(The title was suggested by my friend Randy; it was just too perfect).
Today, I climbed Palomar for the 2nd time. Over 5,000 feet of climbing, 60 miles, hot, windy, and good old-fashioned fun. I've decided I have to do this more. I did this ride 1 year ago, my final peak ride before my taper for IMAZ. Dean (may he rest in peace) rode with me the entire way. How time flies.
I reached the parking lot in Kit Carson Park and was greeted by about 20 other cyclists. It was awesome to reconnect with old friends and make new ones simultaneously. I could tell it was going to be a hot day. We headed out and were hit with a false flat almost immediately. Cars honked as they tried to get around (we were riding single file). This would be a common theme for the rest of the ride. Motorists out in the Escondido, Valley Center, Rincon area just 'aint too biker friendly. Sucks.
We climbed up to Lake Wohlford, the first "bump" on the route. It was nothing to sneeze out. The lake was vast and sparkling as the sun's rays played upon the surface. I resisted the urge to take a dip to cool off. We passed by several farms. I loved the goats, the llamas, the cows, the buffalo, but not so much the chickens. They stink! The baby donkey with his big long ears and furry head was by far and away absolutely the cutest thing I've EVER seen. He was very tiny, only a few weeks old, and totally adoreable.
We regrouped at the Taco Shop, at the base of the mountain. I was hungry so I gobbled down a Drumstick ice cream cone. Delicious, refreshing, scrumptious! We began working our way up the mountain. Everyone else hammered away. I maintained my conservative pace, keeping the long climb out of Rincon back up to Lake Wohlford at the end of the ride, in mind. A cool breeze relieved me as I climbed, like natural air conditioning. Gorgeous wildflowers lavishly bloomed in the valleys alongside the mountains: yellow daisies, golden California poppies, lavender lupine. The hillsides were covered in a lush, velvet, green grass. Climbing on Torch is no easy feat. I realize now that climbing on Pandora is cheating. But Torch will be my trusty steed in IM-Canada. So, I plunge into my climbs now on Torch.
We reached the 4,000 feet sign, and I rejoiced. Only 1,000 feet more to go. Of course, the last 1,000 feet is the steepest. And the hardest. And took the longest. I toiled to turn the pedals over around switchback after switchback. My knees were puffy and swollen from Thursday's fall and didn't enjoy the grinding of the gears so much. Especially standing climbs. Seated climbs, ok. Clipping in? Not so much. Ugh! I worry about tomorrow's long run. I spotted my friend, B., on the side of the road. He had flatted. I stopped to help. He was toiling away with his mini pump. I gave him a CO2 cartridge. I hate those damn pumps! He was very thankful but I was relieved for a little break. Little did he know....
We climbed back on and continued our struggle. He was grateful for the cartridge (and some water since he had run out), I was grateful for the company. We reached the 5,000 feet sign. Are we there yet, are we there yet? The climb is supposed to be 5,200 to the top but I the last couple hundred feet are always the worst. Some tourists, stopped at the top to enjoy the view, called out to us as we passed, "You guys are crazy!"
"Thank you!" It seemed like a compliment to me. Finally, we saw the crest, and I secretly rejoiced.
We regrouped at Mother's Kitchen, an awesome diner at the top of Palomar. My brood didn't look so good. They were laying down in a patch of grass by the diner.
"C'mon!" I urged. "Let's get lunch!" Reluctantly, they followed me inside. I bought an awesome club sandwich and a coke, splitting it with B. I gobbled down the food, satiating my grumbling tummies, which was now sloshing with sports drink and Cliff Blocks. After a long, restful break, we climbed back on our bikes and headed down.
11 miles, and 5,200 feet down. Sounds incredible. In actuality, it's a bit harrowing. My wrists ached from squeezing the brakes and my hands went numb. It was difficult to navigate the tri bike around the switchbacks. The road is narrow and motorcycles zoom up and down as fast as they can, leaning their "bikes" (not a real bike) over as far as they can until their knee almost scrapes the pavement. Seems stupid to me but I guess climbing up and flying down with nothing but 15 pounds of carbon between your legs probably seems stupid to them. I took in the view as I spiraled down whenever I could. I could see fog covering the tops of distant mountains, multiple cities far down below, and in the distant west, the Pacific. It was an incredible view. We reached the bottom, and I yawned several times, trying to get my ears to pop. I looked up and gasped. It always amazes me to see this giant mountain I just climbed up on my bike. It's always better to marvel at the mountain after I've climbed it though.
We began climbing up towards Lake Wohlford. The road was narrow, there was no shoulder or bike lane, and angry cars zipped inches from our knees. Not fun at all. Plus, I couldn't help but notice dried boquets of flowers placed on the guardrails around particularly nasty switchbacks. Doesn't exactly give me the greatest confidence biking on roads where I know someone tragically ended their life at that very same place. The temps had soared into the mid-80s, and I could feel my skin baking. I hydrated very well and actually needed to pee by mile 50. Only 10 more left to go, I told myself. I'm holding it. I felt cool internally, as if the hot sun's rays were bouncing off of me. I was immune. I had super-cooling powers. Yippee! We passed by a beautiful herd of horses grazing in a field. Their bellies were plump and their coats were shiny and sleek. A paint laid down in the grass, rolled vigorously to scratch an itch on his back, and laid on his side, grunting, as he closed his eyes to take a nap. He looked exactly how we felt. As we passed by Lake Wohlford, I rejoiced again. I knew the worst was over. We were going to make it.
63 miles and 6 bottles of water later, we made it back to the parking lot. It had been a hot and hilly ride. We all conquered Palomar. Even though I rode most conservatively, I think I felt the best at the end. I ate and hydrated well and kept a slow pace. I think my run tomorrow will go well. I do know that I will be climbing Palomar more frequently. I'm thinking every 2 weeks? Park at the taco shop and go up the South Grade. Now that daylight is getting longer, this is a doable mid-week workout. Awesome!