Photo by Erik Jensen, bikenoir.blogspot.com
This past weekend I headed down to King City with a fantastic trio of friends for the Ventana Wilderness.  The Ventana, Big Sur’s rugged and warm backcountry, is easily accessible from the Bay by training to San Jose either via Amtrak or Caltrain and then taking the Amtrak thruway bus to King City with a bicycle. 
We rode the car-free, rugged Indians-Arroyo Seco Road for a loop ride that took in Fort Hunter Liggett’s unending fields of oak and army operations as well as the cold waters of the Arroyo Seco gorge. 
Photos of day one and day two, with day three to come, by erik jensen of cosmic country.

Photo by Erik Jensen, bikenoir.blogspot.com

This past weekend I headed down to King City with a fantastic trio of friends for the Ventana Wilderness.  The Ventana, Big Sur’s rugged and warm backcountry, is easily accessible from the Bay by training to San Jose either via Amtrak or Caltrain and then taking the Amtrak thruway bus to King City with a bicycle. 

We rode the car-free, rugged Indians-Arroyo Seco Road for a loop ride that took in Fort Hunter Liggett’s unending fields of oak and army operations as well as the cold waters of the Arroyo Seco gorge. 

Photos of day one and day two, with day three to come, by erik jensen of cosmic country.

Take this survey to help steer advocacy message to improve Amtrak’s bike program.

Take this survey to help steer advocacy message to improve Amtrak’s bike program.

Great new Oakland-based community bike forum.  We’ll be presenting some tips on planning a trip in norcal with bikes and transit—hint:  the trip is to a great, off-the-beaten path hot springs resort…and it isn’t mentioned in the book!  Hope to see you there.

Great new Oakland-based community bike forum.  We’ll be presenting some tips on planning a trip in norcal with bikes and transit—hint:  the trip is to a great, off-the-beaten path hot springs resort…and it isn’t mentioned in the book!  Hope to see you there.

Folding bikes + Amtrak across America

Range anxiety

I recently wrote a response to a pro-electric cars essay in the excellent journal n+1 by historian Daniel Albert.  One issue that Albert addresses is called ‘range anxiety’, an oft-cited obstacle that stands in the way of widespread acceptance of the electric car standard.  Range anxiety is “part technological, part psychological” Albert writes; the internal combustion(IC)-conditioned motorist expects to be able to travel unlimited distances with minimal stops made possible by widespread fueling stations and short amount of time it takes to re-fuel with oil.  These expectations are put in doubt by the untested electric car re-charging infrastructure.  

As I was formulating a response to the n+1 piece, which embraces an electric car future on narrow, determinist grounds (Albert assumes we’ll all be driving electric cars soon, and wonders why it is taking so damn long), I began to think about my own ‘range anxiety.’  It turns out I have it too, even though I have not owned a car for years and hope to never own a car—whether electric, IC, or biofuel-powered. 

I experience range anxiety whenever I have to think about taking a trip with a car, without my bicycle and transit.  The idea of having to use a car for a trip, whether it be for trail riding in Marin, exploring Big Sur and its backcountry, or visiting Death Valley National Park, makes me anxious.  If I want to go for a bike ride or a hike in Marin county, using a car will mean that my fellow travelers and I will need to start from a certain point, leave the car there, and then make sure to get back to that same point by a certain time, drastically limiting the range of the journey. 

I recently took transit from Oakland to Point Reyes Station and road along a series of trails and roads, in a linear but self-directed, exploratory fashion, to San Francisco.  If I had had to drive, the trip would not have been possible.  I would have been stuck doing a loop ride, tracing a circle when it is often much more interesting to ride to a different destination, in this ride’s case, the bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park. 

For me, ‘range anxiety’ is not the fear of the IC-engine driving motorist pondering an incomplete electric car infrastructure, but is the anxiety that I will be tied down to a car at all.  Yet again the supposed limitless freedoms of automobility are less than they appear when looked at from the post-car point of view.

-Justin

Traveling without Moving

Kelly and I met Russ and Laura a couple years ago, the four of us converging at the Amtrak station in Santa Barbara in the midst of / returning from bike tours.  Their lives and work during the past eighteen months are incredibly well-documented and reflected upon in both text and image on their site.  This piece by Russ, complete with photographs both mundane and sublime, is my favorite by far.  It gets to the heart of and explicates so well the soul of what we call post-car adventuring.   -J

lykke li + bon iver = dance dance dance in LA.  song for a trip (2).

Slow Revolution.  Alexi Murdoch.  song for a trip (1).

Post-Car Itinerary #2.  Oakland, CA to Travertine Hot Springs near Bridgeport, CA.  Ingredients:  California Zephyr + Tandem bicycle + Soothing waters. 

Post-Car Itinerary #2.  Oakland, CA to Travertine Hot Springs near Bridgeport, CA.  Ingredients:  California Zephyr + Tandem bicycle + Soothing waters. 

Chiral structures.

Marin County Transit’s ‘Stagecoach' is a fantastic, reliable, frequent service for exploring the beautiful countryside, forests, and coastal towns of West Marin.  If you're in the Bay Area, you can use it to reach Stinson Beach, Point Reyes Station, Bolinas, Inverness and points in between like Sam Taylor State Park.  Connections to it from the city originate at the Sausalito Ferry terminal, Marin City transit center (where express buses from SF can take you), and the San Rafael Transit Center (also SF buses, and GG transit #s 40-42 from the East Bay).  The Stagecoach belies arguments that transit only works in areas with very high population densities. 

Marin County Transit’s ‘Stagecoach' is a fantastic, reliable, frequent service for exploring the beautiful countryside, forests, and coastal towns of West Marin.  If you're in the Bay Area, you can use it to reach Stinson Beach, Point Reyes Station, Bolinas, Inverness and points in between like Sam Taylor State Park.  Connections to it from the city originate at the Sausalito Ferry terminal, Marin City transit center (where express buses from SF can take you), and the San Rafael Transit Center (also SF buses, and GG transit #s 40-42 from the East Bay).  The Stagecoach belies arguments that transit only works in areas with very high population densities. 

'Flat'-ish trail riding in Marin

We love to ride smooth-ish gravel and dirt roads on all-arounder bikes.  We also like when they are more-or-less flat.  Smooth and flat are relative terms in the Bay, where car-free fire roads in Marin, East Bay, and well really anywhere, tend to be vertical monsters designed for military death marches.  So I’ve been attempting to find the best trails for such riding and string them together for rides this fall. 

Today I found the right combination by riding the Bolinas ridgeline to Mt. Tam’s Ridgecrest Blvd and then descending more trails along a northern contour line about 2/3 to 1/2 up Mt. Tam. The ride was 18 miles of x-country ‘mountain biking’ or what I would call just ‘trail riding’ and 14 miles of paved roads (mostly Ridgecrest Blvd, i.e. ‘The Seven Sisters,’ one highlight of the Alpine Dam loop). 

With an early start I made it to Point Reyes Station about 9am (via BART, GG transit 42, and the Marin Stagecoach (from San Rafael)—only about $6 and with no waiting for transfers, a two hour trip from downtown Oakland).  From Point Reyes Station (i’d recommend the whole wheat vegan scones @ Bovine Bakery) I headed south on HWY 1, climbed the Olema Hill to Bolinas Ridge, and started riding.  Saw only a few people during the 11 mile ride to Ridgecrest.  The trail transitions from open and exposed grazing lands on the Ridge to a dense Doug Fir and Redwood forest.  Some challenging riding at times, but on the whole pretty easy and enjoyable trail riding. 

I picked the trail back up at Pan Toll station, riding Stage Rd to Old RR Grade, to the Hoo-e-koo-e-hoo trail to Blithedale Ridge and down into Mill Valley.  Caught the bus in Marin city into SF for the packed concerts at the Park. By no means a ‘flat’ ride, this is an enjoyable trip that lacks many long extended unbearable fire road climbs. This ride is easily accessible via transit from the East Bay, Marin, and SF.

Recommended soundtrack = Alexi Murdoch.  Because it’s not 'all about performance.' :)

All-arounder bike?  Most important thing is tire width.  I’d say about 30 mm is a good minimum width for riding mixed terrain, I ride 1.5’ width tires (~38mm) and this width coupled with the fact that the wider the tire the less air pressure you need means I’m quite comfortable and confident on even rough terrain.  1.5’ isn’t that wide all.  This is the width I ride comfortably on the road as well.  It all depends really on whether you’ve got the itch to combine beautiful car-free trails and fire roads with paved roads.

-J

Map of the Bay Area from the 1906 Blum’s “Cycler’s Road Guide.”

Map of the Bay Area from the 1906 Blum’s “Cycler’s Road Guide.”

Travel speed and time—what is ‘realistic’ and ‘reasonable’?

I spent this past weekend with great friends on a post-car trip in the East Bay Hills of the SF Bay Area.  We biked from a BART train station up to some secluded and rustic wineries before biking thirty miles to a lakeside campsite.  The trip was about 40 miles on Saturday and it took all day.  We traveled slowly, less than 10 miles per hour, by bike, and spent a whole day going places we could have gone in a car in a fraction of the time.  It was very hot, almost 100 degrees, but everyone still enjoyed the trip.

On Sunday, heading back from the trip we talked about traveling the country by train.  In particular, we talked about the trip from SF/Oakland to Green River, Utah, where Kelly and I lived this summer and traveled to and from by Amtrak’s California Zephyr route.  How long did the trip take they asked?  “23 hours, one way.  You get on in Oakland at 10:00 am and arrive in Green River at 8:50 am the next day.”  The general response from a group that had just spent a weekend traveling by exceedingly slow means?  Nuts.  Crazy.  No way.  Impractical.  Unrealistic.  Not reasonable. 

This skeptical response got me thinking—am I just a radical ideologue for train travel?  Am I so politically committed to rail travel (hell, I’m a card carrying member of the National Rail Passenger Rider’s Association!) that I am blinded by my own prejudices and persuasions?  I don’t think so.  I reasonably believe that the train is the best way to do such a trip and that its not just that I’m fooling myself. 

Not even counting environmental concerns (which are great and distinct, i.e. the relative climate change emissions caused by flying from SFO to SLC etc. vs. the train), taking the train is more pleasant, easier, and truly a better way to make this trip all around.  Kelly is convinced as well.  Even given the pressures of an incredibly busy building and design schedule this summer in Utah, she still opted for taking the train round-trip (rather than flying round-trip or at least one of the legs) between the Bay Area and Green River this summer when she had to come home for just a couple days for an interview.  Kelly’s perspective on this problem, of how to convince others that the train really is the best option here is a version of ‘Lady, if you have to ask, you’ll never know.’  And she’s got a point.  But I’m interested in trying to convince the proverbial ‘Lady’ anyhow.

Some of our friends asked about visiting via plane for a weekend this summer.  This is understandable given the American commitment to allowing ourselves only minimal vacation days.  So let’s say you did decide to visit beautiful Green River, Utah via what must presumably be a faster plane trip from the Bay Area.  The fastest itinerary I can come up with is 14 hours. 

That’s 10 hours faster than traveling by train.  I’m not convinced this is a ‘savings’ or a ‘gain’ at all.  Traveling by plane is a much bigger hassle, it’s tiring and uncomfortable, and you don’t get to see the beautiful landscapes that connect the San Rafael Desert with metropolitan and mountainous California.  There are multiple connections to be made, between airlines, and then also between different modes.  If you fly to SLC you would need to rent a car for the 3.5 hour drive to Green River.  If you fly into Grand Junction, CO, you’ll need to catch the bus downtown to the train station and ride the train (the Zehpyr no less! eh hem) to Green River.  By comparison, the train is seamless—get on in Oakland and walk off the platform in downtown Green River.  Sure it’s faster to fly and drive in sheer quantitative terms, but does the added stress really end up producing a  more reasonable and realistic way to travel?  I’m all for faster, pleasant trips when they really are faster and pleasant—that’s why I bike much more than I walk.  Cycling makes the journey much faster.  I’d ‘see much more’ if I walked more, but I’ve got shit to do.  So I’m not against speed, no, not at all—I’m trying to point out the ways in which we’ve got ourselves convinced that certain modes of transportation are faster than others when they really aren’t all that much faster, especially when qualitative aspects are brought into the equation.  Our decisions are never based solely on quantitative measures—there are other factors, there always are.

On the 23 hour train trip between Green River and the Bay Area (a trip I made more than a few times this summer) I slept for seven to eight hours of the night and read, wrote, and stared out of the train’s large windows for the remaining hours.  I talked with fellow travelers, met new people and ran into old friends.  I watched impromptu and unexpected interactions occur in the train’s common areas.  Sure, there are some moments of boredom when sitting on a train all day.  But they are few and far between.  Arriving at the train platform in Green River or the end of the line in Oakland, the trip feels quick, brief, surprisingly rapid.  Maybe Kelly’s right.  But I think there’s still hope for convincing the most inquisitve of skeptics.  :)

- Justin

We just finished our first itinerary for a Kickstarter backer. Planning these trips is going to be a lot of fun.  Each one requires a different degree of effort and planning time.  This is the first we’re issuing—a great trip from a suburb of Atlanta to New Orleans. 
Next up is an epic trip from Boston to Newfoundland and Labrador.  We’re more excited about our kickstarter campaign than when we were still in the midst of it—now we actually get to learn where our backers want to go, where they live, and what they are interested in. 
We’ll be posting regular updates on the planning process here.  Lots of surprises and interesting tidbits sure to come.

We just finished our first itinerary for a Kickstarter backer. Planning these trips is going to be a lot of fun.  Each one requires a different degree of effort and planning time.  This is the first we’re issuing—a great trip from a suburb of Atlanta to New Orleans. 

Next up is an epic trip from Boston to Newfoundland and Labrador.  We’re more excited about our kickstarter campaign than when we were still in the midst of it—now we actually get to learn where our backers want to go, where they live, and what they are interested in. 

We’ll be posting regular updates on the planning process here.  Lots of surprises and interesting tidbits sure to come.