Old Town-Carlsbad Permanent

High 50s, sunny, not much wind. Great day for a December permanent, particularly when compared with the projected temperatures for next Saturday’s 200km ride in Lancaster, PA, that I’ve signed up for. I like this permanent because I get to ride up the coast through La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas and finally to Carlsbad, enjoying ocean views along much of the route. I lived inland from this area for more than 20 years so returning for this ride is filled with memories for me.

San Marcos, now home to Cal State San Marcos, is inland from Carlsbad about 10 (??) miles, but even then, in the 80s, decades before I started rando rides, I used to ride to the beach from San Marcos. Palomar Airport Rd, then, was only sage bush covered hills. Now it’s strip malls and more. Legoland is somewhere there, I think. The beach strip of Carlsbad doesn’t look too different: still some funky cheap restaurants and much too expensive restaurants all mixed in together. Still the crowds of surfers hanging out on the cliffs analyzing the wave break. Still the joggers, dog walkers and fellow cyclists.

Across from Carlsbad State Beach, which is actually a couple of miles south of the town, there are housing developments that went up in the late 80s or 90s?? Not sure which, but in any case, the once empty fields are now jammed with unattractive townhouses. The beach just south of Carlsbad, which we used to call Moonlight Beach (I think?), has been restored. For a period of time there was little sand and many big rocks. Now the sand has been restored and I can more easily reminisce about the summer night suppers we used to have there. My “San Marcos family” (including not just the immediate family but cousins, uncles, aunts…) would go there on summer evenings when the inland areas were hot. We would swim, eat, sit around a bon fire, tell bad stories, and sing “cowboy” songs. We’d float on the water near the shore at sunset, talk, laugh, look forward to dinner and sitting around the fire. The last time I talked with my “San Marcos mom,” she said, “We had fun, didn’t we?” We did.

Further south, in Encinitas, the not-quite-so-small surf-hippy beach town, where a few places like Captain Keno’s and Hansen’s Surf Shop have survived for decades, I am reminded of all the time we spent at the Jack and Dan’s beach house. Jack and Dan are two of the cousins and for several years, they rented a house together in Encinitas. They had dinners at their house, and going there was my first exposure, I think, to people my age living on their own. Going there was always like stepping just outside the boundaries of approval for a short time. Delicious and a little scary for someone who had led a sheltered life in remote parts of Western Australia until then.

Swami’s Beach is at the south edge of Encinitas. There is the little beach park high on the cliff above the beach, a perfect place to stop for a short rest in a ride. Sit on a bench, eat a Cliff Bar and watch the waves for a while. You can’t help but relax.

Further south is Solana Beach, Del Mar, and then La Jolla, home of UC San Diego, where I spent almost eight years. The campus has grown dramatically since I graduated but I can still weave my way through the campus if I’m careful, through the talking tree grove (an art installation), past Che’s Vegetarian cafe, and down to Gilman Drive which drops cyclists onto the Rose Canyon Bike path that parallels Interstate 5 for a short time. If you’re careful, you can get safely to Mission Bay, then Pacific Highway, Old Town, and back to the start of this ride, a Shell gas station just off the freeway in Old Town.

I do this ride almost every Christmas, when Jayne and I return to San Diego to visit family and friends, because I miss the ocean, and I can do this ride without looking at the cue sheet. Instead of paying attention to navigating, I can look around, taking note of what’s changed, thinking about the people who were so much a part of my life during my 20s, mostly, and also thinking about what has stayed the same. Bits and pieces of that part of my life are still there. My memories, of course, return when I ride this stretch of San Diego coastline. And I’m still riding my bike.

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