Bikes (and donkeys) were ubiquitous in Afghanistan and the skill of the riders never ceased to amaze me. They entered traffic circles, that I was nervous to approach in an armored vehicle, with the utmost calm and composure. You think your urban commute is tough? You haven't seen anything until you've seen Kabul . . .
Of course, the exact opposite of the conditions endured by the Afghan Bikeist pictured above, would be the commute I had upon moving from Spain to San Diego in 2001. Every morning, I left the ocean-view condo we rented in the Coronado Cays (chosen for its immediate proximity to the Silver Strand Bikepath), hopped on my Bad Boy and headed due north, with the Pacific to my left and San Diego Bay to my right, then followed the golf course to the portion of the Bayshore Bikeway crossing underneath the Coronado Bay Bridge to get to the free commuter ferry to my office in downtown San Diego. Repeating the trip in the evening was sheer bliss, especially at sunset, and was something I frequently envisioned and used as motivation during the tougher parts of my deployments.
That commute lasted only a year, though, as my long-suffering wife was more interested in being able to walk to play dates with our little bikeists than in facilitating my splendid commute. So, we moved into Coronado "Village" where I biked a mere mile to the ferry, but took every opportunity to bike all the way around the bay in the morning on the aforementioned Bayshore Bikeway. Back in 2002, it was a 25 mile ride, requiring some harrowing riding through Imperial Beach and National City as the route did not yet have the portions that now hug the bay through IB, parallel the I-5 and, most importantly, the Gordy Shields Bridge over the Sweetwater River. I actually got so sick of taking my life into my hands during the morning commute in National City that I threw some fat Armadillos on the Bad Boy and started following an abandoned railroad bed, crossing the river by portaging the bike across the beams of two railroad bridges. Fun commute, but so much better now with the substantial improvements to the Bikeway (which still isn't complete, unfortunately).
On weekends, when I wasn't pulling my little bikeists up and down the Strand in the Burley bike trailer I picked up at the veritable institution that is Holland's Bicycles, I was exploring the bicycling paradise that is San Diego. A quick trip across the Bay and I was soon headed up to Cabrillo National Monument, and its famous Tidepools:
Other favorite rides took me through and around Balboa Park and out to Mission Hills or up and down the coast on Historic Route 101. Future posts will explore my favorites in depth, but a great place for a San Diego newcomer to start is at Philip Erdelsky's website: http://www.efgh.com/bike/routes.htm. He does an excellent job of listing some of the more popular routes and includes a good compilation of dedicated bike paths.
As a regular on the Ferry, filled with fellow bike-commuters, I quickly made connections with locals that have led to life-long friendships. Several of my new "ferry friends" were members of Crown City Cyclists (Coronado's incredibly welcoming Cycling Club) who invited me to join them on Saturday mornings for the now "World-Famous Donut Ride" -- departing from Margarita at precisely 0700 for a social ride down the Strand to IB and a sprint back to Margarita for coffee, donuts, bagels and tall tales of exploits along the way. Started by a small group of friends living on Margarita, the group is now 50 - 75 strong as its peloton heads up and down the Strand on Saturdays. In true Bikeist fashion, they welcome riders of all abilities, bike-types, and attire -- with serious racers, mere enthusiasts, and raw beginners all in the mix heading south, until the peloton divides by "ability" for the sprint back. I learned more about group riding, and riding in general, from these riders than I could from a pile of books or magazines. Besides the lessons to be learned from mixing with experienced riders, though, the real draw to doing these rides has got to be the thrill and exhilaration of all those bikes and riders moving as one unit. As long as you don't fall off the back of the pack, it's amazing how easy it is to go fast when you have a peloton full of drafters and the sheer inertia of the group to pull you along. Don't believe me? Come out some Saturday morning and find out for yourself . . .
Next up: Jets and a Jack Rabbit . . .