Sunday, December 30, 2012

Canyon of light

It rained all last night after raining all afternoon, too. Is it done raining? We don't know.

This morning the pack heads south out of Hemet on wet roads at a good clip. One lane of a two-lane road fills with cyclists. The Sage Road alternate is finally the official route.

Yesterday's ride was fabulous for a handful people, including me. The rain came just in Hemet. A half-hour later the first drowned and frozen rats began to show up at the church. Apparently the clouds headed for that notch in the hills, the official route. Everyone in that group got caught in a downpour. And it was sleeting, then snowing on the ridge in Mountain Center. Only the fastest riders came down from the ridge dry. Last night cycling clothes hung everywhere.

More than hypothermia, a number of us had accidents on the road yesterday, casting a pall over the group in Hemet. People are tired and bikes handle differently when the roads are slick. Eric, someone I rode with on Day 1, was hit by a car just a block from the finish. They took him to a regional hospital and this morning we found out he is probably going to be OK. We have his bike, with a taco'd front wheel. That was a close one.

My camera turns on but refuses to boot up. My body is going through something similar. Maybe it needs more than 2 weeks to bounce back from the flu! Or maybe it doesn't appreciate sleeping outside in freezing weather. In Sage Canyon, the fasties pass me by and rabbit on up the hills. Of course they stop by the side of the road and I blow by them. This is the game.

Mid-morning in Temecula there's sunshine, warm and dry, to bask in. I'm on a bench outside a Starbucks, drinking a mocha. The sky is still grey and threatening but these moments are important to savor. The cold and wet is starting to wear people down.

Tonight there's a motel room in Fallbrook with my name on it. After four days of communal living I'm really looking forward to it. We are about halfway between LA and San Diego and you can feel we are closing in. Yesterday I was in the middle of nowhere on a dirt road. Today I'm cruising through the Temecula wine country, buying a new camera at CVS!

Everyone is looking forward to De Luz Canyon, connecting Temecula and Fallbrook. This afternoon is our last rural road experience, and one of the sweetest anywhere. The longest climb comes first, at the entrance to the canyon.

At the top the sky is so dramatic I stop for a photo. Lightning flashes and thunder comes about a second and a half later. The camera goes back into my pocket and I ride on!

A creek runs alongside (sometimes over) the road. There are probably a half dozen stream crossings, some with a fair amount of water. The proper technique is to address the crossing at a right angle, while neither steering nor braking. Just coast on through...

Some time in the 19th century the creek was named Arroyo Corral de la Luz, which means "of light". Today the light is amazing.

Here agriculture still seems to be a viable pursuit. There are citrus orchards dotting the hills, massive avocado trees, even a nursery. Things love to grow here. This is how I remember California, from growing up. Beautiful hills and good stuff to eat, all visible along the road.

Mik from Meetup is riding slowly up a little rise near an orchard of orange trees, taking it all in. I ask if everything is all right. Wearing a big grin he says "this is great!"

Thunder rolls as I'm climbing out of the canyon and roll toward Fallbrook, dry and happy. Once again I somehow escape the rain and hail! The Fallbrook Country Inn has a shower and a hot tub, both of which are voluntary and welcome. 

I intend to ride a mile back to the church for the final night's presentation. We are each supposed to give our impressions and experience of the ride. But I'm too tired and it does not happen. It's more important to get some rest. 

What I would have said is, I'm so impressed by the riders on their first multi-day tour. In 1997 that was me and I still remember. This is not an easy ride; most people don't realize there are big mountains everywhere, and it's not always warm or hospitable. A lot of people would have given up or howled in protest. But these brave souls all seemed to hunker down and press on.

Gives me hope somehow. Hope that we'll make it through whatever we have to. At the end of the day it's good to have each other.


  1. You're right - you get cold and chilled and wet and you handle yourself differently too. Glad you made it through, and that your Day 1 friend is going to be okay.
    And huzzah for the new camera!

    1. 16 megapixels!! $80! That's like (exactly) $5 per megapixel!

    2. 80 bucks? Holy crow! That's fabulous.