Book Review–The Bike Snob Abroad

SnOB01The Bike Snob Abroad by Eben Weiss, who writes as Bike Snob NYC, is a quick amusing read. Anyone who cycles regularly will be interested in and agree with most of what Weiss has to say. He has an informal humorous way of writing: “But once you start setting off into the world with a child on your bike in order to do stuff you’ll quickly learn that the typical American views this behavior only slightly more favorably than letting junior play inside the clothes dryer” (25).

Weiss discusses riding around his native New York, and in this book he also talks about two brief forays abroad, one to Gothenburg, Sweden and another to Puglia in southern Italy with slightly longer trips to London and Amsterdam. Because of the history of the settlement of New York, he explores the conceit of London and Amsterdam being New York’s parents, looking for bike riding traits that could have descended from these two European cities.

In Amsterdam, Weiss’ wife uses a regular bike, but he has the use of a “bakfiet,” a cargo or freight bike. He talks about learning to merge into the cycling traffic in Amsterdam and learning to ride the bakfiet loaded with groceries and his small son. This section on Amsterdam is for me the most interesting part of the book.

One thing that I especially like about this book is his focus on practical cycling, something my husband and I do regularly. However, I feel that the title is misleading, since the book is devoted to riding in New York as much if not more than it talks about riding abroad.

Advertisements

A Junket to the Southern Part of California

With our final destination being Coronado Island, we set off with our bicycles packed in the back of our Toyota Matrix. Our first stop was the quaint little town of Solvang with its Danish roots. Although a few of the stores are looking a little tired, there has been some recent construction which has brought new life to this area. We stayed in the very contemporary Hotel Corque, where we had an attractive room for a reasonable price, perhaps because this hotel has some connection to the local Indian casino.

The second morning of our trip we did a ramble around Solvang on our bikes with a quick trip on Alamo Pintado Road toward Los Olivos. This is a pretty area with attractive houses and beautiful countryside. The grounds of Mission Santa Ynez show the combination of coastal elements and desert-like growth to great advantage. Although we only rode about six miles, they were a scenic six miles.

The grounds of Santa Ynez Mission

The grounds of Santa Ynez Mission

IMGP0018

IMGP0016

Leaving Solvang, we hit Hwy. 101  about ten o’clock, finally arriving on Coronado Island late in the afternoon after driving through some of the worst traffic that we have ever experienced. We complain about the traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it is nothing compared to that in the Southland.

When we arrived at our hotel for the next three days, 1906 Lodge, we were warmly greeted by one of the four innkeepers and shown around. Our room was thoughtfully equipped and well decorated as was the entire inn. The underground garage was a safe place for our bicycles and the free access to the garage made it easy to take our bikes out whenever we wanted, unlike some of the large hotels where we have had to go through the car valets to get to our bikes. Innkeeper Susan and the other friendly guests made the 1906 Lodge an agreeable place to stay.

Another advantage to the Lodge is its location, very close to Orange Avenue, the main street of the town where most of the restaurants and stores are located. One thing that impressed me about Coronado is that the center of town still caters to peoples’ everyday needs with banks, a drugstore, a bookstore, markets, etc. So many town centers these days have lost the practical stores and replaced them with art galleries, real estate agencies, and worst of all, cheap trinket shops.

For our first dinner in Coronado, through good luck, we picked Chez Loma from among the several restaurants listed on my mobile Open Table app., something that has been very useful when we are on the road. The delicious French food on the menu was served by a pleasant, helpful young woman in this tastefully decorated restaurant. The soft meringue desserts were great and reminiscent of desserts actually served in France.

Hotel del Coronado

Hotel del Coronado

On our first full day in Coronado, we set out on our ride from our hotel toward the iconic Hotel del Coronado, affectionately referred to as “the Del” by local residents. This hotel, celebrating its 125th anniversary, is the centerpiece of the island and while it is one of the grand old American hotels, the ambiance is warm and friendly with none of the arrogant attitude among hotel employees which is sometimes found in other hotels of this caliber. We ate dinner in the formal dining room on the last night of our stay on the island, and while it was expensive the food was good if not quite as outstanding as that at the Chez Loma and our amiable waiter was a fount of information about the history of the hotel.

Views from the Silver Strand Path

Views from the Silver Strand Path

Coronado Bridge

Coronado Bridge

Next we followed the Silver Strand path which runs between the Pacific Ocean and Glorietta Bay. Though it was a bit windy on this path, it is a good path and the weather was glorious. After a few miles we turned around to follow the path around the island. We spent the whole morning riding around the island with a stop for coffee near the Coronado Ferry Landing. The houses on Coronado are especially interesting to look at–no tract house here.

The island is small enough that one can crisscross it easily. In the afternoon after a satisfying lunch at a small creperie, we parked our bikes just off of the main street to go to the bank and the drugstore. There are good bike racks all over town. By the time we returned to the hotel in the late afternoon, we had ridden just short of twenty wonderful miles. To see a video of this ride, please click here.

The next day, we ventured by car to Mission Bay, where we took the bikes for a spin of about ten miles on the paths there. This was an interesting ride, but the paths reminded us of our own Iron Horse Trail, crowded with strollers and people who “take their half down the middle” as my late father used to say of drivers with road-hogging tendencies. We did come across a pair of pleasant women who invited us to ride with them because they knew the routes that we were trying to ferret out. But we declined their generous offer because almost everyone rides faster than we do.

One ride that we did not attempt from Coronado is one that was recommended on the day that we were leaving. One can take bikes on the ferry from Coronado to San Diego and then ride along the shore in San Diego. We had tried to find out about this ride but until we spoke with someone who had actually done it, we didn’t know what we would find. Next time this ride will be at the top of the list.

Regretfully leaving Coronado, we headed north to San Luis Obispo where we stayed at the comfortable if somewhat over-decorated Apple Farm Inn. This is a pleasant place to stay and I would stay there again, but it would be more attractive if the embellishments were cut by about one-third. The restaurant offered good American fare served by amiable young people. We drove up to California Polytechnic University to have a look at it because it seems to be an institution that our grandson might be interested in. And finally we visited Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, where we imbibed the serenity of the mission garden before completing the hectic drive back home.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

IMGP0027