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A Flat Ride On San Diego Bay is Always A Good Idea.

55 Miles down. 45 to go to hit 100 miles in 28 days. This past week I did the same ride at two different times of day and WOW what a difference. I rode from downtown San Diego Gaslamp District to Shelter Island and back. The path is flat and pleasant. The first ride I did at 6:30 am during sunrise. The second ride was on President's Day at 2:30 pm.

I started on 6th avenue right in front of the Hard Rock Hotel. Did you know that if you park at a meter on 6th avenue & J there is no charge until 10:00 AM?? What a score!!

Harbor Drive heading toward Hilton Bayfront bridge.

I rounded the corner and headed toward the Hilton Bayfront and Convention Center and snapped this gorgeous pic of good ole mother nature at her best. Just as I passed the convention center I encountered one of my favorite sculptures from Niki Saint Phalle. She was a local sculpture/artist here in San Diego for many years. She's known for her mosaics. You'd probably recognize her work around town at Balboa Park, and in Escondido at Queen Califia's Magical Circle.

I used to do boot camp at the park between Hilton and Convention center where Niki's huge face sculpture towers over the grassy lawn. I never knew anything about this sculpture at that time. Several years later, my cousin in-law and I learned about the sculpture when we went hiking through Kit Carson park in Escondido and stumbled onto the gorgeous garden called Queen Califia's Magic Circle loaded with larger than life mosaic sculptures. After that visit I noticed mosaic sculptures everywhere in San Diego. Between the sunrise and the reconnection with NSP, it was an excellent start to the ride.

Niki Saint Phalle sculpture in front of Hilton & Convention center

As I rounded the corner of the convention center I noticed a collection of people gathering that were wearing T-shirts that said Alpha Project. They looked helpful and organized but I didn't know what it meant until I went home and looked it up later that day. Apparently, it's an organization that helps, empowers, educates and assists with recovery services for homeless people. I suppose since the convention center has been a homeless shelter during Covid, that would make sense there'd be collections of helpful people from organizations like The Alpha Project hanging around the grounds.

I rode the flat path past the fancy yachts on the bay and through Seaport Village. Bikes are technically not permitted on this path however, since it was so darn early, and since Covid killed tourism, I felt safe with the risk. I rode down a little further and took a loop at Embarcadero Park. I was delighted to see The Shell is complete. The Shell is a brand new outdoor live music venue that was supposed to open in 2020. Covid had different plans for it but it seems like it will open as soon as California lets us gather again.

The Shell music venue at Embarcadero San Diego

I had heard about The Shell at the end of 2019 at a function on the Petco Park playing field. The San Diego Symphony was there sharing their partnership with Petco Park. They were excited to be offering it to groups for functions like general sessions, keynote speakers and concerts. I was thrilled to have another live outdoor music venue in San Diego. I remember seeing Radiohead in that same spot many many years ago and couldn't believe I hadn't seen more concerts at the Embarcadero over the years. I love the San Diego Symphony Summer Pops sessions but really loved seeing Radiohead in that location. As I understand it, The Shell is predominately for San Diego Symphony. It will also offer public live concerts and private events. In any case, I had not seen the completed project until this ride. The grounds were well manicured. It appeared they had worked out the logistics of lines and ticket booths. I was not able to take a pic because I was riding but snagged this one from the website. It looks exactly the same in real life, minus the chairs.

Riding this stretch was nice because the water was calm and clear. There was barely anyone on the road or path. I really got to feel the sun and breeze that a nice San Diego morning has to offer. The view of the fancy boats was inspiring.

I headed to Harbor Island. From Gaslamp to Harbor Island it's a little over 4 miles. Jumping into Harbor Island from Tom Ham's to Island Prime is exactly 1.5 miles. Doing the full Harbor Island loopty loop is exactly 3 miles. It's another gorgeous and easy ride. There is no path. It's all road riding on Harbor Island but it was fine and I felt safe. Harbor Island holds such a special place in my heart.

It's the view from here that made me move to San Diego almost 21 years ago. I will never forget having traversed the city for 3 days going on interviews, navigating the SoCal hills, one way streets and freeways that abruptly ended.

I had an interview at the Sheraton on Harbor Island and it was this view, this one right here, that made me say "I am going to live here some day." After that day I went back to Ohio and told my family I was moving to San Diego. I ended up working at the Sheraton on Harbor Island and had many a karaoke night at Tom Ham's Lighthouse before it got pretty. I remember Harbor Island before Island Prime and C-Level lounge. It used to be an old buffet, I can't remember the name of it, but the well marinated San Diegians would go for blue hair specials and early bird brunch. Harbor Island is so much more built up and beautiful than it was 21 years ago. However, every single time I reach the end of the stretch behind C Level, I take that same deep breath in and exhale, feeling so thankful to be here still. It was magical on this ride to see it at sunrise. And that view never ever gets old.

A couple days after the sunrise ride I did the ride on President's Day at 2:30 PM. This was much different than my nostalgic peaceful ride earlier in the week. I'd still do it any time of day but just know that doing this ride after 10 am any day of the week is going to be busy. I was amazed at the number of tourists or local staycationers were on the road. I rode mostly on the road and stayed off the path this time from Gaslamp to Harbor Island due to the massive amounts of people walking the path. Everyone was nice and it wasn't annoying but it would not have been a good idea to ride on the path that time of day.

Harbor Island to Shelter Island is another 3 miles. I like how this ride takes you to a new part of town every 3 - 5 miles. It breaks up the monotony and gives you a different flavor with each switch. As I rode through Shelter Island on President's Day I felt so happy for the restaurants that had been previously closed. Their patios were bustling and it felt like there was a renewed hope in the air. People enjoyed beer and food at Jimmy's Famous, Eppig Waterfront Biergarten, and Mitch's Seafood. It appeared that everyone was physical distancing, wearing a mask and being respectful. It made me feel safe and excited to go back when I have more time to grab a beer after a bike ride, relax and enjoy those stunning bay views from any one of the patios I passed. Next time I'll go further down the island to Fathom Bistro which is right on the water with a killer view of the San Diego skyline. Reuniting with their pulled pork kimchi sando and sipping a Societe Beer from Fathom at the end of a ride will be a nice treat.

For both rides I made my way back from Shelter Island to Gaslamp District much faster than on the way there. I am not sure why but it felt easier on the way back. I did another quick loop on Harbor Island to get in a quick extra 3 miles and headed to my car.

I am so thankful to be doing this 100 mile 28 day bike challenge for the good physical and mental health benefits. However, the unintended consequences of the trips down memory have been wonderful. I highly recommend this ride for all bike riders--beginners and advanced. You can go at your own pace, stop for a beer, see a sunrise or sunset and experience the best of San Diego in a quick 12 - 15 mile round trip.

Virtual Tour De Palm Springs in full effect, 55 miles down, 45 miles to go. If you have a bike route I should try or a ride playlist I should jam too, send it my way on my Instagram account here. To get alerts on Mandi's journey to 100 miles in 28 days, add her to your RSS feed or check back on the Brain Trails blog on If you have a meeting or convention you want to book in San Diego, or have questions about San Diego hotels or venues, ping me at anytime.


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