Cycling California's Coastline

There is certainly something to be said about exploring an old familiar place in an entirely new way that lends itself to fresh perspectives and new memories. And because I am borderline obsessed with making new memories, I jumped at the chance to partner with my friends at Visit California to promote the Amgen Tour of California, currently happening NOW throughout the Golden State.

Cycling California's Coastline

The assignment? Trace one segment of the Amgen Tour from San Jose to Monterey to Morro Bay. Now, I definitely did not pedal this entire 200 mile stretch by bike, but I did commandeer a sexy Domane SL 6 Disc borrowed from my friends at Trek Bicycle Sacramento Midtown for a good chunk of each portion of the route which certainly got the job done. Admittedly, I was pretty nervous going into this adventure as it’s been years since I’ve courted a road bike regularly in my Portland bike commuting days. As it turned out, Visit California paired me with a local cycling enthusiast in each of my three destinations to experience the local cycling culture and let me tell you — there’s probably nothing better than seeing a beautiful destination through the eyes of an experienced local who knows the ins and outs of the area better than most, especially when it comes to bike routes.

After getting kitted at Trek in Sacramento (shout out to Carly), my friend Ryland and I hopped in a Jeep and embarked on what would be the adventure of a lifetime.

Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline

For more, check out my round-up on the California Now Blog.

San Jose: From Silicon Valley to Santana Row

Our first stop? San Jose’s infamous Santana Row district. I grew up in the East Bay, and have visited Santana Row countless times over the years for post-concert beers and shopping trips with girlfriends, but had never stayed the night in the area before. Turns out Hotel Valencia, Santana Row’s only hotel, was the perfect pitstop. After gorging on the best dinner of our lives at Left Bank Brasserie the first night, I was ready for my first long-haul bike ride along the classic Quimby loop with local cycling enthusiast Ron Aclan: a 18.5 mile journey with 2,500’ elevation climb. Joining us was my new friend Nathanael Billings, Seattle-based adventure photographer. Together, our clan enjoyed an afternoon ride in the San Jose foothills where Ron surprised us with an EPIC charcuterie board and beer tasting pre-prepared in the back of his car. Dinner that evening was at Mt. Hamilton GrandView, where we were treated to a delicious meal of ingredients sourced from a nearby garden and the best views of San Jose, followed by The Fairmont San Jose which I would highly recommend to anyone traveling to the area for business or pleasure. Then, Ryland and I loaded up the bike in the Jeep and off we went down the coast.

Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline

Monterey: Does It Get Any Better?

Not only did I grow up visiting Monterey, but I traveled there last year on assignment for See Monterey (my suggested weekend itinerary here) so it was a blast returning and getting to experience the region with fresh eyes. After meeting with the kind folks of Mad Dogs & Englishmen Bike Shop — Carmel’s first and only bike shop in over a century — I fell in love with e-bikes. Of course, it would be hard not to, after cruising down Pebble Beach’s 17 Mile Drive at 20mph! If you’re visiting the region, I HIGHLY recommend renting an e-bike from Mad Dogs for the day. Just make sure to bring a sweatshirt, as it can get a bit chilly when the winds pick up in the evening. We stayed at the newly renovated Embassy Suites Monterey Bay Hotel in Seaside which ended up being a surprising favorite to photograph.

Cycling California's Coast
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline

Morro Bay: Put Life On Coast

After our delightful stint in Northern California, Ryland and I made our way down the iconic Highway 1 to Morro Bay. Note: if you do this drive, allow at least five hours. Your phone will tell you a shorter amount of time, but it really does take that long to wind through this scenic highway, especially if you stop and take photos. Thankfully, Morro Bay is worth the effort. It was so fun meeting up with the local Morro Bay cycling team who were very helpful in suggesting local trails for a first-timer to the area. I ended up exploring a lovely path that hugged the ocean, which I’d highly recommend doing during golden hour if you visit. With scenic views of Morro Rock and fresh oysters from Morro Bay Oyster Company waiting after your ride, each mile on the saddle is well worth it. I can only imagine how fun it must be to watch the Amgen Tour cruise through Morro Bay, with the golden coast lighting the way! We stayed at 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites which was comfortable and afforded great views of Morro Bay’s charming downtown. I also enjoyed getting to know Kerri Jackson of Women Who Explore on this leg of the journey. Visiting? Stroll along the piers and sunset and keep an eye out for the many otters!

Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline

On The Hunt For Wildflowers

Following the Amgen portion of the trip, Ryland and I decided to explore even deeper and made the drive through San Luis Obispo to Carrizo Plain National Monument in search of wildflowers… and were certainly rewarded for our efforts. I’ve been fortunate to embark on many memorable travel experiences over the years, but some just stand out as exceptionally special. This trip definitely fell into that category. So grateful. I can certainly say that I’m inspired to hop on my road bike more frequently! Bike riding is truly is the best way to experience a new (or old) place. What about you — do you like exploring by bike when you travel?

Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline
Cycling California's Coastline

This content is produced in partnership with Visit California and Amgen Tour of California — as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Special thanks to my friend Ryland West for coming with me on this trip and capturing the video, and many of the photos pictured here.

Investing In The Future: What I Learned From Mexico City

I’ve spent my entire life ping-ponging up and down the west coast, having lived in Orange County, Seattle and everywhere in between. While today I call the mountains home, I am truthfully a hybrid of city and nature and find myself escaping to large cities frequently — San Francisco a few times per month, Portland and Seattle in the coming weeks, and Europe in May.

Mexico City (or Distrito Federal) had been calling my name for years. Or rather, the aroma of street tacos had been wooing my olfactory senses for years. Last month, I finally wrangled my friend Sarah to join me on a short holiday to Mexico City. It was a bit of a spontaneous decision (I know, nobody’s surprised) and purposefully, almost no significant planning took place before our plane landed. A cultural heaven awaited us. Street food was aplenty of course, but we also discovered art, music, churros, Aztec treasures, and a surprisingly modern metropolitan maze of a city — indeed, Mexico City is the largest metropolitan city in the entire North American continent, with over 20 million people calling it home.

Guide to Mexico City
Guide to Mexico City

In terms of cultural aptitude, Mexico City proved to reign higher than any other city I’ve had the privilege of visiting. Never in my travels have I encountered such a perfect marriage between modern metropolitan mayhem and rich colorful culture, with Aztec and Spanish heritage still largely at play. Simultaneously, technology is rapidly re-sculpting the face of the city, and nowhere is this more apparent than by climbing Teotihuacán’s pyramids and riding the subway all in the same afternoon.

Guide to Mexico City

In the same way that nurturing my love for exploring a big, strange city is so essential to my well-being, investing my time, mental and emotional energy, money and talents into things that make a difference to others and to our planet has become important these past few years. I’m noticing more and more brands making deliberate eco-conscious decisions; some even formulating their very framework on giving back in meaningful ways. PR stunts aside, not only do these brands inspire consumers to make more thoughtful decisions (the smallest changes can make the biggest impact!) but they enforce a healthier ecosystem for future generations to enjoy on our planet. I could list countless brands that come to mind, but the newest one I recently became aware of is COIN: a new conscious investing platform that encourages users to put their dollars where their hearts are… perfect for first-time investors, or those simply looking for creative ways to give back!

COIN is simple: unlike traditional investing, your money will only be invested in companies making a difference in the areas you care about most, like Climate Change, Clean Water, and Reducing Waste. I especially resonate with their Modern Cities Impact Area — according to the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations, 53% of the world’s population lives in urban areas (which is expected to increase to 68% by 2050). And for those who don’t live in a large city like myself, we travel to them all the time for work and play! Cities like Mexico City have always been havens for trade, economic structure, business and culture — they’re the taste-makers of the planet, and worth investing back into.

Guide to Mexico City
Guide to Mexico City

If Mexico City isn’t on your radar yet, it certainly should be. Here are a few first-timer tips:

  • Mexico City is much less touristy than other places I've been to in Mexico. Almost NO ONE speaks English. Google Translate helps in a dire situation, but I found that practicing my rusty high school Spanish was the best way to communicate.

  • Obviously you don't want to drink tap water anywhere (keep your mouth closed in the shower, use bottled water to brush your teeth, etc.), but you don't need to be as careful as I previously thought in restaurants and even eating street food. Everybody uses filtered water to wash veggies, make cocktails, etc. I was super paranoid about this for the first 24 hours then began to relax about it when in public.

  • I HIGHLY recommend staying in the Roma district... such a cute area. We stayed in kind of a crummy hotel… if I was going again, I’d look at Airbnb!

  • We mostly used Uber to get around, and it was cheap and easy. None of our Uber drivers spoke English, so again, be prepared to communicate in Spanish. We also took public transit which was relatively smooth.

  • There were definitely moments I didn't feel super safe. Multiple locals warned me to put my camera away. Don't walk around with your iPhone in your hand, etc.

  • My favorite museum was Museo Nacional de Antropología (doesn't accept credit cards). Book ahead for the Frida Kahlo Museum — they were sold out of tickets when we walked up to buy day of.

  • The street food is AMAZING. Eat it every chance you get. Our best meals were from street vendors. And it's super cheap! Of course they don't take cards, so you'll want to use pesos. I went to an ATM my first day and pulled out around 1000 pesos for my 5 day trip and it was about right.

  • Definitely look up El Moro, an amazing churro place. SO GOOD!

  • By far the highlight of our trip was the sunrise hot air balloon ride in Teotihuacan, about an hour away from Mexico City. We booked it a few days before via our hotel — we opted to book an 8 hour experience which came to around $200/person for the shuttle there, our personal tour guide, the 45 minute hot air balloon ride, a buffet breakfast, and plenty of time to climb and explore the pyramids on our own. It was AMAZING. It's kind of chilly up in the air so wear a light jacket. Bring extra pesos to tip.

  • There's phenomenal coffee in Mexico City — this article was helpful.

  • We didn't do this as we didn't find out about it until our last day, but definitely visit the old city on the canals. Google it. I heard incredible things.

  • Look up Mercado de Sonora, the witch market. Pretty crazy place.

  • Highly recommend exploring Barrio Alameda, and having a cocktail on the rooftop bar at the top and watching the sun set.

Guide to Mexico City
Guide to Mexico City
Guide to Mexico City
Guide to Mexico City

Have you been to Mexico City, or is it on your list?

This content is sponsored by COIN — as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Use promo code COIN2019 to receive $50 when you invest your first $100 at www.investwithcoin.com.