I’m crushing big on Monterey right now. Got back last night from a magnificent adventure, which included cycling two of Monterey’s top 10 rides – the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail and Pebble Beach’s famous 17 Mile Drive. (In 1 day.) I did both routes in one day because I was running out of days. Wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, because these views are made for savoring, stopping, having lunch and general leisure enjoyment. But if you’re into distance and running out of vaca time, just do it. If you only have time for one, take the 17 Mile Drive / Ride.
The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail (paved bike path) runs from Pacific Grove to Castroville, the artichoke capital of the world, following the route of the old Southern Pacific Railway. Except for a few minor exceptions in Marina –it’s nearly 100% car free, which means absolutely carefree cycling with spectacular dunes and coastline views along the way. And, when you head north to Castroville, you practically have it all to yourself. Biker’s bliss for sure. (Except for the couple mile section between Marina & Castrovile where you share a frontage road with some 18-wheelers…) Easy to cut out this section, but then you’ll miss out on the “Choke Coach” – see below.
Length: 18 miles, 1 way (36 miles total) – or any distance you like (many just do the a short ride 2.8 miles from Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey to Lovers Point, Pacific Grove).
Difficulty: This is a beginner to intermediate ride – mostly due to length. It’s flat for the most part, rolling for the other part with really only 1 “hill” of note.
Pebble Beach’s 17 Mile Drive
It’s just a couple miles to get to the start of the 17 Mile Drive from Lover’s Cove in Pacific Grove. You’ll cruise through beautiful Asilomar State Beach and follow the signs to stunning 17-Mile Drive – view spectacular seascapes and mansions, along one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world. By Cypress point, the bike lane ends so you have to share the road for a bit. The driver’s here are very respectful of bikers. How refreshing!
Difficulty: Beginner to intermediate ride – mostly due to length. It’s mostly flat with a couple climbs.
(I didn’t have my Garmin with me so I’m guessing my day’s total was between 60-70 miles, counting taking the local “bike route” up to Spyglass Hill and back down instead of staying on the 17 mile drive bike lane. I was getting a little giddy at that point. The bad news is, I ran out of battery on my phone so my pictures are limited. The good news is you get to discover it for yourself.
I worked up quite an appetite and thirst on my back-to-back bike adventure, which I sated at Domenicos on the Wharf. I was a little skeptical of heading into the tourist zone here, but it proved to be the right call and the perfect finale to my day. Great happy hour, service and food. I slurped down a refreshing margie and devoured a splendid house salad (best I’ve seen) and grilled artichoke – all of which were wonderful. Cheers to a beautiful day in Monterey. (No pics because my phone was charging.)
Hybrid bikes are $25 half day, $35 whole day. Road bikes, $35 half day, $65 whole day. (If you’re going further than 20 miles, I’d recommend going with the road bike.) They also have kayak rentals and SUP for more fun in the sun.
As a triathlete, I’ve cycled the 30-mile Santa Ana River Trail on multiple occasions. Designated a National Recreation Trail in 1977, it’s the county’s longest cycling and walking trail, running from the Pacific Ocean at Huntington Beach to the Orange/Riverside county line. The vision, now lost, was to create the longest multi-use trail in Southern California with planned extensions to reach as far as Big Bear Lake in San Bernardino County.
Fairly bland for most of the ride, it starts to get pretty near the far end as you pedal along a park in the Anaheim Hills / Yorba Linda area. Here the river opens up to an oasis with green marshes and rolling water frequented by great blue and white herons, geese and other birds. On a clear day the San Gabriel Mountains reveal themselves as the alluring backdrop. If you squint just so, you can block out the concrete that frames the river and the traffic-jammed freeway on the other side. You might even imagine for a moment that you’re in Idaho or some other idyllic place.
Years ago, riding solo I passed a small group of homeless people by a restroom on the trail and remember feeling slightly uneasy. Recently, I heard on NPR that the police had cleaned up the area so I thought I’d give it go since I was going to Orange County for a friend’s 50th birthday party. I guess I should have done my research before I talked my boyfriend into doing the ride with me…
Since the last time I was there, the homeless population has exploded. There was zero evidence of any so called clean up. The area by Anaheim’s Angel Stadium is a wasteland with hundreds of tents and semi-permanent makeshift dwellings strewn on both sides of the bike lane and garbage everywhere. This goes on for a couple miles.
Homelessness is becoming as American as apple pie and baseball in a society where baseball players make millions and cities can’t help those in need or police their confines.
Who are these people? From what I’ve heard the population is a mix of felons, drug addicts and dealers, the mentally ill, veterans, illegal aliens, variations of all of the latter and other misfortunates. And yes, they are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and children.
Are they the new Bedouins or gypsies of 21st century? No, they aren’t nomadic or transient. Make no mistake about it; these squatters have set up homesteads here. They have claimed their corner of concrete, creating walls around their “property” with wooden crates , bamboo screening, solar panels and generators. Several camps fly the American flag and have garden chairs placed in front. Others are less hospitable with wooden “Keep Out” signs propped against the tarps that comprise multi-dwelling compounds. Even in homeless America, bigger appears to be better.
I was relieved to see a volunteer group organizing trash collection. As you can imagine, the path is littered with debris of every kind. A church group was there handing out containers of food. There were a couple of car batteries lined up outside tents along the trail – presumably someone charges them too. These services are doubled edged swords, clearly addressing needs while clearly encouraging the permanence of an untenable situation.
Beyond the main encampment strip that runs a couple miles, I saw a tall, older man emerge from a pop-up tent. He was well groomed and completely buttoned up in an oxford shirt and belted jeans, looking like he might be heading to work. He reminded me of my father.
My boyfriend wanted to turn back at the first signs of the squalor. He was concerned that we’d get a flat riding over scattered broken glass and be accosted. Since we’d gone that far, I wanted to hold out for the restorative glimpse of natural beauty at the end…
It’s obvious that the situation is entirely out of control. It’s unsafe and utterly unsanitary. It looks and smells like something from a post-apocalyptic movie, a version of 3rd world lawlessness ―all within walking and biking distance to a couple of Southern California’s wealthiest communities (Newport Beach, Anaheim Hills, Yorba Linda).
The “oasis” was greener than ever; the streaming water sparkling in the sun. The herons, egrets and geese were plentiful. We cycled by two fisherman, surprised when one of them reeled in a good size fish. It was as if we’d been transported to another time and place—an entirely different movie set.
We had 2 near misses on the ride. On the way out, a disheveled woman with 1 front tooth riding an expensive triathlon / time trail bike veered into the path at me from the side lines. Luckily, I was able to swerve and avoid a collision. The ghost of Christmas future or stolen goods? On the way back, I was behind three cyclists when we went under a bridge. In the darkness, a half naked man ran at us yelling something undecipherable. Luckily, the cyclists in front of me managed to maneuver around him. If I’d entered first, I’m not sure what would have happened. Thankfully, disasters averted.
Apparently, the lack of policing and the escalating homeless population are due to jurisdictional disputes between the Anaheim Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff Department. Whatever the case is, it’s absolutely appalling and a shocking reality of life in 21st century America. It’s hard to imagine this colossal problem being addressed effectively anytime soon while it’s easy to imagine it getting worse. This is another skid row in the making – one among many. (Homeless populations are increasing everywhere in California down the coast from Santa Barbara to Laguna Beach and San Diego.)
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…”
W. B. Yeats
For the record, I’m not unsympathetic to the plight of my fellow man and understand that a series of unfortunate events and / or choices can have a cataclysmic impact. We also know that the human spirit can overcome and rise above most events with and without help. Regardless of your perspective, it’s a complicated tragedy. Some might say it’s just one of the many signs of Western Civilization’s decline.
Too melodramatic? Perhaps. What I know is what I’d hoped would be a stress-free bike ride on the Santa Ana River Trail was anything but. I’ve been waiting for my epiphany from this experience – yes, gratitude for my privileged life and what else?
A deeper conviction that I need to live closer to nature somewhere beautiful and under-populated, far away from Southern California. Am I running away? Yes, as fast and as far away as I can. I know, places like Idaho and Montana have their problems too, but I can face them better when I’m breathing fresh air and am surrounded by pristine wilderness.
I thought if it were me, my tent would be under the trees at the oasis overlooking the marsh – far from everyone else. I’d be fine walking a couple miles to partake in the free food and trash services. I would not be flying the American flag.
Do you have a large homeless population where you live? What are your thoughts?
My camera battery died so I couldn’t take more pictures, which is probably just as well as it’s not a place you want to be loitering. It is something you have to see to believe. Below are a couple recent articles in the OC Register with pictures and stories that better capture the extent of the problem.
(Disclaimer: I know I’m mixing Costa Rican and Thai cultures with my title, but it really does capture the gist of this post as I hope you’ll see.)
For the past 3 weeks I’ve been on the move, touring around Thailand (Bangkok, Mae Wang, Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao, Thaton, Chiang Rai, Sukhothai, Aruythaya, Koh Samui, Nangyaun Island, Koh Pranang, and Railay, Krabi). I’ve journeyed by plane, bus, minivan, taxi, ferry, long tail boat, mountain bike and foot – sometimes nearly all modes in 1 day. I’ve roughed it trekking and biking in the mountains, and also luxuriated at some 5 star resorts along the way. Eating my way through Thailand as I have been, I’ve enjoyed: Karen Hill Tribe home cooked meals, the famous Chiang Mai night market street food, a bounty of breakfast buffets, and a sampling of resort food. After all my adventures and explorations, I decided to spend my final week here in one spot — the active paradise of Thanyapura Health & Sports Resortin Phuket. While I won’t be on the move, I will be maximizing my body’s movement every day. As an endurance athlete and a personal trainer, I thrive on active vacations. While I’ve been relatively active over the past 21 days (3 day trek, 3 day mountain bike trip, ocean swims, snorkels, walkabouts and hotel gym workouts), I’ve missed my focused training.
One of my greatest pleasures in life is relishing vigorous activity and the rewards that follow both psychological and physical. Balancing all the activity with some quality pampering is essential as well. Pampering may be as simple as a big nap, a hot shower, an ice bath, a massage, a great meal or any combination of them. It’s about revitalizing, nourishing and recuperating. Here at Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort, they have it all covered and then some.
Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort is the place triathletes, national swim teams (German, French, Hungarian, British and Royal Dutch to name a few), tennis players and athletes of all types train.
Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort
• 50m Olympic pool, 25m training pool & hotel pool • 6 Tennis Courts (4 covered)
It’s where active people from all around the world come to optimize their potential and have fun while doing so. But you don’t have to be a rock star or elite athlete to be here, though you might run into one. There’s something for everyone as active or relaxed as you want to be. There’stennis, swimming, cycling, running, group fitness, Muay Thai, yoga, meditation, cooking classes, a full service spa, and so much more. There’s a Center for Wellness and Mindfulness, onsite medical services, chiropractor and talks by experts. Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort is the place for anyone who wants to reset their bodies and minds with a detox, get inspired with 1:1 coaching on living a healthy lifestyle, train like a demon, transform their life, or just chill out, disconnect and enjoy the resort’s many amenities.
After a 6 hour travel day, I arrived at 2:30 PM to a friendly reception and a refreshing glass of some deep periwinkle blue elixir.Once in my luxurious room, I quickly showered and changed for my first group fitness class.
I wanted to make the most of my first afternoon so I took a 3 PM Pilates class, a 4 PM high intensity training class and a 5PM boot camp class. I might have overreached on the back-to-back classes, but I didn’t want to miss out. Eh, no more pushups, please.
Beach photo courtesy of Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort.
Open water swim photo courtesy of Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort.
I jumped in the van with the triathlon training group for an early morning open water swim at lovely Laguna Beach. After a half dozen or so laps around the buoys with some drills mixed in, we returned appetites fueled in time to enjoy the sumptuous breakfast buffet. Lavish and predominantly healthy choices ranging from breakfast foods to abundant colorful salads and savory traditional meat dishes are available 6:30AM until mid morning.
I made breakfast my primary meal while I was there. Not a bad habit to carry over. While the buffet did include waffles and a couple other sweet indulgences, I wasn’t really tempted. With so many wonderful tasting, healthy options, it was easy to steer clear. Plus the fruit is so sweet. (Ok, I admit I did have the mango and sticky coconut rice desert one night and it was as good as it looks.) Thai mangoes are AMAZING!
And I will also confess that one night I decided to indulge and selected an alluring chocolate cake that was topped with glistening pomegranate seeds from the display at the Booster Cafe. Well, the joke was on me. I took one big bite and discovered that it was zucchini cake cleverly disguised as chocolate cake. It wasn’t bad, but I did have to get the real thing the next day. Surprisingly, after a month in Thailand without eating much chocolate, this chocolate fiend didn’t even finish the piece of actual chocolate cake. Lost my taste for it? Let’s hope so.
Between 11 AM and 2 PM is relaxation time, private coaching or gym time. I used this time to catch up on my blog posts and recuperate from my morning workout(s). In the afternoon, I attended Hip Opening Yoga, contorting my body and stretching my limits for greater fitness and flexibility. After that, I put gloves and shin guards on and mixed it up with the Muay Thai Boxing coach―first time, fun time. Next, I enjoyed a peaceful, tropical sunset swim in the 50 meter pool. I dined at Booster Deli & Bar, relishing a beautifully composed grilled tuna salad.
If I could eat this well every day, it would be an incredible boost to my quality of life and health.
Today, I rented a fine Cannondale carbon road bike and joined the triathlon training group for a mellow 50k ride through the gorgeous green countryside.
You wouldn’t expect it, at least I didn’t, but the road conditions here are excellent―smooth and mostly empty back roads―lovely, but a bit steamy. (I chose the hottest month of the year to visit Thailand.) I’m accustomed to San Diego weather so it’s a bit of an adjustment, but I do feel I’m making some gains training here.
After a couple hours of downtime, I attended Guided Meditation and Yin Yoga in the afternoon. Pierre Gagnon, the Meditation and Mind Training Coach, has a way of explaining and teaching meditation that makes it accessible and practical for athletes. I gained insights about the mind-body connection and enjoyed applying his down-to-earth approach to meditation. (See my personal training blog for those insights and why I believe meditation is a must for all of us, especially athletes.)
I found out the hard way that Yin Yoga is the practice of holding the pose / stretch for long periods of time. This involves the collision of discomfort and stillness. (As athletes, we’re used to moving through pain, sometimes to our detriment.) This is something new – to endure discomfort in stillness and to use your breath and mind to dissipate and overcome it. I’ve got a long way to go on this one…
Enjoyed some Thanyapura style Pad Thai tonight.
Marking the midway of my active stay, I dialed it down today with a pool swim in the morning and a Guided Meditation class in the afternoon. Felt so mellow after meditation that I dined early and closed the day with a sunset stroll up the road to Khao Phra Thaeo National Park. A lovely citrus salad (mango, orange, avocado, walnuts, and sprinkling of pomegranate seeds) was the day’s flavor finale.
Started my morning with a swim, followed by a step toning class and a stretch class. In the afternoon, I attended Guided Meditation. I’m balancing my physical and mental fitness. Stopped in the gym very briefly before retiring for the evening.
Greeted another day with a short morning swim, followed by an easy scenic 40k bike with the Senior Cycling Coach Daniel Amby, a semi-pro who just returned from some crazy 5 stage bike race with 23% grade hills in triple digit heat! Even under those extreme conditions, he made it to the podium 3x out of 5! I’m clearly in the presence of immortals here. My afternoon was filled with meditation, yoga and a swim technique class. Enjoyed being lulled by the downpour during two thunder storms―the green/ rainy season has officially arrived. Dined at Divine restaurant with my new friend Jade, a young triathlete I cycled with on Monday. Devoured many delectable items on the dinner buffet. Very hungry today!
The cruise before the time trial. Photo courtesy of Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort.
Sweet roads and good company, Photo courtesy of Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort.
The day began on the bike with Coach Daniel and a dozen fellow cyclists / triathletes ranging in age from 10 to 50 plus. Interval training included four 5k intervals (80% effort, 100% effort, big gear push, mid gear accelerate 30 secs on / off). Humbled to say, I got my butt kicked by a ten year old. I have all sorts of excuses – rental bike, running shoes, not used to heat/humidity, she only did 2 intervals, let’s see else can I come up with? She kicks butt, mine included –no doubt one of Thanyapura’s many rising stars.
This afternoon, more yoga. (I’m afraid sweet, angelic voiced Yoga Coach Pascha was up to her usual tricks and twists in the yoga studio.) Practicing with Pascha has helped me become more aware of my muscle imbalances, posture and breathing. It becomes very apparent how short, tight muscles sabotage performance and make you more susceptible to injury …
I’ve learned a great deal about the importance of the soft, long exhale from both Coach Pascha and Coach Pierre.
Swim technique class with Triathlon Head Coach Ricky was also illuminating for me. Among other drills, we practiced 1 arm stroke, side kicking, catch-up and fist swimming–somehow the combination of them had me swimming freestyle with more awareness of gliding on my side.
Winding down for tomorrow’s departure. A morning swim, followed by an energizing breakfast (raw carrot pasta, rocket salad and beet salad), fresh fruit and guava juice. (And yes, I had more than 1 helping.)
As with my first afternoon, I packed everything I could into my last morning. Guided meditation with Coach Pierre, step toning with a dashing Thai gentleman who would kick butt on dancing with the stars, a final yoga session with Pascha and a quick farewell lunch with my new friend Jade. When I said my goodbyes to Pascha and Pierre, I felt like I was graduating from school, leaving my wise instructors behind and setting off into the world.
Immersing myself in meditation, yoga and healthy eating at Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort was transformative for me. Despite being a personal trainer, I’m someone who has spent a lifetime relentlessly pursuing endurance sports and intense workouts without the balance of restorative yoga, stretching or optimal nutrition. Standing in the line at the Phuket airport, I had an epiphany. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a negative or judgmental thought—apparently another benefit of mind body balance and heightened awareness achieved through meditation and yoga and spending time in Thailand at Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort. When I return home, I will carry forward my practices, share the insights I gained and spread the word of Thanyapura. Thank you and Nameste.
Tour company:Green TrailsMy rating: Excellent, highly recommend
Cycling level: Easy (While this was pitched as a half day tour it is very slow paced and doesn’t cover that much ground, but it is followed by 3 hours of moderately tough hiking in tropical heat so it’s a nice warm up.
Trekking level: Moderate++
Guide: Tui (Interesting fact, our guide does many different types of tours, and took Anthony Bourdain on a street food tour of Chang Mai. Hey Anthony, you missed out because Tui is also an incredible chef. He made us a couple of incredible dinner feasts in the mountain villages of the Karen Hill tribe. Video, pics and posts to follow.
8AM Our tour guide picked us up at our hotel in Change Mai. We loaded up and jumped into the back of the truck. (A bit rough and tired, but excited to embark.)
Notice the sky in this picture? So much for fresh mountain air. My first impression upon arriving at the airport in Chang Mai was “YIKES”. I haven’t seen smog as bad as this in a while. I was hoping it wouldn’t be like this in Mae Wang where we were heading. My second impression was hey, I thought it was supposed to be cooler here than Bangkok.
9:30 We started our adventure cycling dirt and narrow concrete roads through the rural lowlands, passing seldom visited Lanna style temples and various agricultural fields. We also stopped at paper making factory that was closed for the holiday. We were saw some of the materials they use mulberry trees pulp and the vats they use with natural dyes. Just had my cell phone on me for this portion. Wish I’d taken more photos en route, but I was in a bit of jet lag fog. Lots of great photos of the trek and tribe experience to come.
We hopped back into the truck after our ride and headed further north into the mountains, stopping for a savory and sumptuous lunch (chicken and pork dishes) and supplies at a local market.
A great iconic North County ride and one of my favs is through Camp Pendleton, a US Marine Corps base, to San Clemente State Beach. Bring your driver’s license as they check IDs at the gates both entering and leaving the base.
It can be a little tricky merging with traffic to get onto the base from the South in Oceanside, but once you’re through that – it smooth cycling with minimal traffic and very few lights or stops signs. The roads are generally in good shape, but the rain storms have beat them up a bit so be alert to debris and bumps. Just one hill and the rest is flat with a couple rollers. (I’ll have to film it for you.)
Once you exit the northern gate of Camp Pendleton, / Las Pulgas exit off Interstate 5, you’ll be in the blissful no car zone along the old airstrip and out to the San Onofre bike trail and the beach. Cruise along enjoying fantastic vistas of bluffs, beaches, and the Pacific. In the summer, you do need to be on the watch for campers, kids and surfers running amok. There’s camping, picnic and restrooms available throughout the park.
Yay, getting back in the road bike saddle. This was my 5th and longest ride post kidney stone surgery (see my Honoring the gift of health post). (Yes, I drank my H2o on the ride.) I cut it about 10 miles short for a total of 46 miles with 2,015 elevation gain/loss.
Speaking of camping and biking, I ran into the “starving cyclist” , AKA Greg Valenzuela, on my ride. He’s been on the road for nearly 5 years biking around the world on his Cannondale. Greg didn’t want his picture taken so here’s his rig instead.
Close up of solar charger
I asked Greg some questions about his adventures .
How many miles do you ride a day?
Between 40 and 100 depending where I am and where the next stop is.
Where’s the best place to ride in the States?
Washington and Oregon as there are so many cyclists who live there and the scenery is great.
Where have you felt the least safe?
Mexico and Nicaragua are sketchy (understatement).
Did you get any tickets?
4 tickets in New Zealand for not wearing a helmet.
How much does your rig weigh?
Got it down to about 121lbs…
Have you been in any accidents?
Yeah, a couple, but nothing serious.
If you’re riding in hot climates like Thailand, take saunas in the morning if you can. It will help you acclimate to the heat.
Where to next?
Dana Point on my way to Redondo Beach and then off to Morocco.
Borrowed my sister’s sweet Orbea tri bike for an out and back cruise on the Neuse River Greenway Trail. Bucolic beauty, tame riding (flat), and deer sightings along the river and over 7 bridges (2 suspension bridges) through wetlands and countryside. (I coaxed the little guy out of the brush so he could join his peeps on the other side of the path.) It’s an easy, paved, multi-use, 27.5 mile trail. I turned around at the 25 mile marker as I had to get back. This trail is part of Raleigh’s Capital Area Greenway System, and notably, also a portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, a 1,150 mile hiking trail that crosses North Carolina through the Great Smoky Mountains and concludes in the Outer Banks. (Perhaps something to add to my “to do” list though from the little I’ve seen, my preference would be to bike it over hiking it…)
Posted trail speed limit is 10 mph, which is ridiculous for road bikers. I went on a weekday afternoon when there weren’t many walkers or casual bikers so I broke the rule. If I lived there, it would drive me nuts not to be able to ride the trail at realistic road bike speeds. Of course, safety is of the utmost importance, but how can you have a decent mileage path that allows bikes and expect people not to exceed 10 mph? (Heck, I ride 14 mph on my mt. bike on the road.) It’s a big deterrent to this cyclist. Perhaps the sentiment is if you’re a real cyclist, you’ll ride on the road. I don’t know about you, but I get more than my fill of riding on the road in California so anytime I have a chance to ride and not worry about cars, I’m all over it. I’d be working with city council and bike advocates to change the rule or adopt some measure to establish designated times or days when road cyclists can ride at speed. All that being said, once you get the 25 mile marker, the roads look very rideable with minimal car traffic. You could probably make your own century ride out of it.
Alas, every trip must come to its end. Enjoyed Sun Valley so much, I opted for another day there, which left me with only an hour or so to explore Boise before catching my flight. I opted for a leisurely ride along the Boise River Greenbelt. For a trip that started in Spokane with a bike ride, it seemed fitting to conclude with one in Boise. Read more →