Riding from Solvang to Los Olivos

We drove east out of downtown Solvang on Hwy. 246, turning left onto Alamo Pintado Road and then parked at Sunny Fields Park. There is a fair shoulder  along Alamo Pintado Rd. all the way to Los Olivos, except for a couple of short stretches. It is slightly uphill going but naturally downhill all the way back , always an added bonus.

Ballard Schoolhouse

Ballard Schoolhouse

About three miles north of Solvang, we reached the tiny town of Ballard, which has a restaurant and a couple of businesses plus several residential streets. We turned off the road to ride through the town, where a little red school house built in 1882 and used continuously since then, holds pride of place. On this particular day, there were chairs out on the grass, probably for a graduation ceremony. This bit of early Americana was a refreshing sight.

Walnut Trees

Walnut Trees

It is a pretty ride through the countryside here. A bit further along we saw English walnut trees grafted onto black walnut trees; at one time our own San Ramon Valley was covered with these trees, and walnuts were an important crop. I remember when my parents bought their house in Danville in 1950, the idea was to have a walnut crop that would pay the property taxes. However, I don’t recall this idea working out in our family’s case.

A couple miles north of Ballard, we reached Los Olivos, a small but prosperous looking community. We walked around the town, chatted with one of the inhabitants, had coffee, and bought a couple of gifts in the general store.

The flag here is flown at half-staff when a Los Olivos resident dies

The flag here is flown at half-staff when a Los Olivos resident dies

Corner House Coffee

Corner House Coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episcopal Church

Episcopal Church

The sanctuary and gardens of this church are beautiful and beautifully maintained. I would guess that this church is a social as well as a spiritual center for this small town.

Field of flowers on return trip

Field of flowers on return trip

 

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The Marvin Braude Bicycle Path (Part Three)

Side Street in Hermosa Beach

Side street in Hermosa Beach

Hermosa Beach Houses

Hermosa Beach houses

More Hermosa Beach houses

More Hermosa Beach houses

This was perhaps the most interesting segment of this wonderful path. We parked the car on a street about a block above the beach and rode in a bike lane on that street until we came to a flat side street leading to the beach area. I am not really sure whether we were in south Manhattan Beach or north Hermosa Beach. It is a crowded area, but it was perfectly possible to comfortably ride our bike through the pedestrians. However, one must walk the bike at the Hermosa Beach Pier where there are signal lights at intervals indicating whether one may ride  or must walk. And we only saw one or two cyclists disobeying this ordinance.

There are houses built right up against the path here with patios where people may sit close to the passing scene. I am not sure if these are summer homes or if people live in them year round. Most of these houses are pretty and the designs vary greatly. Near the pier there are lots of restaurants and other businesses.

A bit past the pier, following the signs we were led out to a bike lane  on a city street. But before long a bike path appeared routed around some buildings and through a parking garage eventually coming out on the beach. A short way down the beach we reached the end of the path.

Route through parking garage

Route through parking garage

Red light requiring walking bicycle

Red light requiring walking bicycle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes the return trip over the same route is a bit boring. But the people and the scenery were so interesting that we did not find it so in this case. We felt that we had accomplished something in doing almost the entire path, even though we split it up, and since we have not spent a lot of time in southern California, we  found this area an interesting slice of southern California culture from the many beach volleyball sites to the splendid views of the Pacific Ocean.

 

The end of the trail

The end of the trail

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The Marvin Braude Bicycle Path (Part Two)

Path Along Admiralty Way

Path Along Admiralty Way

Bridge area at Ballona Creek

Bridge area at Ballona Creek

Fisherman's Village

Fisherman’s Village

 

The second day on this trail, my husband and I retraced my route from the day before. But this time we passed the Waterside shopping Center and  Fisherman’s Village to go onto the part of the path that runs along Ballona Creek. The area where the creek and main channel of the marina connect with the Pacific Ocean is spectacular. The bridge over the creek was crowded with pedestrians and cyclists admiring the views of the strikingly blue water with  the man-made structures that actually enhance the natural beauty.

Coming off of the bridge the path turns south to run along the beach and the ocean. This is a hot sandy environment where there is no protection from the sun and wind. I had applied sunscreen before I left the hotel, and although I applied more en route, I still got sunburned in spots. These beaches along this stretch  are California beaches at their best, clean and beautiful with lifeguard  stations spaced at intervals along the way to protect the unwary. This is a mostly level path with some curves and little climbs to add interest. There were a few cyclists going dangerously fast for the number of people on the path, but most people were courteous and friendly.

We rode past El Segundo almost to Manhattan Beach before we turned around. Coming back we stopped at a snack stand for coffee and a short rest. Back on the bridge over the creek we stopped again to take in the view and to snap more pictures. We rode the Ballona Creek trail for about two miles but while it was a good trail, it lacked the views that we had just enjoyed by the ocean.

We stopped at Fisherman’s Village to eat lunch. After a great debate, we chose Sapori Italian Restaurant, a wise decision. We were seated in the window where we had a wonderful view of the marina and all the activity there; there were all sorts of vessels plus large canoes engaged in a racing competition. And the salads followed by gelato were very good.

Returning to the hotel hot, sunburned and tired, we were exhilarated by this wonderful ride in  a glorious part of our state.

Along the beach

Along the beach

Another view

Another view

Another view

View from the bridge

 

 

 

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The Marvin Braude Bicycle Path (Part One)

At the start of Marina Del Rey segment of the path

At the start of the Marina del Rey segment of the path

Attractive beachfront house

Attractive beachfront house

 

The bikes only path

The bikes only path

 

The Marvin Braude ( a Los Angeles city councilman for 32 years) Bicycle Path is a jewel of a path running along the Pacific Ocean for 22 miles. The pavement in most sections of the path is smooth and makes for an easy ride; in fact a good part of it is concrete. We did the path in three segments over as many days.

The first day I rode alone, starting out from our hotel, the Marriott in Marina del Rey, where my husband was attending a seminar. I rode down Waahington Ave. toward the ocean and found the path on the right just before reaching the beach. In Marina del Rey, the houses facing the beach were attractive; the  landscaping was pretty with lots of grass and palm trees, which somehow seem appropriate in southern California, but always seem out of place to me in northern California.

I had always heard about Venice and I expected a hippie sort of area, but as I entered the Venice section of the path, I found the whole atmosphere changed. The buildings were covered in graffiti, and there were homeless people everywhere with their untidy piles of possessions, some asleep and  others just wandering around, many alone but a few in groups. Since I was riding alone, I found the entire scene unnerving, and I did consider turning around. But I  wanted to ride up to Santa Monica to see the famous pier, so I kept going. No one approached me, and there were a few others riding on the path, which gave me some reassurance.

When I crossed into the city of Santa Monica, again the entire ambiance changed, this time for the better. The landscaping was well maintained, and the people looked more like folks  enjoying the outdoors and the beauty of the ocean. Just before the Santa Monica Pier, there is a playground for adults, something I consider a good idea. Surely exercising in the out-of-doors in more appealing than exercising in a stuffy gym.

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The playground for adults

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The Santa Monica Pier

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An elegant hotel on the Santa Monica beach front

 

I rode under the Santa Monica Pier through a rather dark, rough surfaced tunnel. A bit north of the pier I decide to turn around. I briefly considered riding city streets back to avoid Venice, but I decide to return the way that I had come, along the beach. Coming back was not too bad because it was later in the morning, and there were more people about.

After a brief stop at the hotel, I headed east on Washington Ave. to find the Marvin Braude Path in the other direction because I wanted to visit the Waterside Shopping Center. The path was well marked to the right off of Washington, and while the surface was a bit rough, the beginning of that segment of the path runs through a pretty area to come out along one of Marina del Rey’s main streets, Admiralty Way. On this particular day, the main path was replaced by a detour through some parking lots, a rather unusual ride. However, I soon found the shopping center and after a couple of hours browsing and eating lunch, I returned to the hotel for a well-deserved swim following my enlightening southern California day.

 

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A Route from Livermore to Pleasanton

Livermore to Pleasanton

 

Path by Jack London Blvd.

Path by Jack London Blvd.

Last Saturday, we decided to try a different route to our favorite farmers’ market in Pleasanton. Parking where we often do in the small shopping center at the intersection of Jack London Blvd. and Isabel Ave., we headed down Jack London and picked up the pleasant path that runs alongside the road. By the factory stores, we switched to the bike lane in the road that soon becomes Stoneridge Drive. This is a new area that is attractively landscaped; there are some pretty parks on the right. When we reached Santa Rita Road, we turned left and followed that into downtown Pleasanton. This road has bike lanes for most of the way, but in two spots, the bike lanes abruptly end, and we were left to ride in the automobile lanes. This was disconcerting, but there are two lanes in each direction, alleviating the danger somewhat. However, I think that town planners need to give more thought to the safety of cyclists when they are designating bike lanes.

Once in Pleasanton we parked our bikes at one of the many inverted u-shaped bike racks, had coffee, and then shopped at the farmers’ market. This is a large, crowded market. Some of the booths are a bit pricey, but there are several in the middle of the market that have good organic produce that is reasonably priced.

One of our favorite stalls

One of our favorite stalls

 

After a satisfying lunch at Baci Bistro and Bar on Main St., we plotted our way back since we were not crazy about the route along Santa Rita Road. From 1st St. in the main part of town, we headed up Stanley Blvd. and turned left on Valley Ave. Although we were only on Valley for about a half a block, we found this to be  a very dangerous stretch, which we would walk next time.  But shortly thereafter, we saw Busch Rd. with Iron Horse Trail right there. This is a quiet section of Iron Horse Trail with pretty landscaping, and it runs right into Stoneridge where we retraced our original route back to our car. Next time we will use Iron Horse Trail both ways and walk our bikes for the half block along Valley Ave.

Iron Horse Trail North

Iron Horse Trail North

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A Circle around Healdsburg

We stayed  at the Belle de Jour Inn in Healdsburg. Run by the hospitable Tom and Brenda Hearn, it is located up a short hill a little way out of the center of Healdsburg. The grounds and the buildings are meticulously maintained, and the experience of eating breakfast in their lovely house is delightful. We would happily stay there again.

The morning after we arrived, we set off on our Healdsburg ride. Parking in a shopping center lot just off of Mill St., we turned right on Mill St. which becomes Westside Road. Shortly after we passed under the freeway we were surrounded by vineyards..

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We made a right turn on West Dry Creek Road, which we followed for about five miles. Freshly washed by heavy rain the previous night, the vineyards were gorgeous. The road does not have a bike lane, and although it is fairly wide, I was not altogether comfortable riding here. The landscape consists of rolling hills that are fun to ride, however. It was with some relief that we reached Lambert Bridge Road, where we turned right. From this point on the road was wider, and we both felt safer riding.

We stopped at the venerable Dry Creek Store for coffee, where we sat on the front porch to watch the people passing by. A huge tour bus drew up with all young people aboard, who went in to buy sandwiches for lunch. We surmised that it must have been a wine tasting excursion.

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After we left the store, we followed Dry Creek Road back into town, turning off of it to ride through some neighborhoods to get back to the central square in Healdsburg. After much debate, we chose to eat at The Charcuterie, nabbing the last table. This was a wise decision. It was a great day and a thrilling way to celebrate our 56th wedding anniversary.

 

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Exploring the Joe Rodota and West County Trails

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I had long heard about the Joe Rodota and West County Trails, so on our way to a getaway for our fifty-sixth wedding anniversary, we sought these out. The directions and parking instructions in the Rail Trails West were excellent. We parked at Wright and Sebastopol Rds. and set out toward Sebastopol under a sky threatening rain. However, we were lucky; it did not rain. This section of the path was pretty in some spots with friendly people who greeted us as we rode along. My favorite vistas were over the meadows.

Meadow along the Joe Rodota Trail

Meadow along the Joe Rodota Trail

A Friendly Woman with her Dog Hopper

A Friendly Woman with her Dog Hopper

Reaching Sebastopol, we again followed the  directions in the book Rail Trails West to reach the West County Trail. This was a convoluted route that took us through some rather scary noontime traffic in downtown Sebastopol. But the bucolic scenery on this path made our efforts worthwhile. We rode for a ways until we decided to head back to look for some lunch. The place we chose was a true disappointment, but we did fuel up enough to ride back the way that we had come.

Along the West County Trail

Along the West County Trail

* Note: Joe Rodota was the first mayor of Windsor and the driving force behind the development of the Sonoma County park system.

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