Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fallbrook - Mt Rubidoux - Escondido 256km

It had been too long since I embarked on a proper solo brevet-length exploration ride, so I had a rather ambitious trek planned for what was looking to be a nice and cool Wednesday morning; I would set off at 1 a.m. and ride up the Coast Hwy all the way to Newport Beach and turn inland on the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) all the way to Riverside, where I would rendezvous with a long lost cousin before making a beeline home along the I-215/15 corridor.

Thor didn't think much of my plan; however, and lit up Tuesday night with some pretty terrifying electrical storm that was still streaking up San Diego sky at midnight. Having seen many charred results of lightning strikes in my days in SE Asia and the US Midwest, I was properly dissuaded from hitting the road before I was sure that Thor had worn his hammer out... And so, the route was chopped to about 3/4 the previously planned distance and I got to sleep a few more hours before hopping on the 4:48 a.m. bus to Escondido and then to the Hwy 76/Old Hwy 395 junction in Fallbrook to start the ride there instead. It was still a long ride, though one that's 256 km instead of 250 miles long.

The day's route.
The first mistake on my ride was made before I even left home. I had spent over an hour scouting out the planned route and checking hourly weather forecast for the towns I would be riding through, but of course, the last hour change of plan put paid to all that work. I needed at least a couple of hours of sleep before setting off, and so got a lot less checking done on the improvised new route... and ending up underestimating how cold it was going to be.

As soon as I hit the still drizzly wet road in Fallbrook my ears experienced quite a weather shock and tried their best to separate themselves from the rest of the body. It helped a bit that the first two miles on Old Hwy 395 was a climb, but I still took most of the ascent to Rainbow Gap to properly warm up... That, of course, was followed by the fast and frigid descent into Temecula, by the bottom of which my ears were quite a pair of pain in the noggin. My only consolation was that 80% of all the people hurrying to work in their cars were heading south toward San Diego in the opposite lane of the narrow, curvy Rainbow Valley Rd rather than behind me... so my on-bike shivering was only uncomfortable rather than perilous.

Passing the Rainbow Gap on Old Hwy 395 while salivating over the sight of Lone Oak Rd on the east side of the freeway.
Old Town Temecula... looking less old and dusty as ever!
Heading up Whitewood Rd toward Menifee.
Temecula and Murrieta have really exploded since I last lived in the area in the early 90s! Most of the previously narrow dirt lanes are now wide paved roads lined with new houses and business complexes rather than empty space. There are a lot more people living there, and it seemed they were all out in their cars at rush hour. It now takes quite some ninja riding-in-traffic skills to make it from Pechanga Pkwy thru Hwy 79 to Old Town Front St without ending up a hi-viz roadkill, thanks to the nasty I-15 freeway on-/off-ramp merges. I did think about taking La Paz to Ynez Rd to bypass the freeway business and riding thru Old Town, but it's a hillier route and I had a lot of miles to cover, so I was determined to stick to the flattest route possible at least until I get to Riverside.

Next time, tho... I'll take the hillier detour. Live and learn.

Freshly repaved, but as narrow as it was 20 yrs ago Antelope Rd in Menifee.
Murrieta Rd thru Perris.
Front St becomes Jefferson St in Murrieta, where I turn off at Ivy/Los Alamos and went up a little hill to pick up Whitewood Rd to head north along the 215 corridor. I'd love to stay on Whitewood all the way to Romoland, but part of it is still dirt, so I swung onto Antelope Rd right next to the 215 instead. It was super freshly repaved though without much of a shoulder to speak of until just south of Newport Rd where I turned west across the freeway. That turned out to be another traffically icky stretch due to a very bike-not-friendly construction work. I was very happy to turn north onto Murrieta Rd and endured a couple more hours of very boring flatland riding through Sun City and Perris, the latter of which seems to house either extremely cautious drivers who drives very carefully around you or four-wheeled bullies who will close pass you for no good reason at all.

Staying on the flattest route possible also meant missing most of the by-way towns' goodies. I didn't get any glimpse of Lake Perris, the famous Rock Castle, March Air Field Museum, or La Sierra's Lake Matthews. The only 'excitement' along the way was catching some skydiving action while riding past Skydive Perris, and almost getting to tickle the tummy of the skydiving plane as it barely skimmed the roadside treetops while landing at Perris Valley Airport.
Skydiving in Perris, CA.
Dude really didn't clear the trees by much...
Obviously, this means that future more 'explorative' rides into this region is now mandatory if only to prevent me from going the way of the locked up curious cats. Flatland riding does have an advantage when it comes to speed, tho. I made pretty good time reaching Riverside boundary even with many stops to enjoy the whole lot of nothingness along the way.

A bit of nothingness at Ben Clark Training Center in Mead Valley.
Box Springs Mtn, looking pretty inviting from afar.
The rural flatland riding pretty much ended when I turned onto Trautwein Rd and zooming down it into Riverside Proper on Alessandro Blvd and its weird concrete slab bike lane, which I didn't get any picture of simply because I was holding on for dear life - dodging storm tossed piles of palm fronds and other debris next to 50+ mph traffic. Luckily, traffic became much calmer once I made the turn north onto Magnolia Ave and entered the charming Downtown Riverside. It was noon and I had arrived an hour early for my appointment!

Tio's Taco's fabulous Folk Art Garden made of recycled refuse.
The charmingly shaded Mission Inn Ave.
This called for a looky 'round bit of riding and the checking out of Mt Rubidoux, the strikingly barren little granite hill dominating the NW side of town. It is quite a cool hang out.

Mt Rubidoux from the foot of the Buena Vista Bridge off Mission Inn Ave.

The place reminds of Mt Helix, my favorite haunt in La Mesa. Though, unlike Mt Helix, Mt Rubidoux is mostly rocky part with no houses except at its base, and people come from all over the surrounding towns to hike it everyday. You run into a lot of happy people doing laps on this hill even in the middle of the work week.

Don't get carried away photographing. There isn't much between tarmac edge and a lot of vertical tumbling.

It was a cool and cloudy day, so I'm afraid I didn't get the best pictures of the place. But you can still get good ideas out of these, I think. It was a nice first visit, and I look forward to many more in December!

I'm afraid my camera ran out of batteries soon after, which was just as well since the return trip was a mad dash along the I-215 and I-15 corridor. I passed thru Temecula again just after dark, and had a harrowing time cycling up Rainbow Valley Rd with the endless stream of cars speeding down the hill in opposite direction (all I could see was their headlights... and apparently the few cars that were heading the same way I did couldn't see well enough to realize when I was on the edge of the very wide turn out bulbs and the lane to the left of me was clear for them to pass). I got into Fallbrook too late to catch bus 389, and so ended up riding all the way down to Downtown Escondido to catch the 235 home (it was way too cold to hang around for another 1 1/2 hr for the next bus)!