Car-free adventuring

Written by tom


I’ve recently been inspired by the new blog Post-Car Adventuring, which details great trips you can take in the Bay Area with just a bike, some patience and an accurate watch. I’ve been itching for the chance to do a mini bike tour. A friend’s visit led to an impromptu day off work and a car-free adventure to Santa Cruz, CA and back.

Our plan was to bike the 65 miles there, taking our time, spend the night, and then return in time for work the next morning.

The nice thing about this type of adventure is that you don’t have to carry very much. My last bike tour was heavily loaded. This time, I simply shoved a change of clothes, toiletries and a Frisbee in one lightly loaded pannier. If you’re traveling with young or inexperienced riders, ditching the cargo removes the hassle of load balancing a bike, and helps prevent riders from tiring out too quickly.

I’ve lived in the Bay Area for quite a while and most trips to Santa Cruz involve speeding down 280 and then praying that you don’t get stuck in stop-and-go traffic on Highway 17 with all the other beachgoers. Bike touring couldn’t be more different.

We popped over the mountains behind Stanford University and cruised down Highway 1. Along the way, we stopped at the San Gregorio General Store (the only place to see Lycra and leather together), Pigeon Point, Ano Nuevo, and even my favorite strawberry farm, Swanton Berry Farms. Our pace was leisurely but not that different than other folks in cars doing similar things. In fact we started to recognize a few cars that had passed us more than once.

Cruising into Santa Cruz late on a warm summer evening was stunning. We hadn’t arranged any hotel, so we rode around until we found something workable near the boardwalk. The hotel clerk didn’t bat an eye when we told her the bikes were coming with us.

The most amazing part was the ride home. A 6:20 AM Highway 17 Shuttle took us and our two bikes to the train station in San Jose. From there an express train whisked me past morning commute traffic to my home, where I grabbed some bags and breakfast and then took my normal train into work. Hard to believe, but I had arranged a totally car-free adventure, eliminating the stress of driving all that way home.

The next time a hooky day comes my way, I’m inspired to do another trip without the car. Anyone else have great car-free trips (anywhere)? Let us know in the comments.

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