Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year 2013!

Apologies for being such a negligent blogger of late! The cooler weather means much more pleasant riding condition in the mountains east of San Diego. I've been spending much of my free time stalking hawks and other cool wild animals out of the city... and when I get back to town I'm too wasted to sit down and write a proper blog entry.
Getting a bicycle was really the best thing I did for myself in 2012. I picked up a used mountain bike from a pawn shop nearby in February, mostly for transportation purpose. It was a Giant mountain bike with front suspension. Had to put two new (and well slimed) tires in along with new brake pads. The rear cassette's small cogs were rather worn, so I couldn't use the speedier gears, but I wasn't bent on going fast anyhow, so that stayed in (I just needed the low climbing gears to get myself up the city's many mesas). It was fun discovering bike-friendly routes to get to familiar places around the city, and even making forays to farther away places like La Jolla or Torrey Pines or even Mission Trails on occasions on that heavy steel bike.
My old Giant Yukon mtn bike on OB bike path near Hotel Circle
I went from just walking around my immediate neighborhood and catching the buses/trolley to other cooler places once or twice a month, fitting as many destinations and chores in as possible to the bus/trolley travel days... to regularly making the 20 miles round trips to Ocean Beach or Cabrillo Monument to sight see, and being able to spread out my grocery shopping, post office, library, and other chore runs on different days rather than having to jam them all in on the few days that I buy the bus/trolley day pass on. Then I upgraded to a light aluminum road bike in May...
The new Giant Defy road bike at Torrey Pines Gliderport
That was when my world sort of exploded... in a very good way! With the road bike I could range all the way to Escondido or even Oceanside and back in a day. An 80 mile bike ride isn't all that unusual now, and after 7 months I'm still having a blast discovering more awesome cycling routes around San Diego County (county rather than city!). I even survived a brutally long, hilly and hot organized high speed group ride, the Giro di San Diego Gran Fondo from Solana Beach to Palomar Mtn in September. Alas, I didn't quite survive an even higher speed group ride just a week later when one of the tracksters I was pace-lining with went down on the descent from Cabrillo and ignited a chain reaction group crash. Luckily everyone escaped without serious injury (and so did all the bicycles)... Yours truly now sports an inch long scar on the mug, however. A good reminder to listen to my misgivings next time around and drop out when a group I ride with starts to push for too much speed on too narrow a road.

Anyhow! It's been a great year on the bike. I made a lot of cool new friends and learned a lot of things about myself... and this amazingly beautiful and varied city I live in. Here's a compilation video of a few of my favorite cycling hang outs in San Diego County so far. Looking forward to discovering more new haunts next year.

Wishing you all a very healthy and happy 2013! Ride safe (for both you and others) and have a blast!

Monday, December 3, 2012

A ride out to El Capitan Reservoir

Winter is just about here. I'm sure the weather is less cycling-friendly elsewhere than here on the Southern California coast, though even we blessed San Diegans must check weather forecast before riding east toward the mountains this time of year.
Fashion Valley Transit Center on a foggy morning.
It was foggy out as I waited for the green line trolley to whisk me out to Santee from my Uptown abode for my leisurely ride to El Capitan Reservoir east of El Cajon. I had checked the live webcams of all the areas along my route before I left the house, though. They, along with the weather report, looked promising for clearer sky an hour or two down the road.

Mimi's Cafe front room.
If anyone wants to organize a group ride out of Santee area, Mimi's Cafe at Santee Towne Centre is an excellent venue to meet up. There's lots of parking. The facility is easy to find and has really nice and cozy waiting area. And positively the best restroom for miles!

After indulging in a huge muffin and excellent hot cocoa at Mimi's I rolled out and headed east toward Lakeside. Traffic was nice and light on El Nopal, so a lone cyclist was something worth goggling at, even for a pair of bored ostriches...

 It was a morning of many curious animal encounters. I was rolling through placid Lido Lake when I spotted this modern day dogs-drawn chariot out on a morning exercise along the lake path... 

An even more pleasant sight (for perpetually hungry cyclists like me). Persimmons are in season, and many houses around the area are running a surplus, so they leave out baskets of the fruits on their front porch along with price and a little jar for purchasers to put their money in. Good old fashion honor system. I lose a dollar bill and added four plump Hachiya persimmons into my backpack. These Hachiya persimmons aren't as ready for eating like the wonderful Fuyu persimmons are, unfortunately. I wish someone had told me that before I bit into the thing, bitter skin and all. Smiley

El Monte Rd with El Cajon (El Capitan) Mtn in the background.
But, I was out for a scenic ride rather than for sweet street-side fruits! There was plenty of the former to see along El Monte Rd east of Lake Jennings. The imposing mountain with the big rocky face is actually El Cajon Mountain, though the locals call it 'El Capitan' due to its resemblance to that famous wall of granite in Yosemite Park many many miles to the north of the state. The only road in and out of it, El Monte Rd, runs along the San Diego River gorge, and so is much gentler than one would expect, riding east into the mountain range. As it winds its way toward the park, El Monte never climb enough to make you suspect that you are actually riding uphill... that is until you pass the park gate and start the 1/2 mile climb toward the dam.

The pitch to the dam is spiky at around 6-8% grade, but it is too short to create much discomfort. Once past the dam, it becomes level again and exceedingly twisty and narrow with really lamentable pavement quality (I suspect the park leaves it that way to discourage boat-towing trucks from speeding. Come to think of it, boat-towing trucks are things you should be on the look out for when you cycle on El Monte Rd. Expect the car that is passing you to be a lot longer than the usual cars on the street!). The El Capitan Reservoir entry fee for cars is pretty steep ($8), but bikes go in for free, thank you very much! Smiley  And the view?

Oh yes... Well worth the miles and even the bitter bite of the Hachiya persimmon... 

By the way, if you want to visit, El Capitan Reservoir is currently on winter schedule and is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.