, on through Chinatown and downtown L.A. on our way home.
Bike ride: I know, I just rode Elysian Park last weekend, but this time I was riding with El Cochinito, and he had a hankering to ride into Elysian Park via this hilly street near our friend’s house, and he needed to first drop something off with a colleague in downtown. Thus, it made sense to enter the park from the Chinatown/Broadway side. That appealed to me as an opportunity to explore the reverse route to what I rode last week. So off we went. But no sooner had we entered the road into the park off of Broadway when we noticed the road ahead (beyond where we would turn left to follow the usual route into the park) seemed to offer a nice view, plus there was another road veering off to the left up ahead, behind a gate. I’ve never been on that road; might that need to be explored? So we explored. I imagined it might be a back road that leads to the Buena Vista viewpoint, which I don’t believe I’ve visited. We saw a lot of trash along this little road, and a few interesting characters here and there, who seemed like they might not have a typical reason to be hanging out in the park. This was definitely not a main park road, and certainly not the road to Buena Vista I’d been thinking of. I began to think about the fact that I was riding my flashy new Celeste green Bianchi and the fact that this might make me a target for bike thieves. But we just kept on riding and no one disturbed us. And then we saw the end of the road at a fence separating us from the 110 freeway. But there was a dirt walking path that paralleled the freeway, so we walked our bikes along it. And then we saw a hole in the fence that gave us access to a pedestrian walkway that runs alongside the freeway. So we rode that and continued on. And that led to a spiral stairway. We carried our bikes down that and landed at the interchange between the 110 freeway and the 5 (that’s L.A.-speak for Interstate 5). We rode further, now on a pedestrian path on the opposite side of the 110, that took us to a trashy looking stairway that led to San Fernando Road near the roundabout that offers an access point to the L.A. River Bike Path. So we rode the river path north until we found an inviting exit point that allowed us to explore a cute residential neighborhood sandwiched between the river and Riverside Drive (an area I believe is referred to as Frogtown). We came across an intriguing lot filled with rows and rows of some kind of futuristic looking sanitation vehicles we’d never seen before. A large fleet of them —- might those be called upon in the event of a chemical spill? Inquiring minds want to know. We then continued on Riverside Drive until it led us back into Elysian Park from Stadium Way. We made our way through the park and came out on Academy Road. This is where the steep road up to our friend’s house can be found. And up we went, or so we tried. Neither of us was able to bike the entire hill. We made it a little over halfway before having to walk the rest. We circled around and dropped back into the business district of Echo Park and took a right onto Sunset Blvd. At Alvarado, I noticed the Tierra Mia coffee shop, and realized this was our perfect coffeeneuring stop. And so it was.
One Good Thing: That road that intrigues you, calls to you, leads you on a new adventure: Take it!
Control No. 7: Undergrind, Castle Heights/Beverlywood, Los Angeles, California
Beverage: Dutch (dark chocolate/milk/espresso) plus shrimp & grits
Bike ride: I reached out to Lynn and Jennifer to see if they would like to join me on a ride to rectify the tribute to our new VP-elect by visiting a black woman-owned coffee shop. Of course, they were game. We met up at the Culver City Expo Line station and rolled over to South Robertson (or “SoRo”), just a bit north of Hamilton High School. As we rolled up, my eye caught sight of a red pick up truck painted colorfully. Then we came upon a gorgeous mural on the side of the building at the corner of Robertson & Gibson. Jennifer started exclaiming that she knew this building; that this is the building our friend (another bike person) Aubrey owns, and that this is the gallery of an artist she has met. We drooled over the mural, took pictures of our bikes in front of it, and then proceeded to Undergrind. If you like chocolate with your coffee, then you must try their Dutch, which features dark chocolate and a shot of espresso plus your favorite kind of milk. It was decadent and delicious. I’d also seen from the reviews that Undergrind is known for its shrimp & grits, and I was hungry. Those were the tastiest shrimp & grits ever, and I will definitely be going back again for more. While enjoying our goodies, Jennifer called Aubrey, and by the time we’d finished eating and drinking, along came Aubrey and his wife, Melba, the owners of the building that houses their own direct mail business and also the Barbara Mendes Art Gallery. So we got a tour of the gallery, some stories about its history, a preview of some Haitian art that was about to have an opening in the adjacent gallery space when Covid-19 came along and put those plans in limbo. Then Barbara Mendes, the artist herself, showed up and we got to learn a lot more about her amazing work. Most remarkable is a giant mural she painted that depicts, with both detailed images and Hebrew script, every verse of Leviticus. After that visit, we got back on our bikes and toured the curvy streets and beautiful homes of the Beverlywood/Castle Heights neighborhood, then circled back on the Expo bike path toward the Culver City Station where we’d met up.
One Good Thing: Nothing lifts one’s spirits like stumbling across some colorful and expressive art!
And, with that, Coffeeneuring 2020 is a wrap. I hope the good folks at Coffeeneuring Central will forgive me for not using a reusable cup at most of my controls. Under COVID protocols, our local places will not fill the customer’s cup (I even remembered to bring it!), and most are using only disposable cups. As for a theme within the theme, I’d say more than one theme emerged upon reflection. Besides managing to do each ride in a different Bloomers/Nuu-muu Dress combo (I do love me some bike style), I found myself living a theme of using each coffeeneuring ride to embrace what my world offers: wonderful bike friends, a city of never-ending fascination, and delightful small businesses doing their best to endure in the face of unprecedented challenge. They are so worthy of our support.
Little tidbit: I did 6 of the 7 rides all on my gorgeous new Bianchi. Can you spot the one exception, when I rode a different bike? Extra credit if you can identify the make & model.
Obviously, there was so much more to savor about each ride than just “one good thing”. What a great way to focus on all that is good during a time when so much is not. May we hold all of it dear, remembering those who are suffering, and remind ourselves to keep doing one good thing to support someone, while also embracing one good thing we are lucky to have in our lives.
Final tidbit: here’s a photo of the interesting vehicles spotted in Frogtown. According to Google Maps, this is the location of Los Angeles Sewer Maintenance.
My fifth round of participating in the Coffeeneuring challenge happens to be the eighth year since it was first launched by Coffeeneur-in-Chief of Chasing Mailboxes. She proclaimed “Eight is Great” when announcing this year’s theme. In years past, I’ve had fun working my own theme into the master theme, with themes like making sure each coffee shop is in a different city, or trying different donut shops, or showing off a different pair of Bloomers for each ride. Last year, I honored the master theme of “Best Intentions” by backing away from elaborate planning of special sub-themes, and simply focusing on intention. This year, I had zero interest in planning a theme for my rides, or carefully selecting new coffee shops to try for each ride. I decided to let myself roll through the challenge themelessly. I am quite pleased that I managed to avoid re-arranging my life around coffeeneuring. Rather, I worked the coffeeneuring into whatever was going on each week.
Here is my control card:
Control No. 1: 10/13/19 – Kaldi in Atwater Village, Los Angeles
Beverage: Iced Americano (with pumpkin scone)
Bike-friendliness: Excellent bike parking – large bike corral right in front
Outfit: Crazy Daisy Bloomers under a Mermaid Nuu-Muu dress
Notes: El Cochinito had a meeting to attend in Atwater Village and invited me to ride along. Well, what a great way to kick off coffeeneuring season, especially since I hadn’t been to any coffee shops in Atwater Village. Plus, it’s not far from Griffith Park, giving me a great opportunity to spin my wheels while he was at his meeting.
Control No. 2: 10/20/19 – The Helipad in Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Beverage: Delivered by thermos from Kettle-Glazed Doughnuts (along with some donuts!)
Bike-friendliness: Doesn’t get any friendlier than Griffith Park, especially the Helipad, where local bike friends gather regularly to take in a great view of L.A. together.
Outfit: Tealicious Nuu-Muu dress over Black Bloomers (not pictured)
Notes: Many Thursdays this summer, I joined a group that bikes up to the Helipad after work to watch the sunset and sip beer. As the sunsets became too early in the Fall, the group switched to Sunday mornings and coffee. An advantage to doing it in the morning is that I could then continue riding on through the park. The photo in the lower left panel is the view of the Hollywood sign from the Griffith Observatory. Lower right is a favorite mural I pass on my way home from the park.
Control No. 3: 10/26/19 – Cameron Cafe in Alexandria, Virginia
Beverage: Cafe au Lait (with an apple turnover)
Bike-friendliness: Conveniently close to the Holmes Run Trail and offers bike parking right out front. I was rolling on Capital Bikeshare that day, and there are no docking stations anywhere in that area, so I just parked it in front, next to the bike rack (with timer still running!), and kept an eye on it from my window seat inside.
Outfit: Purple Drape Neck Top over Black Hitchable Flounce Skirt & Pinstripe Bloomers (prototype for new style)
Notes: Every year in late October, I attend a conference in the Washington, D.C. area, right in the middle of Coffeeneuring season. In fact, two years ago, I was able to join a fellow coffeeneur who lives in D.C., and share a Coffeeneuring ride together! This year, I was staying in Old Town Alexandria, and thought it would be fun to explore the Holmes Run Trail and visit a coffee shop along the way. Cameron Cafe turned out to be an excellent choice. Both the coffee and the turnover were delicious. Plus I enjoyed visiting with a couple who’d also biked there and had been curious about my use of the bikeshare bike (given that we were well outside the Capital Bikeshare territory).
Control No. 4: 10/27/19 – Stories Books & Cafe in Echo Park, Los Angeles
Beverage: Cappuccino (with coffee cake)
Bike-friendliness: There are bike racks on the sidewalk out front on Sunset Boulevard, but some of us like to bring our bikes into the patio area in the back, off the alley. The bookstore is always kind to the Street Librarians who gather there on the last Sunday of each month for drinks and eats, to gather some books generously offered to us from the clearance rack, as we head out on our bicycles to re-stock the local Little Free Libraries.
Outfit: Zen Nuu-Muu dress over Pinka Dot Black Bloomers
Notes: The Street Librarians Ride always has a theme. This time the theme was Day of the Dead. As we stop to do our re-stocking at each Little Free Library, we also take a moment to share a reading, usually in line with the theme. For my turn, I read from a children’s book called “What is Death?”
Control No. 5: 10/28/19 – Bar Nine in Culver City
Beverage: Mocha (with a cheese biscuit)
Bike-friendliness: Well, they got rid of the bike rack they used to have out front, but we are inclined to forgive them since there is now an electric car charging station in its place. Several of us rolled our bikes inside, and no one seemed to mind.
Outfit: Blue Toad & Co. dress over Leopard Print Bloomers
Notes: This was a meet up with the Women on Bikes Culver City group. These women have a regular tradition of meeting up at a different local coffee shop every other Monday morning. They are especially great at supporting women who are new to city biking.
Control No. 6: 11/3/19 – Blue Bottle Coffee, Downtown L.A.
Beverage: Cafe au Lait (with a maple pecan scone)
Bike-friendliness: There may be bike parking right in front, I forgot to look. I parked across the street in front of the Grand Central Market.
Outfit: Jade Nuu-Muu dress over Shimmering Sapphire Bloomers, topped off with a green Bikie Girl Bloomers Boat Neck Tee
Notes: El Cochinito had a field trip in downtown L.A., having his Economics students explore relevant principles at the Grand Central Market. He first has them walk across the street to see the beautiful Bradbury Building, often used in filming, most notably the original Bladerunner. I rode along and enjoyed my treats at Blue Bottle Coffee, right there on the corner in the Bradbury Building, while they did their field trip. Afterward, he and I continued on through Chinatown into Elysian Park to take in some iconic views of the city.
Control No. 7: 11/10/19 – Hot & Cool Cafe, Leimert Park in South Los Angeles
Beverage: Cinnful Coffee (with coffee cake)
Bike-friendliness: There is bike parking right in front and the Ride On Bike Co-op is next door, should you need any parts or repairs.
Outfit: Wildfire Nuu-Muu dress over Romantic Ruby Bloomers
Notes: El Cochinito and I will be doing a bike tour in Cuba over the upcoming holidays, and I wanted to make sure we squeezed at least one ride into this busy weekend. I also wanted to make sure we climbed some sort of hill to get some training value out of a short ride. I decided the perfect route would be to nearby Kenneth Hahn Park in the Baldwin Hills. This 400-acre park atop some sizable hills in the midst of a large metropolis offers great views. I used to think there was no way to ride a bike to this park until a group ride I was on a couple years ago took us there. I was delighted to be able to show this route to El Cochinito (who otherwise knows his way around L.A. more thoroughly than I do). He also hadn’t been to this park in well over 20 years, since before the basin at the top had been made into a grassy meadow. This was once the site of a reservoir that spilled down the hillside in 1963 when a dam broke and the ensuing disaster took five lives and damaged over 200 homes.
We then descended gleefully down into Leimert Park to enjoy one of my favorite local cafes. If you like some flavor and a hint of spice in your coffee like I do, I strongly recommend the Cinnful Coffee. Their coffee cake is a delicious accompaniment.
Control No. 8: 11/17/19 – The Free Cafe in Leimert Park in South Los Angeles
Beverage: Iced Coffee
Bike-friendliness: It doesn’t get any friendlier than this – the host is a bicyclist who sets up the cafe in his backyard. Bikes are welcome, and can be leaned against the fence along the driveway.
Outfit: Sirena Nuu-Muu dress over Shimmering Sapphire Bloomers
Notes: The Free Cafe is a friend’s project intended to cultivate community. He invites all his neighbors to come to his yard for coffee and conversation about once a month. Occasionally, he sets up the Free Cafe at other locations, such as parks or other host homes. I enjoy riding there, as it’s only 3 miles from home, and it takes me on some bike-friendly streets through pretty neighborhoods, and over a small bridge that crosses the freeway. I love going over this bridge, because it is a hidden delight.
Originally this was to be my celebratory “Eight is Great” ride, but I completely forgot to snap a photo of my bike or my coffee! I don’t think that made it any less great. In fact, it was a great way to cap another great season of coffeeneuring.
I love me an errandonnee challenge, but this year was a rough one for me. It started a bit later than in past years, perhaps due to the Chief’s own challenges, and the timing was less than optimal for my own crazy life. One of the rules is that you shouldn’t do it if it is causing you stress, so I had to carefully monitor that one. I had scheduled a much-delayed surgery for April 9th, and doctor’s orders were no biking for at least a week afterwards, and to wait for the ultrasound confirmation that I was not at risk of a DVT before getting back on the bike. Well, nobody wants to mess around with a risk of DVT, but, argghhh!
It wasn’t just the surgery. My professional and personal lives both went rather haywire in early April, so I didn’t exactly have lots of bandwidth to plan and execute an impressive variety of errands by bike. It’s so much fun to see what the other entrants are up to: a remarkable “you-carried-WHAT” entry, or a delightful scenic errand, or an admirable cause served by bike. I knew I couldn’t compete on that front, but I also knew I could manage to pull off 12 errands by bike in the portion of the competition still running after I got my medical clearance.
And yet, I find myself feeling a bit guilty about this year’s participation. I had too many distractions on my mind. It felt as though I were merely phoning it in this go round, and that just didn’t seem to be in the spirit of the event. So why am I here? Why not just let this one go? What gives?
I suspect it all comes down to the patch.
Here are the prizes from prior years:
They aren’t bad at all. In fact, I rather like them. I am proud to include them in my handlebar bag collection. But then I saw the design for this year’s prize:
And that changed everything.
So please forgive me. Since it’s not a real sexy report, I’m just going to list out the essential details. This will be my report to the Chief in Charge.
Control #1 – April 16th: Store errand.
OK, this was cheating, as I had’t been to the doc yet to get my OK to ride again, but hey, it was only 0.25 miles to ride my bike back from the shop where it was being serviced while I was off the bike for my surgery. Bonus errandonnee points for using my bike to carry my just-purchased to-go Thai food lunch (with Thai iced coffee) back to the office. Observation: my mechanic, much as I love what he does for my bike, ALWAYS forgets to put the seat back to my height and ALWAYS returns my bike with the rear brakes squeaking like mad.
Control #2 – April 17th: Work commute.
The big day of my ultrasound/doc appointment. I’m not yet cleared for strenuous exercise, but hey, it was less than two miles and I found a meandering route that avoided the usual hill. Observation: I never get tired of finding new variations on my commuting route.
Controls #3, #4, #5 – April 17th: Personal Care, Personal Business, Store errand.
Yes! All clear on the ultrasound. I rode to the appointment ever so gingerly and gently, so as not to break the “no strenuous exercise” rule, but triumphantly rolled home with extra energy. The doc was my personal care errand, followed shortly thereafter by personal business at the nearby bank where I needed to deposit a check. On the way home, a made a store errand and stopped for groceries at Trader Joe’s. Observation: It’s most satisfying when a number of errands can be strung together along a nice route.
Controls #6, #7 – April 19th: Personal Business, Work Commute.
Gotta love that there is no minimum mileage requirement for a single errandonnee outing. I needed cash, and there’s an ATM just a block away. Why walk it when you can bike it, right? Then off to work as usual. Observation: even though this was all legal, I feel guilty.
Control #8 – April 20th: Social Call
Rode with a couple of friends to enjoy one of my favorite rides here in Los Angeles. We rode up Nichols Canyon, made a quick stop at Tree People where a nice person snapped this photo, and then descended through the gorgeous Franklin Canyon. Observation: there is no better way to work off a stressful week than a beautiful bike ride with friends.
Control #9 – April 22nd: Non-store errand
I go to the dry cleaners once a year – to knock out one of my errandonnee controls and finally get around to getting whatever may have piled up cleaned. Observation: I seem to be wearing a lot less of my dry clean only clothing this year.
Controls #10, #11, #12 – April 23rd: Wild Card, Arts & Entertainment, Social Call
For my wild card entry, I got a little creative. I live in an historic neighborhood, and I have over the years grown especially fond of some of the architectural gems nearby. So I took a bit of a zigzagging route to pay a brief visit to several of my favorites. Observation: architecture does a lot for a neighborhood’s soul.
In the Arts & Entertainment category, I decided to swing by one of the Metro stations not too far from where I work. It’s not my nearest station, so I never go there, but I’d seen that it featured a giant rock as its public art installation (each L.A. metro station has some cool art installation). Unfortunately, the low sun and the nature of the rush hour crowd combined with a large number of roving characters, many of whom were clearly coveting my Bianchi (one actually said “nice Bianchi” to me as we passed) made it an bad time to appreciate the artwork. The giant rock (which I could not photograph well under these circumstances) rises up from inside the station where it forms part of the ceiling of the platform area and out onto the sidewalk at street level. But it appears to be in need of either repair or protection from vandals, and, well, the photos online are much better than what I saw in real life.
Finally, desperately in need of just one more errand to finish the challenge on the very last day, I stopped to visit a ghost bike at Catalina & Vermont, which I’m treating as a social call (if the judges won’t accept a visit to a ghost bike as a social call, then let’s put this in the wild card category, ok?). This is an intersection I ride through quite often, and the tragic incident that ended a cyclist’s life here was not that long ago. I wanted to pay my respects.
And with that, I was able to hit all but one category (sorry, no interesting “you carried what” this year). My total mileage for the season’s errands came to 69.7 miles, most of those from the social ride to Nichols & Franklin Canyons. I think that means I satisfied all the requirements to earn a patch. Yes, I’m a wee bit late with meeting the 4/30/19 deadline for submissions, but I do believe I posted most, if not all of these, to social media at the time, so, hey, cut me a break.