Bi-Coastal Bike Week

Cruising around Coronado, California

A week ago I didn’t know that I would be having bike adventures on both the West Coast and East Coast. But that’s how it played out. I traveled to San Diego for a conference on Monday and expected to be busy from the moment that I arrived until my departure on Thursday. As it turned out, there was some free time available on Wednesday morning. I’d noticed quite a few bike commuters and relatively light traffic in downtown San Diego, so I started investigating bike rentals. It occurred to me that a great place to ride would be just across the San Diego Bay in the small town of Coronado. I couldn’t have been more right.

Coronado can be reach either by ferry boat from a couple of landings in San Diego or by a tall bridge that crosses the bay. The ferry boat from the convention center didn’t start until 9:30 am, and I wanted to start my ride around 9:00 am. So I decided to drive. There was no toll going into Coronado and I was pleased to discover later in the day, none on the return either. Googling bike rentals, I had decided on “Bikes and Beyond” which is located near the Coronado Ferry Landing, which also is the home to several shops and restaurants. Arriving a bit early, I walked around, grabbed a coffee, and sat on a bench enjoying the view of downtown San Diego across the bay. Precisely at 9:00 am I picked up my bike from Tom who was working the bike shop that day. He provided a great map and explained optional routes to the primary one suggested.

Tom set me up with an Electra seven-speed as my rental, which included a bike lock and helmet. I ride an Electra Townie seven speed at home, so this seemed like the perfect fit. I did have him adjust the seat, but should have been more particular since the seat was a bit low and led to some extra exertion – and back pain – as a result. The area is quite flat, but the gears were nice to have for the slight changes in elevation that I encountered.

The route that I followed started along a trail which followed the bay and went under the San Diego – Coronado Bridge, about one-quarter of the entire route. The trail led to Glorietta Blvd., a very wide street which allowed me to ride to the right with room for at least two cars to my left even though it was one lane each direction. That road went alongside the Coronado Golf Course. Glorietta Blvd. turns into Pomona Ave. and took me right to the Hotel Del Coronado.

The Hotel Del Coronado was originally built in 1888. It has survived all these years and grown over time through numerous remodels. Several U.S. Presidents have been guests of the hotel and countless celebrities. The movie, “Some Like It Hot” with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon was filmed there in 1959. Walking through the lobby feels like stepping back in time. For my Floridian friends, the Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disneyworld is styled after this stately old property. I took some time from the ride, locked up my bike and walked around the property enjoying the lobby, the landscaping, the chef’s vegetable and herb gardens, and the views of the Pacific Ocean. One friend responded to my Facebook post that this is his favorite place to people watch in the San Diego area.

Back on the bike, I cruised up Ocean Drive and headed up Alameda and then J Avenue. I passed several beautiful homes along the way and continued along a route that was almost free of any traffic at all. A jog up 5th Street and a right turn back onto Alameda led me to the entrance to the Naval Air Station North Island, one of the eight facilities that make up the Naval Base Coronado. Naturally this is a restricted area. It takes up about 2/3 of the upper Coronado peninsula. There were signs in front of many of the houses that I passed stating “Home of a Naval Aviator”, so much of the community is made up of military and support personnel from the base. This is also the home of two aircraft carriers, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan. Across the bay in San Diego is the USS Midway – now a permanent museum which I had the opportunity to tour that evening as part of the conference.

I mentioned going onboard the USS Midway that evening. That aircraft carrier was launched in 1945 and served until 1992 – 47 years in service, including being the lead ship for the assault on Baghdad, Iraq during the start of Desert Storm. After touring the ship which included a look at the Admiral’s quarters, Captain’s quarters, war room, message center, and viewing many restored aircraft from various eras, I took a pedi-cab back to my hotel. The pedi-cab operator was quite amusing, recounting stories of the many places where he has worked including Orlando, Miami, and even Alaska.

Turning south on 1st Street, I headed back towards Bikes and Beyond. Along the way I stopped to chat with a gentleman walking his dog. Turns out he was a retired music teacher, so we talked about that for a while. He asked if I’d recently moved to the area, but I told him that I was just visiting. It would be a great place to live, especially since it was so bike friendly – so I took it as a compliment that he thought that I might be a “local”.

I returned the bike, thanked Tom and drove back to the convention center – arriving with all of five minutes to spare before the afternoon exhibit hours started. The ride was a lot of fun and I’m very glad that I made the time to fit it in. It was a highlight of my trip. I doubt that I would have had the confidence to go out and rent a bike in an unfamiliar city if I hadn’t taken the Cycling Savvy course.

First Friday Ride – Almost!

I woke up back at home on Friday morning a bit stiff from the seven hours cooped up in airplanes returning home from San Diego on Thursday, naturally taking the logical route of San Diego – Chicago – Orlando. I forced myself to do my morning stretches to work out the kinks because I was determined to take part in the First Friday evening ride through downtown Orlando. The day went quickly as I played catch up from being away all week. I kept checking the weather report and around 5:00 pm texted Keri Caffrey to ask if the First Friday ride was still on. She responded that she was planning to go and that if it was pouring at start time, those who showed up would seek shelter and enjoy a beer together.

Not wanting to miss out, I loaded up the bike on my car rack for the drive from Lake Mary to Loch Haven Park in Orlando. As soon as I started up the car, I noticed that the engine felt rough. Driving out of my neighborhood, there was a high pitched noise coming from the engine compartment – not a good sign. I got about a mile from the house, was waiting in a left turn lane and the car flat out died. I still had battery power, so I was able to turn on the hazard lights and roll down the window so I could begin motioning drivers to go around me on the right since I couldn’t move the car at all.

I went down my mental checklist – call AAA, call the local mechanic, call home, call the First Friday right group. Check, check, check, and check. All set, just needed to wait for the tow truck. Interesting to observe humanity when you are “broken down”. Basically, most people simply don’t care or treat you like you are the biggest inconvenience of their day. Most of the time waiting I stayed in the car and waved out the windows for drivers to go around me. Some – those probably texting and driving – still pulled up right behind me, honked when I didn’t move when the light change and honked again after backing up and finally passing, even though I had signaled much earlier. I finally got out of the car and used my lime green neon “Commute Orlando” shirt to get people’s attention and spent my time waiting by directing traffic. There were several people who were kind enough to stop, roll down a window and ask if I needed help or a jump. I thanked each of them and told them that AAA was on the way.

About 30 seconds before the tow truck arrived, a Seminole County Deputy pulled up. He jumped out of the car and instead of asking me, “can I help you”? or “what’s the problem”?, he said, “you can’t be here” – as if I had chosen to have my car stall on purpose. Right at that moment, the AAA truck swooped in and had me hooked up and ready to go. So, Adios Officer, and I jumped into the cab of the truck for the ride to the mechanic. Turns out that the tow truck driver is a mountain bike enthusiast. He said that he missed the hills in Pennsylvania. I was able to share that he should check out the “Meet Up” site for some adventurous rides in this area. Never know where you’re going to run into good people.

After unloading the car at Action Gator Tires, I put on my helmet, windbreaker, and bright green shirt and headed for home. Very handy to have a bike with you when you have to abandon your motor vehicle. Also a good thing to only be about 4-5 miles from home.

I took Sun Drive to the Cross Seminole Trail. That route felt safe, even though it was pitch black out. My lights helped, but I would like to have a stronger headlight. I was surprised to come upon several people walking on the trail in the dark, some for fitness, others were groups of teens out for a stroll. The problem was that all of them were dressed entirely in dark clothes. After passing the first one, I was much more cautious. I could easily see the trail, but could have run into one of these pedestrians if I wasn’t careful.

Since I had to go past Bruster’s Ice Cream along my route, I stopped and picked up a pint of mint chocolate chip to make up for the evening’s inconvenience. That, along with some Thin Mints that I’d purchased from a friend did the trick.

I finished up the ride home along Lake Park Drive, owning the lane and riding big – just like I’d learned in Cycling Savvy. Although the road was almost completely deserted, I still was honked at, but I felt fine anyway. After all, even though I’d missed out on the official First Friday ride – which did get rained out except for the core group which assembled and immediately went to “Bananas” for refreshments – I did get my ride in on Friday evening.

So this week truly was one for Bi-Coastal bike adventures. Very glad that I decided to take a spin through Coronado and see the sights. While I hadn’t planned on the car breaking down (just received the estimate from the mechanic – $1,200 to replace the fuel pump and a new battery – did I say that I hate cars!), I still had a fun time riding back from the shop last night and plan to ride my bike up there today to recover the motor vehicle. Bike riding just puts a smile on my face, so in spite of other challenges it’s something to look forward to and enjoy.

4 replies
  1. Keri
    Keri says:

    Great story, John!

    You rode more miles than we did 🙂

    It’s amazing how cranky and intolerant people driving cars are in the suburbs. Speaks to their quality of life, I think. They should ride bikes more, maybe they’d feel better.

    • Diana
      Diana says:

      Well, John, that’s all very nice, but while you were pedalling around in Coranado, CA, on a rented Electra 7 speed, I had the thrill of seeing a REAL cyclist riding in downtown Orlando. While you were on an Electra 7 speed, HE was riding a carbon fiber road bike. While you were wearing what appear to be some sort of casual shoes, slacks, and a windbreaker jacket, HE had on cleated road shoes, and the full racing kit of a lycra-clad cycling super hero. While you had on your rental basic helmet, HE was wearing an elongated time trial aero helmet. And while you were riding on unfamiliar roads, HE was riding……….ON THE SIDEWALK!!! John, you rock!

  2. John Alexander
    John Alexander says:

    @ Diana – And I was probably having a lot more fun than HE was! Many thanks to you and all the Cycling Savvy group for your ongoing support and encouragement! After all, it’s really about just getting out there and “enjoying the ride”. Sure helps to do so with the skills and confidence that I learned by taking part in the class.

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  1. […] that has allowed me to feel comfortable riding in other parts of the country (see my article “Bi-Coastal Bike Ride“).  This past month I have had the pleasure of sharing my new-found love of cycling with […]

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