I frequently encounter the perception that old bikes are only good for short runs to the grocery store or the park, and that they're too fragile or slow or clunky to take on longer rides. This couldn't be farther from the truth, and especially so with old 3-speeds, many of which were built to be touring bikes, not just city bikes or leisure bikes. I proved this point today (without really specifically intending to) by taking my 1971 Columbia Sports III on its longest ride yet, about 30 miles round trip.
My route was primarily the Bayshore Bikeway, which you can find detailed with a map here. I packed a picnic, the camera, and lots of water (I sweat a lot) into the rear baskets and set out. There is something so normal, and yet so special about making a trip like this by bicycle. In the car, it would be a chore, but on the bike, it's an adventure.
First, I had to get downtown, which is where the route begins. The best way from my 'hood is to take Park Boulevard down to Broadway. It's mostly downhill and fairly wide. I turned west on Broadway and followed it all the way to the Broadway pier, where the trail starts beside Harbor Drive in a lovely bayfront park. Except for a few taxis whose turn signals apparently didn't work (grrrr), it was an uneventful ride through downtown.
Most of the route down Harbor Drive has a bike lane, if you could call it that. I might as well have been off-road. Just terrible. The photo below shows one of the better stretches.
Anyway, you take Harbor all the way down to National City, then you get on the Sweetwater Bike Path, a separated path with some pretty cool bike infrastructure running under I-5. I wish I'd taken a photo. From there, it's pretty much all seperated bike path down through Chula Vista and Imperial Beach and around the southern tip of San Diego Bay. The highlight for me was the desalination plant with evaporating ponds and giant mounds of salt.
Then, up the Silver Strand on another seperated bike path all the way into the city of Coronado. The path along here is separated from the beach by the roadway and a fence, but in the Silver Strand State Park, there are several tunnels that will take you under to the ocean/beach side.
In the city of Coronado itself, wonder of wonders, is a bike boulevard, with a fully separated, landscaped, and perfectly maintained two-way bikeway. There were so many cyclists on it that I couldn't stop to take a photo (and my panda skills are zilch). I was almost able to imagine what it must be like in Amsterdam or Copenhagen. I wish I had reason to ride this way more often, because it's really wonderful.
Finally, I caught the ferry from Coronado back to the Broadway pier, fought my way east on Broadway (it wasn't that bad, really, but traffic was pretty heavy), then back up Park, which was way less fun going up than down. Total cost for the five and half-hour outing: $3.25 for the ferry, and no worries about filling up the tank, finding parking, finding the right exit off the freeway, etc.
I got passed by a lot of spandex-clad speedsters on very expensive bikes, but it was very clear that they were on a different sort of outing than I was. They were on a "bike ride," while I was just using my bike to get to a new place I hadn't been yet. I saw a few like me, but not many, so while it was cool to see such amazing bicycle infrastructure being well-used, it was a little disheartening to see that the bikeway as transportation idea still has a long way to go around here. Probably it had a lot to do with when I went, and I bet I'd see some commuters if I was there on a weekday morning. All in all, a very excellent day.