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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rethinking the Sunrise Highway

Entering the Sunrise Highway from the 79, not too far from Cuyamaca Lake.
In an earlier post I said something like: "A ride from north to south along the Sunrise Highway with a stop at the Kwimee Viewpoint would be a blast!"  Or words to that effect.

Well, what I said is true.  But there are caveats.

1.  The best way to ride it is on a lightweight, unloaded bicycle.  But we bicycle campers can't do that; we have to haul all our camping gear.  Be aware that the Sunrise Highway is full of intense climbs that become un-fun very, very quickly.

2.  The summit is roughly 6,000 feet.  There is a psychological element - again, for those of us hauling camping gear - when we hit the first sign saying "Elevation 5,000 feet" we think this is the summit.  Oh, no no no... we still climb another thousand feet.

3.  If you're hauling camping gear, don't figure on traveling much beyond the Sunrise Highway.   Don't do what I did: schedule a campsite at a spot some 62 miles from my starting point.  You will become exhausted and then there is the danger you won't be as careful as you should be.  That's exactly what happened in my case.  In fact, I was within 15 miles of my destination when I clonked myself on the head.

All right!!  I've reached the summit!!!

Puff puff... pant pant... what the?.... puff... pant 

A steel-framed bicycle carrying all this heavy gear just isn't the optimum way to handle this highway.  I advise any bicycle camper who must follow the Sunrise Highway to either (1) book a campsite at one of the Laguna Mountain campgrounds (the Sunrise Highway goes right past them) and allow yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, or (2) proceed slowly, take lots and lots of breaks, and again allow yourself plenty of time.

My mistake was in trying to negotiate this mountain while under a time constraint.  On a bicycle, that is insanity!!  

On the other hand, the Sunrise Highway is well worth riding.  It is a stunningly beautiful ride!!

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