By Carol A. Wood, author of NycCarAccident.net
September 8, 2012
The destination for today’s coastal bike ride was Mitt Romney’s 3,000-square-foot oceanfront mansion in San Diego’s posh La Jolla suburb.
As the New York Times reported in June, the ur-capitalist had filed plans to demolish the structure, Spanish tile and all, and replace it with an 11,000-square-foot behemoth to contain his multiplying family. In town visiting my own diminutive relations, I was curious to see this folly for myself.
And the route happens to follow the pretty, bike-friendly old Highway 101, descending the spectacular cliff above the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and meandering around the rocky, jewel-like coves where as a child I first encountered the wine-dark sea.
To the passerby, the façade of 311 Dunemere is hidden from the thoroughfare and barely noticeable—maybe 40 feet wide, with a low roof—belying the enormous villa lurking in the lot just behind it. It perches on a tiny appendix of a narrow, curb-free, one-way alley. A notice of pending construction fluttered ominously on the garage.
Here is a link to his house on my route.
I tried to imagine how construction equipment could be transported down this cramped lane.
Would it be airlifted, or brought in by boat? Where would the Secret Service go—pre- or post election? One SUV would take up the entire alley.
About 20 feet across the lane, the most vulnerable neighbor is shoehorned into an angular lot with a couple of quiet terraces. It was not hard to imagine how the Romneyfication of this organic little corner could become an obnoxious eyesore.
Although this ’hood now belongs to millionaires, it used to be just a nice beach town. With nostalgia, I thought of the converted garage I once rented three blocks away, on palm-lined Belvedere Street. (A neighborhood rumor cited by the Times has it that the Romneys will now buy a larger property.)
Curiosity satisfied, I put my head down and hightailed it to the Old Town transit station. For a lazy cyclist on a 63-inch fixed gear, this meant maxing out at about 20 mph, pedaling like crazy. This daytrip was supposed to be short and one-way, and if I missed the 3:30 train, the next wouldn’t come until after 6 pm.
I streaked through Pacific Beach, ignoring the world’s best ceviche carryout (corner of Grand and Bayard). I
blew past the bifurcated tourist mecca that is Mission Bay, a gentle public park and artificial bay backed up against a screaming freeway. I arrived at the station 20 minutes before the train—only to learn there would be no train.
No Coaster. No Amtrak. All trains were cancelled due to track work. This situation was so dire that friendly SDT employees blanketed the station, counseling the confused.
(Note to travelers: Trains out of San Diego are roll-on bike friendly, with virtually no limit on bikes on the Coaster commuter train.)
My choices were to ride home 25 miles on an empty stomach and stiff legs, or take two long bus rides with a transfer at a shopping mall (buses can carry two bikes), or call my mom to come get me. Not much of a choice.
I headed north through congested Pacific Beach, avoiding the fast food and convenience stores out of distaste. Bypassing the longer climb up Torrey Pines Drive, I followed the inland bike route through Rose Canyon, a bucolic trail but for the high-decibel Interstate 5 running alongside it.
A chocolate cookie gulped on the sprawling UCSD campus got me up the Del Mar hill on Highway 101, and a perfectly crisp $3 chicken taco at Roberto’s in Solana Beach was worth waiting for.
The weather was gorgeous: filtered sunlight, temps in the 70s. In keeping with the changing climate, however, the air was unnaturally humid.
On this Saturday after Labor Day, much of my route was calm and lightly trafficked by San Diego standards. The coastal bike routes now are pretty seamless all the way downtown—especially compared with what we had when I was a kid, which was nothing.
And in 50 miles of cycling, drivers on this day were almost uniformly courteous, though I did my part too. This perfection was spoiled, of course, by one hothead who honked at me one mile from home.
Getting stuck without mass transit in San Diego could have been a nightmare. But with my beloved bike, great
weather, and the whole day to myself, it was a joy.
Carol A. Wood is the author of NycCarAccident.net, a not-for-profit Web site for cyclists and pedestrians struck by cars.
Note from Ed: Mitt Romney owns 6 homes. Although we still haven’t seen his tax returns from the past 10 years, he earned 43 million dollars in the last two years alone. To see all of his homes, visit Zillow.