The Coronado loop - Looking Back With 2020 Vision, Part I - CycleBlaze

December 18, 2019

The Coronado loop

I start my day a bit earlier than Rachael this morning, waking up early from jet lag and heading down to the coffee shop downstairs just after it opens at six.  A tiny place, it has just two indoor tables; but you might as well sit outdoors anyway because the windows and doors are all wide open even though it’s quite cold out.  I enjoy my morning coffee and an unexpected treat - a toasted bagel with peanut butter.  There really are some nice things about being home again. 

In our new home in the Gaslamp District. A very livable unit that we’d be happy with for a longer stay, but we’re not that enthusiastic about the neighborhood and its significant homelessness problem. It’s not a place Rachael feels comfortable about venturing out alone in after dark.
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Rachael is up when I return to the apartment, but not feeling herself.  She feels queasy, wonders if she has lingering symptoms from our brief illness, and thinks she should take the day off - run some errands, get a haircut, stay close to home.  We agree that I should take one for the team today and go out riding on my own so we don’t stay stuck with a silly one mile of accumulated cycling for the tour.

I decide to ride the loop around San Diego Bay - it follows the bay line south to its end, then back up the east side to the end of the spit at Coronado.  At the end I’ll catch the ferry back to San Diego.  It’s a good ride for me to take alone anyway, because at the south end sits the San Diego Bay Wildlife Refuge, one of the best birding sites I’ve visited.  We rode this loop in reverse when we were here before as part of a longer ride, and it pained me to keep biking past the many birds on the water and not be able to slow down for a real look.  It should work well to be on my own, take the whole day, and stop as often as I want.

It’s surprisingly cold when I start out, and the sky looks marginal.  I thought it was supposed to be a sunny day but didn’t bother to recheck this morning.  Without a raincoat along, I get concerned and give Rachael a call.  She looks at the forecast and reassures me - cloudy and cool this AM, but clearing by mid-afternoon.  No chance of rain, so I should be fine.

Looking back at the sky over the city, I’m wondering which way the weather is doing. Is it clearing or getting darker? A glass half-full sort of question. It worries me a bit, because I didn’t read the forecast or bring a rain jacket.
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The first eight or nine miles down the west side of the bay are nothing to get enthusiastic about.  It’s primarily industrial, the route is mostly just on streets or a bike path following the edge of the city.  The route is poorly marked, it’s easy to lose your line without the GPS guiding you.  Safe enough, but not a ride you’d take for its own sake.  The good stuff is all beyond it, and it’s the best way south from the city.  It’s a pretty heavily used route, and bikes come by regularly from the other direction.

No reason to stop other than to check directions or backtrack a bit, until I reach the South Bay Salt Works - the first genuine attraction of the ride, and what I’d consider the real start of it.  Salt extraction and processing here dates back to at least the early 1870’s, and for many years this was the major salt supplier for Southern California.  Through the end of the 20th century it was the second largest salt producer in the state.  Over a million tons of salt have been extracted here since the plant’s inception.

Salt is still produced here, but operations are under transition.  The land is now owned by the U.S. fish and wildlife commission, and its value as a wildlife habitat is now given more consideration. 

After about eight miles crossing the industrial south waterfront, we some to the South Bay Salt Works, the first really interesting point on the ride.
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Looking north across the salt pans.
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Shuffling salt must be a complicated problem. The driver made four or five runs at places to dump this load before finally picking this spot.
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Looking north to the city, ten miles away, from the south end of San Diego Bay. The arc across the middle is the bridge connecting San Diego and Coronado on the opposite side of the bay.
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Just past the salt works the route joins the excellent Bayshore Bikeway - a paved cycleway that closely follows the line of the bay for the next fifteen miles, all the way to the end of the long spit at Coronado.  The miles crossing the south end of the bay are the best though - there’s no road beside you, the reedy marshes at the south end of the bay are not far off, and the bay is full of birds.  Lots of birds.  Widgeons, Avocets, shovelers, coots, grebes, herons, egrets, stilts.  With a powerful zoom and a lot of time, you could compile a lengthy list here.  Even staying just on the bike path and seeing what’s close at hand it’s an impressive show.

Progress is very slow for the next five or ten miles.  Frequent stops, many photos.  Those I found worth sharing are bunched at the end of the post.

Just beyond the salt works we join the Bayshore Bikeway, which we’ll follow all the way to the end of the ride in Coronado.
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The coming miles follow the edge of San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, one of the best birding sights I’ve seen in this country.
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Looking east across the bay we see some real mountains. Julian, our intended pathway to Borrego Springs, is in there somewhere, 4,000’ up. Too bad we’re not crossing today, when the weather would be ideal.
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Another look across the bay, with the salt works on the left.
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Not long after turning north, the bike path picks up a highway on its western shoulder.  It’s still excellent riding, with everything you want to see still on the bayside anyway.  It’s just not as peacefully quiet, and the sounds of the birds don’t come through as well over the roar of the traffic on your shoulder.

A few miles from the end of the point the ride comes to the southern outskirts of Coronado, a village that feels like a cross between a bedroom community for the city and a seaside resort.  Big golf courses, big marina, nice beaches.  After a few miles following the shore line through Coronado, the bike ends at the terminal for the ferry back to San Diego.  A great ride, even with the first industrial eight miles included.

Rachael is taking a pass on dinner tonight as a health precaution, so I end the ride with a late afternoon lunch at a Greek deli, enjoying a souvlaki plate and a craft beer.  Craft beer!  Another plus about being back in the states again.  Afterwards I catch the ferry back to town, boarding just before sundown.  The ride across the bay at sundown is a pure delight, and something I didn’t really plan on specifically.   Most people ride this course in the other direction, but taking it this way and coming back to the city at sundown is really spectacular.

When I get home, Rachael is feeling back to normal.  We celebrate by going to a show at the movie house just around the corner, seeing a delightful new film we highly recommend to filmgoers: Knives Out.  So there are three good things about being back: bagels with peanut butter, craft beer, and a good movie.   We’ll miss Spain, but there are compensations.

Looking south along the west side of the bay, still on the Bayshore Bikeway.
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The Coronado Bridge looks like it would make a spectacular ride, if you removed the cars. I wonder if they ever close it to cars, like they do once per year with the freeway bridges in Portland.
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Jen GrumbyOh, that would be an incredible ride, sans cars.

And, yes! They could have entertainment and a coffee truck like Portland Bridge Pedal. And riders could take their time and enjoy the views.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYup, that’s the vision. Plus bungee jumping for the more adventurous.
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1 month ago
San Diego’s waterfront, from Coronado’s.
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It’s very easy to get from Coronado back to the city by ferry. Leaves roughly every 30 minutes throughout the day and early evening. $5, one way, bikes are free. Buy tickets at the boat.
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Just wheel them on.
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Jacquie GaudetThat style of rack really makes me nervous. I don't think bike wheels are made to resist forces from that direction should the bike be disturbed...
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1 month ago
Jen GrumbyThat looks great! Love that it's free for bikes.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetI don’t like them either, especially when the bike’s carrying a load. Also, they’re often a problem with disc brakes. This one is at least spaced adequately though, and it was a smooth crossing. If there’d been any chop I probably would have just held the bike myself.
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1 month ago
San Diego’s waterfront, from the ferry.
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It’s a busy and interesting waterfront, with ferries and pleasure craft passing by. This, according to the man at the railing, is an unmarked stealth cruiser, intended to be camouflaged.
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Jen GrumbyWhat stealth cruiser? I don't see any stealth cruiser.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYou’re so great, Jen. You made me laugh out loud.
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1 month ago
By chance, I caught the sunset run. We’re looking here across the naval air station. It was at atmospheric to listen to the sound of Taps come across the water at the end of the day.
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A male American Widgeon. Very common here.
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Bruce LellmanOk, so you took a photo of a painting in your place. But it's still a great photo!
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanBut, seriously, Scott, you get such great closeup shots of animals. We are constantly seeing amazing birds off in the distance and I invariably say something like, "If I was Scott I'd come away with a photo where the eyeball is sharp." We very much enjoy your bird shots.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanThe water made such an interesting background, alright. I took five or six photos of this guy, and all had a different quality.
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1 month ago
Black-necked stilts can’t really be confused with any other bird here, but it’s a cousin to the blac-winged stilts we see in Europe.
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Some sort of flycatcher, I assume; but distinguishing flycatchers is over my head.
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Jen GrumbyThis is a really nice photo, with the textured browns below and soothing blues above.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyIt is peaceful, isn’t it? It would look great on a seasons greetings card. A shame we don’t know what the guy’s name is.
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1 month ago
Jen GrumbyMaybe Bill will know?
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1 month ago
Bruce Lellman"...distinguishing flycatchers is over my head." That's a good one.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanOh, thanks for publicly mocking my poor grammar, my friend. I should have said “are over my head”, of course. I was probably confused because the bird was intransitive.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanI wasn't making light of your grammar but that "intransitive" is even a better one.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanI knew you’re not making fun of me, Bruce. I was tickled by your observation at the unintended, accidental humor of my words. I’m just humoring you back.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanYou are wittier than you think.
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1 month ago
A white-crowned sparrow. Well, make that two.
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The northern pintail, another elegant bird. This one was frustrating to photograph. Most of the time his head was underwater, so I had to time the shot to when he was due to emerge. And, most of the time he was either facing at or away from me, or in the reeds. Finally he sailed into the open at the best attitude.
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Jen GrumbyNice reward for your patience!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThese are the handsomest birds. I considered including more than one shot, because you can’t see all his best features at the same time. At another angle his neck has a magenta sheen (you can barely see a hint at I here) and his beak has a white stripe down the center.
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1 month ago
Jen GrumbyWow - quite a flashy fella!

Another lucky sighting.
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1 month ago
A whimbrel, I think; though possibly a long-billed curlew.
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Bill ShaneyfeltBill is so long and thin, I think it is a curlew.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Long-billed_Curlew/overview

If only I could remember half the stuff I look up... Sigh. I remember that I looked up the long-billed curlew for someone else sometime back, but here I am re-inventing the wheel so to speak.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltI think it was for one of my photos, actually. It’s a tough call from the evidence here, I think. I spent a fair amount of time comparing the two birds on allaboutbirds.org, and could be convinced either way.
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1 month ago
The American avocet is such an elegant bird, and looks so different in its winter plumage.
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A black phoebe, cooperatively perched patiently on a nearby sign.
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Ride stats today: 26 miles, 400’; for the tour: 27 miles, 400’

Today's ride: 26 miles (42 km)
Total: 27 miles (43 km)

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