Biking the coast: Swell on wheels

If you’ve ever driven between Ventura and the coastal town of Carpinteria, you’re familiar with the dramatic ocean vistas that beg for attention along the west side of the 101 Freeway. 

While making that drive in recent months, I’ve noticed a new bike path along a portion of the freeway, with bicyclists gliding blissfully alongside the ocean, shielded from traffic by a sturdy barrier. How, I wondered, do you get on that bike path? And is it possible to take it from Ventura all the way to Santa Barbara, which seems a more likely destination?

On a rare, free Sunday, I decided to find out. 

Before setting out, I scoured the Internet for information, but what I found was incomplete. I learned that the new bike trail, opened in September 2014, covers about four miles between Ventura and Carpinteria. But I could find no detailed maps showing how the bike trail connects with other bike paths. 

So, feeling like a true pioneer, I set off with my boyfriend to figure out the route. What awaited us was an epic, 29-mile adventure that took us past breathtaking beach scenery but challenged us with tedious stretches of road and confusing signage.

For those wanting to try this route themselves, I’ve divided this guide into segments. Pick a portion or ride the whole way. If bicycling fast, you can cover the entire one-way route in about three hours.

Starting out: Ventura through Emma Wood State Beach

We began our ride at the northern edge of Ventura, close to parking and the bike trail. You can park for free in a lot off of West Main Street, opposite Peking Street. There is also a bike shop close by, the Ventura Bike Depot, where you can rent bicycles for the day ($35 to $62). 

Begin your journey by heading north from the parking lot onto the bike trail that runs along Main Street. Follow the trail into Emma Wood State Beach, where it continues along the ocean for about two miles until you reach Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). 

Pacific Coast Highway

Get your fill of beach scenery along PCH. This approximately seven-mile stretch is marked by beach after windswept beach. Check out the surfers and seabirds, and gaze at the mountains rising up to the east.

Caution: You’ll be bicycling alongside the road, so look out for traffic. When you first enter PCH from the end of the bike path, there is no safe place to cross to the right side of the road. We rode along the left side until we felt safe crossing to the other side.

Hungry? Pull into Faria Beach Park on the left, about six miles in, for breakfast burritos and coffee at the Faria Beach Cafe. 

To continue, follow the painted bike path along PCH. You’ll leave the coastal views, pass a 101 Freeway entrance and ride under a bridge to Mobil Pier Road. This is where the new bike trail begins.

Oceanfront bike trail

Part of a $102 million California Department of Transportation freeway project, Ventura County’s new protected coastal bicycle trail is nothing short of gorgeous. Where bicyclists used to have to ride on the shoulder of Highway 101, they can now ride on a wide, two-way path beside the ocean, protected from traffic by metal railings. The ocean is within feet of your bicycle, and you can feel the sea-spray on your face.

The path takes you past the small community of Mussel Shoals, where you can stop for an oceanfront lunch at Shoals restaurant inside the Cliff House Inn.

Continue along the path until you hit Rincon Point — you’ll know you’re there when you see the surfers. The path ends at Bates Road beside the entrance to Rincon Beach Park. Here, the signs direct you under a bridge and onto the 101 Freeway.

To Carpinteria and beyond

Rincon Beach (also known as Bates Beach) is a beautiful spot for swimming and picnicking, and a worthy destination in itself.

However, to continue to Carpinteria and Santa Barbara, you will have to ride for a short stretch on the freeway. Follow the bike trail sign onto the 101 North. Then take the first exit — Exit 84 — toward Ojai/Lake Casitas. At the bottom of the exit ramp, turn left onto Rincon Road, then right onto Carpinteria Avenue. The three-mile ride will take you past the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve.

To explore Carpinteria, turn left when you get to Linden Avenue, which takes you into downtown. Otherwise, continue until you pass the Best Western Plus Carpinteria Inn, and turn right on Santa Ynez Avenue, which takes you over a bridge.

Onward to Santa Barbara

After crossing the bridge, turn left on Via Real and you will see the painted bike lane begin about half a mile in. The road is relatively unused by cars, although it runs next to the 101 Freeway, so there are fumes and noise. Continue for about five miles until you reach the small town of Summerland.

Summerland is a cute place to grab a drink, a snack, or browse antique shops. When you’re ready to continue, ride through downtown, past the “Big Yellow House” sign and the 101 Freeway North entrance. You’ll see a sign pointing to the protected bicycle trail on your left.

The trail again takes you out onto a road, North Jameson Lane; continue until you reach Olive Mill Road in Montecito. Carefully turn left on Olive Mill Road and follow it to the beach, where it becomes Channel Drive. Stop and take in the beauty of Montecito’s Butterfly Beach.

The final stretch

When you can bear to pull yourself away from the beach, follow Channel Drive up the hill and past the Santa Barbara Cemetery. Carefully cross Cabrillo Boulevard to the bike path that runs alongside the lake at Andree Clark Bird Refuge. Congratulations! You are now in Santa Barbara!

Continue on the bike path, crossing to the beach side at Milpas Street. Keep going until the historic Stearns Wharf is on your left. Stroll the wharf, where you can eat, shop and take in marine life at the Sea Center (part of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History). Or turn right from the bike path and follow State Street into downtown, where you can also browse shops, people-watch, and grab some food and drinks. Alternatively, you can collapse in a heap on the beach. Well done! You made it!

Returning home

The great advantage to this route is that you don’t have to bicycle back. Amtrak operates trains from Carpinteria and Santa Barbara. A one-way ticket from Santa Barbara to Ventura costs as little as $15. You will need to reserve a space for your bike when you purchase a ticket. Go to or call 1-800-USA-RAIL. Happy riding! 

Grieving Son bikes from Malibu to New York in vow to end cancer

When Tom Peled’s father died of abdominal cancer in 2011, he channeled his grief into a three-month, 3,000-mile bike ride through six European countries — from Berlin, Germany, to Fisterra, Spain.

Peled, who lives in southern Israel, is now tackling another continent. On July 29, the 24-year-old Peled embarked on another extended bike ride — this time from Malibu to New York.

He also has a different purpose in mind: to eliminate cancer.

“After he passed away, I was in a state of depression,” Peled said, referring to his father, Remy. “After eight years of thinking that [my father] would survive, I didn’t know what I wanted to do next or where to go. Everyone was trying to tell me what to do, and I felt that I needed time for myself, to reconnect.”

He felt that the best way to cope with his emotions was to challenge himself on both a physical and mental level. Biking has always played a significant role in his life, from biking to school as a child to biking the entire length of Israel in 2009 with a friend when he finished his service in the Israeli army. Thus, he decided to challenge himself by spending the summer of 2011 biking across the European continent.

He embarked with no set plans, intending to “just land and let things happen.” He allotted $25 for his daily budget.

“It was amazing seeing that deep inside, people are really good. I just shared myself and my story with people all along the way and people always wanted to help. I never once paid for a place to sleep. People at cafes or in the street would see me and start talking to me. Soon enough, they’d invite me to stay with them for a few nights,” Peled said.

It was exactly this reaction and response from the people he met along the way that motivated Peled to elevate his bike ride to a larger purpose.

“I felt that I needed to take this energy and this love for biking and make something bigger out of it. And with that, I came back to Israel and pushed it forward into what eventually became Bike for the Fight,” Peled said.

This time, Peled will not be riding solo. He will be accompanied by three friends: Roey Peleg, a medic, will ride with Peled; Eran Rozen will drive with the team; and Luca Seres, a film student, will make a documentary of the trip.

Peled’s ultimate goal is to eliminate cancer. He plans on reaching this goal by donating all the money he raises along the way to the Israeli Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), an organization that is solely dedicated to funding and supporting cancer research in Israel for the benefit of Israel and all mankind. Since its inception in 1975, the fund has raised more than $40 million for cancer research in Israel.

“I want to make sure the minds stay in Israel,” Peled said. “Israel has so much potential, but we are always lacking the financing for research, and often our scientists go abroad to research. I was really committed to making sure that the money goes to research and that it goes to Israeli research.”

Peled and his team officially embarked on July 29 when they visited Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu, where Peled used to be a counselor.

Both in Israel and Los Angeles, several “kickoff” events were held to send them off and to raise money. To date, Bike for the Fight has raised $40,000, almost half of Peled’s $100,000 goal.

Along the way, Peled will stop in Jewish communities, summer camps and sporting events to share his story and encourage others to join his cause. Thanks to Microsoft, an app has been created allowing people to track the team’s progress and donate. He encourages anyone to accompany him on any part of his trip. The Maccabi World Union, Hillel, the Israeli Embassy and El-Al all have been strategic in supporting, funding and coordinating events for him. Peled even met with both President Shimon Peres and Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem, to gain their support.

Although he does not have any clear vision for the future, he knows that he does not want this bike trip to be his last. He wants to do it again and again. Ultimately, he hopes that Bike for the Fight can be the “Livestrong of the Jewish world.”

To learn more about Bike for the Fight, visit their page on Facebook.

Friendship Circle cyclists bound for N.Y.

Traveling 3,279 miles in seven weeks — on bicycles?

That’s the plan for 11 cyclists riding from Los Angeles to New York City this summer to raise money for Friendship Circle programs.

The coast-to-coast ride began just after 4 p.m. on July 1 at the Friendship Circle of Pacific Palisades’ office, where organizers held a brief opening ceremony. The initial leg of the trip took the group and 25 local-segment riders approximately 20 miles to the Valley Friendship Circle’s office in Studio City.

The cyclists expect to reach New York City on Aug. 17. Participants in the cross-country ride hail from the United States, Israel, Canada, England and Australia.

Mendel Groner, a Friendship Circle International staff member who is coordinating the ride, said that while it wasn’t necessary to be an experienced cyclist, all participants had to begin training for the ride no later than April.

“It’s amazing and cool that these people are [spending] their summer, half a year really, to put in their hard work for this cause,” Groner said. “Each one of them has taken the responsibility to raise $5,000. These people are amazing.”

Riders will cover an average of 85 miles per day and will make about 36 stops visiting various Friendship Circle chapters across the country to meet with families and volunteers.

Friendship Circle, affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, pairs primarily Jewish teenagers and children with special needs in their area for bonding and social events.

The annual ride began last year, when three rabbis decided to ride their bicycles from Central Park in New York City to Los Angeles in just less than seven weeks. One of the men, Zalman Perlman, is originally from Los Angeles. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared July 6 — the day the trio left New York — Bike 4 Friendship Day. 

Around 25 additional segment riders, who will also raise money for the charity, are expected to participate at some point during the ride.

For more information or to register for a segment ride, visit

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