Sunday, May 19, 2019

Carmel-By-The-Tandem: How To Hack A Bike-Unfriendly California Town



I am pleased to report I have successfully hacked Carmel-By-The-Sea - the Greenwich, Connecticut of California towns. By that I mean there are a lot of BMWs and salmon-colored pants to be found - and little in the way of either bike infrastructure or bike acceptance.

Seriously: I have been here since Friday and haven't seen a single, solitary bike rack - even a sharrow would be welcome at this point. Streets are wide and made for cars. 


I walked around this morning in completely empty streets, noticing how much more peaceful the town is without motor vehicles.


I also went to the beach to hurl my umbrella at the coming rain clouds in anger.


For those of you who don't know, the very word 'Carmel' is derived from the English word 'Car' which is defined as 'Thing that pollutes and destroys all it touches' and 'Mel' which is derived from the Gaelic Maol, used to refer to the word 'servant.'* 

When a town goes out of its way to make everything about cars and nothing about any other mode of transport, it ends up with an environment that welcomes, helps and serves no one but the motor vehicle. 

I knew this on the drive down to meet my wife at the Carmel Art Festival. She was staying at The Pine Inn for a couple of days prior to my arrival and sent me a very long text message that told me I wouldn't find a place to temporarily store my motor vehicle. Spaces around town were two hour unless after 7:00pm, at which time you can have your motor vehicle stored without worry until 10:00 the next morning. The parking lot/car storage center belonging to the hotel would be full, and one couldn't store a motor vehicle on the residential streets without it being towed. 

But on Ocean Avenue, the spaces that are perpendicular to the curb are unlimited. So if you can find a place to store your motor vehicle there, you're solid...until you have to go somewhere. 

In an attempt to find out if there was anything to do in Carmel-by-the-sea other than trying to find a place to store a car safely, I stumbled across workaround to the problem: I stored the car in a perpendicular space at dawn Saturday morning. And, in the back, I had this:


This is a 10+ year old Bike Friday Family Tandem that I bought a few months ago in one of the most Epic Tag Sale Finds ever. I had to replace the entire drivetrain and upgrade the seats but it doesn't change the fact the bike takes 20" tires and has an overall length so short I can put it in the back of my car just by taking the front wheel off. The bike can also be dismantled and put into two suitcases like my New World Tourist but I haven't tried that yet. 

So that's the answer: bring a bike to Carmel-By-The-Sea. And early in the morning, you should go to Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company on Ocean Avenue, which - and this should come as good news to fellow early risers - opens at 6:00am on Saturdays and Sundays. The photos on the walls there right now are by artist Robert Christopher Nichols.


After storing your motor vehicle in the perpendicular space on Ocean Avenue and walking up to get your coffee and breakfast, you walk back to your motor vehicle and retrieve your tandem. 

Ocean Avenue is a little steep, so you can simply walk the bike a couple of blocks down and pedal along a road called 'Scenic Road' - which, after a short while, becomes a one-way street with a oh-god-bless-them speed limit of 15 miles per hour. 

The direction of the road - which does live up to its name -  puts the ocean on your right, and the pace allows one to gawk at some of the impossibly pretty gardens on your left and  listen and see the waves on your right. 


It's a little over a mile and a half to get to Carmel River State Beach. There's no bike rack to be found there, so bring a cable lock to lash the bike to the wooden sign. When that's done, you've got...well, you've got the beach, which I was thankful to be able to visit before the rare-for-this-time-of-year rain started.


Yesterday the beach featured a teepee made out of driftwood. I can't guarantee it'll still be there when you visit, but if it's there be sure to step inside and stay awhile.

Because this is the weekend of the Carmel Art Festival, there were some plein air painters afoot - including Gretha Lindwood, seen here painting.



We pedaled back via Carmelo Street which gave us more houses to admire. On getting back to the car, I removed the front wheel and put the tandem away - only to take it out again so we could ride ten minutes to Crossroads Shopping Center - which we also managed to do before the rain started.


Did I mention that Carmel needs bike lanes and bike parking?

My wife bought a frame for one of her works and we had lunch before heading back to Carmel-By-The-Sea in the rain. From there, we put the bike away and walked with our umbrellas to the Carmel Art Festival.


The Carmel Art Festival ends today (Sunday, May 19th) at 3:00pm. In Carmel, you can hack the rain with a umbrella and hack the parking with a tandem, so come to the Carmel Art Festival today and bring more art into your life - and you don't want to miss your chance to own a work of art by Suma CM. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 


* This is true. 

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