Bicycling the Shoreline of San Diego Bay

Cooler air temperature draws me to the San Diego area a few times per year and sometimes the birding is excellent. This day I wandered by bicycle along San Diego Bay’s shoreline past areas I had not spent time before.

Leaving my Chula Vista campground, I bicycled parallel with the San Diego River, through an industrial area and naval entities. (San Diego is a naval city.) I’m riding a bike path at the start, then bike lanes past marinas and the Seaport Village which is touristy. I continued cycling along the shoreline. In the industrial area I saw hundreds of Dole containers arriving … with no doubt …. all forms of pineapples, and in the tourist area, many statues and some historical ships. I stood below these huge ships: “Star of India” and the “USS Midway”, both with history of their own. I read tributes at many statues recognizing military service from all armed forces. The “Cancer Survivor’s Park” provided excellent info which I’ll share in my next blog post.

USS Midway
Star of India

Yes, I saw some birds: terns, pelicans, pigeons, sparrows… but today was my slow day and seeing people enjoy the outdoors in ways not particularly my interest. The huge cruise ships, solo paddle boarders and every watercraft in between reminded me of personal previous sea-sickness! They were not pleasant memories, but to see the sunlight bouncing off the water on this day, I was good! I continued cycling to a lunch stop at a shady picnic table. This will be my turn-around point even though I contemplate riding further to Point Loma, but that is not to happen today.

People here are wearing masks and socially distancing in the touristy areas, thanks to it being a requirement! All of us outdoors can enjoy the sea breeze with hopes the Covid viral numbers go down.

The airport is across the road from where I am eating my lunch of cheese, crackers and hot green tea. (The tea is my usual mid-morning snack break so I brought it along today.) As I watch these planes land and take-off, I hope my air travel returns by 2022. I still have so much of the world to see! In the meantime California here I come!

Another Bicycle Ride!

It is ridiculously hot here in Fort Collins, CO but I decided to get an early start on a bicycle ride. It was a wonderful ride on the Poudre Trail 12 miles one way and in adding some local roads it became a 33 mile ride.

The signage on the bike path was wonderful especially since there were many twists and turns. I also liked this sign:

I rode west from the campground on the bike path and saw 3 red-tailed hawks, Canada geese and some gulls. Many other cyclists were on the path, along with walkers and joggers. The area on this side of town was beautiful!

The bridges for this bike path are beautiful and as you would expect, built over the Poudre River. Another bridge I saw had chairs for people to sit on. Of course finding a good rock in a river to sit upon is available too.

I do want to mention I did not see many homeless people in this town. Maybe because I was not in the downtown area? I did see a few washing themselves at the river and then returning to their car. I never felt any anxiety while riding the paths or the local roads.

At one end of the bike path I took a turn to check out a fish hatchery and Lake Watson. I spoke with a birder who pointed out the American pelicans and I also saw a common merganser.

Once I completed the bike path in both directions I rode a local road because it had a bike lane. Many cyclists were there too! When I was back at the campground I took a shower and was hungry! I decided to try a widget for the JetBoil that allows me to cook with other pots or pans on it. I decided to make black bean, cheese and tomato tacos. Yum!

I took a very short drive through historic Fort Collins downtown and decided to keep driving to Greeley, CO. In the 45 minute drive I saw plenty of agricultural land, cows, sheep, goats, and derricks pumping something. One huge facility in this town is Greeley’s Beef Plant and trucks were lined up to bring in the animals. I stopped at a brewery since my original thought was to have dinner at one; however, it was to hot to think about food. I did buy a can of Weldwerks Brewing Company’s porter to have back at the campground. I am not a fan of it and enjoyed my Deschutes Black Butte Porter instead with nice cold cottage cheese! Now there’s a first on that meal! It hit the spot!

Bicycling in Colorado!

Finally took my bicycle out of my car and rode for 26 miles on the Poudre Trail in Windsor, CO area. It was wonderful to ride the bike path and it was hot. I was done with my ride by the time the temperature rose over 90 degrees. I did see other riders out, but I am guessing the majority were out earlier than me today!

I bird-watched during my ride and saw cormorants, swallows, kingbirds and American pelicans. I thought I heard an osprey and I did finally see the bird, actually 2 of them, on my return ride to my car. My bicycle does not allow me to sneak up on birds so I unfortunately flushed 3 great blue herons in 3 different locations from their spot because of my gears.

Last night and tonight I slept at a hotel for much needed ice water for my itchy feet. I was still needing to calm my numerous black fly bites! One knows they are bad when the itch wakes you at night, unfortunately that is what has happened the last couple of nights! I think I would rather have mosquito bites as these bites are simply horrible!

Arizona Mountain Biking … Got Oxygen?

I’ve climbed mountains to 19,000 feet and expected to be winded, but I wasn’t ready for the altitude and the rocks on uphill climbs during my mountain biking in Flagstaff, Arizona’s 7,000 -9,000 foot elevation! But with perseverance and determination, I busted on through 12 miles one day and 15 miles on another, then ate and drank well at the end of each ride! I must really remember to strengthen my quad leg muscles before any mountain biking here. Those muscles are different from muscles needed for walking and road cycling. I always appreciate my bicycle’s gear-shifting capabilities as long as I am in the best gear for uphills! Then I am also not gasping for air on these uphills … ahhhh!

Spending time in northern Arizona, away from the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona, is a wonderful change of scenery and temperature. The wind, cooler temperatures and green color and freshness of pinyon pines, ponderosa pines and juniper trees are a welcomed sight. I can imagine hiking the 800 mile Arizona Trail from Mexico to Utah, USA and would love this section of northern Arizona to hike or mountain bike! I noticed one cache of water trailside and know the individual will appreciate the precious water! I have hiked sections of the Arizona Trail and water is not easily available so having caches set out is wonderful for a thru-hiker. Kudos to all thru-hikers: an accomplishment to complete the distance whether hiking or mountain biking the distance!

Water, thru-hikers appreciate this resource!

The trail varies from rocky uphills to smooth rides through gates and intersections with other trails. Wildflowers are beginning to bloom and I saw pronghorns romping through the forest. Deer, elk, squirrels and birds are seen here too during various seasons. Do take time to notice the natural beauty around you. It may be best to do that when you take a break from your bike ride, since most of your energy and sight will be looking at the upcoming trail and not necessarily the world around you! I’ve been known to look at something a bit to long and find myself falling off a trail. Would not recommend that action!

One of 4 pronghorn checking out the mountain biker.

A good portion of the land where we are bicycling also provides a grazing area for cattle. As a result we often need to open and close gates depending on the season and if the cattle are here. Often you’ll see more cow chips on the trail than cattle. Even if you come upon wildlife, they usually scoot away and want nothing of you. Those are healthy wild creatures not looking for human hand-outs or interaction. That is the way it should be! 

When you plan your next mountain biking adventure, remember: bring filled water bottles, wear a bicycle helmet and eye protection, bring a snack, bicycle tools, repair kit, tire pump, and use your shock pump before the ride so your front and back suspension points are ready for your bumpy ride. Know the trail and/ or carry a map or phone with a downloaded map. If possible, especially when riding solo, always a good idea for another person to know where you are in the forest. Enjoy your ride, be safe, have fun and consider Edmund Hillary’s quote, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” So true!

Bicycling for Corn Tortillas!

Sometimes I get a thought in my head and just have to follow through on it. Today I wanted a second day not driving my car and to eat a Mexican meal that had corn tortillas. Easy! Bicycle to a Mexican cafe, order take-out, bicycle back. I found a place 12 miles away … a nice short ride, 24 miles, today!

I had a leisurely morning, talking with my neighbors about the campfires everyone had last night and how the smoke hung in the air. When there is no wind and so much smoke from many, many campfires, I had to be sure I was not in the middle of a fire! Others go in their campers to sleep and do not breathe the smoke, but tenters do smell it all. Another camper who walks past my site each day and always stops to talk did so again. I was glad to see her as I wanted to ask the question of whether she works on Mercy Ships at any time. She does medical work with Samaritan’s Purse, but not yet with Mercy Ships since that commitment is for longer periods of time. Someday she will, she said. Thank goodness we have people in the world who do that good work, while others of us donate to the causes!

I finally got on my bicycle ride, and thanks to Google maps providing a bicycle route including mostly bike lanes on the roads I had a plan. I tucked my phone in my front food sack so I could hear the directions and off I went! The last couple of miles before the Mexican restaurant was a ride through Little Italy. Tough not to rethink my plan for lunch. My mouth watering as I thought of pasta in tomato sauce and gelato! Nope, kept cycling!

Wow, lots of people on line waiting to get into the restaurant which spaced their seated customers. Fortunately I was able to roll my bicycle up to the reservation desk, order take-out, and then wait nearby … while we all wore masks we surely were not 6 feet apart. Chicken street tacos on corn tortillas and a horchata to drink were handed to me, but where to eat it? I heard music in the area so that was the direction I headed. A low concrete wall worked for a place to put the bicycle and for me to sit and eat. Delicious food and drink! A guy walked by and asked where I got my meal. In short time he was back eating his lunch with me. Nice conversation. He had just moved to San Diego from Atlanta, Georgia because his friend told him San Diego is a cool place. I agree if you can look past the traffic!

Google maps sent me back a less touristy route. I did ride a few extra miles on a bicycle path to see if any interesting birds were at Sweetwater River, but none. By the time I was back to the campsite after a 27 mile bicycle ride, popcorn and a beer did hit the spot! My neighbors left a couple of logs of firewood which I passed on to others who had just arrived. So many less campers at the campground now, thus less campfires tonight, therefore less smoke in the air, yeah!

A question I often get asked, especially when at campgrounds with BBQ grills, electrical outlets so people can plug in their Insta-pot and/or electric griddle, or an on-site cafe. They see my backpacker Jet Boil stove and wonder what I eat. In reality I am not a gourmet food person. I like coffee, green tea, rice noodles, tuna fish, soup, cottage cheese, chunk very sharp cheddar cheese, crackers, apples, blueberries, cold cereal, yogurt, quinoa, canned sardines, already popped popcorn, beer, rice pudding, and whatever else I can think of. I probably spend more time boiling water for my coffee and tea each day that anything else. Tonight I had instant mashed red-skinned potatoes, quinoa and sardines… a meal I would never eat at home, but so easy here, plus I have leftover potatoes and quinoa which can easily be a snack tomorrow, thanks to the plastic containers I carry for leftovers. I see food simply as fuel when I camp, not a fine dining experience. Plus if I can wash few plates and utensils then it is even better! I did bring some dehydrated breakfasts (3) and dinners (2) and have not used them at all. The other nice thing about tent camping when on the road, there are plenty of take-out places if I want a meal that way and can have leftovers.

Here are photos, one from each campground – the empty state park and the KOA with more tables and one of many trailers seen in the photo. The hinged kitchen shelf, I made for the back of my bed platform for the Honda Element, worked great as a clean surface on the picnic tables.

The pocket rocket to make coffee was helpful and I always made green tea each morning to drink later. The Goal Zero battery was charged as needed and then I charged my watch, phone, laptop and Ipad off it. The Jetboil was a new addition and I enjoyed having 2 cups of hot water within 2 minutes! There is an attachment I can use on the Jetboil when cooking with a regular pot. I love my 2 person tent, surprisingly less weight than an old one-person tent I once used. It has vestibules on both sides so I really can have a roomy feeling. Tenting is not for everyone and for me I know it will only be a few more years. Sleeping on the ground is not something I think my body will tolerate for more than the upcoming decade, but in time I will know when to seek out another option or at least a better mattress! In the meantime, life is good!

Time to Bicycle Ride!

Cycling, camping, birdwatching, outdoor activities and many other activities have become more popular during the pandemic because we are able to give each other space. My day began with a cool Californian morning which means cold to a southern Arizonian.  With overcast sky and slight wind in the air, I ate my breakfast and decided to have my coffee at Starbucks and finally have WiFi access since it is not available at the state park. It also provided me an opportunity to look at my photos from the previous days!

As the day warmed, I drove to Aliso and Woods Canyons Wilderness Park. While talking with a man coming off the trails on his bicycle, I asked for an easy mountain bike trail for a gravel bike, like his and mine. I knew there is a paved bike path, but why not first try some mountain biking on my gravel bike? Off I went with basics on my bicycle … bike tools, lunch, snacks, water and one camera…. I bicycled about 8 miles before I realized my bike lacked some needed front and rear suspension, so I decided to return and ride pavement while I still had a back and butt. The ride was beautiful and fun and I also talked with others on the trail who mentioned coming to Arizona for college searches.

Back at my car, I  went to the paved bike path along the Aliso Creek which I originally planned to do. Ah yes, smooth and easy on the body! Trail signs seemed to indicate there would be some closures, but all went well for me. I saw a white-faced ibis, mallards and swallows. The amount of white on a white-faced ibis is so small this name for the bird cracks me up. Anyway, here is a white-faced ibis:

Back at the campground, my tent was not blown away and the shower water was hot! Fifty-cents-worth, 2 tokens provided 3 minutes of shower water and I was thrilled! Another day outdoors and only speaking with 3 people so felt safe. At the Starbucks I sat indoors, alone thanks to their sign stating indoors was not open, yet when I asked if indoor seating was available, they said yes. Perfect!

Bike Church in Tucson, AZ

Dependent on where you live in the US, there are signs: “Share the road”, Bicycles may use full lane”, “Motorists must allow at least 4 feet” between car and bicyclist, and “3 feet minimum to pass bicycles”. The bottomline is we all need to watch out for bicyclists as we also should for motorcyclists! When we drive a motor vehicle it is important to not be distracted, but instead, be aware of all that is happening on the road so everyone is safe.

In 2009 a metal sculpture, the Bike Church, was constructed from recycled bike parts; in 2014 a park was created around it. It is a permanent memorial to fallen cyclists. The sculpture has stained glass such as in a church, a top similar to Islamic temples, 2 Stars of David and a mold of a Pascua Yaqui dancer. You can walk within the sculpture for a closer look at its chimes, stained glass, various bicycle parts, and “in memory of” brick pavers. I have not seen the sculpture at night when it is lit up, but I can imagine with the stained glass it is amazing.

Bike Church in Tucson

Cyclists & Pedestrians Counted!

It’s an interesting piece of equipment on the bicycle loop in Tucson. It records the number of cyclists and pedestrians, which would include roller-bladers, joggers, runners, along with walkers all passing the counter each day and provides totals for the year. This is definitely one of the busier spots where people are on the loop. Kudos to all using this multi-use path! (You may even see some wildlife while out there. I bet the roadrunner wished to be counted!)

Monday Memories: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand

January 2019, international travel started for me and a friend with a supported bicycling tour in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. It was my first time to this region of the world and an area I will definitely return, one country at a time. The weather was good for cycling, visiting places, and the people especially in Vietnam were friendly.

Here are a few photos as I remember this trip. Many people were also on bicycles, cycling on walkways between rice paddies, small trails, or roads which were crazy with hectic interchanges. It seemed however there were more riders on scooters and motorcycles. Unfortunately the last day of our cycling, a motorcyclist was killed in Thailand. When I first heard a thud, I worried it was a fellow bicyclist. Once I rounded the corner I saw the man on the road … instantly killed. As sorry as I was about the accident, I was also relieved to be going home in a few days and not be on a bicycle as I grieved his death.

Our guide made arrangements for us to visit many temples and historic places. Prior to meeting our guide, we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, where we saw a very small section of the 70 mile wartime tunnels used by the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War. Near Siem Reap, Cambodia, we visited Angkor Wat, one of the largest religious monuments in the world. Little time was spent in Thailand, thus my need to return there someday, along with more time in Vietnam and Cambodia.

I like Vietnamese food and love Thai food, but the best food during our travels was the fresh seafood. We saw many markets and local people shopping for all kinds of items. I was introduced to dragon fruit which grows on cacti-like trees. When the reddish, scaly exterior is cut open, one sees the white flesh and black, crunchy seeds within the fruit.

Travel is also done by boat and many people live on the river. One day we spent 6 hours on a boat to travel to another location and continue our bicycle ride. It was fascinating to see fishing rigs, school children being brought to school by boat, local people doing their work, but depressing to see garbage dumped into the river.

We had opportunities to cook some food and make rice wrappers, all of which I did not meet with success. People work hard and I was really impressed with an older woman who collected dead wood, balanced them on the rear of her bicycle and brought the load to her family as they cooked at their oven. She never stopped smiling so I had to capture a photo of her. The other woman was working hard at the river’s edge from her boat.

What I love most about travel is seeing people in action and interacting with them when possible. One young lady was waiting for a ferry ride across the river and a child’s attention was absorbed while playing with straws. We met many wonderful people and had a safe tour. Someday I will return to this region of the world; so much more to see!

Monday Memories: Solo Bicycling Trip

I decided I was not getting any younger, and I was reading about people in their 60’s bicycling across the USA! Could I do the same? I did not know, but I decide to attempt some distance.

Yes, in June 2018, I did bicycle 600 miles from Prescott, Wisconsin to Rensselaer, Indiana by way of many small towns following most of Adventure Cycling’s Northern Tier route. After a heat spell, I continued on on New York State’s Erie Canal trail for 100 miles before meeting friends in central NY.

People asked why I chose that area of the USA to bicycle ride. Since I typically fly over it, I thought it a good idea to actually see it. I saw many windmills, fields of corn, artwork and rolling hills.

There were sights to see. An Eagle Center, National Farm Toy Museum and the famous Field of Dreams to mention a few. I also stopped at activities roadside, such as this dog competition where they collect the bird that was shot. When I heard about saloon bars similar to an AZ bar, I checked it out as I did often stop in churches for a reflective moment.

Most nights I stayed at bed and breakfast, or motels, and did camp. My goal was to survive so I wanted comfort at the end of the day, especially since you never knew if the next 40-60 miles per day was going to be in the heat or a drenching rain. There is nothing worse than bicycling in the rain; stopping to check the weather radar to discover how many hours you may be sitting and waiting out the weather. Some places were entirely for myself and I would wander into the town to find dinner, and other places I spent hours talking and eating with the owner of the place. I always love connecting with people when I travel. All of my accommodations were wonderful from Motel 6 to some really nice bed and breakfast places!

One of my most fun places was at an old jailhouse. The woman helped me hoist my loaded bicycle up the five steps into the place, invited friends over to have a beer with us, and cooked delicious dinner and breakfast for me. She offered me an additional night, yet I decided to keep on my plan since the weather was good.

Enthusiasm for bicycling is beginning to take off in the USA as we develop the US Bicycling Route System to be added to many Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Routes and Adventure Cycling’s Routes. I did see a bicycle campground and I rode a bicycle path where each rider pays a fee. Men drove on the bike path to collect the fee from me and were pleasantly surprised when I could show them I had my receipt of payment.

I ate plenty of snacks, which I carried in my bag, and always a lunch. I loved Casey’s General Store located in many small towns. I was hooked on white cheddar cheese popcorn, until I broke a front tooth – later repaired in Buffalo, NY. I also bought Arizona green tea and Gatorade to supplement my water bottles. I love chocolate and that meant a Snicker’s bar too.

I discovered I was close to Route 66 so I decided to ride a portion of it, especially since I did not know if I would ever ride its entire distance from CA to IL. Lots of history along that route! The road was so busy at one point there was a passageway for people to walk under the road! Of course, there are still some old gas stations in the area, and portions of the road are grown over with grass in its cracks.

I met many other bicyclists on the road and all going from east to the west coast (I was going west to east). There was only one other solo female bicyclist, yet every single person always stopped at the bottom of a hill to say hello, check-in on how I was doing, and offer ideas of what was coming up in the next town or two. I really appreciated the camaraderie! One guy told me he was sleeping in ditches at night after cycling about 100 miles a day. Another guy told me of a free place to set a tent. A mother and daughter team had stayed at the lodging I was heading to on my 70 mile day. Other people at stores, bars, and their homes were very generous. One family offered their swimming pool to me as I laid on their front lawn, under the only shade tree I think in the county! Another guy brought out bottles of cold water for me as I sat by a church he was renovating for his family home. Another guy stopped in his pick-up truck and asked me if I was okay, and if I knew how hot it was that day. Yes, wherever I could find some shade, I spent time there. I could tell you more, but I think you got the picture!

The heat did me in! To hot to go on, dehydrated and with concerns of heat stroke, I decided to take the heat wave in the US seriously. Unfortunately I have been in hospitals needing fluids pumped into me other times when on hiking and bicycling trips. I knew I did not want that happening here. With the help of great people in Indiana, I rented a car a few days after getting my fluids back to where they needed to be and headed to Buffalo, NY. Along the way and there, I had wonderful friends allow me time to recuperate before jumping back on my bicycle to cycle the Erie Canal trail to central NY where I met other friends. Yes, I shipped my bicycle home and relaxed before planning my next trip. What an adventure this was … and cannot wait to do some bicycle travel again!