Saturday Exploratory Ride, 12/12

You never know what you’ll get the second Saturday of the month, and we like to think that’s one of the things people enjoy about Swami’s Team Fun – our route creativity.  While we stick with the traditional Swami’s Saturday Route on the first and third Saturdays of the month, on the second Saturday we get to take you all somewhere completely different and hopefully off the beaten path … in a good way.

at gate zumaque

Sabine, Heather B, Irwin, Sparky, Derwin, and Melina at the bottom of Zumaque hill

For this past Saturday’s ride, I designed a route that ended up being titled “Visit the Open Spaces”, since we skirted by seven designated preserves/open space parks.  My thought was that for the most part, we’d be sticking to slightly less traveled roads with awesome views off to the side.  I think that panned out.


50 miles, ~3000′ elevation gain

We headed south out of Nytro, with a turn inland at Chesterfield in Cardiff.  The San Elijo/Manchester route takes you by the San Elijo Lagoon County Park and Ecological Reserve on your right, and then further down Manchester past the Manchester Preserve just before turning into Rancho Santa Fe.  Usually I like to kick it up a notch or two on the Manchester part, but I was fairly under control that day.  The goal was to keep it challenging but not impossible, and I was well aware of the first climbs that were about to strike.

El Mirlo is one of the less traveled entry points into RSF, although the road quality is pretty poor and the climb, although not terribly long (just under a mile), is deceivingly relentless.  I think I always think that about climbs that get steeper at the end.  Just as you are sort of catching your breath and enjoying the views, the route takes you down a steep incline at the bottom of which is an almost always closed gate (see picture above).  If you try this route yourself, you’ve been warned – watch your speed.  I don’t want to hear any stories of cyclist-wrapped-around-gate, please.

This is the much whispered about “secret” (not-so-secret) connector road between Rancho Santa Fe and the Carmel Highlands area.  It is techincally private, and I’ve heard a few stories of running into a security guard at the gate but have never experienced it myself.  The road is about two miles long and very idyllic – from the tree cover at the bottom, to the hillside of solar panels, and the views of the canyons, it usually gets added to everyone’s “favorites” list once they have been through there.  There are two reasons it may not get added to your “favorites” list.  It definitely has its fair share of hills (and in the west direction, i.e., UP Zumaque its even worse), and secondly, after a rain, it is highly likely the road will be somewhat flooded.  I conveniently forgot that second drawback, and therefore was a little shocked and dismayed to have to pedal slowly through several inches of water, but we all survived with no mishaps.  On this road, you pass the Lusardi Creek preserve (hence the water, I guess?).

Once you get to the end of Artesian, you pop out onto Camino Del Sur, a pretty well-traveled cycling road.  Often our routes start to head back to the coast from here, but this time we continued on toward Poway.  We do not have many routes that head to Poway, in fact, I know I’ve never been on one, so I was pretty excited to try out this portion in particular.  We passed the entrance to the Lake Poway Park (famous for the Mt. Woodson, or “Potato Chip” hike), and also the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve.  With the slightly different climate and landscape out this direction, we even came across some fall foliage.  I mean, it’s winter and Southern California, and I’m sure many trees that find themselves planted here get very confused, but for a few stretches I could’ve almost imagined myself in New England in October.

fall foliage in poway

The A group had only one more significant stop for Sparky to dig some debris out of his brakes and for the rest of us to load up on snacks for the last half of the ride.  I tried to convince myself, and the group, that the rest of the route had to be quite a bit easier in terms of elevation since we’d already gotten close to averaging 100’/mile for the first half of the ride – almost a sufferfest ratio, really.  When you are thinking “exploration ride”, you don’t generally think “sufferfest”, but then, you are forgetting where you live. Unless you are exploring the streets right next to the beach only, you are going to be climbing some hills.

I’d say the rest of the route did tend toward the easier side, but we kept the pace moving all the way through the finish – with the exception of a minor (planned) detour through Del Mar Heights, where we always enjoy a little ramble to see how the other half (or 0.05%) lives.  I usually can tell I’m on the right path when I pass by the “Walls of Babylon” house, where there is this inexplicably large wall with vines growing down in just smack in the middle of Del Mar.  I mean, I’m all for building your castle defenses, but it’s maybe about 800 years off the mark.  (I’ll need to get a picture next time I go by).

The A group had at one point seven riders, while the B group at one point topped out at 14 riders.  That group got broken into two, where one of the groups did the full 50-mile route and the other did a still-fun modification that ended up returning on the 56 bike path.  We enjoyed the company of many new-to-us riders this past Saturday, including a couple visiting from Manitoba, Canada.  We also had the pleasure of introducing some new ride leaders, including Janice and Lauren for the B group and Laura for the C group.

I have been having nothing but an outstanding time on all of our rides this year and am overwhelmingly pleased with our decision to join the Swami’s Club.  I can’t think of a better place to start our rides than Nytro, which is open early if you have any last minute bike issues and provides coffee and snacks each time.

Join us for our last few group rides of the year this Friday, 12/18 for Coffee Ride, Saturday, 12/19 for the group ride, and Saturday, 12/26 for the last group ride of the year (rumor has it it might be a repeat of the La Jolla Tour we all enjoyed last October for the wild card ride).  Technically the fourth Saturday of the month is for the hill challenge (aka sufferfest), and for any of those wishing to partake, Soledad Mountain will be there for the climbing… or going around.  And admiring, from the pleasant elevation near the bottom.


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