Touring Archive

Packing for the Islands

Posted June 18, 2016 By Frank
I'm heading north...

I’m packing for a no-car trip to the San Juan Islands.

I did it 4 years ago, for my 60th. That trip started from Orange County, CA. This trip is more compact, but hopefully just as much fun, this week-long, no-car, bike getaway.

What makes it more compact, besides starting from Portland this time, is a new ferry option out of Seattle. In 2012 we ferried from Seattle to Victoria, B.C. then the four of us rented bikes for an 8-day island-hopping junket. This ferry takes us direct – party of two. It may feel like a direct flight, only there’s no planes on this trip either, but we’ll be in the San Juan Islands pretty quickly this time around.

Swapped a not so old Brooks leather saddle for this slate colored Brooks Cambium C17. It rides a lot different...

Swapped an old Brooks leather saddle for this slate colored, weather-proof Brooks Cambium C17.
It rides a lot different, but I got used to it quickly.

Father’s Day brunch at home then we hop on the bikes saddled with just enough gear for a 7-day getaway.

“Gear,” might be overstating things.

My wife is taking a spork. I’m packing a mini tripod for the iPhone. Everything else is apparel – mild weather is forecast, but the ferry will be chilly. It’s credit-card touring, with all the comforts, except a car.

I read once that it’s best to pack into small panniers,

If you get out the large panniers you’re likely to be filling them.

Great for everyday use and the week-long vacation: the Bontrager Interchange Rear Trunk Deluxe Bag

Great for everyday use and the week-long vacation: the Bontrager Interchange Rear Trunk Deluxe Bag

Instead these are nice and trim with an all-in-one top bag and shoulder strap to boot. On AMTRAK and the ferry we have to strip the bikes, so that shoulder strap will come in handy. Four years ago, without straps and without bikes, we walked across downtown Seattle hand-carrying bulky panniers. This time it will be a breeze.

We wanted to bring our own bikes this time. We’ve tuned and tailored the whole bike: custom wheels, the luggage and more – it’s all just the way we like it, so why not take them?

So AMTRAK gets us out of town and into Seattle for a quick over-nighter.

Monday is a big travel day…

It's time for a change of scenery


Bye Santa Barbara

Posted September 10, 2013 By Frank

It’s our last morning; we will depart Santa Barbara at 2pm as we head for home.

We’ve got time for a ride south along the coast; breakfast is our objective.

There’s great off-road riding along the beach then the path turns inland for the few miles to the Four Seasons Hotel in Montecito.


Yeah, it’s a beautiful off-road bike path, this Coast Route path, but I can’t help feeling it doesn’t match up on the equity side. Equity, the next of the E’s coming for Bicycle Friendly Community, asks rating advocates to consider if poorer parts of a city are as well served as the wealthy. Good question, eh?

Montecito has to be one of the wealthiest communities in all of California and it’s obvious, they have it better than everyone else when it comes to bike paths, too.

We haven’t eaten a bite yet, so we pedal on into lower Montecito where there are several cafes with outdoor seating. We recognize one from past visits and pedal on over.

In my youth this posh neighborhood held great sway, but today I’m not so smitten. The nearby homes are some of the priciest anywhere; the cars parked in the lot confirm it, too, You’re not in Kansas anymore — even Corona del Mar pales in comparison. This impression I’m getting is creeping me out a little — this is ground zero for economic inequality — it’s time to ride back to Santa Barbara.

You’re not in Montecito any more!

Back in Santa Barbara I realize I haven’t been taking photos of the bike racks. There are 2 kinds, adequate, but not great and terrible. The most common bike rack in town, the Philadelphia bike rack, is great when empty as pedestrians can enter from street parking easily, but in a lot of cases these racks aren’t located next to street parking. A few inverted U racks would be well received; they support the bike better — in 2 places — and there are a lot of bikes carrying a full load.

Santa Barbara’s bike rack, like I’ve seen in Philadelphia, does a poor job of supporting the bike.

Here in the harbor we find these concrete bike racks. Bikes can easily be damaged in these racks. This worst-of-all bike rack is complemented by the world’s worst bike chain, too.

My mascot, Skunky, logs another bike tour.


Familiar Santa Barbara

Posted September 9, 2013 By Frank

Our favorite breakfast spot, Garrett’s Old Fashion Restaurant, is just blocks from the Mission, so we have to pedal over and enjoy the views.

Although it’s our final stop on this 6-day getaway, there’s no remorse. We’ve visited Santa Barbara a hundred times over many years — we love it here.

First thing we appreciate is the climate, just like Corona del Mar — cool temps with a marine layer suits us perfectly.

We have few plans for the 2 days and nights we’ll visit this time. Barbara wants to eat at Arrigato Sushi; it’s her favorite. I pretend to be ambivalent, but it has fabulous sushi. We get there just minutes before there’s a line out the door.

Monday morning we’re up and out early. Downtown Santa Barbara is quiet so we ride right up State Street looking for breakfast. One favorite spot is closed for the week, so that’s when I remember Garrett’s Old Fashion restaurant — it’s up by the Mission, so we can combine some sightseeing, too.

It’s all downhill as we return to the beach. We’re having a good time riding on the quiet streets, but the oceanfront path will be even better. It leads us around the harbor and up to Shoreline Park where we’re greeted with views of the harbor below.

The view from Shoreline Park.

We discover Santa Barbara City College and its panoramic views.

It’s a quick downhill ride from City College which puts us in the harbor just in time for lunch.

Edward France was a guest here at cdmCyclist just last month, so I had to drop in on him.

Ed’s got a great 5,000 square foot facility with loads of bikes — 6 repair stations, too.

As I arrive Ed’s hosting 4 city staff; I overhear them discussing the next iteration of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Master Plan. I’m not surprised that Ed’s holding his own in this 4:1 discussion — he’s wiser than his years. He has his work cut out, like many advocates do, SB has a long way to go to becoming a great city for cycling. The tourist district has lots of bike rental shops and the beach boardwalk is busy even now in the off-season, but once you leave the beach it feels like a lot of other places. Traffic is light compared to Newport Beach, or so it feels, and we experience many simple courtesies as we explore the city.

Santa Barbara has a nice grid to work with. Google maps shows many low-stress routes across the city, but for the most part you’re traveling alongside parked cars separated by a stripe of paint from hectic motorists.

Ed offers a tour of his 5,000 square foot facility. He’s got a lot of vintage bikes for sale, many steel frame beauties. Sales of the donated bikes helps to offset his overhead. I can’t think of anything like it back at home. It’s bigger than the SLO Bike Kitchen; feels quite similar.

I take advantage of Ed by asking his opinion on many of the issues we face in Newport Beach. He’s a good listener and always asks first if he may offer advice. On one simple aspect of the bike master plan he advises, be prepared to do much of your restriping right after implementation of the plan; the public will object less to whatever inconveniences occur because they’ll sense it’s all part of the plan — if you wait to do a lot of restriping you may encounter better organized opposition. Point taken. And he’s got more to offer, like dealing with the Coastal Commission, who he says is “great” and he tells me of new off-road bike paths being implemented south of the city where the CCC made sure it worked out well. I share with him my issues with Coast Hwy as it runs through first Huntington Beach then Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. Again he listens well and offers a suggestion on how to gain even more support for dramatic changes in bike safety along this popular route. I hope to be able to put his advice to work soon…

It’s our last dinner on our 6-day visit to the Central Coast.

Table for two? No reservation? It usually takes a week to get a table. The maitre d’ keeps at it until he finds a lovely table for us. As he walks us to the table he mentions my cycling jacket — he rides every day since 1973, so we have a quick chat on bike safety. Being a little under-dressed worked out in this case.


SLO Sunday Scene

Posted September 8, 2013 By Frank


It’s a quiet morning, or so I think, until the church bells start ringing at 6:50am — and they keep ringing till 7:00 — everyone’s awake.

We’re packing out of SLO, on our way home via Santa Barbara where we’ll spend 2 nights at the beach.

It’s gonna feel chilly after the toasty temps here in San Luis Obispo, but first we’ve got time to kill. Our train doesn’t depart until 1:55pm.

While I was catching up with the photos, Barbara was out for a walk. She’s toured the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival and it sounds like it’s worth my time to check it out, too.

Chalk street art in downtown SLO


Before we board the train there’s an hour with little to do. That’s when we spot the Del Monte Cafe. Great food with beer and wine help us idle away the time…

We’re on our way to Santa Barbara, so we snagged seats with extra long leg room — great views, too.


SLO Bike Rodeo

Posted September 8, 2013 By Frank

The last post ended just as we were meeting Dan Rivoire, Executive Director of the SLO Bike Kitchen. The Kitchen does a lot of things, but maybe primarily it’s a space where people can bring their bikes in need of repair and do it themselves. They’ve got the “tools, the parts and the knowledge you need to fix your bike.” The key point here is that you do it; they help, but they’re teaching people to do the basic bike maintenance to keep their bikes in good rolling condition.

As we were winding up Dan offered, “We’re doing a rodeo at Hawthorne Elementary tomorrow — come on by.”

The next morning I couldn’t remember the name of the school, but I was keen to see this rodeo. A quick Google search helped to jog my memory — it was only 3 minutes away — we pedaled right over to my first bike rodeo.

The kids need practice maneuvering the stop signs.

The first thing we notice is how cute the kids are — young, too. These are elementary school kids who probably aren’t getting much realtime on the city streets — how would they learn the rules of the road except here at the rodeo?

The first thing I learn is the day of the week — Saturday is the day for a rodeo. I don’t know why, but it had never occurred to me. The advantages are obvious: no conflict with the academic program, no time pressure — it was a big party with barbecue and helmet giveaways — trick BMX riders were scheduled for the afternoon’s entertainment and all the kids were excited about that.

Who doesn’t need practice riding over railroad tracks?

I’d read about these rodeos; some places in Europe have permanent bike rodeo facilities and the kids are bused in. This SLO approach has its advantages: the red cones make it easy to setup and the rodeo can go where the kids are.


Green light means Go!

Everyone was having a great time.

It’s time to ride away and continue our explorations. We have no plan and maybe that’s the way an anniversary should be. We found a cafe with a jazz band tuning up outside. It was hot compared to what we’re used to at home, so we hid under umbrellas everywhere we went.

Barbara stated the obvious, it was a Saturday, which made me pick up the phone to Yelp a dinner reservation. We’d never been to Ciopinot and the menu looked terrific, so that’s where we ended our day.

An anniversary dinner at Ciopinot.


SLO Sights

Posted September 7, 2013 By Frank


Before the more private part of this trip begins — we’re here celebrating our 39th anniversary — I’m squeezing in a few meetings. I’ve got breakfast with Jo Anne Miller who is breathing new vigor into the local entrepreneurship scene, then it’s time for a bike ride with Eric Meyer.

He’s easy to spot in a crowded coffee patio; he’s wearing a SLO Hothouse t-shirt and that’s just where Jo Anne and I departed an hour ago.

How did we meet? Through bike advocacy, of course. Newport Beach Mayor Pro Tem Rush Hill and I met over coffee 6 months ago and when he learned of my interest in entrepreneurship he wanted to introduce me to the Dean of the Cal Poly Business School, Dave Christy.

I made contact with Dave because I had plans to visit, but my schedule kept changing and I waited to reconnect until I was sure of my route and plans for this trip. After all this time elapsed I was surprised to hear that Dave was leaving for a new position as Provost, Baruch College in the City University of New York. That’s a big change, so I was doubly surprised when Dave suggested that when I visit SLO I meet with Eric Meyer,

Who is an entrepreneur, very active in our Hothouse, and an extraordinary advocate for people on two wheels.

I was intrigued.

I had too much coffee already, so we huddled in the shade of an umbrella. We hit it off right away. It was getting late in the morning and I wanted to do a ride; I knew Eric would have a suitable suggestion. After chatting for a few minutes more he asked if he could join us and we were both delighted to get the personal tour.


The route to Avila Beach is short and sweet, but as the morning grew late the heat was rising and so was the wind. As we all know, riding into the wind is like putting money into the bank for later withdrawal. We were heading towards the coast to meet up with the Bob Jones mult-use path that would take us off road and out of the wind.

The Bob Jones Multi-use path to Avila Beach


Eric Meyer with his Dutch-inspired bike on the Harford Pier in Avila Bay.

Now that we’re at what we thought was our destination, Eric’s encouraging us to keep pedaling on to the Harford Pier. He has a friend he’s hoping to connect with. It’s cooler at the shore and Eric’s been right on with everything else this morning, so why not?

There’s a method to his madness. Eric’s friend is the Harford Pier Master; we get that, but the surprise is that Bill’s from Newport Beach until just a few years ago, so we have quite a few stories to share. It’s all a great coincidence, just another aspect of this fabulous day, another new friend.

There’s a fish market at the far end of the Harford Pier.

Everyone’s got an appetite, so we swing through Avila Beach checking out the restaurants. I object to the touristy feel and the crowds. Eric pointed out the little restaurant cafe along the Bob Jones trail — that’s where I want to have lunch. So we hop back on the bikes and make a big U turn through town. That’s when Barbara shouts, “Look, a Pedego store!”


I’m 2 blocks past before it sinks in; we all do a U turn again to check out the Pedego Central Coast store. Sandra Napua is on duty and she explains they’ve only been open 2 weeks.

Eric’s never seen the Pedego, so we linger to tell some stories and comment on the different models. Before we go Sandra’s invited all of us to her open house coming up in just a few weeks.

We stop for lunch along the Bob Jones trail.

Eric has a little ESP; he can tell we’re doing more than just vacationing. He’s giving us the Chamber of Commerce speech, but in a unique way,

What other cities are on your short list for a move?

Was it that obvious? I guess it shows.

Boulder, of course, it makes everyone’s short list. Eric’s quite adept at handling these objections, “Many people in SLO also have homes in Boulder,” which sounds like a perfect lifestyle. Then there’s Portland, but it doesn’t take much prodding from Eric before we’re shaking our heads on queue, the rain is discouraging.

All we needed to do next was buy a house in San Luis Obispo, but we haven’t figured that out yet. Eric has. And at just the right moment, as we’re back in the city limits, “Got 5 minutes to drop by the house for a tour?” After we say yes, I start to think, there’s no such thing as a 5 minute visit — and I’m right.

Eric’s wife Cynthia greets us as we arrive. We’re looking parched in the SLO afternoon heat, so it’s popsicles for everyone.

Their house is beautiful; a gorgeous combination of old bungalow charm with all the modern niceties. I love every inch of the place! Indoors and out, they’ve built an amazing home. Yes, I could see myself living quite happily in a house just like it.

Forget 5 minutes, I could stay the night, but soon it’s time to head back to the hotel. I protest when Eric gets up to show us the way, but there’s one more stop on his list: the SLO bIke Kitchen.

The Octagon Barn has been restored, but more is planned. It will eventually become the hub of several off-road trails south of SLO.

Eric and Cynthia host us for a tour of their beautiful home.

The last stop: SLO’s Bike Kitchen to meet Executive Director, Dan Rivoire.


San Luis Obispo Again

Posted September 7, 2013 By Frank

When we tell people we came by train with our bikes, they’re surprised and delighted. Surprised that the message is getting out that the Amtrak Surfliner is the best way to travel the 250 miles from Irvine to SLO.


There’s room for 7 bikes on this train, all of them on the first car, but our Business Class seats are in the last car, so we’ve got a long unsteady walk the length of the train as we balance our panniers and bike helmets on our way to our seats.

I only saw our two bikes onboard, but I only checked at Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Stations, as the conductor suggested I do, “That’s where the most foot traffic is;” his hint on avoiding bike theft. I had a better idea and after using the awkward seatbelt to hold the bikes in place I slipped a cable lock around them for extra security. They weren’t traveling anywhere without me now.

So that left 5 empty bike storage slots, but the young man at the Irvine Station in line ahead of us was turned away because he didn’t have a reservation for his bike. The conductor found us on his list and we rolled right on. So there’s a flaw in the system, because the other bike could’ve easily been accommodated.


I didn’t see these instructions on how to alternate the bikes — one facing forward, the next facing back — until after I received the verbal instructions from the attentive conductor.

We’re traveling with the Bontrager integrated panniers and top bag, they’re small, but pop on and off with a single button push — easier to carry than 3 separate bags, too. Stuffing the one big bag into the overhead took 2 tries the first time, but now I’m an expert.

Then we just relaxed; we had a 6.5 hour ride ahead of us. The Orange County stations seem to fly by and soon we’re treated to urban sights like the LA River.


Eventually, we arrive at Santa Barbara then Goleta and the scenery changes; we’re traveling tight along the coastline for the next few hours.


As we approach the San Luis Obispo Station we’re eager to unlock the bikes; the panniers pop back on with a single click and in minutes we’re able to hop on the bikes and ride to our hotel. Just in time, too, the weekly Farmers Market is about to wind down. It’s a big and lively affair with lots of barbecue; a country band with fiddles and a clarinet are bangin’ out the tunes. The whole town seems to be here; the joint is jumping and we’ve only just arrived.


Touring Through

Posted April 26, 2013 By Frank
They started in Marina del Rey

They started in Marina del Rey

When I see bike tourists I always want to stop and chat; that’s because, when I’m in the saddle, meeting people is the best part of touring.

I saw these 3 idling in the shade at Jamboree and Coast Hwy. I wanted to make sure everything was ok; they were just taking a break. They started the day in Marina del Rey and were headed to San Diego tomorrow, eventually Phoenix. All 3 were from Minnesota.

“Are you camping along the way?”

They told me they were hitting hotels on this 2-week excursion. I could relate; I never want to carry the tent, sleeping bag and cooking utensils — a hot shower and a comfortable bed feel great when touring.

They liked all the bike lanes they were finding. I offered a suggestion as they approached Laguna Beach: look for Cliff Drive on the right.

I told them I like to tour, too. We’d all done the Erie Canal it turned out.

Yeah, I’m goin’ to pick up my new touring bike; it’s ready today.

They probably hear that all the time…

My new Salsa Vaya touring bike

My new Salsa Vaya touring bike

Follow Mark, Doug and Russ’s adventures.

Mystery of the Year

Posted December 26, 2012 By Frank

My Victoria mascot, Skunky

My Victoria mascot, Skunky

It’s been a great year of cycling adventures, but not without its mysteries.

Here’s my last photo of Skunky, my mascot for the 8-day family bike tour of Victoria B.C. and the San Juan Islands this August. This tour would be how I celebrated my 60th birthday. Who knew I’d pay such a price?

My son had “The Claw” lashed to his bike rack; it took me a few days to find my own distinctive amulet.

Every touring bike should have its mascot, here, the Claw

Every touring bike should have its mascot.
Here, my son’s “The Claw”.

Who knows how Skunky escaped? He would’ve been tossed into the trunk of the taxi at the end of our travels; then in my haste at the airport, he was lost forever.

Culture Clash

Posted November 21, 2012 By Frank

Classic Dutch beauty

The basket looks like it weighs more than the road bike I was ogling this morning.

Since then I’ve been suffering a bad case of culture clash. Let me explain.

In 8 days in the Netherlands last week I saw 10,000 bikes, but only 3 road bikes and no carbon fiber beauties like the one I was hefting at 10am this morning at the mid point of the Pre-Thanksgiving Ride. John lured us into Out-Spoke-N in Sunset Beach; I went of my own free will. The siren song of the carbon fiber bikes we found there, well, if the bike itself didn’t move your soul, Derek might’ve when he mentioned his Black Friday deal: 25% off, no sales tax either. Get me out of here.

I start rationalizing, “Five bikes is already too many to maintain; I’ve got to trim the herd.” No one is convinced; we’d all love one of those skinny tire beauties.

But I’m a poor candidate for a fancy carbon fiber road bike; for one, I’m riding with a broken neck and the drop handlebars are out of the question. But I’m squirming for other reasons, like my recent observations of the Dutch – they ride utility bikes, practical, lead-heavy, with fenders and tires so fat and wide that I can imagine a comfortable, if slow ride. They sit upright, as God intended and they run errands on these bikes.

Contrast this with what we do. Most of us ride skinny tires on ultralight bikes; we ride long distances, for recreation, for exercise. We run errands with the car, in part because our carbon fiber bikes won’t accommodate a bike rack or panniers.

That’s a big cultural difference.

Everyone rides upright in Rotterdam