by Sherel Purcell
Bicycle clubs are thriving in the dominant car culture of Orange County, California. The Bicycle Club of Irvine has over 500 active members who take part in the club's many scheduled rides and social events. Randy Profeta of Trail's End Cycling Center recently invited us to join them for a Saturday morning cycle in Orange County.
While most of Irvine's city streets are flat enough for an enjoyable cycle, the bike lanes are positioned so that when the right hand turn lane branches off, cyclists are stuck in the middle of two lanes of cars. A safer and more scenic suggestion for visiting cyclists is to stick to off-road bike trails such as the San Diego Creek Bikeway which goes straight down to Newport Beach passing UC Irvine and conservation areas. This multi - use trail can become quite busy on weekend mornings so cyclists have to observe speed limits.
The San Diego Creek Bikeway is the main artery of Irvine's system of Class 1 bikeways and Class II bike lanes. Starting in Newport Beach, it joins the scenic Back Bay Loop Trail where the San Diego Creek empties into Upper Newport Bay under the Jamboree Road Bridge. It terminates near the junction of the 405 and 133 Freeways after tracking the creek upstream. Many of the 44 miles of off-road paved Class I bikeways and 282 miles of Class II bike lanes offer opportunities for loop trips.
Where to Stay
The Irvine Marriott is a good choice for travelers who want to be near the John Wayne Airport and the 405. Although there is no free wi-fi in the rooms, there are two iMacs with free internet access in the new contemporary lobby that features a Starbucks coffee shop. The centerpiece, a giant fireplace is a great place for a signature cocktail on chilly evenings while below the adjoining patio a heated saltwater pool is popular on sunny afternoons.
Where to Eat
If you're in the mood for casual fine dining, try The Winery Restaurant and Bar. Start with their amazing version of the popular Italian caprese salad, featuring Santa Barbara heirloom tomatoes and fresh burrata mozzarella. Their melt in your mouth Zinfandel Braised Short Rib is perfectly paired with a California Zinfandel from Turley. The Winery does take part in events like Irvine Restaurant Week and California Restaurant Month. Watch out for these - a 3 course prix fixe lunch is only $20.
Next door to the Irvine Marriott, Il Fornaio offers high-end Italian cuisine.
Other Things to Do
The Tustin Ranch Golf Club, just north of Irvine, is a favourite of OC Register readers who appreciate the "public play, private feel" of the track. Designed by Ted Robinson in 1989, it uses water as a significant hazard that comes into play on holes 9, 11 and 18. In order to conserve natural resources, the course uses reclaimed water.
Named for the creek that runs through it and set against the backdrop of the Saddleback Mountains, Oak Creek Golf Club, designed by Tom Fazio, opened in 1996.
The 18-hole par-71 ranked "4 Stars" by Golf Digest in 2009 was also voted "Best Places to Play". Oak Creek also features Orange County's "Finest Practice Facility," as rated by Southland Golf Magazine readers in 2009 and 2013.
In 2013 the Golf Range Association Of America selected Oak Creek Golf Club as A Top 50 Public Range. With a 100-yard wide natural grass practice tee, three practice greens and a large practice bunker, golfers of all skill levels have access to world-class resources to help improve their games.
A favorite with golfers and non golfers alike, the Oak Creek café is a 19th hole must. Their shrimp tacos and chicken tortilla soup pair well with local brews best enjoyed around the crackling fireplace with excellent views of the course.