Car-Free Report: To Newport Beach and Back (With An Unplanned Sidetrip To Pomona That Totally Sucked)

So I had a bit of a short-notice biz conference thing I had to attend Thursday night through Saturday afternoon down Orange County way at the end of this past week. My first thought was, “Well at least it’s a driveable destination.”  But then given my predilection for alternate modes of transportation, as the date of departure drew near the inevitable light bulb went off: maybe it was car-freeable?

Sure enough, some poking around the Metrolink website eventually resulted in the following multi-modal transit plan that I executed last Thursday with a backpack that weighed in at 20 pounds and barely managed to hold everything I would need for the two-day excursion:

  1. Bike from Silver Lake to Union Station
  2. Take Metrolink’s 2:25 p.m. Orange County Line to the Santa Ana station (arriving approximately 3:30 p.m.)
  3. Bike from Santa Ana to the Santa Ana River Bikeway to PCH to the Hyatt Regency on Jamboree in Newport Beach
  4. Congratulate myself

Of course being that I’m an idiot and a Metrolink noob and neither Union Station nor Metrolink wastes much time, effort, personnel or adequate signage shepherding its idiot noob passengers, I unwittingly ended up on the Inland Empire train out of Union Station. Finally realizing the mistake as the train was pulling into Pomona about 40 minutes later, I disembarked into the middle of that nowhere and I posted the following on Twitter that pretty much summed my sentiment right up:

“I have never so epically failed at public transpo. I am pretty much inconfuckingsolable.”

Depressed? Yep. Defeated? Nah. So I toyed with the idea of riding out in a southerly direction until I bumped into the Santa Ana River Bikeway, but I knew that crapshoot just wasn’t viable. So instead, some three hours of seething and loathing and nashing later — including additional one-way tickets costing $16 —  I was back at Union Station where the fail had begun, and my bike and I were on the 5:40 p.m. OC Line train, having successfully quelled an inner uprising to just chuck it all, bike home and drive the hell down.

About 40 minutes later we were in Santa Ana, but now being well into the evening, I wasn’t all that thrilled at the thought of biking a pretty long and isolated stretch of an unfamiliar river bikeway at night, so instead I reconoittered with the help of my iPhone and charted a course that would get me to my destination and whose surface streets would hopefully be not too bike-unfriendly.

But “street” is an operative term when dealing with the likes of the thoroughfares down south that are wide and dark and it seems like a full mile can pass between traffic signals and whose posted speed limits are 50 mph, which is very often treated as a suggestion, especially by fuckers in jacked up 4x4s who like to play Blow By The Cyclist. Sure the streets offer adequate space on the shoulder to pedal and even striped bike lanes were found on portions of Edinger and Red Hill, but on the massive autopian expanses of MacArthur and Jamboree on a bike? After dark? Pffft. You’re a stranger in a strange land, baby — and stared at like you’re emitting a noxious odor. Nevertheless I prevailed across the 13 miles of sourpusses and speed demons to arrive at the hotel shortly before 8 p.m. with the clerk alerting me that “We don’t get too many guests who bike here!”

On the backside of the event, I set out from the hotel at 1 p.m. and had time to venture onto Balboa Island and take the ferry ($1 for peds; $1.25 for cyclists) across the channel to the Balboa Peninsula where I made my way along the beach bike path and Balboa Boulevard to PCH and onward to the Santa Ana River and its bikeway upon which I ventured inland at a leisurely pace for some eight miles to 1st Street. Exiting the river from there I then worked my way over to Santa Ana’s train station with about 40 minutes to spare before the arrival of the 3:06 Metrolink back to Union Station — the weekend fare of which was $6.50.

Having installed myself on the correct train, I arrived at Union Station about three-quarters of an hour later and biked home immediately thereafter via Los Angeles Street to 2nd across downtown through the tunnel and upward to Sunset Boulevard back to Silver Lake.

Last but not least, here’s a timelapse compilation of my bike trips from Newport to Santa Ana, and from Union Station back home:


10 thoughts on “Car-Free Report: To Newport Beach and Back (With An Unplanned Sidetrip To Pomona That Totally Sucked)”

  1. Living in Orange County I, too give you a pat-o-the-back. it’s rough sometimes.

    Being that I live just a few hundred yards from the Santa Ana River Bikeway, the wife and I have considered riding from Orange to the beach. Is it too grueling for beach cruisers??

  2. If you ever have to come down again, let me know. I ride around OC a lot, and can tell you the ins and outs.
    That Business area at night sucks. Did you take Jamboree all the way down? or the off street bike trail?
    I bet those same fuckers that crowd my bike lane on a uphill curve on a daily basis.

  3. Thanks Fraz and Darleene!

    David: A leisurely roll on beach cruisers between Orange and the sea to me would make for a lengthy roundtrip (probably around 20 miles or so), but to me would be an ideal use of the Santa Ana River Bikeway. You should definitely give it a try. About the only resistance you’ll meet are whatever inclines coming out from under an overpass. I’d recommend starting in the morning to better avoid any onshore headwinds that have a tendency to kick up in the afternoons. Those can be a real drag.

    Fezjez: It’s a deal — and there’s an off-street bike trail? I would’ve been all over that had I known. Instead my entire on-street route between Santa Ana and Newport Beach was as follows: Grand south to Edinger. East on Edinger to Red Hill. South on Red Hill to MacArthur. East on Macarthur to Jamboree. Jamboree to the hotel just before PCH.

  4. Wow–yeah, MacArthur is basically a freeway in some stretches…four lanes on each side, and most of the drivers going 60mph+. You’re a brave man!

  5. If you are heading to Newport again, I would suggest going one stop further to the Tustin station. Head east on Edinger (which turns into Irvine Center Drive) until you get to the bike path at Harvard. (option for on or off street path) Take it south, and follow the path till it runs by the riverbed, which will take you down by UCI and to Jamboree. From there you can continue on the Back Bay Loop to the Hyatt/PCH.
    The City of Irvine has a great map of their pat system Here and the Orange County Transit Authority has one here

    If I’m off next time your down, I will join you for a ride.

    BTW, which camera are you using?

  6. You’re on Fej. I definitely see a non-biz daytrip to NB at some point in my future and your tips about the Tustin stop and route will make things much more enjoyable.

    The cam I’m using is a Canon SD1000 rigged upside down to an old handlebar headlight mount. I then flip the footage upright in Quicktime.

  7. “Of course being that I’m an idiot and a Metrolink noob and neither Union Station nor Metrolink wastes much time, effort, personnel or adequate signage shepherding its idiot noob passengers, I unwittingly ended up on the Inland Empire train out of Union Station.” Will

    No you are not an idiot this is a common problem.

    On my random how to get from Union station to Riverside (via) Pasadena I pointed out this bs quirk. I actually put this in bold,”Make sure you’re on the right train, one goes to Orange County.” And this is something that should be fixed, since no one thinks this is an important thing to announce and I sort of think it is. Even in NY they announce where you are going and people are used to taking the train there.


  8. I once tried to take the train to LA. First, if I ever want to go to LA, I have to leave before 8:50 am, which sucks.
    Second, from Orange, the trains split: one to LA, one to the IE. I accidentally took the one to the IE. When I got off in Anaheim Hills, my only options were to wait like 5 hours for a train coming the other way, or cab it home. I did the latter.
    Third, Metrolink SUCKS for n00bs. Their schedule isn’t very easy to read right off the bat……which is why I went the wrong way.
    Last, what’s with the jacked up times????? So I HAVE to leave before 9 in order to be in LA before 3pm, and if I should take the 8:50 train from Orange, I’ll have 5 minutes at best to find the Burbank-bound train. Which, as I’m a n00b, would be unlikely that I’d make it. So I’d be stuck at Union Station for 2 hours. Never mind that if I wanted to train to LA for the night, I’m screwed on getting home after 8pm!

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