I feel like that title should’ve definitely been followed with a little, “Duh duh duh…if you dare”. For many of us North County folks, anywhere in the “east county” tends to sound really far and brings to mind images of heat stroke and massive, endless hills. If you can get over those slightly misconstrued notions, you might find this area becomes one of your hands down, favorite places to ride in the entire county.
It does tend to be a little on the warm side out there, and sure, the last time we rode out there we witness a poor rider succumbing to heat stroke (fortunately not in our group!), but just set that aside for a minute and let’s focus on the up side.
This route has a great ramp up portion. We begin by heading north through Oceanside, where even if you wanted to pick up speed, for the safety of yourself and others, you really can’t. It’s pretty much a forced warm up time. You never know when that truck is going to go the wrong way on the street to dash in front of you into a parking lot, or that vacationer is going to swing out her door into your path. Caution is warranted.
We then jump onto the bike trail, and enjoy the next 8-9 miles of flat goodness. The C group plan for this week was to do the full bike trail plus a few neighborhoods off to the side to mix up, but all in all a pleasant 30 miles or so.
The A & B groups were to be the brave souls who headed out for the wilds of West Lilac. I headed up the A group, so as per usual, I will continue on with that side of the story.
I will start by admitting a few things. First of all, I pretty much have one attitude toward the SLR bike trail, and that would be “Get ‘er done”. This trail was one of the first places I found to ride when I moved to California, and it very much reminded me of riding in eastern Idaho – fairly straight, flat, and with lots of wind effect. So, almost without fail, when I get going on this trail, it pretty quickly moves from a little casual chatting behind me to where all of a sudden I no longer hear anyone talking. My head’s down, and I start watching the 0.2 mile markers tick off. The next thing I’ll admit is that pretty much any speed that is NOT the one David sets for me to nearly die to when we ride this trail feels mild and almost blissful. So, I pretty much have no perspective and some of my riding friends have actually taken to shouting my speed at me every five seconds or so to make sure I’m alert and aware and maintaining a reasonable pace. I will say that doesn’t always work.
I was extremely proud of my little group for hanging in there last Saturday… our average speed for the length of the trail was close to 20 mph, and we did not even start to push it until a mile or two in. Next time, 21 mph!!
While we waited at the light to turn onto 76 West, there were a couple of somewhat scared faces behind me. I said, “Don’t worry, we won’t keep riding like that – I promise!” And then there was the usual, “She always says that,” business, and I know, you all think I’m a little bit truthfully challenged (although I’m no Pinocchio, like somebody else I know!). But I was serious this time. It was time to slow up the pace.
So we meandered on it to the base of West Lilac, where lucky us, it became suddenly quite sunny – which while makes for lovely views, isn’t exactly what you want at the start of a long climb. A lot of people don’t really view West Lilac as a long climb, which I think is extremely odd considering it averages out to a 3% grade over almost 5 miles. That statistic in itself is misleading because some of that is downhill, which means parts are much steeper than 3%. Mind you, nothing is VERY steep, but it’s still no joke and does seem to be never-ending. We took a bit of a pause at the top of the first half or so (definitely the harder part), and then took on the remaining rollers to the turn onto Circle R. This second part is definitely the part I find the most scenic, with views to the distant mountains and some farms, nurseries, and orchards in closer proximity. During citrus season, you can usually locate yourself an errant tangelo two if you’re so inclined.
Descending Circle R is (almost) always a treat, as long as the traffic is low and there are no crazy cross winds. We lucked out on Saturday and saw very few cars on this whole portion of the ride in Bonsall/Valley Center. Just a little ways to the right on Champagne at the bottom of Circle R, there is a handy little camp store with good prices and just-perfect bananas and clean bathrooms. Usually it’s somewhat mobbed with cyclists on weekends, but our four were the only ones there last Saturday. After resting and refueling a bit, who shows up but the B group, creating a great photo opportunity. It was warm, but not bad at all and everyone had ridden strongly through West Lilac and beyond.
It was at this point, that the groups mixed up a bit and Shannon and Karen joined up with the B group, while Jill and I headed a little bit more south so we could head back to our homes. Shannon and Karen briefly considered joining us, but when asked if it was more difficult the way we were going, I couldn’t lie – we had Champagne straight ahead of us, into the headwind and with a rather hot sun at that point. Champagne nears the top of my least favorite climbs list. It’s not that steep, it’s not that long – I just hate it. So I can’t exactly encourage others to go up when it could be easily avoided.
But Jill and I suffered up it, but then had a pretty mild rest of the ride back to south Carlsbad. I hadn’t ridden my back that far in two weeks, so I was definitely feeling it as the odometer topped sixty and sure was glad to pull into the driveway and put up the feet for a bit.
Some comments from the group:
“Just another great ride and awesome route. I don’t think we saw one car on West Lilac or was I just delirious from the climb? Either way, it was beautiful!” – Karen
“If anyone would be left behind it would have been me. Those hills…….this group is so wonderful and patient. They really mean we are a group, and stick together. LOVE THIS GROUP” – Dee
Please join us next Saturday when we head to Point Loma!