La Jolla – Imperial Beach – Chula Vista – Border Field State Park
We had some discussion about where this journey ends – San Diego (Jen’s vote) or the border with Mexico (mine, for a complete North-to-South). We went to the border.
Our final ride south started from La Jolla and comprised an 80km round trip down the Coronado peninsula in San Diego Bay, through Imperial Beach to Border Field State Park, up the east side of the Bay and finishing in Downtown San Diego where we would be staying for a few days.
We had a leisurely start following the coast – Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and across Mission Bay to San Diego Port. We took the ferry to Coronado, a 15 minute commuter shuttle across the bay. It seemed fitting to be on the water again and particularly as we had started this journey with a ferry ride.
We chose the route to avoid the highway border crossing further inland, which we thought would be grissly – frenetic, fraught and depressing. Our final stop had to be on the beach, after all we’ve been Pacific Coast PedElle-ing!
San Diego is ranked in the top 10 cycling cities in the US, reflective of the many efforts to improve bicycling in the city. For example, we were able to take the 24 mile Bayshore Bikeway from Coronado around the Bay, largely avoiding roads. There is, nevertheless, room for improvement – cycle lanes unexpectedly stop/ disappear/ cut across turning traffic. Not helpful. As ever, more ‘joining up’ is needed. Less of Exit 10, below – please!
Taking the Bikeway was really pleasant. We passed other Lycra clad cyclists and realised the route probably makes an excellent training circuit – if you want it flat! We had wide views across the bay, to the city and its southern outskirts. At one stage we were opposite the city’s industrial zone and were bemused by distinctive large, white mountains on the far shore, shimmering in the sun. We discovered on our return that this was The South Bay Salt Works at Chula Vista, the second oldest business in San Diego County.
The southern end of the Bay is a designated Wildlife Refuge a 3,900 acre salt marsh and coastal uplands home to many endangered and migratory birds and increasingly important as large tracts of former wetland have been filled-in, drained and diked. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded.
On leaving the Bay at the town of Imperial Beach we passed 2 Wheels Cycling Boutique with an impressive display of bikes including the latest range of Specialized Turbo electric models. We can concede now, E-bike is a wise choice for many of the cities we have passed through. Next door was Trident Coffee – perfect, we thought. But oh so wrong. Their USP is craft cold brew, canned to go. We sampled a shot, not pleasant, a Trident Tragedy! And we thought a missed opportunity. Located at one end of the Bay and next to the Bikeway, clearly popular for walkers and cyclists, and a quality cycle shop – surely a natural place for a groovy cafe serving decent coffee.
The suburbs of Imperial Beach gave way to stables and ranches. Then Border Field State Park, another important wildlife habitat of sand dunes and salt marshes. It is flat, exposed and was virtually deserted. The official track through the Park was diverted due to floodwater with sewage contamination; unpleasant. The website describes the Park as a ‘unique experience where these two countries meet…and delightful’. Frankly, we found it soul sapping. The border at this point comprises two security fences about 30m apart. On the Mexican side high density housing is being developed right up to the fence, as far as the eye can see. On the US side nothing but the beach and the park. A sharp and abrupt contrast.
Throughout the day we had been conscious of a heavy military presence. San Diego Bay is the largest naval base in the US hosting some 60 vessels. We had to skirt around Marine Corps Recruitment Depot, Coronado Naval Base, Naval Amphibious Base (where the SEALs train), Silver Strand Training Complex, Naval Outlying Landing Field and Imperial Beach Naval Base. The military ships moored in the Bay include USS Midway (now a maritime museum) commissioned a week after the end of WW2 and the first vessel that was too large to navigate the Panama Canal. It was used in Vietnam and as part of Desert Storm and decommissioned in 1992. It is vast and imposing from the water, even against a backdrop of the tall buildings in Downtown San Diego.
As we approached the border 4 helicopters were circling ahead. Not sure what they were making of us pushing our bikes through sand (the track detour) and darting in to the undergrowth (nature calling!). We made our way to the beach. Glistening sliver sand, deep blue sea, crashing surf. We had arrived. An enormous sense of gratitude and achievement completing what we had set out to do; healthy, safe and still the best of friends.
And for those who like stats. We have ridden some 4,500 km through British Colombia, Oregon, Washington and California States; climbed 45,000m; had one puncture; had one bike service each, which involved new chains, a new brake cable and replacement cogs. We have drunk over 200 espressos, slept in countless different beds, visited and drank fine (mostly!) wine in every wine region on the west coast and have eaten an awful lot of granola, yoghurt, fruit and bran muffins!
A great experience and where to next!