First off, don’t go climbing an HC mountain with an iffy chain. And if you’re gonna anyway, bring a chaintool, a bag of those hand-cleaner-wipes, and definitely wear black shorts.
I have been wanting to ride up Palomar Mountain in San Diego County for years and sporadically asked Tom Hanson, a friend who lives in San Clemente, about leading me up there. Tom has climbed Palomar numerous times and always is ready to roll, but never thought I’d actually get around to formalizing a ride. Well, I’m getting more into doing things now rather than later, so I made an appointment with Tom to be the trailboss and sent out an invitation to a number of cycling lists. Since I scheduled the ride deliberately for a Monday in order to avoid weekend tourist traffic on the mountain, only two other fellows decided to join us.
One was Lloyd Huff, a retired LA county employee whom I know from the Beach Cities Cycling Club. The other was Ben Konell, who is an urgent care physician with a variable schedule. I’ve actually been on a trip to the French Alps with Ben where he diagnosed my grade 3 A/C shoulder separation while I was laying on my back at the side of the road after crashing while descending the Col du Cucheron near Grenoble. Good times.
We left early, early in the morning in order to avoid jams on the freeway, headed south through Orange County and the Camp Pendleton Marine base, stopped in Oceanside for breakfast at the Beach Break Cafe, then headed inland to Escondido to start our ride. We set up in the lot of a dog park near the foot of Lake Wohlford Road, rolled about 300 meters to the turnoff for Lake Wohlford, and immediately started a lengthy and steep climb which was just the first of about 8000′ over around 80 miles of riding. Most of the course Tom selected had some substantial pitch to it, very little was flat or even near flat.
Luckily, the day started out overcast and cool, unlike the 90 degree weather Tom was expecting. Even though it cleared up as the day progressed, the relative coolness from the morning stayed with us. Just what I ordered.
We rode a lot of the course used for stage 8 of the 2009 Tour of California, including climbs on Lake Wohlford Road, South Grade Road (Hors Categorie), and Cole Grade Road. Tom also took us way to the southeast of Palomar, along the shores of shrinking Lake Henshaw and up Mesa Grande Road, where Ben broke his chain while muscling up the slope. I always carry a mini chain tool in my seat pack for such occasions, but after seeing Ben turn his fingers black and grimy while handling the chain, I deferred to him and Tom to effect the repair. Ben sacrificed his base layer shirt to clean their hands afterward, Lloyd had a few foil-wrapped wet wipes to clean whatever grease got on the bike frame, and the final wipes were on Ben’s black shorts.
Without that dinky little chain tool, Ben would have been sitting at the Lake Henshaw Resort swilling beers while we rode back to the start and then drove back to pick him up. At least 3 hours worth of beer swilling, in his sweaty stinky form-fitting modern athletic apparel. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
Here are the still pictures I took of the ride – Palomar ride pix.