16. Bike Salinas: What to Do in the Monterey County Seat
Biking in Monterey County is much more than just the coastal trail.
Experience the beautiful Salinas Valley,
Salad Bowl of America–and then some!
Looking for John Steinbeck and think you’ll learn a lot on Cannery Row? Look in Salinas, the heart of Steinbeck Country. Have a gourmet lunch of Salinas Valley produce in Steinbeck’s birthplace and boyhood home. Visit the National Steinbeck Center, including the agricultural museum. Discover the most authentic taquerias in East Salinas. Experience Oldtown on an Art Walk.
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Details on those, plus many more Salinas tips, below!
And then? Well, you could do like Alex (above) does. Go ahead, bike from Salinas to the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail too.
Cruising Salinas on a Sunday afternoon
This Salinas section of Tips for Bicycling Monterey County was originally written for tourists. It now has plenty of tips for locals as well! You’ll find Salinas places that are among the hundreds countywide giving discounts to bicyclists–residents and visitors–on Thursdays; those Salinas spots are highlighted below!
Here are more hot tips:
First weekend of the month is a good time to be in Salinas. First Friday Art Walk (5-8 p.m.) in Oldtown. First Saturday is the usual date for Salinas Bike Party’s monthly event. Check SalinasBikeParty.com for updates.
Salinas Bike Party is a fun monthly event, begun in Aug 2012. SBP welcomes all types of bicycles–anyone willing to follow Salinas Bike Party rules, including observing all traffic laws (e.g., red lights). Click here to learn more. SBP is a courteous social bike run, to help folks “get on a bike, have fun.” SBP emphasizes that this is not a “Critical Mass” type ride but if considered a mass, then it’s a Courteous Mass.
Salinas Bike Party was among the nation’s bike parties highlighted in journalist Ron Cassie’s story, “Bike Party – a fresh new way to take back the streets,” in the 5/3/13 Grist. (To read Bicycling Monterey’s comment on the story, click here, then scroll down.)
And look what’s coming–perhaps as soon as August 2013!
Volunteers are working to create Monterey County’s first Ciclovia/Open Streets event. Click here for details, and for how you can help.
Did you know Salinas is home of Monterey County’s only high school mountain biking race team? Details on that–and more you may not know about Salinas–below.
Photo courtesy of Salinas High Cowboys Racing
Think Monterey Peninsula is paradise? East of Eden is amazing, too!
No wonder “Salinas” and “Pastures of Heaven” are often uttered in the same sentence, even by those unfamiliar with native son John Steinbeck’s book. The Salinas Valley is beautiful. And in spring, if you travel the Monterey-Salinas Highway 68 or other routes, you’ll likely see cattle grazing on lupine-covered hills–pastures of heaven, indeed! (Click here for tips if biking Monterey-Salinas corridor/Highway 68.)
Salinas is Salad Bowl of the World and home of the National Steinbeck Center. Marcus Mumford is among those who has discovered the pleasures of Steinbeck Country. When Mumford & Sons chose four United States locations for his Gentlemen of the Road tour for summer 2012, Monterey County was named one, because of Mumford’s love for Salinas and all of Steinbeck Country.
What Mumford may not yet know: Salinas is even better by bike.
Salinas bike map
Salinas has provided 95 miles of connected bikeways for travel throughout the City and continues its work to complete the City bicycle network. (Reference: News Release 05 07 2012 Salinas Council Pedal Power.) As part of the Transportation Agency for Monterey County’s Complete Streets assessment, meetings were held with City of Salinas transportation leaders to plan more improvements for biking, walking, and transit users, as well as drivers. See what’s ahead: Scroll to pages 66-69 in this TAMC document http://www.tamcmonterey.org/committees/bpc/meetings/2013/May/PACKET.pdf
Salinas visitor centers
Discounts because you ride a bike in Salinas
Salinas business and organization leaders—including Steinbeck Center—are among the ecology-economy partners who are participating in the HER Helmet Thursdays project, offering discounts to cyclists in Monterey County. See the front-page story about the project from the 2/1/10 Salinas Californian.
Salinas Californian multimedia journalist Scott MacDonald, who took the photo for that HER Helmet Thursdays story, mounts his camera to his bike to get many of his best shots in Salinas!
Discounts for bicyclists on Thursdays!
Below is a list of some Salinas participants in HER Helmet Thursdays. For a complete list of hundreds of these extra bike-friendly places in Monterey County, including any new Salinas participants, click here.
Each of the names on this list is a clickable link. Click any name to go to their HER Helmet Thursdays listing.
- Aquablue Skin & Body Spa
- The Bakery Station
- Courtyard by Marriott
- Elli’s Great American Dinner House
- First Awakenings
- Fox California Theater
- Gino’s Fine Italian
- Golden Fish
- Grower’s Pub
- Guadalajara Grill
- La Plaza Bakery & Cafe, East Salinas-Bardin Rd
- La Plaza Bakery & Cafe, East Salinas-N. Sanborn Rd
- La Plaza Bakery & Cafe, West Salinas
- LALLA Lounge
- Michael’s Grill and Taqueria
- Mountain Mike’s Pizza, 931 W. Alisal
- MYO Pure Frozen Yogurt
- National Steinbeck Center
- Noodle House
- Portobello’s Rotisserie Cafe
- Red’s Burger Joint
- Residence Inn by Marriott
- Rollick’s Specialty Coffee and Internet
Rosita’s Armory Cafe
- Steinbeck House
- Tacos El Jaliscience, Alisal
- Taqueria la Arrolladora
- Yangtse’s Taste of Thai
- Zeph’s One-Stop
“When I shopped for my bike at a local bike shop, I told them: I’m not a mountain biker or anything, I simply enjoy biking around!” The Salinas resident below learned there are now even more reasons to love biking around Salinas and all of Monterey County–discounts at HER Helmet Thursdays spots! From beach cruisers to bike commuters to roadies, fixie riders, and MTBers, people riding any type of bike can get discounts on Thursdays for biking in Monterey County.
Steve Nichols at the Salinas Valley Fish House.
I’ll be on the coast, hadn’t thought about Salinas…
Bicycling around Salinas is great! It’s warmer than the coast, it’s flat, and most streets are wide. You’ll have added special memories of Monterey County by visiting our county seat, memories less savvy visitors may miss out on.
As Patrick Brady/Red Kite Prayer reported after riding the Sea Otter Classic Gran Fondo in 2011: “The single most important thing I can say about the Gran Fondo [Carmel Valley Route, which includes Salinas Valley] is that it boasts one of the prettiest Gran Fondo courses I’ve ridden….. The opening 40 miles [primarily Salinas Valley] were countertop flat…all the beauty with only 1/3 the suffering.”
Are you a serious cyclist like Patrick Brady–or like Jan Valencia, who bikes daily from his Seaside home to his Salinas business? Jan finds that ride a breeze and can give you tips; find him in this site’s Serious Cyclists section. There you’ll also find Frank Henderson and Phil Yenovikian, who love to help others bike commute between Salinas and the Monterey Peninsula.
Below: Frank Henderson on Alisal at Blanco Road, Salinas
Frank had just come from teaching bike safety at the Monterey County Youth Center. There’s plenty of room in Salinas and all of Monterey County for volunteers to teach bike safety and bike tech skills to youth. Many youth love to bike–or once did–and need our support.
Remembering the late Salinas 16-year-old Kyle Bradshear and others who lose their life in tragic accidents, Frank and others stay motivated to help bicyclists be safe on the roads. Their efforts range from teaching safety skills to cyclists to advocating for improved bike infrastructure.
All or no cycling? Bike-and-ride!
Maybe you’re not like Jan. Perhaps you think there’s no way you have the time, or energy, to include Salinas in a cycle outing? Okay, no worries. See this site’s bike-and-ride section!
The Monterey-Salinas Transit System (MST) makes it easier for you to include both Salinas and the Monterey Peninsula in your Monterey County bike outings. Other cyclists travel by train to Salinas, e.g., from the San Francisco Bay area. You’ll find detailed, specific tips for both in the bike-and-ride section.
Here’s just one example of an easy bike outing: Take public transportation, such as MST bus or Amtrak train, to Oldtown Salinas. Enjoy the National Steinbeck Center, which is very near the transit center and train depot, along with other Oldtown spots. Then bike out of Oldtown via Pajaro (through residential streets that have a bike lane) to Gino’s or Elli’s/LALLA Lounge at the outskirts of Salinas, just off Highway 68/Monterey-Salinas Highway. This is a flat, easy ride, and you will come away with a closer experience of the local community.
You’re in Steinbeck Country!
Salinas is the home of literary great John Steinbeck, author of East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, Travels with Charlie, and more.
Visitors from all over the world come to the National Steinbeck Center. Not only is the Steinbeck Exhibition Hall a literary lovers delight, its permanent exhibition halls include a place to learn about Salinas Valley farming in the Steinbeck Center’s Rabobank Agricultural Museum.
The Steinbeck Center also has changing art and cultural exhibits. See what’s up for current exhibitions. And there’s much more, including a variety of programs throughout the year, for all ages and backgrounds.
As mentioned above, the Steinbeck is near the Oldtown Salinas MST transit center and the Amtrak train station.
Want a first-hand experience of farm crops?
After visiting the agricultural museum, or just biking along the fields of the Salinas Valley, you may be very hungry for fresh local produce. Among the many opportunities in the Salinas Valley are these:
- Weekly Oldtown Marketplace, a farmers market-plus!
- Six days a week (resting on Sundays): The Farm, located off Highway 68. Their demonstration farm is certified organic, and much–although not all–of the produce sold in their produce stand is also. There are fun activities and special events at The Farm too; check out their website.
- In East Salinas, you’ll often find roadside carts bearing fresh, local produce–so convenient for residents, and a fun stop for visitors too.
History buffs will appreciate that Oldtown self-guided tours are available in two formats, both of which can be helpful to bikers out exploring: (1) a paper Historic Oldtown Walking Tour guide; and (2) an accompanying Real Salinas Historic Tour guide in a cell phone format (831/401-9587).
Where to get the paper copies? Contact Trish Triumpho Sullivan at the Oldtown Salinas 411 visitor center/Destination Salinas for details (see below); reach Trish by phone at 831-435-INFO (435-4636). Or try Sarah Smith at the Salinas Welcome Center.
Serving as a Concierge in Oldtown Salinas:
Trish Sullivan of Destination Salinas
On June 30, 2011, a brand new Salinas Welcome Center opened on 1213 N. Davis Rd; phone: (831) 757-8687. It is managed by Sarah Smith.
The Welcome Center includes helpful amenities, like bicycle racks, clean bathrooms, and free WiFi!
There is also an Oldtown Salinas visitor center, Destination Salinas/Salinas 411, which is operated by Trish Triumpho Sullivan at 222 Main Street, Salinas, 93901; phone 831/435-INFO (435-4636) – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional Salinas info is available from:
- Salinas Valley Chamber, 831/751-7725; Mon-Fri, 8-5.
- A source of general visitor info that is available 10 a.m to 5 p.m., including weekends too and most public holidays, is the National Steinbeck Center, 831/775-4721.
- And even in this Internet world, you just can’t beat a public library reference librarian for a reliable source of local info! Contact the City of Salinas Public Libraries (there are 3 branches); reach the main branch, John Steinbeck Library at 831/758-7311, where you may ask to be transferred to reference.
Over a century old and counting: California Rodeo
A much-anticipated annual event is the California Rodeo Salinas, which draws more than 50,000 fans to Monterey County annually. Visit the California Rodeo site, where you’ll find details on the The Kiddie Capers parade and the Colmo Parade. (For a gallery of kids and parents biking in the Kiddie Capers parade, click here.)
Most people find Oldtown Salinas a wonderful place to start biking. Then venture into other parts of town, too! On August 1, 2010, the borders of the bike lanes running alongside farm fields were in full bloom in North Salinas (not far from HER Helmet Thursdays spots La Plaza Bakery & Cafe [1 of 3 in Salinas] and HHT spots the Courtyard and Residence Inn by Marriott). Cosmos and other flowers had been thoughtfully planted at the ends of field rows along Davis Road, a delightful surprise for cyclists and others.
Salinas bike shops and services
There are terrific bike shops in Salinas. Please refer to Bicycle Shops, Services, Clubs and Resources in Monterey County.
Unfortunately, there are not yet bicycle rentals available in Salinas. Meanwhile, BYOB (bring your own bike) or get an all-day rental from elsewhere in Monterey County.
Special bicycling events and activities
- Monterey County’s Sea Otter Classic, world-renowned bicycle races and festival, takes place just off the Monterey-Salinas Highway 68.
- As of August 2012, Salinas remains the home of the only high school cycling team in the county, Salinas High School Cowboys Racing! Check their site for schedule of activities.
- Salinas has a large community of avid fixed gear/singlespeed riders and has a Salinas Valley Fixed Gear blog.
- Salinas is also home of BMX World Championships competitor Shawn Carden, a Salinas High student. Click here for details.
- Salinas Valley Criterium hosts races, including for youth. See Criterium post on this site.
- Salinas Police Activities League (PAL) puts on bicycle safety rodeos for children and teens. Click here for a report on their 2012 rodeo, and for related links.
- The AIDS LifeCycle ride comes through Salinas annually. Cyclists ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles in this fundraiser. East Salinas resident and Salinas public school nurse Jeff Richman has participated and will be happy to answer your questions. Click here to learn more.
Keeping it green
Salinas restaurants are saying no to styrofoam / polystyrene packaging. On August 16, 2011, the Salinas City Council approved a ban on styro. This is another step in Salinas meeting its environmental goals. Mayor Dennis Donohue signed the United Nations Urban Environmental Accords as well as the US Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.
Help the City of Salinas, along with other Monterey County cities, in enforcing the styro ban. How? The Monterey County Weekly makes it easy to acknowledge restaurants that already use compostable or recyclable containers, and remind those that do not. Alternatively, contact the restaurant manager directly. Restauranteurs are busy people, with a lot to keep track of ! Don’t assume they don’t care if they still use styro; instead, trust that they want to do the right thing and will appreciate a polite reminder.
Art and music in Salinas
Caminos Del Artes is an East Salinas Arts group that provides free art, music, and dance classes in low-income areas of Salinas. They also put on a variety of arts festivals annually. Check out their Día De Los Muertos Observance at Closter Park!
There is an Salinas Art and Music Summit; see Adam Joseph’s story in the Monterey County Weekly about the first summit: “Lofty Summit: Dubwize, Cali Nation, and The Joint Venture headline first Salinas Music and Arts Summit.”
The @risK gallery is located at 19 Soledad St, across the street from Dorothy’s Place. The name isn’t meant to imply that the contributing artists are “at risk,” but that the art itself is at risk of acceptance and appreciation.
Maybe you’ve seen the marine murals on Monterey’s Cannery Row, but have you seen the ones in Salinas? John Cerney’s large cut-out murals appear here too, including the farmer and irrigator greeting travelers entering Salinas via Highway 68. Beyond those, there are many more murals in Salinas!
Where to find them?
The mural below appears in Oldtown Salinas, on the exterior wall at Grapes and Grain, 385 Salinas Street. But there are so many more beautiful murals all about town depicting life in Salinas. For now, this old Monterey County Weekly story by Richard Pitnick gives you a start; ask me for more.
Check out the Old Town Salinas First Fridays Art Walk (831-435-4636) where you’ll be part of scenes like the one below….
Matt and Linda Greenlaw walk their bikes onto the sidewalk
to pause with fellow music enthusiasts
in front of First Awakenings on Main Street,
at the July 2, 2010 First Fridays Art Walk.
Trouble finding parking for a popular film? Not Steve Nichols! Plenty of bike parking in Oldtown Salinas.
East Salinas / Alisal
Don’t just stick with Oldtown though; you’ll find murals all around the city, including in East Salinas, popularly known as the Alisal. In this neighborhood, you’ll get the dynamic flavor of the predominately Hispanic/Latino makeup of Monterey County (in Salinas, that’s 71.7% of the population). Here you can enjoy Latino markets, authentic Mexican food restaurants, and the chance to practice your Spanish on every corner.
East Salinas HER Helmet Thursdays spot La Plaza Bakery & Cafe on Sanborn. All the La Plazas in Monterey County give discounts to people who bike on Thursdays.
Pedal-powered cart in East Salinas, on Alisal.
You’ll find many food trucks and mobile vendors in Salinas. Click here for examples, then bike to their routes.
Wondering about sidewalk riding in East Salinas or other parts of Monterey County? Please take time to read the “Sidewalks” tips in this site’s California bike laws and personal safety section for specific guidelines.
Prefer highly nutritious food? Pedal over for a refreshing smoothie at Natura-Vida on Alisal in East Salinas. They serve traditional Mexican fare, such as burritos, too.
In the Acosta Plaza neighborhood of East Salinas is EZ Market. Are you a mountain biker? Stop in and say hi to Ezra, a fellow MTB-er!
Exercise appropriate caution
Biking at night, whether for transportation or pleasure, calls for an extra measure of caution. This includes such things as proper lighting and high-visibility apparel as well as using bike-and-ride options if you are not confident of being in a safe, well-lit area.
Sadly, it is necessary to point out it is wise not to wear red or blue (colors that can indicate gang affiliation). Instead, choose colors such as yellow, brown, or bright green. Some professional sports team apparel, such as Oakland Raiders, SF 49ers, Astros, Bucaneers, Colts, Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, and Redskins, may also be interpreted to indicate a gang affiliation. Click here to learn more.
The avid East Salinas cyclist below knows:
Money not poured into the gas pump means more money for shopping to get the things you really need. It helps reduce carbon emission, keeping the air of the beautiful Salinas Valley cleaner. Besides, biking is fun, and a great pick-me-up after the workday!
Below, the California Springtime Protest Pedal to protest distracted driving, on the East Salinas leg of their California ride. Click here for more info.
Salinas city parks
Many city parks in Salinas can be a good place for children to practice bike skills. Click here for most Salinas community/neighborhood parks. Click here for some additional Salinas parks and related facilities.
Among popular parks is El Dorado Park, 1655 El Dorado, which is in North Salinas and close to Harden Parkway. There are bike lanes nearby.
Central Park is enjoyed by many also, including as a convenient stop for touring cycling groups. Remember to avoid clothing that may indicate gang affiliation.
Teaching children to safely use the 95-mile bike network in Salinas
In Carmel, Monterey, Salinas, and elsewhere in Monterey County, there are children being coached in the ways of bike safety by their parents and teachers. Click here for examples in “Bicycling Children Growing Up Street-wise.”
Some South Salinas kids are among those who are growing up with sound instruction and closely supervised experience, so they can learn how to most safely bike the streets of Salinas (and other places). And out on their bikes, they not only learn bike safety, the are learning to love their community and to love biking! Click here to learn about the Salinas Monterey Park neighborhoods’ bike club, Monterey Park Cycling.
Bike valet and other bicycle parking in Salinas
Hopefully you won’t find yourself needing medical assistance. But if you do, there are bike-friendly health care providers all up and down Romie Lane, in the vicinity of the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. It’s hard to miss the thoughtful installation of bike racks out front of some medical offices, such as the one pictured below.
And Salinas Valley Memorial itself offers a special amenity for cyclists: If you are bicycling to the hospital to visit a loved one or take care of other business there, the hospital’s valet parking attendants are happy to provide bike valet service on request. This is a new service of the hospital, and it is a lovely demonstration of Salinas Valley Memorial’s level of caring about the health of the community.
Forgot your bike lock? Some Salinas schools, like La Paz Middle School (pictured in “Kids biking to school“) make an extra effort to provide easy, secure bike parking and storage during the school day. Here’s a shout-out to La Paz and other schools throughout Monterey County and elsewhere that make it easier for children and teens to use their bike for transportation.
Hartnell campus photo courtesy of Frank Henderson.
Bike rack on Main Street–one of many in Oldtown Salinas
You probably noticed all the bike racks along Main Street in Old Town Salinas. But did you know that in Salinas, you can even find front-door parking for bicycles at churches? Salinas houses of faith promote biking in other ways too; click here for an example.
First Presbyterian on Main, Salinas
If you are a Salinas resident and know of a need for bicycle racks at specific locations, visit the City of Salinas Bicycle Committee webpage and fill out a Bicycle Protection Program application.
This young woman biking in East Salinas is savvy about the Salinas bike map and where to get more info on biking in Salinas and all of Monterey County. Bike commuters like her provide valuable input to transportation planners and traffic engineers.
As with other parts of the county, you’ll find signs everywhere indicating that Salinas, too, is an increasingly bike friendly place!
The City of Salinas Police Department is highly dedicated to Salinas as a safe place to live, visit, and bike. And as told in this site’s Constables of the Peace story, you’ll sometimes see Salinas on-duty officers on bikes themselves.
If you have questions for Salinas PD, see their easy-to-use website or contact them.
If you’re a local resident and might want to help youth in Salinas who are keen on bicycling, click here.