The Ride - 24O

30-some years ago, I was an avid cyclist. An avid Urban Cyclist and Commuter. Although I rode about 12,000 miles a year, 75-mile distances were pretty much my max for a single-day ride. I could go at a decent pace, but that was my limit. I realize now that some of the issue for me at the time was hydration and fuel.

Now, I'm taking baby steps again as a cyclist, recovering from a minor injury and striving to regain some small measure of fitness.

A couple of months ago Nick emailed me to suggest we go on an overnight camping trip sometime soon. The earliest opportunity we could work out turned out to be the weekend of June 16-17. As I said, I never did extended distance rides of more than about 75 miles, and I've never gone bike camping, so I was looking forward to this as a new adventure. I've read what Grant Peterson has written about his 'S24O' getaways, and we were thinking of that sort of trip for this weekend. Initially, I planned a rugged, mostly off-road route (we took road-bikes for this trip) with just over 7000 feet of elevation gain. The first day, that is! As the time to ride drew closer and my injured knee continued to keep me off the bike, I began to scale my plans back. Finally we settled on a shorter, easier route that varied the terrain and scenery as much as could be managed within an 85-mile Urban/Rural loop.

I wanted to use my old SR road bike (the only geared bike I had at the time) and I thought our route should cover as many different areas of San Diego as we could manage within that range.

Loaded for travel.
Army Surplus pack as Handlebar Bag
I fitted my biggest (40-622) and heaviest tires for the trip.

We tackled the climbing portion of the route first thing on Saturday - 1000 feet elevation gain to Jamul all in one chunk, over about 19km. We had held off our departure until just past noon, intending to arrive at our overnight stop before dark.

Turning south, we began the descent to Otay Lakes over Proctor Valley Road.

Once we had gone a short distance on Proctor Valley Road, it became an unpaved surface, and passed through some relatively wild areas before finishing the descent to Upper Otay Lake. The road surface was unfortunately very rough - wash-board, in fact - from heavy and high-speed vehicular traffic. It's a shame the surface was so abused, because the scenery out there was really pretty nice - very open and uninterrupted. But descending this road was a literal handful, so we had to focus on the road.

Finally reaching smoother terrain, we went from Fire Road to Single track closely tracing the Western shoreline of Upper Otay Lake, then emerging onto wider vehicular road, and stopping for a photo at the dam separating the two lakes.

Nick lead us down to Otay Lakes Road, unfortunately narrow (no bike lane at all!) and frequently traveled by cars, truck, RVs, etc., which we had avoided as much as possible for just those reasons. A short Westerly jog quickly connected us to Wueste Road. This is a fine little bike-friendly road, super smooth (what a nice break) that goes by the old Olympic Training Center and the west shore of Otay Lake.

Back to dirt just north of the Water Treatment Plant, we carefully picked our way down to the floor of a the gorge where Otay River runs (according to the map, anyway). We stayed in the gorge on good dirt roads under the 125 freeway, and eventually struck a paved road just East of Soak City Water Park. Continuing West past Soak City, our route connected us to Palm, then Beyer, and finally Coronado Ave., which we rode all the way to the Pacific Ocean. I'll admit I was pretty beat by this time. In fact, I was riding in survival mode, managing a few sustained efforts interspersed with near exhaustion. Nick was patient and didn't mind my yo-yoing. We backtracked a couple of blocks to a friendly neighborhood dive for a Cerveza and some Mexican food to restore our (my) resolve, then headed North up the Silver Strand, stopping shortly before dusk near Silver Strand State Park.

Although outside the park, there are nice picnic facilities (with decent restrooms and running water) on the East side of the penninsula. Unfortunately, camping isn't permitted at this facility, so we rested a while, watched the sunset and freshened up before pushing on to find a place to sleep.

I was dog-tired. It had been a really long day for me, especially those last few westbound miles before dinner. I'm sure Nick thought he'd need to tow me the last little way, but I managed it - barely - under my own power. Too much couch, not enough bicycle had taken their toll!

We woke in the morning to a curious sunrise - no sooner had the sun cleared the mountains East of Downtown than it started creeping above the blanket of inversion layer covering the bay and West San Diego County, so we only had a few minutes of full-strength sun before the usual coastal morning weather resumed. I enjoyed the show, frankly.

We breakfasted at Clayton's Coffee Shop in Coronado (Huevos Rancheros for me - noticing a pattern?). Clayton's is my favorite place in Coronado - it apparently hasn't been re-decorated since the '40s. No, I don't mean it was MADE to look that way, like, say a Ruby's... I mean it has been there since then, unchanged! Still serves good food, promptly, with a smile, and for a very modest price. Look them up. Drive over the bridge JUST to eat there - it's worth it.

Of course, bicycles can't be on the bridge, so we rode to the Ferry landing (got there a bit early and had to hover a while), and ended up at the 5th avenue landing - a very curious place for a ferry landing - right in there among multi-zillion dollar yachts that were such an ostentatious display of wealth and excess... well, it was simply a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

We kept to the bike path west along Harbor Drive, past the Airport and into Point Loma. Crossing up to Catalina, I decided this was the Achile's Heel of the ride. I must find a better connection to Catalina, Talbot is a WALL. Next time, I'll use Chatsworth, I guess...

We had decided to ride to Cabrillo National Monument. The road out there is really nice, traffic courteous, lots of cyclists around.

Nick was struck by Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on the South side of the road. Somber.

As the sun broke through, we doubled back at the entrance to Cabrillo National Park, and I was grateful that most of the climbing was now over. Catalina is a fine ride in either direction, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We worked our way carefully through OB, finally crossed to Bacon St., and then up to Robb Field. Nick wanted to check the Skate Park there, because a couple of his buddies were supposed to be there. We lucked out - they hadn't left (barely) yet, and Nick got to say 'hey'.

Back on the bike trail Eastbound to Pacific Highway, then South through Old Town and up Washington Street to University, then through Hillcrest. We were again impressed by the 'Tour de San Diego' nature of the ride. We'd covered a lot of varied terrain, diverse roadway and culture on this route, for sure. And our timing was good, it was just past noon and shady on the patio of Mama Testa. An order of Tres Cochinitos and a Cerveza for me!

After lunch, I had renewed mental resolve, but fatigue had a firm grip on my legs. It was a slow ride the last 10 miles home to La Mesa, but this has been a fun trip. Nick has got me hooked on this - I look forward to more overnight trips this summer.

Lessons learned:
  1. My Brooks B-17 Standard saddle was amazingly comfortable, in spite of my lack of saddle-time over the last few months and the the relatively short time I've owned it (less than 500 miles). Nick had the same saddle on his Surly and has had no complaints in a month of daily commuting.
  2. We over-packed, and my bike doesn't seem to like a bag on the bars (shimmy-shimmy). Next Time I'll pack lighter, and have a rear rack (I don't like the look of them, but ya gotta go with what works, right?).
  3. Nutrition - next time I will gobble down energy-packs more frequently, and I'll be in better condition!
  4. Attitude - My nephew and riding buddy Nick is one of those rare folks with a truly adventuresome spirit. His positive attitude made this trip a joy when it could have gone bad (I was nowhere near ready physically, for this trip). He didn't make me feel like I was slowing us down or a drag on the ride (although I was). He treated me as a peer. Thanks, Nick - you've set the tone for me - I'll be doing more of these rides and I'll fulfill my promise to ride much stronger the next time we do this - maybe up in your neighborhood, next time?

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