Prior to a few weeks ago, if someone playing the word association game with me had said, "San Clemente;" I would've answered, "Nixon." (His house in San Clemente was nicknamed the "Western White House" pre-Watergate.) I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I say that most people don't associate Richard Nixon with FUN. Thus, when our good friend recommended San Clemente for a keep-the-kids-occupied-so-they-won't-bother-us outing, I was understandably skeptical. Where was he going to suggest we play next? The Reagan Library?
Yet, my friend had already earned some serious street cred. Last year he organized a METROLINK train trip to visit the petting zoo in San Juan Capistrano. That adventure was a HUGE SUCCESS:
^ Two children not bothering their parents! Look at all the leg room! Look at the comfy chairs!
In prior blog posts, I have already thrown numerous hosannas at METROLINK, but for those of you who have not memorized all of my wordsmithing, let me refresh your memory. To say I love those damn trains is a major understatement. Short of making friends with someone who has a private jet or carjacking a Rolls Royce with its chauffeur, METROLINK is indisputably the most comfortable way to explore SoCal.
The morning of our train ride LA Bike Mom's cover was blown. Let me explain: My lovely wife is more of a "smell the flowers" kind of gal than a raise her heart rate to 200bps endorphin maniac. On occasion, I have gently encouraged her (shamed/barked/picked a fight) to increase her cycling pace lest our destination erode into dust prior to us arriving there. To end our bickering, I finally gave up and bought her an electric bike. But, on this day, we were running late for the train and the electric bike was in the shop. In order to not miss the train, she needed to pedal herself down Sunset Blvd in record time...
It was like watching a movie where the paraplegic miraculously walks...
We arrived EARLY. Now that we know she's been goldbricking (like I said all along!), I'm not quite so certain we need that electric bike...To be continued.
At Union Station, we locked up the Urban Arrow, then I lugged the baby and 400lbs of beach "accessories" onto our train. The trip to San Clemente was one hour and fifty minutes which sounds like a lot, but it doesn't feel long. The time flew by as the parents chatted and the kids entertained each other.
Here is the best part:
The train lets you off RIGHT NEXT TO THE BEACH (San Clemente Pier Station). You dismount the train; walk thirty meters; your toes are in sand. There is also a small village on the other side of the tracks where you can purchase any provisions you forgot to bring.
The Party Crasher chillin' in the Kelty Beach Cabana.
All three families with whom we were traveling had a spectacular time. Following five hours of beach play, we loaded all the kids back on the train:
Most of the kids fell asleep on the train. When we arrived back at Union Station, my wife and I were concerned about biking the kids down Sunset Blvd at night, so we took an alternative route utilizing the protected bike lanes through much of downtown. This was the first time my wife had ridden protected bike lanes in LA (bike lanes that completely separate cyclists from cars). The ever skeptical, vigilant mom declared that the bike lanes were, "Fantastic!" (Thanks LADOT). Now may we please have these everywhere?
In order for less confident cyclists like my wife to leave her car at home, we need protected bike lanes. According to city stats, 50 to 75% of the trips on Sunset Blvd are less than three miles - easy biking distance for most adults. How many Angelenos expressed outrage on their Facebook walls about Trump withdrawing from the Paris Accords who then drove a half-mile to pick up their kid from school? According to Alissa Walker, if Angelenos left our cars at home two days a week LA would reach the emission reduction goals of the Paris Accords. Two days a week. More protected bike lanes = saving the world.
But what about the unintended consequences the opponents scream!?!? Like living longer? Less pollution & asthma? Less wear on our roads = lower maintenance costs = lower taxes? Stronger small businesses as people on bikes spend more money locally? Teaching our kids to be self-sufficient? A livable planet for our grandkids?
The protected bike lane on Los Angeles Street. Ridiculously safe.
A sleepingBig Bro, a wide awake Party Crasher, & a bike full of beach crap traveling home.
THE WHERE AND THE HOW AND THE HOW MUCH
Since our family was running late for the train, we rode in the Sunset Blvd bike lanes. Otherwise, I avoid riding on Sunset Blvd when I have kids on my bike.
Bike parking is on the north east side of Union Station near the bus plaza; in the underground parking garage about fifty feet past the big fish tank. A sign alleges that the bike parking is monitored by a security camera, but I would recommend bringing a high security U lock or chain. If you don't want to leave your bike parked there all day, there is bike parking available on METROLINK trains. All of the train cars have parking for two bikes at the front of the car. There is also often a "bike car" in which the bottom floor of the train has room for about a dozen bikes. We took my wife's bike with us on the train and locked it to a heavily trafficked bike rack next the train depot in San Clemente.
We purchased our METROLINK weekend day passes directly off the Metrolink App on my iPhone (you cannot purchase weekend day passes on weekdays. You HAVE to purchase them on the same day you are traveling). On Saturdays & Sundays day passes are only ten dollars for adults. Up to three children five and under ride free with a parent. When the conductor asks for your ticket, you simply open the app and they scan the barcode on your phone's screen. FYI - Metrolink day passes do not work on Amtrak trains. If you don't have a smart phone there are Metrolink kiosks at Union Station.
We dismounted the train at the San Clemente Pier stop. Check the Orange County Line timetables in advance to plan your return trip. The trains run infrequently on weekends.
Our safer nighttime path from Union Station home:
We rode straight from the main exit of Union Station and entered the protected bike lanes on Los Angeles Street
We took a right onto the unprotected bike lanes on 1st street.
Turned left on Broadway where we took the sidewalk to the protected bike lanes on 2nd Street
Right on 2nd.
2nd becomes an unprotected bike lane after you exit the tunnel, but the bike lane extends to the 1st/2nd/Glendale Blvd. intersection.
Hop onto the sidewalk up Glendale Blvd to Echo Park Lake.
Walk or (illegally) ride your bike on the pedestrian path around the lake. The alternatives all suck.
Left on Park where I usually stick to the sidewalk with kids. Left onto the sidewalk on Sunset Blvd all the way to Silver Lake