The winter in Seattle had been blustery and cold in 2008. We were ready for a getaway to warmer climes. We chose San Diego as our new territory for spring riding. Sheila did her research and connected with the leader of the San Diego Tandem Club, Sarah Lifton, and began organizing our trip.

We left in the wee hours of March 28 on Delta Airlines. That meant we had to stop in Salt Lake City before we could go to San Diego. Once in southern California, we rented a car. We got a Chrysler minivan with seats which folded into the deck. That would allow us to stick our tandem inside for getting to the starts of rides.

We first met our friends from Arizona, Gail and Tom, who were in town for a convention. We had a splendid visit sitting on the waterfront. I burned my scalp through a Northwesterner’s inattention to the sun. Afterwards, we drove to Sarah’s home in Del Mar.

Sarah and Sheila went out to shop while her partner Tony and I reassembled our tandem. It was pleasant to use a real bike stand to get it back together. Tony even had some spare screws I ended up needing. We spent the evening at their home. (That’s Tony & Sarah to the right.)

Saturday morning we all left for a two-day bike ride sponsored by the club. It would travel about 50 miles from Del Mar to Dana Point. There were around 10 tandems and a couple of singles which started out that morning. The air was cool, but 20 degrees warmer than Seattle’s frosty weather, so we were happy.

The ride was very nice. The other couples on the trip were pleasant to visit with. We crossed paths with a triathlon in progress as we wound through Fort Pendleton Marine Base. The group stopped in San Clemente for food. It was pretty impressive to see that long line of long bikes in the parking lot. Then we ripped off the last 8 miles to our hotel.

Sheila and I kind of hibernated then. We aren’t into the drinking scene, nor were any of the restaurants particularly vegan friendly. We found a shop selling smoothies and salads. We got them to make us a couple of pretty good salads for dinner. On the way back to the hotel, we uncharateristically did some shopping. Sheila actually bought an outfit: slacks, top, and jacket. It looks pretty. You’ll see it at any dress-up occasion we go to in the next 5 years.

Sunday we rode back. We stayed with a group of strong riders most of the way. We had pretty strong headwinds, an unusual event. Of course, the weather would be unusual the entire time we were down there. When we returned, we gathered our stuff and moved to a hotel in Del Mar to plan our next rides. Everyone on the weekend trip had been very helpful with suggestions.

We opted for a challenging climb on Monday. We drove to Pine Valley, about an hour east of San Diego and at 4,000’ elevation. From there we climbed…and climbed…and climbed! After 23 miles we had gained 3,000’. We made it to Mount Laguna Lodge, bought some treats and water, then started our descent. We had to stop to put on long pants and sleeves because it was sooooo chilly on the fly down. Still rolling against the headwinds, we eventually circled Lake Cuyamaga. After 58 long miles and almost 5 hours in the saddle, we pulled back into Pine Valley.

We had purchased a Garmin GPS unit before this trip. It was a blessing and a curse. It could tell us exactly how steep the grade was as we were riding it. I still hear Sheila’s voice saying, “Six percent, seven percent, 10 percent, 13 percent!” I knew the road was steep, but now I knew exactly HOW steep. Also, our trip tik said we were to have 5700 feet of elevation gain on this loop. As we were getting to the last 9 miles, we still had 1700 feet of climbing left based on that number. We were dreading an incredible hill at the end.

Turns out, we had a hill, but not nearly as much of one as projected. So the Garmin could give us information, but not vouch for anyone else’s statistics. We drove home and rested for the next day’s adventure.

Tuesday we met with Pat and Pam, shown right on the Dana Point ride. Originally from Texas, they’d moved to SD a couple of years ago and now had some free time to spend showing visitors the ropes, er…roads.  They took us on a 37 mile loop through the north county countryside. We saw some of the area’s priciest neighborhoods, orange and lemon groves, and plenty of great descents. Our abilities were very compatible and we had a great day.

Feeding ourselves was quite the challenge on this trip. We’d brought a mini-blender with us, but it burned out the first night. We made do with the hotel’s continental breakfast (although is was way more bread and sweets than usual) and mostly had big salads for dinner. On Tuesday we popped for Thai food as a change. On the road we generally had energy bars or PB & bagels.

Wednesday we slept in and stayed off the bike. We found a nearby place which would make our breakfast smoothies for us. That was pleasant. Then we sat on the beach, read, and visited Torrey Pines Reserve. It is one of two places where the Torrey Pine grows. We hiked about looking at wildflowers and ocean views. It was quite a relaxing day.

Thursday we slipped in one last ride, again with Pat and Pam. We started in downtown San Diego and headed for the Mexican border. The journey was mostly on bike paths in the city and very flat. The sight of the border fence at Tijuana was impressive. Kind of creepy, too. Helicopters were hovering over the fields near the fence, looking, looking.

The return took us up the Silver Strand, a narrow strip of land on the oceanside of San Diego Bay. More headwinds greeted us. We also saw a military radio installation. It was circled by a fence that must have been 80 feet tall. That fence was in turn circled by another fence only 2 stories tall. These guys take security seriously. We had seen the structure from the other side of the bay on the way down. The Silver Strand ended in Coronado. We were just in time to catch the once-hourly ferry back to San Diego’s downtown. And so ended another 45 mile ride.

Afterwards we repacked, then flew home Friday to a chilly, cloudy Seattle. We’d had 7 days of sunshine to recharge our batteries. We more than doubled our year-to-date mileage. And we’d met some wonderful folks who we hope will visit us in the future.

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