Banning to Idyllwild Ride Report, October 2 2011
Thought I would get more takers when I advertised this ride, but perhaps there were mitigating factors. Like South Bay Wheelmen having a club road race the day before out in the canyons above Santa Clarita (everybody gets worn out), NFL football games (still early enough in the season to root on the hometown team), or Sunday being reserved for short rides followed by horizontal couch positioning. Whatever the reasons, only three other riders joined me – Mike Brown and Scott Sing from Beach Cities Cycle Club, and Alysha Webb from South Bay Wheelmen.
Alysha carpooled with me, Scott carpooled with Mike, and we met at the McDonald’s in Banning at 8:30am. All of us had a bit of breakfast there, then we drove to the start location at Banning High School. We started our preparations and all of us decided to forego arm warmers and vests. The temp was quite warm and the sky was pretty clear, looked to be nice all day.
From anywhere in Banning, if you look north there is a wall of mountains topping off at 11,503′ on Mount San Gorgonio, while looking south there is another wall of mountains topping off at 10,834′ on Mount San Jacinto. Banning lies at around 2100′ in a pass between the two mountains. The Los Angeles metro area is to the west, and the Palm Springs desert area to the east. California state highway 243 runs from Banning, up the slopes of the mountains south of town, through multiple climate zones, and leads to the tourist town of Idyllwild, a mile high in the pine forests on the eastern slope of the San
Jacinto mountain range.
We turned onto Cal 243 and had about 1 kilometer of flat road before starting the climb. It was not leg busting steep, but a definite and constant effort through many twists and wide switchbacks without any false flats for relief. The road surface was quite good, but the shoulder varied from the width of the white paint stripe to maybe a couple of feet. Dry scrub vegetation on the lower slopes, progressing through manzanita higher up, and trees starting at the top of the first climb, right around 4000′. The entire climb provides wide vistas of the pass and the mountain range on the other side of the pass.
After the initial climb, the road took us through long rollers, gradually climbing to top out at 6200′ feet in the village of Pine Cove. On the way to Pine Cove we took a short break at Lake Fulmor, a very pleasant spot formed by water runoff from picturesque peaks and slopes above the lake. Most of this section of the highway provides views to the west of the area around the town of Hemet, further west to the Lake Matthews reservoir, and beyond that the peaks of the Santa Ana Mountains, which form the eastern border of Orange County.
As far as traffic goes, even on this scenic Sunday morning there wasn’t much of it. We did have a procession of Audis come flying past us with their turbos boosting the horsepower, must have been a club. Occasional motorcycles, mostly Harleys rather than sport bikes, and even fewer motorhomes. Nothing to cause concern.
When we reached the town of Idyllwild, we were all ready for food. A place called Cafe Aroma had been recommended to me, so we sought it out and had to make yet another half mile climb up a street on the east side of town to find the place. We sat outdoors under a shade umbrella and had a very enjoyable lunch. Chicken Parmigiana sandwiches and gorgonzola/pear salad. Afterward we rolled down the hill to visit with the folks at the Hub Cyclery, where they sell locally built mountain bikes – Siren.
On the return trip we had to climb out of town at 5400′ feet up to Pine Cove at 6200′ on full stomachs. It was slow going for me, but then we started the long rollers with mostly downhill, and from 5000′ feet it was pretty much all downhill. At 4000′ feet we started the steeper descent into the Banning Pass and kept our speed between 30-40mph, even with the afternoon winds buffeting us.
The whole day turned out top notch:
- No traffic to speak of leaving LA.
- Goldilocks weather.
- Great ride and scenery.
- Excellent riding companions.
- No accidents and only one flat.
- No traffic jams going back into LA.