Distance: 320 miles (514 kilometers)
Low temp: 19 celcius (top of the mountains – palms/pines Hwy)
High temp: 30 celcius (Palm Springs)
Time on bike: 8:00 – 5:00
Today was the type of ride that makes the wait for repairs worth it. I planned out routes based on recommendations from people online and a bit of research.
Being that I’m not that familiar with the area and climate I was a bit concerned to get up and leave at 8:00 am in 30 degree celcius heat. Palm Springs was very quiet during the morning and I was able quickly make it over to Palm Desert and the first part of the day’s ride.
The starting altitude is about 400 ft and immediately the road gains altitude. The Palms to Pines Highway goes straight up from the desert floor into the mountains. The road twists and turns up to the top of the San Bernardino National Forest. From 400 ft up to over 6500 ft. The air was perfectly still and the road winds along the high plains. It provides quite a view of the desert below.
The second part of the road goes across the mountain tops and gains about another 1000 ft in altitude. The 10 miles or so to Idyllwild is absolutely legendary riding. Very technical twisty corners that get the bike right to the edge of the tire. It generates enough heat in the tires to actually burn the edge and pill up the surface. Plenty of fun..
Up to the summit of the San Jacinto mountains for a view towards LA. Quite a stunning vista. In the summit area I stopped to take pics and there was a single guy quietly perched on a large bolder overlooking the valley thousand of feet below. “Just reading and enjoying nature,” he said. Amen to the brother.
As rapidly as the road rose it also falls back down to east side again. Back down to 2500 ft. The temperature also went straight back up into the 30s from the nice comfortable low 20s. A quick stop for lunch in Beaumont and a minutes long jaunt up the interstate to the next loop.
The Big Bear Loop also comes highly recommended. From the valley the switchbacks begin and ultimately take you up to 8500 ft. Nearly vacant until the midway of the loop this highway is unbelievable. Scenic and very challenging. Hard to believe that for almost 100 miles there are no straight stretches to speak of. A blast to ride.
Bear Lake is quite pretty and just a small little community. It would be a great place to go skiing and get away. It looks like it gets quite a bit of snow and there isn’t a lot of traffic or tourism. Two small ski hills tucked up behind the lake. The second half of this loop has plenty of 15-20 mph corners and again requires complete concentration for the entire ride. It is easier to get much more comfortable with technical aspects of riding when you have roads like these that challenge you for hours at a time – quite different from the roads around home.
The GPS lead me on a bit of a goose chase on the way back to the coast and Lake Elsinore. A quite detour through a suburb called Redlands which was actually quite a nice place to spin through. An older suburb with plenty of well looked after houses from the 1920s and 1930s.
The last part of the journey also crosses a mountain range and back down to the coast. The road leads up to about 4000 feet and after the summit quickly twists and turns back down to San Juan Capistrano. All the traffic was moving away from and away from the coast. Haven’t seen a lot of California drivers to this point. Wow! They drive like the Indy 500 on his road. A bit scary to see minivans and SUVs coming at you at 20-30 mph over the limit on such a narrow road. By this point I was exhausted and happy to heading up the coast to my stop for the day.
Rather than taking the interstate I decided to travel up highway 1 instead past Dana Point and Laguna. It was right around rush hour so this was a bit of a mistake. A 20 mile journey up the coast took nearly an hour. It’s always nice to see the ocean after such a long journey. To feel the mist and humidity in the air and finally see he surf rolling in. Always one of mu favorite parts of these road trips.
I arrived at the hotel. One of the nicest Motel 6 hotels I’ve been in. Very funky renovation and
New fixtures, etc. One draw back though. While it is close to the beach communities it is also right at the beginning of the route 55 freeway. Surprisingly though with the air conditioning and a very comfy bed I was still out like a light at the end of the day. The price is right, too. I had planned to stay in Santa Monica but with rates of 200 plus per night that was completely out of reach. With a few minutes on the freeway you can get to this places quite quickly.
I ended up taking a quicker route down to the beach in Laguna today. Turns out it was a toll road. Needless to say that I snuck into the speed pass lane so hopefully don’t have a ticket sitting in the mail when I return. 😉
Nice second day here. Just hung out at Laguna Beach for the day. Got to do some reading of my novel and wander along the surf. Relatively busy for a weekday at the beach. Great lunch spot right on the main drag. – Pizza Schmizza. Delicious pizza and really great atmosphere.
From this point on it the return back home and north. I wish I had those extra days back to do some more exploring here in the LA area. Maybe a fly-in vacation in the future to just hangout in one of the beach communities.