You’ll find that this isn’t the first ride I’ve documented in celebration of Enzo’s birthday. In fact, I did the exact same trip last year, undocumented on this blog, and learnt some very valuable lessons.
Most may not know, but the hills in behind San Diego elevate so quickly that at the higher altitudes you can camp in pine trees. I think at a certain time the area also produced apples, but orchards now are hard to spot, perhaps they are hidden. One thing that has remained after the apple farming business is pies, the Julian area is famous for pies: berries, apple, fruit and nuts and sweet sauces of all description. If it can be baked into a pie it’ll be found somewhere around Julian. We begin our ride in Escondido, not quite sea level but close enough, and will ascend 4500ft to the pie-rich area surrounding Julian to camp at William Heise Park.
Beer should follow the water. If you have good water, you should be able to make superior beer. Not in America! Escondido, where our ride begins is home to a vast array of breweries housed in cavernous industrial warehouses bang smack in the middle of an arid floodplain. Some of these original breweries are nearly household names now, Stone Brewing, Port Brewing, Lost Abbey. So, in theory, a cool place to start a huge uphill bike riding weekend before camping nearby and being ready to roll early the next day, what could possibly go wrong? Have you ever taken a closer look at the alcohol content of craft beer, it should come with a hangover guarantee. This year, rather than try to make the same ride with an equally ferocious hangover, I awoke at 5am in my bed in LA and drove the two hours to Escondido to meet up with a bunch of hungover campers and then we were ready to ride.
Two groups rode out in search of famous Julian pie. Armed with rigid mountain bikes one group went chasing country lanes, single trail and fire roads up the hill, while we others rode touring bikes on road in the same direction. The road route mostly follows Highway 78, and in several parts is narrow shouldered and dangerous. There are three substantial climbs and a bunch of uphill in-between. The Old Julian Highway portion is particularly pleasurable, a quiet rolling one lane road where it’s rather peaceful other than the occasional motorRacerBiker with GoPros attached to his helment, to the handle bars, and one at the top of, basically, a flagpole attached just behind his ass, buzzing by you like Maverick does the Tower. To be honest, I’ve said to the group that if we were to do the same route next year I don’t think I’d attend as the likelyhood of being hit by a car is ever-present and not worth the risk. Taking the highway to the danger zone is fine for some, but not myself. The dirt option excercised by the intrepid mountainbikers sounded lovely, and all anyone needs for the trails is a 1980’s ridgid MTB with minimal modification, as demonstrated by our friend Rich. They did, however, arrive two hours later than we did.
Dudley’s bakery is situated at the bottom of the last and most difficult climb. Learning from experience, I didn’t stop for half an hour and eat two pieces of pie, even if that pie is terrifying delicious, before attempting the climb. I had eaten nothing but a tamale in Ramona and drank several muscle milk LITE and a large coconut water – the body runs more efficiently when it isn’t trying to propel a laden bicycle up a hill while simultaneously digesting apple and walnut pie. On this second, more intelligently approached ride, I purchased a packet of salt’n’vinegar chips, a hawaiin sandwhich (hawaina bread, ham, jelly, and pineapple) and a piece of berry pie – all to eat upon arrival at the campground.
The last part of the ride, once you leave highway 78 onto Pine Hills road, is the most difficult. The roads become vertigiounous but you are rewarded with some of the best scenery of the day, I had to walk my bike up several hills amongst ghostly looking pines in fading daylight.
Arriving at William Heise Campground is an empty victory, THE END! After speaking with the park officer it becomes clear the campground is long and the camping sites are almost a mile up another steep hill, lesser men have been known to break out in tears at this news. Dispite the distance, sites 88, 89 at the very end are best as they are the most flat and directly access the hills and forrest surrounding the campground.
We sent our support vehicle into town for beer and firewood and quickly put on every piece of clothing we carried to keep out the cold while setting up camp. And it does get cold, on the night we camped it dropped to 40f, people in Michigan are laughing at this but for me and my southern Californian toes and fingers it was an unnatural experience.
The next day is simply a reverse of the previous day except that all uphill is suddenly exhilarating downhill, it is much easier.
At the conclusion of the first days ride, while sitting around the campfire one of the more hungover riders suggested the most sensible of all schedules. Leave LA early Friday morning, arrive in Escondido ready to ride by 9am, climb hills without hangover, eat pies, camp. Saturday, wake, ride downhill, arrive in Escondido, visit breweries for well-deserved refreshments, camp at Lake Dixon. Sunday, wake hungover, sit in car for return journey home. Combining this schedule, with the dirt route and appropriate bicycles would make probably the perfect cycle journey from Escondido to Julian.