A couple of months ago my buddy Hugo and me participated in the 2nd leg of Neighborhood Cyclery's Pain Is Temporary cycling tour; this was a series of SAG-supported rides that invites cyclists of all abilities to attempt one or more of Southern California's toughest cycling climbs. The 2nd leg of the series was San Diego County's only Hors Categorie climb, Palomar Mtn by Hwy 79 and South Grade Rd. There was quite a big turn out!
We started and finished at El Ray Mexican Restaurant on the north side of Hwy 79 just west of Cole Grade Rd. A few of my other San Diego cycling pals also showed up for the ride. Dean, Neighborhood Cyclery's proprietor, gave a good pre-ride safety briefing before snapping a group photo and sent us on our way. I was quite curious to see how this climb would feel, as I hadn't done it in almost a year (and the weather was forecast to be slightly on the warm side... so there'll likely be bugs!).
Hwy 79 east of Valley Center Rd had was re-surfaced not long ago, though, and we enjoyed the smooth tarmac as much as we could get... which wasn't much considering that the shoulder comes and goes and there isn't much room for bikes in between the rumble strip and the raised curb/brush/multiple fields of broken glass and other things.
This being on a Saturday, there were also quite a few motorcyclists enjoying the road.
Hugo, Teresita, and I made slow but steady progress up the long constant climb. Hugo had gained a lot of weight after 7 years in the wheelchair after falling off the 5th story of a building he was constructing, but had lost over 250 lbs of it since taking up cycling a few years ago. He was still carrying more on him than you'd expect of anyone attempting to pedal up Palomar Mtn the steep way, though.
Dean and his mom were manning the SAG wagons and it was always a treat to spot them as we would come around a blind curve (there are many blind curves on Hwy 79 and S6!).
I'm afraid Hugo popped his hip out of its socket as he got out of the saddle on the lower slope of Palomar South Grade Rd, which made pedaling on quite a pain in the behind for him (no pun intended). You've got to be a tough b*st%rd to keep turning the pedals around on the constant 6-9% grade road for 4 miles with a popped hip, though. I can't even imagine how he did it, but he made it to within a mile of the top before having to call it a day. Would have taken my helmet off for him, but I sort of needed it for a while longer yet.
Teresita and I caught up with a few other riders after we split from Hugo and even got to snap a good shot of Danielle, Dean's wife and co-owner of Neighborhood Cyclery, about 2 turns from the top.
The Palomar South Grade Rd downhill, of course, is always a treat on its own. I'm afraid there were too many cars on Hwy 79 than I would have liked, but that didn't stop Teresita and I from swinging off the road at Valley Center Rd to patronize a local farmers' fruit stand. The young farmer there sold us huge bags of strawberries, oranges and avocado. He even rigged up the mesh bags with piece of rope to turn them into temporary backpacks for us!
Better yet, everyone sat down for a hearty and very tasty fine Mexican meal at El Ray after the ride. It was a nice morning ride with good friends old and new, and we got to patronize local business in the process, too. A morning doesn't get more perfect than that to me!