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My Summer Vacation

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Amtrak, the traffic decongestantI worked my way through college on the Boston & Maine Railroad. As a Gandy dancer I made great money laying track during the scorching summer months around Boston. This summer the idea of vacationing via rail has really grabbed my imagination. It’s not an original idea; I’ve been following The Path Less Pedaled where Russ and Laura chronicle their bicycle touring adventures. I’ve been living vicariously through their stories, so as they started planning a new adventure for this Spring, I was all over it. Their plan is to take their Brompton fold-up bikes on Amtrak and combine bike touring with train travel, presumably to get through some of the boring places. So I ordered a fold-up bike and configured it just as they did, Sage Green was my custom color choice, and soon I’ll be taking my own train and bike tour.  But first I have to go pick up the bike, in Portland.

Brompton’s are made to order in the UK. Clever Cycles in Portland has a great website where I could customize the bike; I did all this at 1am in Boston then I waited four weeks for the bike to be built and shipped. Dylan at Clever did some local customizations, adding a LED light powered from the front generator hub and beefed up tires. Meanwhile another month has gone by as I juggle my schedule and coordinate with friends – I’ve gotta take this bike out for a shakedown cruise. I leave today for 3 days in Portland.

Here at home I’ve been busily outfitting our bikes for this Amtrak excursion. Four bikes (for me, my wife and two teenage boys) need racks for panniers that will hold a change of clothes and a few tools, spare inner tubes and lots of sunscreen. Each bike needs lights, of course they had lights, but for a trip like this where we’ll be relying on the bikes for all our transportation, I wanted ‘rainy night in Oregon’ lights. I got ’em.

The original fantasy was to take the family to Copenhagen, but the boys need summer jobs and I wouldn’t want to rush a trip to Europe, so instead I call this Copenhagen-West. Here’s the plan: For the 4th of July long weekend we’ll get up early and ride to the Irvine train station. Because we can bike through Shady Canyon, it’s only 12 miles – lots of hills though; we’ll be wide awake by the time we arrive! The 8:30am Pacific Surfliner takes us and our bikes to Los Angeles where we change trains, boarding the Coast Starlight for San Luis Obispo, arriving around 3:30pm. We stay right downtown in SLO, so we can kick back, but what I’m hoping for is to talk everyone into taking a side trip to Avila Beach; it’s only 22mi round trip and we could linger at the beach all day.  Whatever we do, I look forward to what the bicycle travel industry calls an active vacation. What’s the alternative? Drive the car through mind-numbing traffic then watch the boys crash in the hotel room watching pay-per-view; well I may not have a cure for that, but I’m hoping this trip will invigorate us all.

After a few days in SLO we get back on the train, heading south to Santa Barbara. The train station is right at the foot of Stearns Wharf where we’ll enjoy the fireworks and wander through Sunday’s Arts and Crafts Show along Cabrillo Blvd. My big idea for Santa Barbara is to bike to dinner at Piatti’s in Montecito one night; it’s not too far and the food is worth it – watch the garlic dip though!

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