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California's North County rewards cyclists with stunning views

By Alan Snel
The Las Vegas Review-Journal
Posted on 7/28/2015, 11:05 AM

The feeling had been nagging at me for years, the urge to ride a bicycle along the Pacific Ocean in North County, that area north of San Diego.

From Oceanside through Carlsbad and Encinitas to Solana Beach, Del Mar and Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

All on old U.S. 101, the coastal road.

South of the super sprawl of Los Angeles is that strip of roadway along the Pacific Ocean that has the best views and craft beer and bike riding you'??ll find anywhere.

On a day in May, I biked from Oceanside south to La Jolla, about 25 miles or so, and was returning north when I caught up with a bicyclist in Del Mar named Scott, a fertility drug researcher for a pharmaceutical company outside San Diego.

As bicyclists do, we chatted and pedaled in rhythm as we cycled toward Encinitas, where Scott lives.

He said he hasn'??t been bike commuting as much as he would like.

But as we pedaled together north on the rolling hills overlooking the ocean, we soaked up gorgeous views of the Pacific, and I think Scott will be biking more of his 26-mile round-trip commutes after realizing how beautiful the vistas are.

When I told him I was from Las Vegas, our conversation ignited. Scott said he loves the Los Angeles Kings and visits Las Vegas every September for the Kings' preseason game at the MGM Grand Garden.

When Scott peeled off in Encinitas to head home, about 25 miles north of San Diego, I continued north to Carlsbad and the craft beer holy land -- Pizza Port, which makes its own beautiful beer in addition to doling out an amazing array of other brews.

North County on the Pacific is a great place to ride. Indeed, you see a steady flow of roadie cyclists in Spandex and jerseys propelling impressive road bicycles. But there are other bicyclists, too, on beach cruisers, hybrids and mountain bikes.

It'??s rolling hills south of Oceanside, which is the most middle class of the North County ocean cities. It has a pier and a gritty main street with a bike store on Coast Highway called Alan'??s Bike Shop. I like the name of that place.

Oceanside leads into Carlsbad, an upscale city with a vibrant downtown and my favorite North County ocean pizzeria-beer joint, Pizza Port at 571 Carlsbad Village Drive, about a mile from the ocean.

Heading south, Carlsbad leads into Encinitas, which has a more funky, less conventional feel than Carlsbad.

There are many spots to stop and enjoy the ocean. And if camping is your thing, there'??s South Carlsbad State Beach, a skinny strip of land that includes camping spots on a bluff overlooking the Pacific.

Encinitas includes several communities, including Leucadia on the north side of the city and Cardiff on the south. While biking south on the 101, a fun detour is to make a right turn in the center of Encinitas and go a few blocks west to Neptune Avenue, which is a delightful street overlooking the beach and ocean.
As you head south on 101, you will bike through Solana Beach and Del Mar, before the road veers away from the ocean into hilly Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

Take a right turn on to Torrey Pines Road, and you will pass the the Scripps Research Institute, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the University of California at San Diego and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. There'??s tree cover and a residential feel, with the ocean to the west.

It's only a few miles before you eventually pedal through La Jolla Shores to the village of La Jolla and La Jolla Cove Beach.

It'??s a small beach town with a business district that includes a few small markets, a pizza place and a place to buy beach supplies.

And when you'??re done with La Jolla, just turn around and head north back to Carlsbad to enjoy a pizza and beer.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at or 702-387-5273. Follow him on Twitter: @BicycleManSnel.

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