Travel photographer and writer Laura Lawson Visconti recently experienced her home state in a new way, traveling around San Jose, Monterey, and Morro Bay—all host cities for the upcoming Amgen Tour of California—by bike. The Lake Tahoe–based content creator says two-wheeled exploration is her favorite way to see a place.
"I prefer exploring a destination via bike than any other method—you can go fast enough to get some good mileage in, but you’re slow enough to appreciate where you are in an entirely new way," she says. "I actually used to be a full-time bike commuter when I lived in Portland, Oregon, and this trip reminded me how much I miss being on the saddle! I’m definitely going to be more proactive about exploring via bike on my future travels after this experience."
1. What were the top highlights of your trip?
I often cruise through San Jose and Monterey in my travels, but it was nice to actually spend the night in each destination and experience the region from a new perspective, and subsequently get to know it much better. I loved the e-bike experience in Monterey along Pebble Beach's 17-Mile Drive—doesn’t get much better than that!
2. What was your bike ride like in San Jose?
We met up with Ron Aclan, a local cycling enthusiast, for an 18-mile bike ride with 2500’ elevation gain along the Quimby Loop, part of the upcoming Amgen Tour of California. Due to the immense precipitation Northern California has seen this past winter, the hills in the San Jose region are insanely green and lush right now—it felt like we were riding through Ireland! I cannot say enough good things about this ride, and Ron himself. It had been a few years since I had done a long bike ride, and he instantly made me feel at ease, and ultimately I am proud to say I crushed it! He knew a lot of history about the surrounding area, which added interesting elements to the ride, and turns out he’s a total foodie (as am I) and had a surprise beer tasting and charcuterie board waiting for us in his car when we were done!
3. How did you explore Monterey?
I rented an e-bike from Carmel-by-the-Sea’s first and only bike shop in their 100+ year history, Mad Dogs & Englishmen. What a sexy bike—a vintage-inspired electric bicycle that cruised up to 20mph! It was so much fun riding along Pebble Beach—exploring a familiar place via bike definitely helps you see it in an entirely new perspective. This was a really scenic and fun experience, and it was nice that the bike did most of the work, too!
4. What were some of the best meals you had during the trip?
Am I allowed to say all of them? Ha! We definitely dined really well on this trip, from brunch in Monterey to oysters and beer in Morro Bay. I’m a sucker for fresh, healthy ingredients and a killer ambience, so I’d have to say dinner in San Jose at Mt. Hamilton GrandView, with fresh ingredients sourced from their own garden, was my very favorite meal.
5. What outdoor activities did you do in Morro Bay? Any tips?
I did a solo short self-guided bike ride along a path hugging the ocean, with beautiful views of the famous Morro Rock. Highly recommend! Also, just walking through town and taking time to stop at the various piers to watch the otters is a pretty magical experience.
6. Do you have any advice for those traveling to these destinations during the Amgen Tour of California?
Don’t be afraid to bring your bike (or rent one!) and explore the destination via pedaling around! You’ll truly get a unique perspective of the area that you wouldn’t otherwise get by car or foot. If you’re renting a bike, I’d recommend ensuring you have it for an entire day, instead of renting by the hour—you’ll have more time to see and do what you want.
7. What’s the one photo (or social post) that best sums up your trip and why?
I’d like to think all my social posts represented my trip, but probably my first Instagram photo of me cycling through Santana Row [in San Jose] sums it up best—this trip truly was about experiencing destinations I’m familiar with in an entirely new way. I’ve been to Santana Row countless times, but never explored via bike before! The photo was shot from the balcony of my hotel, Hotel Valencia, which is the only hotel in Santana Row. While this wasn’t the actual spot I did my San Jose ride, it definitely tells the story of the whole trip.