There's no question that terrific weather is one of the best and most characteristic features of San Diego. So it is that come mid October, while New Englanders and Midwesterners are raking fallen leaves, brewing hot apple cider and pulling out their woolly winter wear, we can walk out the door in shorts and a tank top, slurp down an iced coffee and treat ourselves to 25 miles of bicycling magic-officially known as the Bayshore Bikeway-a scenic trip designed just for two-wheeled transport that takes you all the way around the San Diego Bay.
The first third of the trip might be the least aesthetically pleasing, but offers very real pictures of the places that make San Diego prosper. So much of our industry is built on the bay, and the route takes you right along the back fences of some major operations.
You begin at the Broadway Pier downtown and travel south along surface streets past lumberyards, power plants, the Navy Base (which is vast), under the Coronado bridge, and along Chula Vista's South Bay Salt Works-probably the coolest sight of all. The factory and most of the surrounding machinery look like they've been around since the gold rush, and huge, white mountains of salt sit glimmering in the sun.
But nature takes over-at least a little bit-during the middle part of the ride. Once you turn west through Imperial Beach, frontage roads and factories give way to a picturesque bike path through the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. Sweeping views of the bay and downtown San Diego are visible in the background, but as snowy egrets, great blue herons and pelicans dive, swoop and paddle all around, attention is drawn to the indigenous animals and landscape that comprised San Diego before we humans took over.
The path then turns north along Silver Strand Boulevard toward Coronado and continues in a straightaway for about seven miles, with the open sea sparkling across the freeway to the west. (It's totally flat, but as I discovered, to my extreme discomfort, the headwinds can be quite strong, making this part of the ride the most physically challenging by far.)
The final leg of the journey takes you through the city of Coronado, which represents another incarnation of San Diego altogether-the one with lots of money. Though gratuitous suburban prosperity isn't everybody's scene, it's hard not to appreciate the aesthetic appeal of freshly painted mansions, lush green trees and pristine streets. The last mile and a half passes through Tidelands Park-in all of its perfectly manicured splendor-and back under the other side of the Coronado Bridge. There, your efforts are rewarded by a sweet, 20-minute ferry ride across the bay back to downtown San Diego.
To be honest, when I did this ride for the first time (all by myself), by the time I reached Tidelands Park I was so exhausted that I could no longer appreciate the scenery. By then, all I could think about was making it on the next ferry, putting some food in my stomach, and getting off the goddamn bike.
Once comfortably seated on said ferry, before I passed out in a warm patch of sun, I decided that the optimal bike-bay experience involves at least one friend, plenty of water and high-carb snacks, and-unless you're a true athlete-a whole day of riding, resting and riding again. Not trying to grind it out from start to finish will allow you to really revel in all the different sights, smells and sounds-from the sparkling water and magnificent views to the salty air and the cry of the birds-that make taking on the San Diego Bay by bicycle an optimal way to connect with some of the most authentic aspects of San Diego.
For spot-on directions and a map of the route, visit www.efgh.com/bike/rsdbay.htm.