Big Sur Bike Tour _ Salinas -> San Luis Obispo

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Big Sur has always been one of those just-out-of-reach destinations I’ve always wanted to visit.  It’s magical reputation is overshadowed only by the 5+ hour drive on Highway 1.  So I not only jumped at the opportunity of visiting when a group of friends planned a Big Sur camping, but I also decided to take a couple of days before and after the camping trip to bike down California’s Central Coast.

With good buddy Thaddeus Graham as my seasoned guide and my bicycle packed in a cardboard box in the luggage car, we took Amtrak’s Coast Starlight from L.A. Union Station to Salinas. 

Day 1 _ Los Angeles Union Station -> Monterey

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The Coast Starlight is a 35-hour, 1,377-mile passenger Amtrak train route that runs between Seattle and Los Angeles. The double-decker trains are the last vestiges of a period in America when multi-day locomotive trips between major cities were not only efficient, but also accommodating. While most of the passengers are seated on the top deck, the bottom deck featured large game rooms with pinball machines and arcades for children (now empty) and restrooms with powder rooms and lounges (still there!).

Half of the train are standard cars (think of economy class on a plane), while the other half are sleeper cars with private rooms that have a bed and bathroom. The passengers in the sleeper cars also have access to the private Pacific Parlour Car which hosts wine tastings and movie screenings. Very fancy. Thad and I did not stay in the sleeper car.

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The best part about the Coast Starlight is the Sightseer Lounge Car, which features floor-to-ceiling windows on the top deck of the Cafe Car. Not only is it where you go to see the awesome landscape as the train hugs the coast, but it is also where you go to socialize and meet other passengers.  Most passengers stay (and sleep) in their seats for the entire trip. But a few of the more antsy passengers spend their entire trip up in the Sightseer Car, and are eager to share their stories (and wine) with other passengers.

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Salinas Amtrak Station

Each stop is super quick, with just enough time for passengers to step off, and for the conductors to throw off your luggage.  After I unloaded my boxed bike and re-assembled the pedals and handlebars, Thad and I biked to the coast of Monterey, mostly along bike trails, for our first night.

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Salinas -> Monterey _ 21.9 Miles

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Veteran’s Memorial Park _ Monterey

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Surprisingly, there is a campground up in the hills of Monterey, next to some exclusive and pricey residential neighborhoods.  And the Hike & Bike camping area was filled with 3 other tents, which is crowded for a campsite which requires you to climb uphill with your touring supplies.  We were in good company.

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Day 2 _ Monterey -> Big Sur _ 42.6 Miles

Thad and I made our way south to Big Sur to meet up with our 30+ group of friends who were driving from both Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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Paris Bakery Cafe _ Monterey

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17-Mile Drive _ Monterey

Thad and I took the long way, deciding to bike around the Monterey Peninsula - which is totally worth it.  17-Mile Drive is the iconic road that passes along the coast of the Monterey Peninsula and passes through some of the most iconic golf courses and neighborhoods, like Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove.

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The Lone Cypress _ Monterey

After circumnavigating around the Monterey Peninsula, we headed south through Carmel-by-the-Sea before reconnecting with Highway 1, which took us south to Big Sur.

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Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo _ Carmel-by-the-Sea

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The Bixby Creek Bridge _ Big Sur

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Thad and I stopped at the iconic concrete bridge to enjoy a snack and some wine.

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Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park _ Big Sur

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Thad and I were the first pair to make it to our campsite in Big Sur.  But Sandeep was right behind us (she actually drove past us while coming south from the Bay Area earlier in the day).  After setting up camp, Sandeep and I decided to drive a bit south to Pfeiffer Beach to explore the Keystone Rock, the Purple Sand Beach, and the sunset.

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Pfeiffer Beach _ Big Sur

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The Keyhole Rock.

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Purple Sand.

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As always, some creative cuisine.  Roasted chocolate bananas.

Day 3 _ Big Sur

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With all 30 buddies present the next day, we hiked out to through the Andrew Molera State Park to the beach.

Andrew Molera State Park _ Big Sur

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Typical Travis Tarr.

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My campsite.

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Day 4 _ Big Sur -> Cambria _ 68 Miles

After bidding our fellow adventure scouts goodbye, Thad and I began our bike tour south through Big Sur, with a few stops along the way such as at Nepenthe and the Henry Miller Memorial Library.

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Henry Miller Memorial Library _ Big Sur

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Not even 4 miles on our journey through Big Sur, Nathan and Ashley drove past us and stopped to give us some beer.  Good friends.

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Lucia, CA

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Although we were biking along Highway 1, Thad and I didn’t experience any moments of danger or harassment from drivers.  In fact, there were very few cars along the highway, and the ones that did pass us gave us plenty of room.  Regardless, the shoulder in most sections through Big Sur was accommodating enough for a cyclist to safely ride along - without falling over the cliff into the ocean.

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Climb!

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Low Shoulder.

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San Simeon State Park _ Cambria

Because of our late start out of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (12PM!), we didn’t arrive into the Hiker Biker campsite until the evening.  But we had the full moon to help us set up camp and cook a dinner.  There was only one other tent on the site.  While eating our dinner, a man emerged from the lone tent, and came up to our table.  He introduced himself as Adam.  He was on a bike trip from Salinas to San Diego as a break from his medical residency.  Almost 15 minutes into our conversation, he timidly asked if we had any food.  Thad and I then realized that Adam was bike touring with only trailmix and power bars!  Well, Adam was in luck.  He ran into two of the more gourmet bike tourers. We fed Adam cheese, bread, salami, and beer.  Lucky guy.

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Day 5 _ Cambria -> Morro Bay _ 26.2 Miles

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Piedras Blancas Fresnel Lens _ Cambria

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Thad and I stopped in the little beach town of Cayucos for some lunch.

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Cayucos, CA

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Upon arriving to Morro Bay, Thad and I stopped by the local corner store for some supplies where we met a very persuasive elderly man who loved to talk up his Segway.  He even let Thad ride it in the parking lot.

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Morro Bay State Park _ Morro Bay

The Hiker Biker campsite at the Morro Bay State Park is idyllically set under a grove of Eucalyptus trees, next to a golf course.  The campsite even had hot showers and firewood.  Luxurious.

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Turkeys on the golf course.

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Morro Rock in the background.

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St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beach & Cabbage Dinner @ Hofbrau _ Morro Bay

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Day 6 _ Morro Bay  -> Los Angeles Union Station

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Morro Bay -> San Luis Obispo _ 15.8 Miles

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Thad and I set out on our last day of touring with an easy ride inland to San Luis Obispo, where we had some time to eat some bbq and explore the mission before our Amtrak train back to LA.

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Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa _ San Luis Obispo

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All-in-all, Thad and I biked 174.5 miles over 6 days down California’s Central Coast.  

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3rd Annual Super Sloppy Chili Cheese Dogs _ Los Angeles Marathon

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It’s become a celebration for me whenever an event closes the streets of Los Angeles. To some, any closure is a nuisance and hindrance to their LA commute - even on a Sunday.  But for me, these events bring out some of the most creative collateral projects and experiments, such as the LA Marathon Crash Race or danceLAvia. The rarity and enormity of closing an entire street in Los Angeles is such a feat that some of the projects take on an equally outrageous - yet poignant - spin. One such project is the Stupid Company’s annual Super Sloppy Chili Cheese Dogs

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For the past 2 years, good buddies Alex and JP have been feeding the tired and exhausted runners of the LA Marathon - at mile 3 in Echo Park.  And what better energy food than Chili Cheese Dogs.  You have your protein, your carbs, and your dairy, all essential to a successful marathon running experience.  I finally was able to partake in the experience this year, and thoroughly enjoyed the sloppy experience.  It’s in this urban laboratory of Los Angeles and the community who actively engage with it that makes me love this city so much.

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Sunset Bouleard in Echo Park after the marathon.

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Sunset Junction

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The Echo Park Bike Posse’s LA Marathon Crash Race after-party.

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Ride to the Huy Fong Sriracha Factory _ San Gabriel Valley

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Good buddy Marc was able to book a tour of the contested and newly built Huy Fong Foods Sriracha Factory in Irwindale, all the way out in San Gabriel Valley in eastern Los Angeles County. So Marc, Alexis, Michael and I decided to do a day-long bicycle adventure, biking from Silver Lake to Irwindale with several stops in between.

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Our first leg took us from Silver Lake near Downtown LA to the eastern reaches of the county.  Marc led us along the San Gabriel River Trail, which I had never been on before, that runs along the several creeks that feed into Seal Beach in north Orange County.

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Much like the southern portion of the LA River Trail through the South LA neighborhoods, there were many horse stables and corals adjacent to the river trail.

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A huge hole in Irwindale for Hanson Aggregates, a producer of cement.  Adjacent to the soon-to-be-renovated Irwindale Speedway.

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After 27+ miles, we made it to the factory in Irwindale, CA

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The company built this brand-new facility on a previously empty site in Irwindale.  Other than actually growing their own red jalapeno peppers, the entire operations of producing the famous Sriracha red chili sauce (storage, production, bottling, everything!)  is housed under one roof.  This new facility is exponentially larger than their original facility in Rosemead.  

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2/3rd of the campus is used just to store the ground up chili, before bottling.  The chilies are harvested, ground, and stored during summer months in these blue barrels.  They are only taken out when they need to bottle a new batch.  Even the plastic bottles are made on site!

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Our tour came with a complimentary dwarf bottle of the famous sauce.  At the end of the tour, the staff asked us to fill out an Odor Survey.  The new site has been in a legal fight with the city, which claims that the operations of the factory is a public nuisance because of the smell of chilies. All I smelled while I was inside the factory was deliciousness.

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After leaving the factory, we rode through Temple City, checking out Los Angeles County’s second cycletrack (separated bike lane) on Rosemead Blvd.

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Airstream Dealership Lot in San Gabriel.

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Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel.  I ordered the full Pastrami and drank seasonal Brandywine.

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Heading back to Los Angeles.  The smart phone navigation group.

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Look at these front lawns!  Oh San Gabriel Valley.

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Hi, Jake Huoh!

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Introducing the newest addition to the Huoh family tree - Jake!  In chinese, his name is “Little Rice” - sort of like how his toes are.

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Amelia is going through her princess stage.  Two of the Huoh cousins together.

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Tags: huoh baby
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The Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club & Cafe _ Elysian Park

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Ever wonder what Academy Road near Dodger stadium leads to?  It takes you to the LAPD Revolver and Athletic Club, snuggly tucked away in Elysian Park.  This 20-acre police training facility has been in operation since the 1930’s, and features a sprawling campus with the typical shooting range, tactical training areas, and a gym for police cadets and officers.  But there is also a cafe that is tucked away on the ground floor of the main building.  Surprisingly, the cafe is open to the public.  It gives non-LAPD members the chance to chow down on quintessential cafe fare, along side off-duty police officers in uniform.

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Sadly, the cafe is closing permanently after decades of operations.  In fact, the entire Elysian Park facility, which has planned for an upgrade for the past 2 decades, will be under renovation until 2016.  There currently are no plans to rebuild a cafe facility in the new plans.  So for the closing week, I finally made my way up to the Club, and enjoyed a Pastrami Sandwich and Milkshake elbow to elbow with police officers.

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I explored the grounds of the campus, which is open to the public. The entire campus and club is actually very open and quaint, with a garden and fountains in the rear section, within earshot of the firing ranges.

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The Chapel.

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The Passage Ride _ Convergence

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The Rio Hondo Confluence at the LA River, South Gate

"Convergences! The world is so full of convergences that you can find them all around you, if only you look. Well, yes, in some sense, it is rather unremarkable that small features converge to form larger ones, or that common forms are repeated in unrelated contexts. Due to basic geometry, or the laws of physics, or simply random chance, such patterns are bound to manifest themselves. And since we humans are so skilled at recognizing patterns, it may also be unremarkable that we experience a certain joy when we find these convergences and parallels, even where none are actually present.

But there are certainly some convergences present tonight. They happen to be of a rather literal and prosaic variety, it’s true, but if you are so inclined, you are certainly welcome to search for the more elaborate and metaphorical ones along the way.”

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Los Angeles River

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The Red Party _ Echo Park

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Lots of my good buddies of the Echo Park Bike Posse are doing the AIDS/LifeCycle, a 545-mile bike ride this summer from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  So they threw a fundraiser party to raise money for the cause.

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Tongs.

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Los Angeles River _ South Gate

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Part 2 of Michael’s, Niall’s, Tobey’s, and my exploration of the LA River.  This time, in South Gate where the Rio Hondo converges with the LA River.

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Unlike the portion of the LA River in Downtown LA that we explored earlier in the year, this stretch of the LA River has a bike/pedestrian path running on top of the Western bank.  There are no fences or gates blocking people from descending the banks and enjoying the concrete bottom of the river.  This stretch of the path also runs along a heavy residential area, whose residents wouldn’t mind calling the LA River their backyard, if there were only more amenities and access points.

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Lunch under the Imperial Highway Overpass.

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710 and 105 Interchange.

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Yes, Tobey is wearing booties on his paws.

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Tunnel Walk _ Koreatown to Culver City

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Going on a 7-mile walk through some storm tunnels underneath LA.  From Koreatown to Culver City.  Raccoons, tar seepage, and mineral rock formations sighted.

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The Bethlehem Baptist Church _ South Los Angeles

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The Bethlehem Baptist Church (1944)
by Rudolph Michael Schindler (1887-1953)
South-west corner of Compton Ave. and E 49th St.

In South LA, there is a little church building that was designed by R. M. Schindler. The church was commissioned and built in Schindler’s iconic modernist style for an African-American congregation in an urban setting, and is probably the only mid-century modern in South LA. But it was all but abandoned and boarded up for at least the past decade, and fell into blight.

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Starting around late 2013, a new congregation moved in. With the help of the LA Conservancy and a 2009 LA City Historic-Cultural Monument designation, the congregation has been quietly repairing and renovating the property, which is how I found it when I stumbled upon it in February.

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I had always known about the legendary and derelict Schindler church in South LA, but had never had to opportunity to visit it. Which is why when I biked past it, I was surprised to find that not only were the windows replaced and the graffiti painted over, but also the gates were open. Some of the church members were working on site, and let me walk through the architectural gem. They even unlocked the access to the roof for me.  image

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The congregation will be holding an Open House on April 12th, 2014.  4901 Compton Ave.

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