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Archive for the ‘Bike trails’ Category

As much as I love running, cycling for cross-training provides me a ton of joy. There’s something about the speed on the bike and the power to cover long distances that thrills me. That said, road biking terrifies me.

Attention drivers: Watch for cyclists! Treat them like any other vehicle on the road! They have just as much right to be there as you do!

Given that I do not trust drivers to act like rational people who actually give a hoot about my safety, I seek out dedicated bikeways whenever possible (Santa Ana River Trail (SART) in Orange County, Bear Creek Path in La Quinta, Riverside County Regional Trail, SR-56 Bike Path in Poway, and Whittier Greenway Trail). So when my husband proposed that we hire a babysitter so we could go on a Sunday morning date recently, I convinced him to check out the Rio Hondo Bike Path in Los Angeles County with me.

Happy girl and Bullet at the Rio Hondo trailhead

Happy girl and Bullet the bike at the Rio Hondo trailhead at the Peck Road Water Conservation Park

Rio Hondo trail head: Technically the northernmost trailhead is located off Live Oak Avenue in Arcadia, California, just west of the Live Oak Garden at 4030 East Live Oak Avenue. However, it is much easier to park at the Peck Road Water Conservation Park at 5401 Peck Road in Arcadia, and start at the trailhead there. Don’t blink as you drive along Peck Road between Lower Azusa Road and Live Oak Avenue or you’ll miss the tiny entrance to the park on the west side of the street.

One of the prettier sections of the trail, past the El Monte Airport as you near Rosemead. Photo by Cromagnom under Wikimedia Commons.

One of the prettier sections of the trail, past the El Monte Airport as you near Rosemead. Photo by Cromagnom at Wikimedia Commons.

Trail end: The trail ends when it converges with the Los Angeles River Trail in South Gate. At that point you could continue down the L.A. River Trail a/k/a Lario/LaRio/LARio all the way to the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach, or bike up the L.A. River Trail all the way to Los Angeles.

Total distance: approximately 17 miles one way, 34 miles out-and-back. For longer distances you can easily hook up with either the San Gabriel River Trail (see “Tip” below) or go to the end of the Rio Hondo and continue on the L.A. River Trail.

Tip for easiest trail navigation: When the Rio Hondo trail hits the intersection of Rosemead Boulevard (the 19) and San Gabriel Boulevard, do not cross Rosemead. Instead, ride on San Gabriel Boulevard northwest (backtracking a bit) until you turn left on E. Lincoln Ave. The trail continues immediately on the left after you turn onto Lincoln. Note that if you want to hook up to the San Gabriel River Trail, then at the intersection of Rosemead and San Gabriel you can cross both streets and take a small side branch of the Rio Hondo (you will see the trail at the corner of Rosemead and Durfee Ave and it runs along Durfee Avenue for a bit until it continues along Siphon Road). I think that’s the prettiest section of the whole trail. After about a mile you hit the San Gabriel River Trail. At that point, if you change your mind and you want to hook back up to the Rio Hondo you can do so by following a side trail to the Whittier Narrows Dam (I suggest you search on Google Maps for “Whittier Narrows Dam” to see how the various trails branch off in this area to the east of the dam).

The bike trail aside the Rio Hondo "creek" north of where it converges with the L.A. River. Photo by Cromganom at Wikimedia Commons.

The bike trail aside the Rio Hondo (“deep river”) north of where it converges with the L.A. River. Photo by Cromagnom at Wikimedia Commons.

Bikeway conditions: The pavement on the trail is in good condition and has been recently redone in a few places. For one small section as you re-enter the trail off Lincoln Ave., the trail is a little rough. My favorite feature of the trail was the chain link fence “tunnel” that protects bikers from getting hit by the remote control airplanes launched from a trailside park.

Restrooms: There are restrooms at the park trailhead. Several parks along the way offer bathrooms and drinking fountains.

Trail safety: This trail is best traveled in pairs or larger groups. I cannot say the trail was unsafe exactly but as a woman I wouldn’t want to ride it alone and even my husband was skeptical, and that was mid-morning on a Sunday.

With an unintended detour at that confusing intersection at Rosemead Boulevard, Mike and I ended up riding for 36 miles in 2 hours 21 minutes. It was chilly and windy and my legs were burned from running 13 miles the day before, but we had a blast!

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By “Whittier Greenway Trail Run” I mean a regular run on the Whittier Greenway Trail, not a dirt trail run. I put in my first 10-miler since running the marathon in November, and it felt great. Mostly great. The good news is that I outran the hail and lightning. The bad news is that I did not outrun the pelting, cold rain. It was 46 degrees out and let’s just say I felt like a “serious” runner out there. Tip: use the trail’s Dog Waste Bags to protect your BlackBerry and Garmin from rain!

It all started out just fine at the trailhead at Mills and Lambert. The trail is beautifully landscaped and features all kinds of interesting sculptures:

Whittier Greenway Trailhead

Another nice feature of the trail is that it is divided into two paved bike lanes and a pedestrian/runner lane that is sometimes paved, sometimes hard-packed dirt and gravel.

Lanes on Whittier Greenway

It has mile markers every tenth of a mile, which is either very helpful or very annoying depending on my temperament at any given moment. There are frequent road crossings which make it less suitable for long bike rides but okay for walking, running, skateboards and scooters, or a family bike ride.

By the time I reached the bridge, the grey clouds threatened rain.

Bridge on the Whittier Greenway Trail

The trail is 4.7 miles from one end to the other. I tacked on an extra 0.3 to get my full 10 miles in. On the return trip I stopped in at the restrooms at Palm Park and found a drinking fountain to refill my water bottle. The last photo I took with my phone before it started to rain is of the exercise equipment that can be found at various points along the trail:

exercise equipment at Palm Park

Right after that photo was taken it started to rain and I had four miles to go. My husband called me twice to make sure I wasn’t getting hailed on and to offer to pick me up. I really wanted to finish out the full 10 miles so I kept an eye out for places to shelter me from hail and I picked up the pace as best I could. Nothing like seeing lightning in the distance to motivate me to run faster!

In the end I did 10 miles in 1:40, an easy 10-minute pace. I felt great afterward and looked forward to a nice hot shower. No way I was going for an ice bath when my feet were already numb from the cold!

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26.2 on the Garmin

Here it is January 1st and I’ve already gotten in my first 26.2 of the year . . . on the bike. Mike and I took advantage of holiday babysitting by Grandma and we got out on the section of the Santa Ana River Trail that runs through Riverside County in California. Fun fact: Riverside County is so massive that it rivals the state of New Jersey in total area.

We started out at the trailhead located at the Hidden Valley Nature Center entrance in Riverside. There’s a fee to park inside the wildlife area so we chose the free parking outside the entrance, right next to the bright yellow sign that warned not to leave your car unattended due to a rash of recent break-ins. Several other cars risked parking there too, their drivers probably hoping any local delinquents were too hungover from New Year’s Eve celebrations to be out vandalizing cars.

At the trailhead we stopped to admire the view of snow on the San Bernardino Mountains.

Riverside County Regional Trail

Winter is the perfect time to ride in Riverside County. The desert area magically turns lush and green from the winter rains, the Santa Ana River actually has water running in it, the air is relatively clear, and you can’t beat the views. It’s a little chilly (50s, SoCal chilly) and windy but that drives away the crowds.

Hardly anyone was out on the trail. Imagine our surprise, then, when we came along the caravan of homeless people led by a man wielding a hatchet. I KID YOU NOT. Thank goodness I had not chosen to ride the trail alone as originally planned (when I was the only one awake at 7 a.m. and a certain someone slept in until 10:30). Luckily we sped right past Hatchet Man without incident and he was gone by the time we returned back there an hour later.

In spite of the hazards (and the smell from the sewage treatment plant and the view of the garbage dump, I KID YOU NOT), I would totally return to that section of the Santa Ana River Trail. I love a dedicated bikeway and this one offered a lot of beautiful views of the river, the mountains, and the surrounding horse country.

Now I’m safely back at home and I’ve resumed my work as Chief Bed Lump. I got about three hours of sleep last night (I KID YOU NOT) — party details to follow. Combine lack of sleep with a 2-hour bike ride and you’ve got a girl who wanted to fall asleep tonight at 6 p.m. Lucky for you I’ve stayed awake long enough to hit Publish on this post. Happy New Year everyone!

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When Mike and I spent the weekend in La Quinta for his sprint triathlon, I took the opportunity to get out on a new-to-me bike trail. Bullet and I rode out of La Quinta Resort right onto Eisenhower Drive to the Bear Creek Path that starts on the corner of Eisenhower and Calle Tampico. I followed the trail through the suburban desert neighborhood to the path along the creek.

Gorgeous view of the Santa Rosa Mountains

Gorgeous view of the Santa Rosa Mountains

The path runs 4.75 miles through the desert homes and along Bear Creek.

That's the "creek" on the right.

That’s the “creek” on the right.

As you can see, Bear Creek was bone dry, just like the desert air on my ride. I swear it hardly felt like I was putting out any effort at all given that any sweat I generated instantly evaporated in the dry desert air. I had plenty of water with me and I passed a drinking fountain along the way.

It helped that the views were spectacular and new to me. I love getting out to explore new territory! While the “creek” and the Santa Rosa Mountains bordered my right, the Fred Wolff Nature Preserve bordered my left. It was like riding through a desert botanical garden complete with signs to identify the local flora. I even got treated to seeing a few roadrunners cross my path! I wasn’t fast enough to capture a photo of them but it’s no wonder — according to a local neighborhood association those birds run up to 18 miles per hour on feet that have four toes (two in front and two in back, making the tracks look like an “X”).

I rode a total of 18 miles in about 75 minutes. Not particularly fast but the slight grade was deceptive and it didn’t help that the path was concrete with lots of joint lines, which means it was not the best bike path but would be awesome for running. There was even a dirt/gravel/sand path that ran alongside the trail for much of the way if you’d prefer that as a runner.

One last thing I need to share about the trail and the bike lanes along the nearby roads. This made me giggle:

I guess we know who takes priority in the resort town of La Quinta!

I guess we know who takes priority in the resort town of La Quinta!

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9-11 Memorial Fire Training Tower, as viewed from the Santa Ana River Trail

9-11 Memorial Fire Training Tower, as viewed from the Santa Ana River Trail

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Last we spoke I was planning to head to Zuma Beach in Malibu in the morning to preview the swim course for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. That remained the plan this morning, right up to the moment my seven-year-old said, “I don’t feel so good.” Sure enough, the thermometer revealed a temperature of 100.7 degrees Fahrenheit. No beach day for us. I could have gone by myself, but I was following what I consider the first rule of open water swimming: Don’t swim in open water alone. If it were a protected, waveless cove with a lifeguard or a calm, shallow lake where my feet could touch the ground at all times, I might be willing to break that rule. Not in the open Pacific Ocean, without buoys, and with unknown lifeguard coverage. The whole point of going out there was to test the waters with waves and wind, and I wasn’t willing to risk swimming in those conditions alone, in spite of the fact that I am a strong swimmer who has never had a problem. That preview can wait a few more weeks, although the triathlon website helpfully reminds me that there are only 33 days until the event!

So, a monkey wrench got thrown into my workout plans. That brings me to what I consider an athlete’s most important quality. It’s not talent, speed, strength, or agility — it’s dedication. How dedicated was I to getting in a workout today? Could I bounce back and switch mental gears for a new plan? I had a choice to make. I could (1) scratch today’s workout altogether, (2) swim at the Y (an option until a friend helpfully texted the warning that the pool was closed “til further notice”), (3) pay a few dollars to swim at another outdoor pool facility, or (4) brave the heat wave and go for my regular Sunday long bike ride. It seems Southern California has a fever too:

Car external thermometer readout

My car’s external thermometer readout at the bike trailhead parking lot.

I hit the bike trail for an easy 10.3 miles with a few speed intervals thrown in. The 100-degree heat posed no problem as long as I stopped at the drinking fountains for a water bottle refill. The only issue was that the first water station was surrounded by about 30 homeless people. I was less worried about my safety or my water needs and more worried about the people who had to bear the dry, relentless heat we have been experiencing here. Thank goodness on the return route I saw that the reason so many people were gathered in that area was that the food truck arrived to serve an afternoon meal. I looked to see if I could spot a name on the truck so I could donate to that organization. Sadly I couldn’t see it and I wasn’t willing to stop because I already had a homeless guy joking with me that he wanted to hitch a ride on my aero bars! I smiled and rode on.

I love the Santa Ana River Trail and I have never felt unsafe there. Many homeless people live under the bridge underpasses but I have never had an issue with them. I won’t run west toward the beach by myself in the early morning, but I’d ride my bike no problem, and I’d run later in the day without worrying. The route east toward the wealthier suburbs are fine at any time. The trail is well enough used that it’s not a cause for concern. I’m cautious and smart and I listen to my female, internal warning system. (Don’t worry Mom and Dad! I know you’re reading this!) Bad things can happen anywhere no matter how smart and cautious you are, and I think of Sherri Arnold often, but more often than not I think of my getting out there as a small honor to her.

At any rate, today’s bike ride proved fun and uneventful. I approached Angel Stadium and the Honda Center in Anaheim:

Santa Ana River Trail view of Anaheim Stadium and Honda Center

Santa Ana River Trail view of Anaheim Stadium and the Honda Center

and eventually stood right under this:

The A at Angel Stadium

The A at Angel Stadium as viewed from the Santa Ana River Trail

Heavenly.

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