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Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Way Home

Last week when I left Green Valley Falls there was snow on the ground and occasional flurries that stung my face. It was... great!

Looking back - leaving low Dehesa Rd. and climbing into El Cajon.  In fact, I could have taken Willow Glen Rd. (intersection showing in the extreme right) and wound up in the same place.

I followed the 79 south just shy of the intersection with the Old US 80.  Rather than ride out the same way I came in, I turned right onto Viejas Rd. (at the intersection with the fruit stand) and proceeded west.  After riding past a few farms I turned right on Viejas Grade Rd. at an intersection with a cozy looking cafe advertising breakfast.  I decided to wait until I reached Alpine to pick up something to eat.

Initially there were climbs in the snow along Viejas Grade Rd.... it stung my face and I donned sunglasses to protect my eyes.  At some point the road flattened and then began to decline toward the west.  This is a very pretty area, incidentally, surrounded by country homes and farms and lots and lots of trees.

Having never chosen this route before, I didn't realize the road surface went from paved to unpaved.  When I first saw the sign ("Paved Road Ends 600 Feet") I wondered if I would be able to proceed.  Strange, because I'd never heard of anyone being precluded from riding this road due to the surfacing.  The previous day I'd even talked to a gentleman who recalled fondly riding the Viejas Grade; he never mentioned the paving ending.

So I pushed on.  Unpaved though it was, the road was still wide and fairly firm due to much car traffic.  It was only when I reached open country, careening down the side of some low mountains, that intense bumps and rocks and mud became factors.  It was easy to allow yourself to coast too quickly and then suddenly slam over a buried rock whose sudden appearance made it impossible to avoid.  I began to worry about breaking a spoke.  But the bicycle - and my gear - held together admirably.

At the bottom of the grade the road once again became paved and I rode the Viejas lands in the vicinity of the casino.  The slope was still in my favor and I zipped along effortlessly.  A great ride.

Presently I turned right onto Willows Rd and crossed over the I-8 into Alpine.  At this point I'd ridden some 15 to 16 miles but I felt fine because the grade was mostly downhill.  The only fatigue I felt was in my hands and wrists due to their having to work the brakes during my careening ride down the side of the mountain in the mud.

The bicycle as you can imagine was covered in mud.  I didn't look too presentable myself.  And in this unkempt state I rode to Fred's Old Fashioned Burgers for some quick breakfast.  They didn't refuse my money and they fed me (grilled cheese sandwich, fries, a shake, and a cup of coffee... energy for the road!) in spite of my appearance.

Afterward I continued down Alpine Blvd. ... it's a whole lot more fun riding west on Alpine Blvd. than riding east, I can tell you that! ... a quick leftward change of direction on Arnold Blvd., and then south on Tavern Rd.  Even in Alpine I continued to catch snow flurries that melted on the ground but which stung when they hit my face.  I began to feel I was bringing the snow with me.  How unusual, I thought, if it kept up all the way to National City.

Of course no such thing happened.  Eventually I hung a sharp right on Dehesa Rd. and stayed with this country lane all the way into El Cajon.  At some point I had ridden past the Sycuan Casino - first time I ever bicycled past it - and the country is beautiful out there.

Now that I study my map I can see that I could have made a left on Willow Glen Rd. and continued down to Rancho San Diego.  Instead, I climbed into El Cajon and eventually turned left on Jamacha Rd.  They both wind up in the same place but the Willow Glen Rd. option involves less climbing.  Ah well.  I wasn't tired; I still felt strong.  I was thoroughly enjoying myself in spite of hauling many pounds of camping gear.

In Rancho San Diego while on Jamacha Rd. I noticed the signs indicated that Jamacha was about to become the 94.  I'm not real familiar with this area so I made a terrible decision: convinced that at some point Jamacha t'd off itself (it does, but not where I expected) I turned left on Campo Rd. thinking I'd intersect the Jamacha Rd. tributary.  Of course this never happened, but I wasn't willing to admit defeat until I'd ridden some considerable distance the wrong way, climbing all the while, wasting energy and causing myself a lot of anxiety.

I retraced my misadventure and having drunk all my water, bought some more at the Albertsons at Jamacha Rd. and Campo Rd.  I wasn't happy at this point; I began to grow tired and irritable.  I hate it when my plans go awry.

I found that by following Jamacha Rd. another quarter-mile to the west, it t'd into itself.  Thus, a "new" Jamacha Rd. leads southwest.  This intersection was never intended for bicyclists: it's too large, too busy, too hard to see whether traffic is coming up the hill (which can happen alarmingly fast).  If bicyclists are unsure of themselves in this intersection I suggest using the pedestrian light rather than trying to merge into the left turn lane.

At any rate, soon I was proceeding down Jamacha Rd. and through Spring Valley.  I continued on the bridge over the 125 and the road became Paradise Valley Rd., which climbed up into Southeast San Diego.  From there it was a short ride home.

Total distance - complete with mistakes - was a little over 55 miles.

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