The major rollers actually stop before Bonsall, which is 70+ miles into this 200km permanent, but the title of the ride is apt. Permanent owner Dion Dyer warned me the day before, saying that he had designed the route as a training ride for PBP. “Great,” I thought to myself. “Now he tells me.” Still, since the total elevation gain is noted to be less than 6000 feet, I felt confident (well, as confident as I ever feel on a brevet—not very) that I could tackle this ride. I predicted a 12½ hour finish, and I was able to do it in 12, but at the first and second controles, I was struggling to stay ahead of the cut-off times. Thanks to the rollers. The longest break I took was probably 15-20 minutes, and most were half of that. I picked this route from the impressive list of San Diego offerings, and over my usual purely coastal runs, to challenge myself and do something different, plus it still ends with a run down the coast from Oceanside to the Sports Arena/Point Loma area. I looked forward to that all day, but there were some other very beautiful sections as well.
Starting at a 7-11 off Point Loma Blvd, the first 10 miles involves carefully negotiating traffic, signals, and lots of turns. The traffic and the signals slow you down, but you really do have to be careful, so patience here is key. Once you get to the Rose Canyon bike path, things open up a bit, but then you hit another stretch of signals and turns. Occasionally I’ll run a light if it seems really safe, but more often, I stop and wait. It takes time. The first 15 to 20 miles was pretty familiar territory although I think the Miramar/Mira Mesa(?) area is more built up than I remember. Then I started moving through areas where road names, at least some of them, were familiar but I didn’t recognize anything I was seeing. By the time I reached the first controle, I was in entirely new territory for me. There are ways through the mesas from San Diego to San Marcos that simply didn’t exist 20 years ago when I regularly rode all through San Diego county. The last time I rode Black Mountain Rd, for example, I approached it from the Poway/Hwy 15 side. It went through housing developments for a while and then turned into a rough dirt road that went I’m not sure where. It used to be that the north/south routes included the coastal route or the inland route that went along 15 and then through Poway and along I-15 to get to Escondido. Yesterday I was somewhere between those routes and didn’t really recognize where I was until the Encinitas area. But again, so many more malls and houses populate these areas now that it seemed all new.
The Subway/Starbucks controle on Palomar Airport Rd was welcome because I was pretty hungry by this point. All of the climbing had taken some energy and I needed some real food. One 6” turkey and cheese sub and small coke later, I was ready for more hills, and there were a couple more good ones before San Marcos. I’d been feeling slightly disoriented all day but that feeling was exaggerated by what I saw in San Marcos, which was virtually nothing that I recognized even though I lived there for more than 10 years. The route that I would have taken through San Marcos all those years ago was apparently not the best one, but when I read “Discovery Rd” on the cue sheet, I had no idea what it was. In fact, it’s a major route through town, eventually joining with Barham and landing you in Escondido (not changed unfortunately). The area of San Marcos from the high school past CSU San Marcos simply didn’t exist when I lived there. And because I lived exactly where CSU San Marcos now stands, this was the area of greatest disorientation as I could not even tell where the house had been. Twin Oaks Valley Rd, formally little more than a two-lane country road, is now three lanes wide on each side, lined with trees and cobble stone intersections, a proper upscale approach to the campus. No chickens, avocado trees, no field with horse corral surrounded by the houses in which all of the cousins and family lived. I have moved on to a very different life, but what I saw yesterday made it seem as if that life had never happened. It was unsettling, so it was almost a relief to see Escondido (this part of it anyway) as depressing and unattractive as I remembered it.
Leaving Escondido on Broadway, I was about to climb another good hill—Jesmond Dene. At least the road wound up through a pretty canyon. I reached the frontage road along 15 north and after one or two more little hills, enjoyed quite a long stretch of downhill. Past Lawrence Welk resort and more until the turn westwards that takes you into Bonsall. From here back to San Diego, with the exception of the Torrey Pines hill, the route is pretty mild, even including about 8 miles of bike trail that dumps you out in Oceanside. There was a fair amount of open land in Bonsall that was quite beautiful and green after all of the rain. Right after Bonsall is a little section of the route that is pretty rough but it’s short and not a big deal. Pretty quickly after this comes the 8 miles of bike path that brings you into Oceanside.
I was glad to hit Oceanside because it felt like I was on the home stretch, a long home stretch but still heading directly south now back to San Diego. Riding familiar territory now, after getting my card signed at the Circle K in Oceanside, I was soon in Carlsbad, then Leucadia and Encinitas. I stopped in Encinitas to put on my reflective gear and kept going through Solana Beach and Del Mar. Up the Torrey Pines hill in the dark with all of the lights off to the east and then through UCSD. I don’t like the Rose Canyon Bike path in the dark but it’s only a couple of miles long. Then you’re back to carefully navigating your way through traffic and signals, but Mission Bay is pretty at night with the lights reflecting off the bay. The temperatures were pretty mild, certainly compared to what they are at home right now, but the night dampness made me glad I had on my wool jersey and a good jacket.
I finished exhausted, mostly physically but also emotionally a bit. I know that things change. I expect that. What I wasn’t prepared for was the complete erasure of the place that had been an important home base for me for more than 10 years. It was good, then, to finish with that familiar run down the coast. I still love the sights, and I love the seaweed-salt-wet smell through the ocean communities. That’s comforting and that stretch of coast feels like coming home. All of the personal stuff aside, this is a deceptively challenging route—well worth it. Thanks to Dion Dyer for offering the Rollers to Bonsall permanent.