San Diego Bay on a Bike

There’s a route that people take when they want to see San Diego Bay and get some exercise. It starts at the central train station downtown, dips all the way down to Imperial Beach on the border with Tijuana and it travels back north on a spit of land called the Silver Strand, which ultimately runs into Coronado Island.

The words bay and bike are alliterative so coming up with a catchy name was easy. The Bayshore Bikeway. I rode the bikeway’s 24 miles yesterday. That may not sound like a huge distance but when I arrived in Coronado my legs and ass were sore and I was really ready to quit. Thankfully Orange Avenue in the tony seaside town is full of good places to get a beer and lunch.

The Bayshore Bikeway

The Bayshore Bikeway

But… why was I doing this? Because I never had before. Also, I’m training to cycle across Iowa this summer in RAGBRAI, a bike journey I’ve known about since I was a kid, growing up in the state. I’ve been reconnected to the event (which I never took part in) by my buddy Scott Horsley who started doing it with other reporters for NPR who had to cover the Iowa Caucuses.

He told me their cycling team was known as “No Pie Refused,” which refers to the fact that locals who live along the RAGBRAI route across Iowa have a tradition of offering pies to the bike riders. It took me a while before I realized this was also their sad, lame joke about what NPR stood for.

Getting back to the Bayshore Bikeway. The upper part of the bay route coming out of downtown is dotted with hotels and other parts of the tourism/convention industry. Travel further south and you see shipyards, commercial port ops and the San Diego navy base. Lots of hardhats and uniforms.

Go further south near Imperial Beach and you see the saltworks, with huge piles of salt that are brilliant white in the sun that are extracted from seawater and sold to midwestern cities that use it to melt the snow and ice on their streets in winter.

As industry fades from the scene the southern part of the bay looks like a lagoon with a shoreline that fades into the water and you see small islands that are covered with reedy plants. Seabirds float on the water then disappear as they dive for food.

I’ll tell tourists who come to San Diego to do the Bayshore Bikeway. They have to be into biking — it is 24 miles — but they’ll see a lot of stuff tourists don’t normally see. And it’s flat. It’s along the shoreline so it’s flat and there are no hills to climb.

I returned to the mainland of San Diego on the Coronado Ferry. I chose not to go back the way I came and double my milage on the bikeway… for reasons stated. A woman on the ferry winked behind her sunglasses. On the trolley back to my neighborhood I saw a beautiful, cheerful couple who were in their late seventies. I imagined what they looked like 40 years ago.

Maybe I’m too old for this long-distance cycling shit. RAGBRAI is a big rolling party but it is about 60 miles a day. Next time I’ll try to turn around when I get to Coronado. It’ll be good for me.





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