I had planned on taking off from Del Lago bus station in south Escondido by 7:10AM, though my bus driver was so safe she refused to go faster than 50 mph on the freeway even though the speed limit was 65 or 75... so I didn't get to there until 7:45AM. Thirty five minute didn't seem like much... until a few hours later when the sun started its attempt to melt me into a mushy goo climbing up the big mountain in the heat of noon. At 7:45AM it was still cool enough for me to keep my arms and legs warmers on, though, as I rode up Del Lago Blvd to Beethoven St and spotted the bike path entrance on the north side of the road.
|Bike path between Kit Carson Park & Beethoven St in Escondido.|
|Bike path along east side of Bear Valley Pkwy|
were in the hurry to get to work. There was a bit of gentle climbing up the Bear Hills. A good warm up stretch before the turn off to Lake Wohlford Rd.
|Bear Valley/Valley Pkwy at Lake Wohlford Rd|
|Lake Wohlford Rd|
|Watch out for those cow crossings. They're grated irons across the pavement... almost as bad as railroad tracks.|
Cars and trucks trying to speed past on my left, a huge vertical drop to my right, and the road surface under my tires that looked and felt like it had caught a particularly virulent strand of small pox. The bike bounced around so much that it was all I could do to hang on for dear life. By the time Valley Center Rd finally leveled out my arms and legs felt like they had caught the spell Gilderoy Lockhart used in his attempt to mend Harry’s broken arm in ‘Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets,’ – quivery and quite practically boneless.
|View of the mountains to the east of Valley Center Rd (S6)|
|Water stops at Rincon|
|Jilberto's Taco Shop on Hwy 76 just east of Valley Ctr Rd, the traditional start of Mt Paloma climb.|
It’s 17 miles to the top of the mountain from here. It was also 11AM and the sun was flexing its muscles a bit and I was starting to appreciate every little bit of shades the road side trees threw my way. A mile or so up the road was the turn off to Cupid’s Castle; the daft resort castle that you could actually spot from the road if you looked for it, which I did if only to mark it as the ‘a mile or so back to the Valley Center Rd junction’ landmark for the way down.
|Hwy 76 climbs on and on east toward Mt Palomar.|
Spinning the next-to-easiest gear on up the road as my supposedly sweat-proof sunscreen started to melt into my eyes. The road seemed to be endless! It was supposed to be only 10 or so miles to the junction… but 10 miles on a 6% incline slope tend to dilate time a bit. But just as I started to seriously wondered if I had missed the turn off to South Grade Rd somewhere in my myopic ‘climbing a bit of the road at a time’ mode, the road leveled out (and even dropped a little bit, just enough for a little recovery coasting) and the turn sign turned up on the side of the road.
To be honest, as happy as I was to finally turn onto the S6 (South Grade Rd) up the mountain, I was even happier to see that the Oak Knoll Campground at the base of the road had a store that sold cold drinks! I was hoping for fountain drink (so I could put ice in the bottles), but they only had bottled drinks… But they were cold, and there was even a chest of ice cream bars, too (now you know why it took me so long to complete the loop. I kept stopping to eat!)!
|Oak Knoll Campground general store.|
|Here comes another pair of speedy motorbikes roaring down South Grade Rd.|
I don’t know why they put down a mileage marker every .2 mile instead of every mile, but it was tremendously helpful in getting me up that twisty road of endless aggravation! I kept promising myself that I’d quit and turn around at the next marker… I got to, say, mile 42.4. It’s at the left-turning switchback, so from the up-lane bike lane I got to take the shallowest incline around and the ride wasn’t feeling so bad. Let’s get to the next marker instead. Got to 42.6, feeling like dropping dead, but there was the 3000 ft elevation marker up ahead. Let’s get to that!
|This road sign wasn't talking to me...|
By the 3000 ft elevation sign, though, the most aggravating thing about the climb manifested itself… Dive-bombing kamikaze flies that will crash land on your face in their attempt at eating it! It was past noon now (my original 'turn around time') and I had been sweating up a deluge. The evaporated sweat left salt on my face that the flies found irresistible, so they swarmed around my head like a pack of bees after the Pooh bear. I only managed to get rid of most of them by splashing precious drinking water on my face to wash the salt off every so often.
|Palomar Artesian Springs on South Grade Rd. All dried up in Sept 2012.|
|They used to charge 25 cents per gallon, I suppose. None of the faucets are working now. All the levers were removed.|
(This is getting epic. Part 2 coming up in a bit)