Near and Dear Escapes: The Bike/Train Combo
Another in our occasional series about getting the heck out of town on your bike.
Looking for an out-of-town get-away but not ready to ride your bike the whole way? Let Amtrak and Caltrain help! Traveling by train sets a leisurely pace for relaxed bike touring. When planning your trip, be sure to check www.transitinfo.org for up-to-date train and bus information and schedules.
The main California Amtrak routes from the Bay Area are the Capitol Corridor, which connects Sacramento, Oakland, and San Jose, and the San Joaquin, which connects Oakland, Martinez, and Bakersfield. Both trains are best boarded at the Richmond BART station. An Amtrak ticket machine is available in the lobby on your way to the Amtrak tracks, which parallel the BART tracks.
Just about every other car on the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin trains has bike racks. Look for a "Bike" sign or ask. If there is luggage in the bike rack area (as often happens) just move it out of the way. Most train personnel understand the problem and will be helpful.
Here's a sampling of summer escapes to get your gears turning:
Santa Cruz: Caltrain* to the San Jose Diridon station; Amtrak Bus (Route 22) to Santa Cruz. Good camping in and south of Santa Cruz and there's a youth hostel in Santa Cruz.
South of Santa Cruz: Caltrain* to Gilroy (afternoon commute hours only). Ride Highway 152 to Mt. Madonna County Park (6.5 mi.). Stay in the mountains the first night. Ride down, way down, Hwy l52 to Watsonville and Highway 1 (15 mi.) and camp on one of the many beaches south of Santa Cruz. Kayak, surf, or just relax. Return to San Jose on the Amtrak bus from the Monterey or Santa Cruz Transit Centers.
Big Sur: Caltrain* to San Jose Diridon station; Amtrak bus to the Monterey Transit Center. Bike down to Big Sur, to Andrew Molera or Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. (For an easier trip take the Monterey-Salinas Transit bus to Big Sur from the Transit Center.)
*Weekend Caltrain service is currently suspended due to construction, so you'll need to take the Caltrain bus on Saturdays and Sundays. Or make it a 4-day weekend and travel on Friday and Monday instead.
Central and Southern California Beaches: Escape to the sun! Box your bike in San Francisco to travel on the Amtrak Coast Starlight to San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara. Next day board the Amtrak Surfliner with your bike and travel to beaches up or down the central and southern California coast. Bike camping at state parks is inexpensive and there are plenty of parks to choose from along the coast.
Sacramento or Davis: BART to Richmond. Catch the Capitol Corridor northbound. Enjoy the bike-friendly town of Davis, visit our state capitol, and pedal along the American River.
Yosemite: BART to Richmond. Amtrak's San Joaquin to Merced. Note: Not all San Joaquin trains take bikes. Check out www.transitinfo.org/Amtrak/bicycles.html. Bike or bus to Yosemite.
By Paul Nixon