Saturday, June 5, 2010

My Green Trip to San Diego

This past Memorial Day Weekend I took a carbon-free trip from Los Angeles to San Diego. It was a pleasure. No stops at the gas station. No traffic-clogged freeways. No stress from driving. And most importantly no pollution from my car. Here is a recap of my "green" trip in pictures and words.

The trip started out on Friday afternoon in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles where I live. I biked from my apartment to the Wilshire/Western Metro Purple Line Station. The subway zipped me under the City of Angels to Union Station downtown.

On the subway ride I snapped a picture of this advertisement for Clean LA -- a public service website from the County of Los Angeles to educate residents, businesses and government about keeping L.A. clean and sustainable. There are guides to recycling, disposing of e-waste, water conservation and more.

At Union Station I then boarded the Pacific Surfliner Amtrak passenger train to the Solana Beach station. Some facts about the Pacific Surfliner: The route is celebrating its 10th year of service and is the most heavily-traveled line outside of the Northeast Corridor. But unlike the Northeast Corrider, the Pacific Surfliner is bike-friendly. There are wall bike mounts on each car to secure your bike vertically against the wall. It is super easy to mount your bike against the wall and there is usually space available.

After arriving in Solana Beach I biked to my aunt and uncle's home in Del Mar. Then it was off to the Padres-Nationals game at Petco Park in downtown San Diego with my uncle. The Pads' home stadium is naturally green because of its central location in the heart of downtown with easy access to public transit. But of course my car-loving family likes to drive so we did. But the location isn't the only thing green about Petco Park. There are recycling bins and solar-powered trash compactors all over the ballpark.

The Nationals won the game with a solid outing from pitcher John Lannan, home runs from Josh Willingham and Ian Desmond, and closer Matt Capps getting out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth to finish off San Diego 5-3. I was happy about the result and my uncle wasn't. The Padres went on to take the next two games to win the series so he was happy about that.

Saturday was a beach day where I got to gloat about the win while walking along Torrey Pines State Beach. Although the sun-soaked San Diegans didn't seem to care or even know what the curly W on my hat stood for.

Sunday I went for a 25-mile round trip bike ride with my aunt from Del Mar to La Jolla Shores. Los Angeles County take notice: San Diego County kicks your behind when it comes to being bike-friendly. While in L.A. I spend most of my time dodging traffic and avoiding potholes, in S.D. there are bike lanes everywhere. San Diego County is a biker's dream come true. I only wish L.A. would speed up their Master Bicycle Plan because they have a lot of catching up to do when compared to San Diego.

And a pleasant surprise was that there is mostly no parking allowed along bike lanes so unlike many of the existing bike lanes in Los Angeles such as along Venice Boulevard, there is no chance of getting injured or killed by the dreaded "door prize" -- a motorist opening the driver side door when a bicyclist is passing by.

Another pleasant surprise was that Sorrento Valley Road in Del Mar has been closed off to motor vehicle traffic and turned into a pedestrian and bike path following a campaign promise by former mayor Dick Murphy in 2001.

I didn't know that San Diego was designated a "Solar America City" by the Department of Energy. S.D. received Recovery Act funding for Solar America Special Projects in October, 2009. The city has put together a "Sustainable Energy Plan 2050" to create a renewable energy infrastructure. San Diego has a goal to reduce greenhouse gases to 15% below 1990 levels by 2015. Check out San Diego's Solar Map with an introduction from Mayor Jerry Sanders. Also check out S.D.'s Environmental Services Department website.

We biked by the Sorrento Valley Coaster Station, which is San Diego's commuter train and also provides service to all Padres home games from North County. The Coaster is celebrating 15 years of providing a cleaner transportation alternative to San Diegans.

When we got to the station is where we got confused about where La Jolla's Rose Canyon Bike Path begins so my aunt and myself decided to do a little off-road dirt biking. I had a mountain bike so could handle it easily but my aunt had a road bike so kudos to her for being a real trooper and not getting a flat tire. On the other side of the dirt path was the UCSD/University Towne Center area.

Once we got on pavement again it was a nice smooth ride down La Jolla Shores drive to the beach and lunch. Unfortunately there is no designated bike lane so we had to bike on the sidewalk because the cars fly down the windy, steep two-lane road so it is unsafe for bikers. The views were spectacular.

Of course when you bike down a hill it is easy to forget that you have to travel back up the hill. But at least we got good exercise! Since my father used to work at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration I took a picture of NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

On the way back to Del Mar we took the scenic route through Torrey Pines. We passed all the biotech labs, the world-famous golf course and the San Dieguito Lagoon. What a special place!

So yes Southern California it can be done without a car. And walking, biking and using public transportation isn't just for your maids and gardeners. It's for everybody!

Monday night after all the Memorial Day festivities I enjoyed a relaxing train ride back up to Los Angeles on the Pacific Surfliner. And during the trip I didn't watch CNN once so I couldn't get depressed about the awful Gulf Coast Oil Spill. Just remember that the reason BP was drilling for oil was because of our insatiable appetite for dirty oil and coal to run our cars, homes and just about everything else. We all must take responsibility for the environmental disaster on the Gulf Coast and transition to a clean energy future for America.

Here are more pictures from my green trip to San Diego:

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