F.B.I. Sent Investigator Posing as Assistant to Meet With Trump Aide in 2016
F.B.I. Sent Investigator Posing as Assistant to Meet With Trump Aide in 2016 The New York Times 2 hrs ago Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti © Tom Brenner for The New York Times George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide, was the target of an F.B.I. investigation into connections between the campaign and Russia. WASHINGTON — The conversation at a London bar in September 2016 took a strange turn when the woman sitting across from George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, asked a direct question: Was the Trump campaign working with Russia?
The woman had set up the meeting to discuss foreign policy issues. But she was actually a government investigator posing as a research assistant, according to people familiar with the operation. The F.B.I. sent her to London as part of the counterintelligence inquiry opened that summer to better understand the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.
The American government’s affiliation with the woman, who said her name was Azra Turk, is one previously unreported detail of an operation that has become a political flash point in the face of accusations by President Trump and his allies that American law enforcement and intelligence officials spied on his campaign to undermine his electoral chances. Last year, he called it “Spygate.”
The decision to use Ms. Turk in the operation aimed at a presidential campaign official shows the level of alarm inside the F.B.I. during a frantic period when the bureau was trying to determine the scope of Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 election, but could also give ammunition to Mr. Trump and his allies for their spying claims.
Ms. Turk went to London to help oversee the politically sensitive operation, working alongside a longtime informant, the Cambridge professor Stefan A. Halper. The move was a sign that the bureau wanted in place a trained investigator for a layer of oversight, as well as someone who could gather information for or serve as a credible witness in any potential prosecution that emerged from the case.
A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment, as did a lawyer for Mr. Halper, Robert D. Luskin. Last year, Bill Priestap, then the bureau’s top counterintelligence agent who was deeply involved in the Russia inquiry, told Congress during a closed-door hearing that there was no F.B.I. conspiracy against Mr. Trump or his campaign.
The London operation yielded no fruitful information, but F.B.I. officials have called the bureau’s activities in the months before the election both legal and carefully considered under extraordinary circumstances. They are now under scrutiny as part of an investigation by Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general. He could make the results public in May or June, Attorney General William P. Barr has said. Some of the findings are likely to be classified.
It is unclear whether Mr. Horowitz will find fault with the F.B.I.’s decision to have Ms. Turk, whose real name is not publicly known, meet with Mr. Papadopoulos. Mr. Horowitz has focused among other things on the activities of Mr. Halper, who accompanied Ms. Turk in one of her meetings with Mr. Papadopoulos and also met with him and other campaign aides separately. The bureau might also have seen Ms. Turk’s role as essential for protecting Mr. Halper’s identity as an informant if prosecutors ever needed court testimony about their activities.
Mr. Barr reignited the controversy last month when he told Congress , “I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal.” He backed off the charged declaration later in the same hearing, saying: “I think spying did occur. The question is whether it was adequately predicated. And I’m not suggesting that it wasn’t adequately predicated. But I need to explore that.”
Mr. Barr again defended his use of the term “spying” at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, saying he wanted to know more about the F.B.I.’s investigative efforts during 2016 and explained that the early inquiry likely went beyond the use of an informant and a court-authorized wiretap of a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, who had interacted with a Russian intelligence officer.
“Many people seem to assume that the only intelligence collection that occurred was a single confidential informant” and the warrant to surveil Mr. Page, Mr. Barr said. “I would like to find out whether that is in fact true. It strikes me as a fairly anemic effort if that was the counterintelligence effort designed to stop the threat as it’s being represented.”
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This account was described in interviews with people familiar with the F.B.I. activities of Mr. Halper, Ms. Turk and the inspector general’s investigation. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the subjects of a continuing inquiry.
As part of Mr. Horowitz’s investigation, his office has examined Mr. Halper’s past work as an F.B.I. informant and asked witnesses about whether agents had adequate control of Mr. Halper’s activities, people familiar with the inquiry have said .
While in London in 2016, Ms. Turk exchanged emails with Mr. Papadopoulos, saying meeting him had been the “highlight of my trip,” according to messages provided by Mr. Papadopoulos.
“I am excited about what the future holds for us :),” she wrote.
Weeks before Mr. Papadopoulos met with Ms. Turk and Mr. Halper, the F.B.I. had opened its investigation into the Russia effort — based largely on information that Mr. Papadopoulos had relayed to an Australian diplomat about a Russian offer to help the Trump campaign by releasing thousands of hacked Democratic emails.
The F.B.I. received the information from the Australian government on July 26, 2016, the special counsel’s report said, and the bureau code-named its investigation Crossfire Hurricane .
Investigators scrambled to determine whether Mr. Papadopoulos had any Russian contacts while deciding to scrutinize three additional Trump campaign aides who had concerning ties to Russia: Paul Manafort, its chairman; Michael T. Flynn, who went on to be the president’s first national security adviser; and Mr. Page.
Secrecy was paramount for the F.B.I. officials because of the sensitivities of investigating campaign advisers during a presidential race. Had the investigation into Trump advisers’ contacts with Russia become public, it could have devastated the Trump campaign. And top bureau officials were enduring fresh attacks over their handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
One of the agents involved in the Russia inquiry, a seasoned counterintelligence investigator out of New York, turned to Mr. Halper, whom he viewed as a reliable and trusted informant. They had a longstanding relationship; the agent had even spoken at an intelligence seminar that Mr. Halper taught at the University of Cambridge, discussing his work investigating a Russian espionage ring known as the illegals .
Mr. Halper had the right résumé for the task. He was a foreign policy expert who had worked for the Pentagon. He had been gathering information for the F.B.I. for about two decades and had good contacts in Chinese and Russian government circles that he could use to arrange meetings with high-ranking officials, according to a person briefed on Mr. Halper’s relationship with the F.B.I.
The F.B.I. instructed Mr. Halper to set up a meeting in London with Mr. Papadopoulos but gave him few details about the broader investigation, a person familiar with the episode said.
His job was to figure out the extent of any contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russia. Mr. Halper used his position as a respected academic to introduce himself to both Mr. Papadopoulos and Mr. Page, whom he also met with several times. He arranged a meeting with Mr. Papadopoulos in London to discuss a Mediterranean natural gas project, offering $3,000 for his time and a policy paper.
The F.B.I. also decided to send Ms. Turk to take part in the operation, people familiar with it said, and to pose as Mr. Halper’s assistant. For the F.B.I., placing such a sensitive undertaking in the hands of a trusted government investigator was essential.
British intelligence officials were also notified about the operation, the people familiar with the operation said, but it was unclear whether they provided assistance. A spokeswoman for the British government declined to comment.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly claimed that British intelligence spied on his campaign, an accusation the British government has vigorously denied. Last month, the president Quote: d on Twitter an accusation that the British had spied on his campaign and added: “WOW! It is now just a question of time before the truth comes out, and when it does, it will be a beauty!”
When Mr. Papadopoulos arrived in London on Sept. 15, he received a text message from Ms. Turk. She invited him for drinks.
In his book, “Deep State Target,” Mr. Papadopoulos described her as attractive and said she almost immediately began questioning him about whether the Trump campaign was working with Russia, he wrote.
Mr. Papadopoulos was baffled. “There is no way this is a Cambridge professor’s research assistant,” he recalled thinking, according to his book. In recent weeks, he has said in tweets that he believes Ms. Turk may have been working for Turkish intelligence but provided no evidence.
The day after meeting Ms. Turk, Mr. Papadopoulos met briefly with Mr. Halper at a private London club, and Ms. Turk joined them. The two men agreed to meet again, arranging a drink at the Sofitel hotel in London’s posh West End.
During that conversation, Mr. Halper immediately asked about hacked emails and whether Russia was helping the campaign, according to Mr. Papadopoulos’s book. Angry over the accusatory questions, Mr. Papadopoulos ended the meeting.
The F.B.I. failed to glean any information of value from the encounters, and Ms. Turk returned to the United States.
Mr. Halper continued to work with the F.B.I. and later met with Mr. Page repeatedly in the Washington area. The two had coincidentally run into each other in July as well at Cambridge, according to people familiar with the episode.
At the urging of Mr. Page, he met another campaign aide, Sam Clovis, Mr. Trump’s campaign co-chairman, to discuss foreign policy. While aware of the contact with Mr. Clovis, the F.B.I. did not instruct Mr. Halper to ask him questions related to the Russia investigation, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Mr. Clovis recounted his coffee with Mr. Halper in Washington with an Iowa radio station in May 2018. “There was no indication or no inclination that this was anything other than just wanting to offer up his help to the campaign if I needed it,” he said.
Mr. Halper’s connections to the Trump administration strengthened from there. He was invited as part of a group of China experts to meet with White House advisers in 2017. Mr. Halper informed the F.B.I. of the invitation but was not provided with any guidance, people familiar with the episode said.
The group met briefly with Peter Navarro, the president’s top trade representative, who had interviewed Mr. Halper years earlier at Mr. Halper’s home in Virginia for a documentary. According to Axios, the administration also considered Mr. Halper for an ambassadorship .
In an interview with Fox Radio , Mr. Navarro said he viewed Mr. Halper’s role as an F.B.I. informant as a betrayal, saying he felt “duped.”
Author of ‘Children’s Nature Series’ reaches new milestone
Author of ‘Children’s Nature Series’ reaches new milestone
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(++++) SOME UNEXPECTED SOUNDS
SOME UNEXPECTED SOUNDS Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 1-3; Overture in the Italian Style in D; Rosamunde—excerpts. Copenhagen Phil conducted by Lawrence Foster. PentaTone. $29.99 (2 SACDs). Bruch: Double Concerto for Clarinet, Viola and Orchestra; Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola and Piano. Giovanni Punzi, clarinet; Eva Katrine Dalsgaard, viola; Tanja Zapolski, piano; Copenhagen Phil conducted by Vincenzo Milletari. Brilliant Classics. $9.99. Mahler: Symphony No. 5—arranged for piano four hands by Otto Singer. Piano Duo Trenkner / Speidel (Evelinde Trenkner and Sontraud Speidel). MDG Gold. $18.99 (SACD). The juxtaposition of Schubert’s early symphonies with some of his later stage music is a surprising one that reveals similarities of structure and approach in ways that are not obvious even for listeners who already know the symphonies, Rosamunde, and the two “Italian style” overtures. A very interesting PentaTone release featuring the Copenhagen Phil (an amusingly odd name that unfortunately makes this very fine ensemble sound like a “philharmonic light”) offers listeners much to think about as well as a great deal to enjoy. Lawrence Foster conducts the first three symphonies with a pleasantly light hand and an emphasis on their dancelike elements that serves them well. The first two symphonies are usually considered highly derivative, of Mozart and/or Haydn, and certainly there is much in them that echoes those composers – but the wonderful choice of themes, the exceptional melodic gift that Schubert already had so clearly when he wrote these works in his mid-teens, and the willingness to shift from key to key abruptly and surprisingly (and in the main very effectively), all mark these pieces as distinctly Schubertian. It is true that both have very long first movements that somewhat overbalance the rest of the works, and each first movement starts with a highly serious slow introduction ( Adagio in the first symphony, Largo in the second) that is somewhat formulaic, in the sense that nothing else in either work has equal intensity. But by Symphony No. 3, Schubert has clearly started finding his own way, offering a much shorter first-movement introduction, a better balance among the movements, and a scurrying finale that radiates joie de vivre. Foster and the Copenhagen Phil give the impression of genuinely enjoying playing this music, not just doing so out of a feeling of obligation: the strings are fleet and light throughout, and the woodwinds, always so important to Schubert, percolate along merrily in all three symphonies. The two-SACD set, recorded in PentaTone’s usual top-quality sound, next moves to the distinctly Rossinian Overture in the Italian Style in D of 1817 (two years after the Symphony No. 3). The weightier and lighter elements of this concert piece are nicely balanced both by Schubert and by these performers – and it is disappointing that only this overture, not its companion in C, can be heard here (there was plenty of room on the disc for both). The recording concludes with five excerpts from Rosamunde, stage music representing Schubert in a significantly later developmental style. Although these entr’actes and ballet pieces do not seem chronologically much later, dating to 1823, the intervening years after the Overture in the Italian Style in D were ones in which Schubert’s music underwent considerable change, attaining a richness and persuasive depth that it had previously lacked. This is especially noticeable in the first entr’acte, which scholars believe may have been intended (perhaps in somewhat different form) as the finale of the “Unfinished” symphony (which is actually only one among multiple unfinished Schubert symphonic efforts). This entr’acte is strong and effective music, by all accounts far more so than the play for which it was written. The remaining excerpts offered here are on the lighter side, but lack nothing in the way of charm and beauty, and the last of them – ballet music marked Andantino – is especially graceful and played here with great sensitivity. Again, something is missing that could have been included: the Rosamunde overture, which, although largely recycled from Die Zauberharfe, is thoroughly enjoyable and deserves to be heard more often. So this recording, already first-rate, could have been even better with slightly expanded repertoire – but what it does offer is more than enough to engage listeners and get an audience thinking about Schubert’s expressiveness and the differing manner in which it comes across in his early symphonies and his writing for the stage. Twelve years Schubert’s junior and also destined to live only into his thirties, Mendelssohn was another composer of apparently endless lyricism and a personal style that developed early – and whose future direction, had he lived longer, it is impossible to know. What is surprising to hear on a new Brilliant Classics release is how Mendelssohnian music could sound more than 60 years after Mendelssohn’s death. That is the effect of listening to some very late and little-known music by the long-lived Max Bruch (1838-1920): Mendelssohn still had nine years to live when Bruch was born, and was a lifelong influence and source of admiration for the younger composer. Indeed, in his later years, Bruch – much like Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) – tended to be ignored or dismissed as hopelessly out of touch with the fast-changing musical times and tastes of the early 20 th century. And this was certainly true of Bruch, but it was no accident: he affirmed repeatedly that the beauties of Mendelssohn’s time and of the Romantic era in general were what he saw as the best possible expressions of which music was capable, and he showed no inclination to adopt the harsher and grittier musical approaches created in late Romanticism and afterwards. Interestingly, Bruch, like Brahms, became deeply interested in the clarinet as a solo instrument only very late in life – in Bruch’s case because his son, Max Felix Bruch (1884-1943), played the instrument. But while Brahms created two wonderful sonatas (Op. 120) that can be played by clarinet or viola, Bruch composed two works to be played by clarinet and viola. They are redolent of beauty to a degree that is almost cloying (if not quite), and they use the very similar ranges of the two solo instruments – and their capability of producing very similar sounds – in ways that create a remarkable intertwining of string and woodwind, quite unlike anything else by Bruch or, indeed, much else by any other composer. The Double Concerto for Clarinet, Viola and Orchestra dates to 1911, the Eight Pieces to 1910, and both works are tremendously assured in their writing, in their balance and intermingling of the solo instruments, and in their unending flow of truly gorgeous melodies that are harmonized in the manner of decades earlier but sound less like a throwback than like an extension of the Mendelssohnian model. Very rarely heard, these works are wonderful to discover, and they sound absolutely lovely in performances featuring Giovanni Punzi and Eva Katrine Dalsgaard – and, in the concerto, the same Copenhagen Phil heard playing Schubert, although here directed (very ably) by Vincenzo Milletari. There is some genuine cleverness in Bruch’s concerto, starting at the very opening, which features two cadenzas – one for each instrument – before the music begins to move ahead. The first two movements of the concerto have nearly equal tempo indications, much as do the two completed movements of Schubert’s “Unfinished” symphony: Bruch marks the first movement Andante con moto and the second Allegro moderato, those being the exact tempo markings used by Schubert, but in reverse order . The result of this pacing in Bruch’s work is a sense of dreamy, serenade-like flow for most of the concerto, until the energetic start of the finale finally interrupts the mood. But here too Bruch offers clever touches, for example by not bringing in the solo clarinet for almost 50 bars. The concerto is less a tour de force for the soloists than a chance for them to cooperate in multiple ways. The Eight Pieces contain more “showcase” elements, but they too opt primarily for expressiveness rather than virtuosity for its own sake. They are not connected in any way and, indeed, Bruch did not think they should be played in sequence – but his son did so anyway, starting a tradition that continues on the rare occasions when these pieces are heard at all. Opening and closing with considerable lyricism, and containing one rather overt tribute to Mendelssohn in the seventh piece, the Eight Pieces include two with titles in German that lie at the series’ heart. These are the fifth piece, Rumanische Melodie, and the sixth, Nachtgesang, both of which take the set to expressive heights not only for clarinet and viola but also, to some extent, for piano – which Tanja Zapolski plays with appropriate dedication and warmth. It remains somewhat amazing to realize that the Bruch clarinet-and-viola works were written six years and more after Mahler’s far more forward-looking Symphony No. 5. Mahler lived only to age 50 but was obsessed for decades with pushing music into new and largely uncharted realms, not so much for philosophical reasons (as Schoenberg was) as because he was constantly seeking new ways to offer works that were, in essence, “songs of myself.” Mahler was almost entirely a symphonist – even his song cycles are symphonic in scope and structure – and was nearly obsessive in his search for ways to delve deeper and deeper into his own consciousness and display what he found to the world. By the time of his Symphony No. 5, he had passed through the Wunderhorn and otherwise song-related stage of the first four symphonies and moved to an entirely abstract, non-vocal concept conceived in three large “parts” (the first and second movements, the third movement on its own, and the fourth and fifth movements). Mahler complained that no one understood his Fifth, and it was partly in an attempt to make understanding possible that he went along with the plan for a piano-four-hands version to be made by Otto Singer (1863-1931). Singer, himself a composer, was a good choice for the role, being known for arranging the works of Richard Strauss. His piano-four-hands score was published in 1904, two months before the symphony’s first performance. It did not come into being without struggle – pretty much everything in Mahler involves struggle – but the resulting work is quite fascinating to hear, and quite surprising in many ways. Evelinde Trenkner and Sontraud Speidel do real service to the music in presenting it on a new MDG Gold SACD. Mahler’s Fifth is comparatively familiar now, but conductors do not always pick up on the sense of pervasive loneliness and isolation with which the first movement is imbued, as Singer, Trenkner and Speidel do. And if the wonderful horn passages of the central third movement are deeply missed in the piano-four-hands version, this movement – the symphony’s longest, whose pacing and structural importance are key to the overall architecture – makes complete sense in a recording in which the pianists produce the effect of elegance and irony rolled together into the form of a dissonant but not-quite-grotesque dance. Trenkner and Speidel nicely put across the delicacy and beauty of the Adagietto, and their sure and deliberate pacing of the finale shows it as the symphonic capstone that Mahler wanted it to be – indeed, this rondo comes across to better effect than the movement sometimes does in orchestral performances. Singer’s arrangement of Mahler’s Fifth will never supplant the orchestral version, and was never intended to; Trenkner and Speidel, for all their skill, cannot produce the numerous sonic effects that Mahler, an expert orchestrator and brilliant conductor, knew just how to evoke. But this is a recording that Mahler lovers will find very much worth having for the new light that it repeatedly shines on a complex, difficult and still imperfectly understood symphonic score. Posted by
German Legacy In The Soviet Rocketry
Latest revision as of 16:34, 2 May 2019
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Ebikes Mean Battery Powered Fun – Joel Epstein – Medium
Ebikes Mean Battery Powered Fun Joel Epstein Blocked Unblock Follow Following Apr 21 By: Joel Epstein
San Simeon. One of the highlights of Joel’s ebike adventure, made possible by Bosch Ebike Systems. Redemption. That is what my friend Bob Rollins calls my latest effort to defy my age with the help of Bosch Ebike Systems and some other bike tech innovations. Bob should know. He was with me last fall when we aborted an ill-fated attempt to ebike from Irvine to Reno. You can read all about it at Ebike Nation .
Determined is what they call me. So when Brian Sarmiento of Bosch called to offer me a second chance to test out the company’s pedal assist ebike system, I was in. The plan was to bike 450 miles over five days from Irvine to Monterey on California’s Central Coast.
Was I interested? Of course! Since when doesn’t this Californian-at-heart not love spring in Southern California and the beautiful Central Coast after a drought-busting winter that has replenished the Golden State’s water reserves. The state’s welcome snow and rain has made the jasmine and orange blossom scented California air and green coastal mountains that much more alluring.
The very model of the weekend warrior, I was determined to be prepared for the Monterey ride, putting in as many hours in the saddle on my annual
Thank you Citibike . Citibike membership as work and other life obligations at home in New York City would allow. I arrived in Southern California ready for the trek both mentally as well as physically, with a road-hardened tail. Brian too was prepared. The prior Reno trip generated many lessons learned including the need for a SAG (support and gear) vehicle from the outset, as well as a spare bike. SAG and the backup bike came in handy on Day Two of the trip when I broke a chain going up Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) just north of Webb Way in Malibu. And we would have many more lessons learned by the time we reached Monterey.
Day One: Foothill Ranch to Santa Monica ~85 miles
This trip had it all. We started out early on Saturday morning from Bosch Ebike Systems’s office in Foothill Ranch (near Irvine) and rode largely along Irvine’s and Orange County’s protected bike paths to the coast at Newport Beach. Though Irvine has never been my favorite Southern California destination, its protected bike paths are deservedly envied by biking enthusiasts across the state, if not the country.
Our bikes were powered by Bosch Ebike Systems, equipped with a new acquisition for the company, Cobi Bike Systems navigation. Brian rode a Gazelle and my wheels were a new steel-framed Xtracycle RFA (Ready for Anything) . that doubles as either a kid-friendly cargo bike or a sportier model for when the young’uns are moving under their own steam. Through an app, Cobi uses a handlebar-mounted smart phone to control the four ebike pedal
Cobi Bike Systems doing the work for us along The Strand in Manhattan Beach. assist settings. The Cobi-enabled phone also functions as the screen for mapping, heart monitoring and music. Cobi’s navigation was exceptional, letting us take advantage of bike friendly and grade separated routes that Google Maps might have missed. Kudos to Bosch for teaming up with Cobi, which will surely become a must for serious traditional cyclists and ebikers.
We also benefited from sporty Bluetooth-enabled smart bike helmets from Sena in one of my favorite colors, California Poppy. The sturdy helmets let us communicate with one another up to half a mile away and also synched with our mobiles allowing handsfree access to phone calls and music as we rode up the sun kissed California coast.
Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and then we were on to our first stop at the new Propel ebike shop in Long Beach . I have been a fan of Propel since meeting owner Chris Nolte , an important advocate for ebikes, at his store across from the Navy Yard in Brooklyn back in 2017.
From Long Beach we hightailed it through some rough industrial patches around the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach and in Wilmington and San Pedro.
After the Port and the industrial underbelly of Los Angeles, the ride through Lomita and Torrance wasn’t bad and then it was on to Redondo Beach and the always pleasing ride along The Strand and related bike infrastructure of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Dockweiler Beach, Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey, Venice and Santa Monica. Even if the trip ended after that first day, I would have been smiling. Who doesn’t love biking along The Strand, the Venice Canals, Venice Beach and the Marvin Braude Beach Trail in Santa Monica.
Brian Sarmiento in a Sena smart helmet and yours truly at the Venice Canals. Arriving at our hotel around 3 pm, I had the afternoon and evening to catch up with friends from my many years living in Los Angeles and in the evening stargaze from the beach near Lifeguard Tower 26 in Ocean Park. Is there any better way to celebrate one’s ebike redemption?
Day Two: Santa Monica to Santa Barbara ~96 miles
A shoutout in Santa Monica to the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) Operation Firefly. On Day Two, early Sunday morning, the navigation for me was rote until Oxnard. We started out on 4th Street near Pico Blvd picking up the Braude Beach Bike Trail next to the regal Casa del Mar Hotel. A quick selfie at the Santa Monica Pier and we were on our way to the trail’s terminus at Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades. Getting back on PCH at Temescal, I waved to Palisades Charter High School , my kids’ old high school and the film location for way too many Disney and Nickelodeon movies. Before 8 am on a Sunday in April, traffic on PCH is light, with nearly as many cyclists as cars. The ride through the sometimes gnarly and narrow southern stretch of Malibu was easy enough and it wasn’t until I broke a chain climbing the hill south of Malibu Canyon that we hit a rough patch. Still, thanks to Brian and SAG, I was up and peddling again within a half hour. No biggie for a beautiful ride on a 9.5 spring day in Malibu.
While signs of the devastation of the winter fires remain, from the seat of my ebike pedaling at 20–25 miles an hour, PCH and Malibu hides its scars and secrets pretty well. The superbloom brought on by the heavy winter rains have helped obscure the extensive damage done. On an earlier trip in February to Point Dume and Malibu Canyon, I had seen the destruction caused by the fires.
Soon enough we were rolling past Zuma Beach, La Piedra State Beach and Leo Carrillo State Park. Leaving the coast just past Point Mugu, we navigated the route through Oxnard’s strawberry and raspberry farms with little competition from the truckers who would be back to work the next morning. It was tough passing up the farm stands advertising nine avocados for $5 but with miles to go in the day’s ride we soldiered on without stopping for the added weight and goodness.
It felt great to be truckin’ north and instead of the “reds, vitamin C, and cocaine” it might have been if this were 1970, our fuel for the trip was a pretty healthy diet of almonds, clementines, water, and Pro Bar snacks including their addictive packets of almond butter flavored with coconut, sriracha and other creative flavors.
(Partial) ebike adventure diet. And yes, for the bikes the rechargeable voltage of our Bosch Ebike Systems batteries came from the state’s still too dirty power plants; as my daughter Julia, an organizer for the surging Sunrise Movement behind the Green New Deal, wants to remind everyone.
From Oxnard we navigated our way through the tourists along the beach path in Ventura onto a mostly great, and protected, bike path that parallels the 101 Freeway. Our ride was smooth sailing through Mussel Shoals, La Conchita, Carpinteria, Summerland and Montecito. From there we rolled down to the beach at Olive Mill Road for a ride along local Santa Barbara streets to our hotel near the pier.
Day Three: Santa Barbara to Santa Maria ~77 Miles
I am not a huge fan of Santa Barbara, a beautiful city in one of the prettiest settings anywhere but sadly so beaten down by the rampant homelessness that has driven away, or at least indoors, many of its actual residents. In some parts of town it seems as though the only people out and about are the tourists and the homeless. Walking under the Freeway Overpass on State Street I feel like I used to feel as a teen walking through rough parts of New York when parts of New York were rough. It pains me that the great State of California is still not showing the way getting the homeless into services and housing and off of the streets.
Thanks to Brian and our Cobi navigation system, we took a pleasant ride out of Santa Barbara that kept us on bike paths and smaller streets all the way out of town. Hugging the coast, the work didn’t come until Gaviota where the road climbs up to Buellton, made famous by those irritating billboards advertising a tourist trap known for its pea soup. We stopped elsewhere for lunch, and I’m proud to say I skipped the 12 egg omelet.
North of Buellton, we took a pretty route through Central Coast vineyards and rolling green hills dotted here and there with the season’s superbloom. We slowed down for the good stuff and stopped in Los Alamos, a charming old town south of Santa Maria.
Bosch’s Brian Sarmiento refuels in Los Alamos. From there it is just another 20 miles or so to Santa Maria, our base for the night.
Day Four: Santa Maria to Ragged Point ~91 Miles
Note to self: bike the coast in April after the rains bring a superbloom and before the thousands of Pismo Beach-bound offroaders and RVs descend on the town for the spring and summer, fouling the California air.
P.S.: Riding north along PCH from Morro Bay to Ragged Point, be prepared for mighty headwinds that had me cussing when I wasn’t smiling from ear to ear at the beauty of the Central Coast.
The ride from Santa Maria to Ragged Point was the toughest day of the trip. Even though we had gotten an early start to chip away at the day’s mileage, the headwinds picked up mid morning around Arroyo Grande and didn’t help any as we headed up to Morro Bay and further north through Cambria. By the time we reached San Simeon, the winds had killed the mighty buzz I had developed taking in the beauty of the landscape and I was cursing at the steady gusts that slowed our ascent up the coast.
San Simeon. Even with the bike in “Turbo,” the most powerful of the pedal assist settings, it was a genuine chore biking up to Ragged Point. In sum, it would have been hell biking this stretch without the benefit of pedal assist.
Day Five: Ragged Point to Monterey ~92 Miles
After the windy ride from Santa Maria to Ragged Point, Brian and I decided to start out even earlier on the final day in case we were in for another windy day. By 6:30 we were on the empty road climbing north. The choice was inspired as Route One was practically empty those first couple of hours with road work closing the road down to a single lane in several places. Even though the climbs were tougher than we had seen earlier in the trip, each ascent was followed by a long, often car-free, downhill. The weather was cool but the wind wasn’t bad and we made fast time through Gorda and Lucia and Big Sur before the usual April traffic kicked in mid morning.
Near the Bixby Creek Bridge north of Big Sur. Stopping for an early victory lap lunch in Carmel about 16 miles from our final destination at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey felt well earned until I tried to walk back to my bike after lunch. At first, the short staircase from the restaurant back to the street seemed like a mountain, but thanks to a Naproxen and the act of getting back on the bike and pedaling again I somehow managed. In just an hour we had completed the ride.
In all, the trip was a smile fest from Irvine to Monterey and the end of our ride at the Bosch booth at the Sea Otter Classic at Laguna Seca Raceway. There was surely never a higher and quieter use for the track than a mountain bike race and expo. Thinking back to those hundreds of beautiful miles and the e-miracle of “Turbo” helping me up those long climbs, I see in the crystal ball an ebike in my future.
The end of the ride. Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey. Yours in transit,
Joel Epstein is a New York- and Los Angeles-based communications strategist and writer focused on transportation, public space, workforce development and other critical urban issues.