Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Saturday Ride: 100-Year Anniversary Of The Etiwanda, California, Pacific Electric Railway Station

The Etiwanda Station, pre-celebration weekend. Cross street is Etiwanda Avenue.

100-years; That may not seem like much time architecturally, but in Southern California, where anything over 20-years old must be demolished by government decree, 100-years for any structure in the region is nothing short of a miracle.  Why is that?  Truth be told, for all of its so-called “Progressive” reputation, sun, beaches and palm trees Southern California possesses, the region has a tragic lack of respect for its own history.

The Pacific Electric Railway (PE), fondly remembered as the “Red Cars” were the transportation backbone of Southern California (SoCal) from 1901 to 1961.  Then, for reasons still a mystery to even God Himself, SoCal cut its own throat and embraced the automobile culture, thus cementing the regions fate to never-ending, vehicular grid-lock.  In short, those rails are now gone, and SoCal currently spends Billions (yes, Billions) of dollars on, new, “Light-rail,” sadly with all routes going nowhere anyone really needs, or wants, to go.  How’s that for progress?  Additionally, almost all of the PE infrastructure, depots and equipment were destroyed, save for a miniscule amount of stations and actual Red Cars, themselves.  The Etiwanda station was one of the few, lucky, surviving structures.  A small, yet very important, victory for the historians. 

The only upside to the rails being ripped out of the former Red Car right-of-ways has been an ample supply of real estate ripe for cycling paths.  The Pacific Electric Trail is the latest, and best, trail born out of those former Pacific Electric right-of-ways.  As for the aforementioned Etiwanda station, there is fortunately a very strong, well organized fan base seeking to see the structure returned to its former glory.  They are moving along quite well, and the 100-year anniversary celebration, and restoration project, was the inspiration for this particular Saturday ride. 

On the Pacific Electric Trail, heading east. Clearly displayed is the multi-use aspect of the trail, with portions for biking, walking/running, and horses.
So, up early, my riding partners and I set out to not only view the station, but to enjoy the ceremonies, meet old friends, make new ones, and best of all, getting out to pedal and exercise, enjoying the spiritual manna of a ride in the sun.  We oriented ourselves east and took up the Pacific Electric Trail on its western end in the City of Claremont, California.  The trail itself is a nice alternative to braving the mean-streets and the vehicles which live there.  It is a very smooth path, overall, with the only negatives being the overly numerous street crossings, and the overkill amounts of stress relief channels in the newer sections of the concrete portions of the trail (can you say, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump?).

Upon arrival at the Etiwanda station, we met with local dignitaries and the organization spearheading the station’s restoration, the City of Rancho Cucamonga, and the trails major sponsor, Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail.  In addition to the wonderful tour of the structure, and the host of local civic organizations and local businesses in attendance (it was good to see Joseph Filippi Winery – Good stuff, people), there were complimentary refreshments, historical railroad and local artifacts, hosts dressed in turn-of-the-century attire (you looked great, Marlene!), and even a free bicycling valet for those who rode the trail to the event.  The latter was a very clever, and a very useful, service.

The festivities upon our arrival. There were activities for all, and the event was well put together.

Built in 1914 by the Pacific Electric, the beautiful structure was open for tours.

My riding partners for the day, Mr. & Mrs. Lopez, taking in some of the history.

The lovely Marlene, dressed in period attire, greeted guests and answered questions about the station.

The friendly staff of Cyclery USA provided a complementary bike valet service.

From there, after saying our “Good bye’s,” we headed due west on the trail and into downtown Claremont for some well deserved snacks and coffee.  It was there, at a nice, little sidewalk café, that we took the time to take in what we had seen, and what we had done.  See, that is one of the good things about the coffee stop; It is a chance to stretch and truly get a perspective on the day, not just the usual pedal your brains out, rush home routine I have seen most cyclists do.  The overall accomplishments were a nice, long ride, the company of good friends, great weather, an awesome visit to a historic train station, and the best part of all; Just being out on the bike.

The whole day ended up being a nice, albeit very windy, 50-mile affair.  And, for those whom have not ridden in very strong head and cross-winds, try it.  You will understand why riders in the Pro-Ranks fear it so much.  However, on the positive side, high winds do make a rider stronger.  The downside: Wind beats the holy, living heck out of you. 

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