Friday, May 3, 2013

Funky ride around Spring Valley, Dictionary Hill, Casa de Oro - Mt Helix

Hrrrmph! I think I've got a sort of stomach flu or something. Been in low-energy mode since Tuesday or so. Was feeling pretty out of sort Wednesday morning and resting wasn't doing anything for it, so I hopped on the bike and thought I'd ride out to the Performance Bicycle in La Mesa and back. I was almost out of degreaser and needed to shop for a replacement chain rings.
Performance Bicycle on La Mesa Blvd in La Mesa
Didn't find the right chain rings, but did pick up a new bottle of degreaser and some more of those little chamois cream tubelets. The weather was supposed to get too hot to ride for the next two days, but just then it wasn't bad yet and I was still lethargic so I thought I'd ride a bit further and go south to explore a bit of Spring Valley and see if I'll perk up after a few more miles. You know, sometimes it takes a good sweating session to kick the bug out of your system.

Southbound Bancroft Dr in Spring Valley.
Bancroft Ranch House Museum.

Had a good roll down Bancroft Dr into Spring Valley and found the neighborhood more pleasant than expected. Stopped by at the Bancroft Ranch House Museum, but it was closed and there was nobody around except from a posse of chicken. The house used to be owned by Hubert Howe Bancroft who ran a huge olive farm out of it in the late 1890's and early 1900's. There supposedly is a spring on the property that gave the area its name, but it was all fenced up so I couldn't see.
Southbound up Helix St in Spring Valley.
Coronado Bridge & Pt Loma from Helix St in Spring Valley.
Anyhow, I took a left on Lamar and then headed south on the pleasantly curvy Helix St. What a nice bit of thoroughfare! The road climbs pretty gently as it curves its way up the north side of Dictionary Hill, with a few nice vistas of Mt Helix and the surrounding areas at its many curves. On a clear day you can see clear to Pt Loma!

Helix St at Grand Ave on the north side of Dictionary Hill.
I had Google Earthed the area before and wondered about cutting across the hill from the north side of Grand Ave to the southern bit. Eye-balling it as I passed by on Helix St, it looks doable (there's a dirt track across the top of the hill), but quite steep, so I didn't go and check it out. The steep dirt track wouldn't be much trouble for me going up, but coming down the other side of it on road tires and rim brakes could get ugly...
The Apple St monster...
Getting into La Presa I turned east on Jamacha Rd and came face to face with quite a monster... Some hills look worse than they are from the distance, this one just got worse and worse as you neared it! Apparently the average gradient for the whole climb is 17%, with the top pitch blowing up to 30%. Aside from the long sleeves and blue jeans I had on I had never regretted having the heavy U-lock (and all the stuff I bought at the bike shop earlier) in my backpack as much as I did going up that hill!

Granted, the view from the top was pretty good, even for a hazy day. It just took me a while to feel like enjoying anything after having heaved up that gruesome ogre. There were a couple of breaks on the climb that helped somewhat. I freely admit to loitering a bit in really slow circles at the break before the final pitch. I wouldn't have made it up otherwise... That last pitch was both the steepest and the longest... Nothing to be attempted while using SPD pedals/shoes unless you are absolutely sure that you can make it to the top without stopping since there is no way you can clip out of the pedal in time to prevent a crash if you don't.

Well, I was out trying to ride this stomach bug out of my system, but apparently icky super-steep hills really aren't the best prescription for it. By the time I tacked my way down the east side of Apple St (it is a little bit more reasonable than the west side, though I'm afraid going up that hill from any direction on a bicycle is just plain painful) I was bonking a bit. It was now getting quite hot and the gentle climb up Jamacha Rd felt quite more draggy than it ought. It didn't help that I got a bit lost trying to take Calavo St all the way up to Fuerte on the way back. Well.... Calavo dead-ended on me (I think it jumped a few times to the side... I just didn't remember in which direction and chose wrong)... and it really doesn't pay to get lost in this hilly bit of town. Smiley
Del Rio St in Spring Valley.
Luckily after a while I found myself on a street whose name I remembered from the map, though Del Rio St came with some wacky traffic control devices. I don't think the side lane is a bike lane... You shouldn't ride in it anyhow, those icky little islands in the lane are quite nasty. The cars in the main traffic lane can ride over their bumps, but if you hit one of those little islands with your bike in the side lane, you're going down (and a few of them aren't easy to spot even with the white paint).

Anyhow, I made my way back to Avocado Blvd, Fuerte, and then took Grand View back west to Bancroft Dr to pick up La Mesa Blvd west back to town. It was a longer (and hillier) ride than I thought I would do, and it didn't get rid of the stomach flu like I hoped it would. It was still a good ride nonetheless. I got to know a new part of town and got some exercise in before the weather got really hot. And though it was anything but pleasant riding up Apple St, it is now crossed off my 'San Diego bucket list climbs' list...
Maria St at Apple St in Spring Valley.
Zoomed in on the top bit of Maria St.
Alas, I got a glimpse at another monster while I was on Apple St that looked even more evil to cycle up... This is Maria St, the top section of which is supposedly the steepest bit of pavement in town (32% grade)... and the whole thing looked longer (with fewer breaks) than Apple St is! Smiley I think I'll need to build up more climbing muscles for the next time I return to the area...

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Thanks for stopping by. Be safe on the roads!