Sunday, April 30, 2017

California Dreamin'

I always do my best to combine work and play. When I was invited to deliver a talk at a conference this past March in San Diego, I jumped at the opportunity and immediately began to think about how I could weave a little riding into my visit. I reached out to several helpful and generous members of the San Diego Randonneur club and found a 200K that appeared to be an ideal balance of hills and flats. I arranged to rent a bike from an outfit that would deliver and pick up from my hotel and bought a ticket on the red-eye back to NY giving me a full day to explore Southern California from the seat of a bike.

So after everything was planned, I packed up a suitable amount of gear and hit the road. If you ever find yourself in San Diego in need of a bike for the day, you could do much worse than to contact Stay Classy Bicycle Rentals. These folks are amazing. For $40, I got a totally reasonable road bike dropped off and picked up from my hotel, which could not have been easier or more convenient to arrange.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, I had explored the SDRando website and listserv and contacted a few generous and helpful souls who were more than happy to accommodate my need for a good 200K route to explore the area. As a newbie, I selected a ride that took in both beach and mountains feeling that this would provide the most comprehensive experience in the shortest amount of time. Little did I know how spectacular and ideal for road bike riding the southern California coast is set up.

On Friday morning, I woke up early to check out of my room in order to clip in and hit the road by 6:30. It was easy to get to the route start about 5 miles from the hotel by traversing the San Diego River Bike Path. It was a bit disconcerting riding through the various homeless encampments, but everyone seemed to be in good spirits and fairly disinterested in my fancy road bike. After picking up my receipt just before 7:00 AM at the first control, I took off into the pre-rush hour traffic in search of the hills beyond. What I soon came to realize is that San Diego is filled with urban sprawl. After an hour or so pedaling through heavy and often high speed traffic, I decided to make a break from the original route to forge a DIY out-and-back along the coast.

Dialing-in Google maps on my phone, I was able to locate a direct route to the sea, which brought me through the interesting UCSD campus where I poked around for a bit and tried to imagine how I could possible get anything done spending four years in such a pleasant environment. Apparently, they designed this cool library (above) in an effort to lure students in off the beach.

Once I hit US-101 north, I realized that I was in just the right place at just the right time. What I had imagined to be a boring flat bike path along the beach turned out to be a majestic rolling road with generous bike lanes and dramatic views. Each of the towns I cycled through was cuter than the last and it appeared that all of the 50-something men in the area were either spending the morning surfing or riding their road bikes along with me. What a way to live! It turns out that I should have selected to take the full coastal out-and-back originally, but while not getting RUSA "credit" for the route, I did manage to pack in 200 kilometers of absolutely stunning riding.

The great thing about an out-and-back route is that it's possible to dial-in the return time with great precision, which was helpful since I had to catch a flight back to New York in the evening. Unfortunately, the Town and Country Hotel has hundreds of rooms, but not a single shower to share with someone who has recently checked out. While I thought about jumping into the pool, it was not quite warm enough and so I cleaned up a bit in a bathroom and decided to sit in my own filth on the red-eye to New York.

All in all, my day riding through Southern California was just what the doctor ordered for my lingering seasonal affective disorder and a perfect illustration of how, with a little careful planning, it's possible to combine work and pleasure with the help of the generous randonneuring community. I'll keep this in mind as I plan my trip to Seattle in September.