Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Stagecoach 400: Last Day and Night

I stopped at the beginning of the Sweetwater reservoir since I didn't know what to expect next and getting into an urban area may have made it difficult to find good camping. Although it was a nice place, I didn't sleep very well that night and probably should have just taken a shorter break rather than trying to get a night's sleep. I was close to the ocean, a lot of condensation and didn't think about putting up the tarp, so it was wet and I never got comfortable. A waste of the night, I just should have ridden a few hours more then. Instead, the morning saw me cruise along the Sweetwater Reservoir on single track. Very nice, but not that spectacular that I would have minded missing it riding at night.
A couple hours later, I was in downtown San Diego and stopped at Starbucks for a late breakfast (mainly large coffee). After 2 hot days, it was somewhat chilly and I felt much stronger. In this weather, I can go twice as far! The rest of the morning was a rather urban ride, but as another indicator of careful route planning, the very last part of San Diego was a tour of the UC San Diego Campus and I stopped there for lunch. I didn't have the highest expectation of what was to follow as my impression of the San Diego area is suburbia hell, but I wrong: lots of very nice riding took us out of San Diego back into the mountains.
In fact, one of my favorite part of the whole ride were "the tunnels", a very overgrown maze of single-track trails between developments. But essentially, the next few hours were zig-zagging through open space set-asides between suburban developments and never felt that the ride was actually crossing a major urban area.

Some rather surprising switchbacks between Encinitas and Escondido.
And then along Lake Hodges (Obin and I would be riding there later in the year on a 50 miler starting near Escondido). The trail ends at the I-15 and I had dinner and resupplied at the shopping mall. Around then I noticed that if I just ride through the night or just take a short break, I could actually break 3 days and this new idea energized me and I took off at a faster clip.
On the other side of I-15, the San Dieguito River Trail takes you eastward through the San Pascual valley for an hour or so, but it ends on Highway 78, a very busy road connecting Escondido and Ramona/Julian. No way avoiding this highway for a few miles uphill and that is the worst part of the whole ride. It feels extremely dangerous as the road is hemmed in by rocks on both sides, has no shoulder at all, and cars still go 50+ miles. It only is a few miles before turning left onto a very overgrown dirt road (fence is locked, so there haven't been vehicles for a long time). Didn't take pictures even though it was very nice as it was getting dark and I wanted to get as many miles on the trickier trails before darkness. I have no idea how the next 8 hours or so looked, except in between there was a road through Warner Springs (but no traffic at the time I went through), but it seemed to be all wider dirt road. A very enjoyable night riding alone through the desert - in fact, I probably enjoyed it more than doing it during day time. I believe the many climbs could be disheartening in daylight. A few times, I laid down for a while, sometimes just as much to enjoy lying flat on my back on the trail and looking at the sky as to recover. I took a spill on a sandy spot, soft surfaces are hard to see, but I nevertheless really liked riding through the night.

At dawn, I found myself approaching Anza and all that was left was a climb out of the desert (although a very long and hard climb) back up to Idyllwild. Another snafus near Idyllwild: a couple prevented riders from taking the scheduled route on dirtroads and had us detour on the main road. So halfway up the final climb, I had to ride back down. I caught up with a local, Joshua Weinfeld, as I saw him hopping a fence and followed him on his alternative route to the finish. A bunch of people had gathered at the bike shop, including Ezter Horanyi (on the left) and Jay Petervary (on the right), both clean and recovered after having finished hours before us. In contrast, Joshua  (third from left) looks rather hammered. He, Tracey Petervary, and I were the last ones to be under 72 hours and as it didn't look as if there would be anybody else arriving for hours, the crowd dispersed.

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