The secrets to the success of the oldest biking group in Coronado, Crown City Cyclists (CCC), after going strong and never missing a Saturday in 43 years, is that there are no rules, no officers, no dues, and no official meetings. This is according to Pat Callahan, who along with Tim Sullivan, Porkchop Moore, and George Moore, who has since passed away, are the founding members of this steadfast group.
It all began in August 1980, when Pat, who was not a biker, bought a $259 Nishiki Olympic 12-speed bike, a sizeable amount of money at that time. His wife Deb exclaimed, “You are never going to ride that!” After all, they only had one car, which he always drove, so Deb and the kids rode bikes all over town.
The first time Pat and Tim rode off the island was down the strand, before the bike path existed. Pat recalls, “I wasn’t really prepared, with no water or helmet.” They enjoyed the ride and stopped for coffee and donuts in Imperial Beach.
That first ride set the tone for what would become friends enjoying a weekly bike event, with conversation and donuts and coffee thrown in. Soon others joined and after the first year the number had grown to about twelve regulars. Now, the Saturday morning group averages 35-45, with the peak topping 65 riders. The group’s composition is 80 percent men and 20 percent women, of all different riding abilities. They even have some roller bladers, Linus and Bill, who frequently join the group.
“The only requirement is to show up,” notes Pat, who grew up here in a Navy family and moved back with his family in 1973. He points out that they’ve had riders come and go through the years, but no matter how much time has passed, everyone is greeted warmly. Riders come from other states, including Texas and Arizona, and even from around the world, including exchange students from Argentina and Switzerland.
CCC is open to everyone who shows up on Saturdays at the Callahan’s house on the 600 block of Margarita Avenue, at 7 am. The group typically arrives back by 8 am for donuts and coffee, which has now expanded to include bagels and juice. Rather than stopping for donuts in Imperial Beach, CCC now has a donut dealer in Greg Sheffler to make it worth the ride, as due to supply chain issues, they’d gone through several donut shops through the years.
The group is a blend of hardcore and casual riders, with some people striving to be the sprint winners, but everyone enjoys the camaraderie. CCC includes many Navy SEALs, retired Navy pilots, and other personnel. For nearly 20 years, the Padyak Racing Team (PRT) has also joined them in Imperial Beach. The oldest members have been over 90, like Dr. Jim Vernetti; and Bob Van Waay rode as a tandem duo, even after he became blind.
Through the years, the group has done longer biking adventures, like the Tecate-Ensenada Ride, the Solvang Century, the Poseidon Adventure up the coast to Del Mar, the Midnight Madness Ride, and the Five Cities Tour. They have also taken bike trips to the San Juan Islands, Colorado, California wine country, and more. Many have also completed itineraries through France with Jeff and Francine Howard.
“We have a diverse group, with a lot of varying personalities,” highlights Pat, and jokingly calls it match.com on wheels, because several members have gotten married. Jim Sullivan’s wife went into labor while he was on a ride. The original 40th birthday parties have now turned into 80th birthday celebrations. The group celebrates by drinking a champagne toast from a shoe found in the street. The original one was a spiked black heel, in which they could slip a glass insert inside, but it went missing. Now, it’s been replaced with a red decorated pump.
Many CCC members have been on the Bicycle Advisory Committee, now called Mobility Commission, to help promote bike safety in Coronado and beyond. Accidents are few and far between, but there have been a few members of the “clavicle club” with broken collar bones, a common cycling injury.
The group held a 30th anniversary celebration similar to this 43rd at the Coronado Shores Roeder Pavilion, both with DJ Art Flores. This recent party, held on August 19, was a replacement for the 40th get-together which was delayed due to the pandemic. The approximately 75 members in attendance enjoyed fellowship, while savoring sumptuous savory potluck dishes, including bountiful lumpia and sweet treats, along with an adorable bike-themed cake made by Chelsey Lindo, daughter of Freddy Lindo, a CCC member since 2000. Another yearly highlight is the annual potluck holiday party.
“The social aspect is as important as biking,” emphasizes Pat.
If you are a biker, you know that almost every day of the week there are unofficial bike rides in Coronado, but the ever-faithful Crown City Cyclists have endured and created lifetime friendships.