CiclaValley’s Car Free Family Vacation

I love writing about bike rides with expansive scenery taking me to far out places, but sometimes planning simpler excursions can be just as fulfilling.

This past weekend, the CV family had our first out of town vacation that didn’t involve our own motor vehicles whatsoever and it felt just as epic as anything else I’ve done.

It was just a one night getaway down to Dana Point, but the thought of being stuck in typical OC traffic always bookends the trip with sour notes.

The plan was to have CV Jr. ride in her seat on my back rack, mount two panniers and a bike equipment bag in the front, and the wife would carry two larger panniers on hers.

She also added a picnic blanket on the side for good measure.

We woke up around 7am making final preparations waking CV Jr. an hour later essentially throwing clothes on her and tossing her in the seat within minutes.

Since this was the first time with this set up on this bike, I now realized why LA Bike Dad’s first rule about having the proper bike was getting a step through frame.

On further review, I actually realized I didn’t make it down to #8 on his list until there was something I was doing proper. I still felt comfortable though.


Balancing bikes on Metro with no bungees!

We made our way over to one of our breakfast places, Eat, where we had to draw the line on my daughter’s fidgetiness on eating so we could make our way to the NoHo Metro Station.

Of course, the subway’s departure time didn’t match their website’s, so instead of making it in plenty of time, we barely caught a train lucky not to be trapped on the next one which would have made our timing a bit more precarious.

It’s not that we were cutting things too close, but you always have to factor in the unexpected / expected potty needs from CV Jr.

Luckily, her resolve was strong and we made it onto our train in plenty of time.

I’ve taken my bike on trains before, but this was my first time with one on Metrolink.


Didn’t even have to unload my panniers on Metrolink.

Finding the Bike Car was easily and to our surprise we were the only ones with bikes.

The train ride was essentially all through urban areas, but CV Jr. had an amazing time watching everything go by.

There’s just something about having your child travel without the impediment of them being strapped in that gives them such a sense of freedom.

She was singing, pointing things out and making up her own stories about places as we went along.

The pleasure was all mine.


“Look over there!”

We pulled into San Juan Capistrano around noon and while we were ready to head to our hotel, but we decided to take in the old town area instead.

CV Jr. was pretty antsy from the train ride so letting her blow off some steam on the nearby playground was the perfect remedy.


Playground photobomb.

After about an hour and an iced coffee later, we organized ourselves and started making our way down the San Juan Creek Trail.

The start was a bit auspicious as some confusing signage had us on the wrong side of the river on a graveled section.


Next time I ride with wider tires in case of gravel…

Balance was a bit of a factor as I lazily kept my skinny tires on, but after a slight hiccup we made it to the adjoining section.

The remainder of the ride on the bike path was pretty straight forward, but while we were going downhill, I knew I’d prefer the ride back because of the wind direction.


The more usable portion of the San Juan Creek Bike Trail.

After about three miles of riding, we made it to Doheny State Beach which was completely packed with Labor Day action meaning we had to be careful of any wily youngsters popping out unexpectedly.

We were almost completely there except for one significant last hurdle: the hill climb to our hotel.

Eighty feet of elevation doesn’t normally scare me, but when I’m already well over my wheelset’s weight limit, you’re in for quite a haul.


This is the “easy” part of the hill.

About halfway up, the pitch reached 15% and while common sense told me I should stop, I was determined to make it up.

With a child in tow, you can’t quite get out of the saddle, so I gritted my teeth and pulled somehow pulled through all the way to the entrance.

Checking in, there were a couple of great benefits of having our bikes.

First, we could wheels our luggage straight to our room, since it was all attached to the bike.


I was tempted to use one of the hotel’s free rental bikes…

More importantly, we saved the $37 for parking valet plus any additional tipping. That’s money in my pocket!

We headed straight for the pool where CV Jr. was convinced she could swim across it even though she could only make six strokes at a time before tiring herself out.

Still, we spent almost two hours at the pool meaning we had a tired little lady on our hands.


Available water = endless energy

There was a local trolley we decided to take, but as we were going to make the switch to biking after waiting an extended period of time, the bus decided to show up.

Of course, we got off at the next stop which would have taken us just three minutes of walking had we known our way around.

On cue, CV Jr. fell asleep during dinner and the wife and I had a relaxing dinner over the snores.

Walking back was a bit of a haul carrying my daughter’s sleepy body up that hill, but we all went to bed at an early hour and slept longer as a family than we have in ages.

Waking up around 8:30am, we headed back to the pool for about as long as Ryan Lochte was convincing before heading to brunch.

Packing up was easy and we made it out of the hotel around 11am and made our way back up the San Juan Creek Trail.

There were a lot more cyclists around enjoying this bonus day off and I was so happy I was right about the wind direction.


Other bikepackers on their way back.

We had to take Amtrak back since Metrolink wasn’t running this line today, but the wife decided to push our train back an hour and a half to hang out.

When we made the request, we got the last two bike spaces on the next train. I didn’t know they were that precise with this counting.

We spent a good amount of time at the Zoomars petting zoo and then grabbed an ice cream before jumping on our train.

Sure enough, when we were boarding, the conductor had our names on the reservation and we got the last two slots.


No swallows, but I knew where we were.

There was a group of cyclists who were making the return trip from Solano Beach and of course, I had to talk cycling with them!

After they exited in Irvine, the conductor told us there was a set of seats for us upstairs and I knew CV Jr. would enjoy this offer.

She loves taking it all in from this perspective and kept referencing the Amtrak map trying to figure out where we were.

We barely made the next subway at Union Station and before we knew it, we were having dinner at as my daughter calls it, “Pitfire Artisan Pizza” in NoHo.


Happy times getting ready for our train back.

This was only a one day trip, but it was so hassle free that it felt like we were away for days.

There’s just something about not feeling tied down looking for parking, waiting for the valet to show and people honking at you while you put your daughter in her car seat.

If you look just at the particulars, our trip might not sound that exciting, but as for the experience, this is something we’ll never forget.