Happy Wanderer: Biking, beers highlights of Coastal Rail Trail

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MERCURYNEWS.COM: September 15, 2015

We make nine million bike trips a day in the United States, according to the National Household Travel Survey and a lot of those rides are enjoyed on vacations.

There’s something exhilarating about pedaling past the pastoral landscapes of an ever-changing America. You see, in just minutes, what pedestrians take hours to discover. And if you can do it without breaking a sweat — even better.

A friend and I rented electric bikes last month in Oceanside. I’d heard much about this bike-and-craft-beer destination with its miles of sandy beaches and emerging restaurant scene. Our first stop was Oceanside’s Dynamite Electric Bikes.

Like lollipops in a candy shop, Dynamite had a kaleidoscope of colored beach cruisers — all tricked out with pedal-assisting motors and handlebar baskets — which we filled with hot sandwiches from Hello Betty Fish House.

We had our choice of routes that weekend, so we picked the longer, coastal route first. The beauty of Oceanside’s Coastal Rail Trail is that it runs above and alongside the ocean. You get this breathtaking birds-eye view of miles of golden sand and curling surf, not to mention a ride through tony Carlsbad and the southern beach towns of Leucadia and Encinitas.

And remember my goal not to break a sweat? We rode 17 miles to Solana Beach and then loaded our bikes on the Coaster — San Diego County’s commute train. (A longer ride of 25 miles takes you to the Del Mar station.) The Coaster fare was just $4, making it too good to pass up.

Our route the next day was unique in another way. It ran through a spiritual triangle. The San Luis Rey River Bike Trail meanders along the river until it reaches a point where you see Mission San Luis Rey at the apex, Prince of Peace Abbey to the left and the Rosicrucian Temple to the right.

We rode the nine miles to Mission San Luis Rey (there’s a slight detour through side streets) and toured what’s commonly called the “king of California missions” because of its size. Still run by Franciscan Friars, the mission has colorful gardens and an extensive museum.

Two days of bicycling creates a powerful thirst. Luckily, Oceanside is on the Hops Highway — a 60-mile stretch of Highway 78 that has some 200-plus breweries and tasting rooms. The county’s largest brewery, Escondido’s Stone, has a tasting room with gardens and stone fireplace in Oceanside, where we tried a four-beer sampler. Then we walked over to the popular Bagby Beer Company for shrimp po’boys and short rib sandwiches on the roof.

Oceanside reminds me a little of Oakland. Once a hardscrabble U.S. Marine town, you can almost see the transformation happening before your eyes. SpringHill Suites has built a five-story hotel just a block from the beach with 149 rooms and a rooftop pool. Celebrated chefs like Chris Gallo are moving to Oceanside to open artisan eateries like Masters Kitchen & Cocktail. Here, we sipped craft cocktails and dined on fresh fish in banana coconut curry over vermicelli rice noodles. The great bones of this building used to house a drag car shop.

At its core, Oceanside will always be a beach town on the southern edge of Camp Pendleton. In fact, the California Surf Museum is one of its biggest attractions and well worth the visit to see oddities like pro surfer Bethany Hamilton’s shark-bitten surfboard.

But call me crazy … I’d rather ride a bike than a wave. Land seems a whole lot safer.

What are your favorite local adventures? Drop me a line, and I’ll share them with readers. You can reach me at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or online at www.ginnyprior.com.


Oceanside’s sixth annual Bike the Coast/Taste the Coast is Oct. 10. For more information: http://bikethecoast.eventmediainc.com
Visit Oceanside Conference and Visitors Bureau can be found at www.visitoceanside.org.
For a photo gallery of photos of our bike tour, see www.ginnyprior.com.



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