Saturday, January 4, 2014


I have a thing for switchback turns on narrow country roads...

A switchback high up Nate Harrison Grade on Palomar Mountain.
I wonder what a psychologist would have to say about that. An incurably twisted personality? A fixation on the now rather than the future?
Al Bahr Dr on Mt Soledad, completely twisting itself into a knot.
I like climbing up and descending down switchback curves, with the road ahead only revealing itself to me a little bit at a time as I round its corners. Switchbacks are almost only found on mountainous roads, of course. Their sharp turns cut down the road gradient on steep routes up mountain ridges and faces.
Not quite a switchback, but a tight ring around Mt Helix.
In a way, not being able to see far ahead makes many of San Diego's tough mountain road climbs seem more manageable. I get pretty demoralized sometimes when I look up and the climb seems keen on continuing on forever.

There aren't many San Diego roads twistier than Camino del Aguilar on Starvation Mtn.
 The tighter the switchbacks, the more to keep me occupied with what I have to do right now. It's like living in a perpetual survival mode...

Round the turn for more and more climbing on Camino del Aguilar.
Of course, one can't live like that forever. There's only so much psych to wear down before you blow...
A tight switchback on Mesa Grande Rd climbing up from Lake Henshaw.
Luckily, this isn't the Alps or the Andes, and there is no road going higher than 6500 ft or so in San Diego County. You might suffer for an hour or two at the most, but all climbs do end... usually before your reserve runs out. And then... the view... and the twisty downhill that a cyclist doesn't have to worry about keeping to the right edge of the road while descending. We are more maneuverable than cars, and it's easy to hold the same speed (or even faster) navigating the curvy downhills as those big lumbering machines do.
La regina del mondo...
The same exhilaration experienced by Leonardo DiCaprio's character in Titanic as he perches on the nose of the ocean liner, breaking into the fair wind like 'the king of the world'... without having to buy an ocean cruising ticket or win a card game and then getting sunk by an ice burg in a frigid ocean.... or something like that.


Anonymous said...

It's funny - here in UK we regard switchbacks as the up and down little hills in a road rather than the bends. But then the Romans can be blamed for many things!

Smorg said...

Hiya Eyes,
Interesting! Are all the switchbacks there steep ones? Here you mostly just see them on steep roads, too, roads that would be steeper without them. :o) I guess I was remembering how nice the switchback on Alto Dr up Mt Helix is. The pitch below it is so gnarly, then you get to the switchback and are no longer going up a 14% grade ramp.

One of these days I've got to get over there and ride the old Roman roads! The idea has been nagging me since I read Anne Mustoe's book. She followed the old Watling St out of London to pick up more Roman roads on the continent all the way to Greece, then picked up Alexander's route into Asia, critiquing what Arrian wrote about his battles along the way. :oD Have a feeling I'd need a mountain bike or at least a cyclocross one, tho. The cobbles sure look rough!

Georg Hausherr said...

Hey Smorgy,

Thanks for the new word "switchback". Looked it up in the dictionary: ups and downs in English and 180° bend in the USA.

What I don't get is Eyesometric's remark about the Romans. As I understand it the word refers to the fact that you have to change gears and the Romans were riders not drivers.

By the way, Roman roads are everywhere, even here in hilly Cantal/Auvergne. The Romans disliked snake-like roads. They had them built by captives or slaves and they did not appreciate them turning, even slightly. A Roman road goes straight ahead like a crow flies. Stubborn people, those Romans. Or, as they say in those Asteric cartoons: "Ils sont fous, ces Romains"