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 favorite 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.