Beach Bikes again, Southern California this time
As the Great Accident would have it, I flew to San Diego for a conference last Saturday, returning today, completely missing Sandy (I suppose I could have claimed refugee status). The conference hotel was in the Mission Beach neighborhood, a penninsula wedged between Mission Bay and a surfer beach on the Pacific Ocean. The area is served by a dense mesh of bike trails, multi-purpose trails, and bike lanes (all the green stuff in this screenshot of a Google Maps session - they don't let you link the Bicycle view, it seems).
I had a couple of hours free before sunset after arriving on that first Saturday, and rented a genuinely skanky beach bike ("cruiser") from the hotel's bike'n'surfboard concessionaire. This machine had a number of vices that would be tiresome to enumerate, but the most memorable one was that it squeaked rhythmically when it was ridden, and gave me the sensation of riding through an open-air performance of a Phillip Glass composition. Single-speed, pedal brakes, painted olive drab with the occasional WWII Army white star: fun to be nine years old again.
Nevertheless, I took off around Mission Bay, circling the whole thing on the paved multi-use path (with a couple of roads and a bridge thrown in), returning by sunset (and closing time for the somewhat cranky concessionaire), an 11-mile ride.
This was a good introduction to the place, which is an interesting mix of prosperity, poverty, and surfer-hipster-bohemian living in the moment, all of it happening, in part, on beach bikes. Encountered a few guys I wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley, and a few homeless people with their bikes set up as if for loaded touring. There were birds aplenty, pelicans, herons, egrets, gulls, terns, osprey, hawks, ducks, geese, coots, rails, plus this one, which never did quite become airborne:
The high point (literally) was a bridge that carries West Mission Bay Drive across the channel at the mouth of Mission Bay. Doing this climb on a single-speed had me standing on the pedals.
After this initial outing, I found a better beach bike--aluminum frame, very fat, low-pressure tires--which I rented for the week, at a good price, from a more likable business down the street.
After that, the conference began in earnest, and I fell into a comfortable rhythm of riding at sunrise on the Bay side...
... and sunset on the Ocean side, as far North as La Jolla.
After the last workshop on Thursday, combined a trip around the Bay, including an excursion onto Fiesta Island Park (a roadie spot it seems, dozens passed me), with a ride at sunset up the Ocean path. That ride amounted to 16 miles. This morning, took one more dawn ride, then returned the bike and flew home.
Overall, got about 50 miles in this week, in the margins of the conference sessions and attendant schmoozing. The whole beach bike experience was enjoyable, and taught me more about the Mission Beach/Mission Bay area than I would have learned otherwise, but did reinforce my conviction that I have a high-quality folding bike (or maybe a touring bike with couplers) in my checked-luggage future.