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Category Archives: Travel

Breaking Away in Baton Rouge

When I was a little girl, my father taught me to ride a bike. He bolted training wheels on a bike passed down from one or more of my four older sisters and set me loose to ride circles in the driveway. When he decided it was time, he took off the training wheels, then held the back of my saddle while I climbed aboard. I pedaled, he ran, he let go, I fell. We tried again and again until I pedaled down the street into freedom.

Well, as much freedom that living in a subdivision isolated by a busy, shoulderless highway allows.

The subdivision wasn’t small, but it was street after street of ranch style homes with manicured lawns proudly owned by friendly people with lots of kids, and creeks to explore on its fringes. If we asked Mom nicely, she would let us ride down a long gravel road to a 7-11 to buy candy. But that was about it. We couldn’t ride to school or to sports practice or to a friend’s house on the other side of the highway. We were trapped riding in circles, just like my dad does today on his “ride every street” subdivision tour.

Pollard map

I’m sure many kids didn’t mind being cut off from the rest of the city, and I knew others who were willing to sneak through Ford’s pasture. But not a goody-two-shoes like me. I didn’t ride through the pasture until a few years ago, after it was sold to a developer who cut a trail through it where they will eventually build a street.

Pasture Path

This little trail, not even 2/10 of a mile, has become our bike connection to the rest of the city. Now we can ride all the places that we never could before: to the elementary school and church (1.25 miles), to high school (5 miles) and to college (4 miles), plus grocery stores, parks, restaurants and homes of friends and family.

The map tells it all. That small gold shape around my parents’ home was my childhood cruising range. Now, much of the southern half of the city can be reached by bike. What a big difference a tiny connection can make.

BTR Map 4

We haven’t ridden all the way from home to downtown yet, nor to the Mississippi River where a bald eagle nest is. (That would be a bit long for dad) But we did ride to LSU during our last visit, and I did ride to Baton Rouge High a few years ago for a high school reunion party. Next trip I want to ride downtown for a bike date lunch and to my sister’s house to see the latest fabric arts she’s created. So many new places to go and things to do.

How far from your childhood home could you safely ride a bike? What about where you live now?

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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in Around Town, Travel

 

Barging in Europe: Living Without A Car

ladyfleur:

A couple of years ago my mountain biking friends Dave and Becky ran off to Europe for a life plying the canals and rivers on a custom-built barge they aptly named Wanderlust. While they adapted quickly to the boat’s tight quarters and living car-free, some things weren’t so easy. They saw photos of me shopping by bike, asked a few questions, and now have made space on board for something to take the hassle out of car-free shopping: a bike trailer. Here is the story of their trailer, re-blogged from their Wanderlust blog.

Originally posted on Wanderlust:

Our Croozer in its cart configuration Our Croozer in its cart configuration

Though some barges are designed to carry a car on board, Wanderlust does not have the capability. This means that when we cruise about the waterways, we are car-free. Surprisingly, we don’t miss having a car. In fact, we find the absence of a car to be liberating. But in truth, not having a car does make the practical day-to-day necessities more challenging. Life without a car requires more planning.

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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Gear Talk, Travel

 

A New California by Bike Adventure Begins

Sometimes, when I’m boarding Caltrain on my way to work day, I see the Amtrak train on the other side of the platform and I’m tempted to hop aboard. How far could I go? Where would it take me? Other times, especially on a Sunday afternoon, when I’m deep in the backroads on my road bike I wonder: if I didn’t turn back to go home, where could I be by sunset? Santa Cruz? San Francisco? Where could I go from there?

Yesterday I started an adventure that’s a marriage of these two escape fantasies. I hopped on Caltrain this morning as I would on any Friday morning, but today I brought my touring bike and gear for a week and today my husband joined me. In San Jose we boxed our bikes and boarded the Amtrak Coast Starlight for a slow roll to Santa Barbara where we will start a five day bike journey to San Diego.

Touring bikes at Caltrain

We aren’t doing it alone, though. We’re joining a group of people equally passionate about bicycling on the Surf ‘n Turf bike tour hosted by the California Bike Coalition. We will be not be roughing it: a van will carry all our luggage and we’ll be staying in hotels, not sleeping on the ground. We’ll even dine on the Queen Mary with local bike advocates in Long Beach. If you’re nearby, join us!

For all the fun we’ll be having, the Surf ‘n Turf also a fundraiser for the California Bike Coalition, fondly called CalBike. For those not familiar: CalBike complements and supports the work of the local bicycle coalitions that are its member organization like mine, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. CalBike focuses on state-wide initiatives, like working with state legistration to get key pro-bicycling bills passed like the 3 foot law, which finally passed last year on its third try, and after two vetoes from governor Jerry Brown.

This year’s wins includes allowing bike racks on buses that hold three bikes instead of two, and legislation that makes it much easier for cities to install protected bike lanes. Also known as cycle tracks, protected bike lanes have curbs, planters or flexible posts separating the bikes from car traffic. That means that the pop-up cycle tracks my friends created for an open street event in Mountain View are one step closer to becoming a reality.

Pop-up Protected Lane 2

Last November I spoke at the coalition’s California by Bike Summit in Oakland. I spoke about how I came to write this blog and the impact its had on me and my readers, which fit well into its theme of “Mainstreaming the Bike In California.” I got a clearer idea of the breadth of CalBike’s mission and partnerships in government, in industry and in the non-profit world. Friends were made, relationships were forged. And now, I’m can let you in on a secret: I’ve been asked to join the California Bike Coalition’s Board of Directors and I have accepted.

CalBike Summit Program

In addition to working toward its legislative and other initiatives, I’m also keenly interested in promoting bicycling at the state level through bike tourism. We have a beautiful state, with scenic rural routes that run along our rocky coast, through bucolic vineyards, orchards or towering redwoods, across panoramic deserts and deep into challenging mountainous terrain. Whatever you want in a scenic ride, you’ll find it here.

I also see new opportunities in urban bike tourism opened up by the great strides our cities have made to make bicycling more comfortable for a broader range of people. I know how much fun Dick and I have had on our bike getaways to San Francisco, Sacramento, Berkeley, Tiburon and Long Beach. Cities look completely different from the seat of a bike. Bikes are the perfect speed: you cover more ground than walking and the sights don’t fly by like they do in a car. I’m sure we’re not the only ones who’d appreciate this more active style of travel.

To take on these initiatives and meet this goals, CalBike needs support. As I mentioned, Surf ‘n Turf is a fundraiser. Dick and I will pay the full cost of our participation; we are not asking you to help defray the cost our trip. We have, however, set up a fundraising page for people who want to donate to show their support for the California Bicycle Coalition and its programs, and to congratulate me as its newest board member.

What’s your idea of the perfect bicycle-oriented vacation? Have you taken it yet? If not, why not?

Strawberry

 
11 Comments

Posted by on November 1, 2014 in Travel

 

Bicycle Travel: Last Minute Escape to San Francisco

Oh, the lazy days of summer. After a fast-paced spring, I spent most of June cocooned at home, riding only for easy trips, and barely writing at all. When relaxation turned to boredom that was headed for depression, I knew I needed to break out of my dull rhythm with a weekend getaway. In a few clicks of the mouse and a quick chat with my husband, my Friday afternoon hair appointment in Burlingame became the start of a micro-vacation in San Francisco. I was halfway up the Peninsula anyway, why not meet Dick on Caltrain and head for the city?

Dinner was a multi-bike share experience that started in North Beach...

Our agenda included bicycling every day: our traditional bike date on Friday night, a ride across town to the Legion of Honor for a Matisse exhibit on Saturday, and ride in the SF Pride Parade with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. So like usual, we loaded our panniers and brought our touring bikes with us on the train.

But unlike most cities we’ve visited, San Francisco has Bay Area Bike Share bikes available and we’re annual members. We had bike options. Which bike we chose for which trip and why answered a question asked frequently when the system launched: “Why would people who have their own bikes use bike share?”

Bike Share on Embarcadero

Security. We were staying at the W Hotel downtown on the same block where our saddles were stolen last year. Even though we knew we’d be going out for dinner soon, we checked our touring bikes in at the bell desk and checked out bike share for our Bike Date Friday at Palamino Restaurant near the Bay Bridge. In fact, we avoided parking our bikes anywhere downtown all weekend by taking bike share instead of our own bikes.

Convenience. There was a bike share station across the street from the W hotel, and one in front of Palomino. There was one by the market where I picked up snacks and breakfast for us, and one within two blocks of 3 course, 3 restaurant meal we had on Saturday. (I admit I chose restaurants closer to bike share for those) The one time the bike station by our hotel was empty, we walked a couple of blocks to another one.

Speed. Stay with me on this one. The bikes may be upright, heavy, lumbering beasts, but docking and undocking them from the station is far speedier than locking and unlocking our own bikes. Especially in the big city where you have to secure not only the frame, but both wheels and the saddle. For the short trips we made around downtown we definitely came out ahead time-wise, even discounting the time searching for a bike rack.

Bike Share at Night

So why did we even bring our own bikes? Why not just ride bike share?

Location, Location, Location! The bike share is limited to the city’s downtown core on the city’s east edge and we wanted to ride out to the Legion of Honor in the city’s northwest corner.

Long-Distance Travel The ride to the Legion of Honor was close to twenty miles round trip which not only would mean a long time on a slow bike, it would mean frequent dock-surfing or high overage charges. Add to that a few long or steep climbs that wouldn’t have been fun on a 50-pound bike, even with its low low gears.

At the end of the weekend our mileage stats were: 10 miles on bike share in nine trips (aqua routes on map), 25 miles on our touring bikes in four trips (brown routes) and 64 miles in two trips by train (blue route). Zoom the map and click icons for details, or click here for a larger view.

What struck me about the way we used bikes was how it paralleled what many people might do with cars: drive to the city in their own car, park it at the hotel ($55 a day!), take taxi around downtown for drinks and dinner where parking is inconvenient or expensive, and only driving themselves to further out destinations like the Legion of Honor. Our touring bike rides were like a personal car trips, the bike share rides were like taxi rides.

It all worked so well we’re already plotting our next weekend escape. Will we bring our own bikes, or will we just walk, take transit and use bike share? It all depends on what city we’re visiting and our agenda.

If you’ve ridden a bike share bike before: why did you choose to ride them instead of riding your own bike? What worked, what didn’t? Did you wish you were riding your own bike instead?

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5 Comments

Posted by on July 10, 2014 in Issues & Infrastructure, Travel

 

Bicycle Getaway: The People’s Republic of Berkeley

It was just a weekend trip to a city only 50 miles away, but I was as excited as a 10 year old, bouncing up and down in my seat on the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train. Dick and I were headed to Berkeley, where I lived one summer for an internship between my junior and senior years in college. That was my first time flying in an airplane, my first time living anywhere except my parents’ home, and my first time living without a car.

It was also my first time in California, a trendy place I vaguely knew from TV and movies. I was thrust into a new world and into an apartment shared with two girls I’d never met in the student ghetto on Berkeley’s Southside. Before there was “Keep Austin (or Portland) Weird” there was Berzerkeley, and Southside was its ground zero.

Amoeba Music

Our apartment was five blocks from UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, where the Free Speech Movement began, three blocks from People’s Park, where activists occupied university land and one was killed by police, and two blocks from Telegraph Avenue, where the spirit of the era was still very present in that summer of 1985.

Walking down Telegraph Avenue in my preppy clothes I felt completely out of place and and a little uneasy, but completely intrigued. By the end of the summer, I didn’t want to go home. My boyfriend derisively said I was “enchanted” by California. It made me angry at the time, but he was right. When I landed a job in Silicon Valley after I graduated, I bought my first car and on my long drive west I stopped in Dallas to tell him goodbye.

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I needed the car because suburban Silicon Valley was hardly the walking paradise that Berkeley was then and still is today. Which is why Berkeley is such a great place to visit, especially since it’s also home to the Gourmet Ghetto, the birthplace of California Cuisine. And who better to lead the innovation than Alice Waters, a former Free Speech Movement activist more commonly known for her famed restaurant Chez Panisse.

We didn’t score a table at Chez Panisse on our quick trip, but we did sample some of Berkeley’s finest, based on recommendations crowdsourced from friends via social media. With so many great restaurants around the Bay, I was skeptical that Berkeley would stand out, but it did: unusual ingredients and unexpected combinations with a healthy emphasis on organic, sustainable and fresh, local products. From Michelin-starred Lalime’s to crowd-favorite Cheese Board Coop to newer spots like Gather and Build, we ate our way across the city and did our best to burn it all off riding around the city. Despite the hills, I don’t think we did.

Nettle scramble for him, poached egg and pork belly over sprouted farro for me.

There’s another movement afoot in Berkeley (or should I say on a roll?). Look out, Long Beach, Portland, Minneapolis and Boulder, Mayor Tom Bates has thrown Berkeley’s hat in the ring as the “Most Bike-Friendly City in America.” At 5,000 bike commuters a day in a city of 115,000, Berkeley is currently ranked #4 in the nation.

After riding Berkeley’s elaborate network of bike boulevards and traffic-calmed streets, and seeing the abundance of bike racks and bike-friendly businesses, I’d say the city is poised to propel to the top. When a movement takes hold in Berkeley, there’s no telling where it will go, and how far it might take us.

Have you ever lived or visited somewhere that changed your perception of the world? What impact did it have?

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Getting there: Starting in Mountain View, we biked 8 miles to Santa Clara/Great America Station, took the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train to Berkeley. We toured approximately 25 miles around the city by bike, and a bit on foot. Trip total bike mileage: 41 miles. Other transportation options include: Amtrak Coast Starlight & San Joachim trains, BART from San Francisco and other Bay Area locations, plus ferries via Oakland six miles away.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Travel

 

My Little Runaway Bicycle

It’s another sunny clear day here in San Jose, and I’m stuck at work in a windowless office trying to work on something I don’t particularly feel like doing. I wish I could hop on my bike and ride away to a carefree, beautiful place with the breeze on my face and the sun on my back. Somewhere where I can be free like a kid again.

I want to run away to the beach town of Santa Cruz like my mixte did last weekend, sadly without me.

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My friend Richard borrowed my bike for the Bike Snob NYC video shoot, and kept her for the weekend at his home in Scott’s Valley, just up the hill from Santa Cruz. When we met for the handoff I said, “If you ride her anywhere interesting, please take a photo for my Where’s My Bike Today? series.”

Little did I know that he would take dozens of amazing photos of my Susie Q PUBLIC all over town, including a few favorites below. Quite an adventure for a sweet little bike, one that I know I could do with a short ride to the Diridon station and a bus ride over the hill. If only I didn’t have to do this adult thing called work.

If you could run away for the day–today–where would you go?

All photos in this post were taken by Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious and are used with his permission.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on February 12, 2013 in Around Town, Travel

 

Bicycle Getaways: The San Francisco Riviera

When most people think of traveling by bike they think of bicycle touring, where you carry everything you need to be self-sufficient for long distances: clothing, sleeping bag, tent, cookware. Like backpacking on wheels. Or perhaps “credit card” touring, where you skip the camping and stay in motels or hostels. Or supported tours, where guides plan your route and vehicles carry your gear (and you too, if you don’t want to ride that day).

Strawberry

When Dick and I bought our touring bikes last year, we didn’t really have a plan. I suspected we’d set out for credit card type tours, and we still may. But so far, our overnight bike trips don’t fit any of these models. I would call them “bicycle getaways”: 2-4 day trips, more urban than most touring trips, using transit to increase our travel ranges, and with luxury accommodations. Ideally a hotel with a fuzzy robes and great restaurants nearby.

Breakfast in Bed

So far, we’ve done four bicycle getaways: two to Sacramento, one to San Francisco, and one I planned recently for Dick’s birthday. Instead of giving birthday gifts, we have a tradition of going away for a short trips. Dick’s birthday being close to Thanksgiving makes things challenging. Airports and highways are full of holiday travelers and after nine years together we’d already visited all the closer spots. I was running out of ideas.

Then I thought of Tiburon, a small town on the north end of San Francisco Bay that along with neighboring Sausalito and Belvedere Island make up what’s affectionately called the San Francisco Riviera. I was sold.

Like our other bike getaways, the train made it easy to ride from home. Caltrain got us to San Francisco, then it was less than 30 miles across the Golden Gate Bridge and around the bay to Tiburon. We had our bikes available for a Marin day trip the next day, then home was just a ferry ride and train ride away. No holiday traffic like a driving trip would be, and more luxury than a full-on touring trip. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

Where have you ever done loaded toured with your bike? Did you go hardcore with fully-loaded touring or did you “credit card” it for a lighter load?

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Trip Details: Starting from home in Mountain View, we traveled this route for a total 165 miles: 80 miles by train, 75 by bike, 10 by ferry. Transportation costs: $29 ($11 for Dick’s train pass, $18 for ferry, free bike parking at hotel). Hotel: Water’s Edge. Restaurants: Capurro’s (SF), Caprice, Sam’s Cafe and Boathouse (Tiburon).

Tiburon Trip Map

 
15 Comments

Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Backroads, Travel

 
 
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