With the Mount Laguna Classic less than a week away, it seems like a good time to recap my first ride up Mount Laguna, the 2010 Tour de Julian last November.
The Tour de Julian took place on the first Saturday in November. To avoid a very early wake-up and acclimatize our sea-level lungs to the slightly higher elevation of the mountains, we drive up the night before for some car-camping at Paso Picacho campground in Cuyamaco Rancho State Park.
This was our first big trip with our new Rav4 with bicycle roof rack, so we were happy to see that the bikes made it to the campground intact:
Even though we have a tent for our backpacking adventures, we decided to try literal car-camping for this trip – sleeping in the back of the car! It was a little bit more roomy than the tent, and much easier to enter and exit gracefully.
After we settled in to the campsite, we began preparing our pre-ride dinner: barbecue chicken sandwiches and corn-on-the-cobb:
And of course, there’s only one proper dessert when cooking over an open fire….S’mores!
The next morning, we woke up bright and early to pack up camp and drive to the ride start location – Menghini Winery outside of Julian.
The ride started at about 8:30, and we rode through Julian and made our way through the hills south of town. Starting at Engineers Road, 9.2 miles into the ride, was the toughest climb of the whole day.
At one point I tried to stop on a steep section and took a zero-MPH fall into the scrub alongside the road when I failed to clip out of my pedals in time. I took solace in seeing other riders walking their bikes up the hill, since at least I wasn’t the only one having a tough time on that section! Luckily I reached the top of the hill relatively unscathed, and got to enjoy a twisty descent through the trees on my way to the first rest stop overlooking Lake Cuyamaca (almost back to our campground!).
After a few more miles, I turned onto Sunrise Highway and started climbing toward the summit of Mount Laguna. The morning was chilly, and the wind was starting to pick up as I got closer to the mountain; shortly after the second rest stop at mile 20, another person caught up with me and then decided to turn around because he didn’t want to continue in the cold. I didn’t think it was THAT bad, so apparently I still have some cold-tolerance despite my nine years in San Diego!
Before long I started seeing some of the faster riders coming back the other way – and I still had eight or so mostly uphill miles before the summit! I kept pedaling away, trying to enjoy the scenery despite the suffering caused by the elevation and attempting the most climbing I’d ever done on my bike in one day. I probably stopped to catch my breath every 15 minutes at some points, and for a while was playing leapfrog with one other rider who was doing the same. I did stop to take pictures of my bike at the important signs:
There were some downhill sections that I happily zipped down, although I also dreaded climbing back up those sections on the return. Once or twice the wind picked up as I was climbing on exposed sections of road, and I had to try hard to keep from being swept off the road! About two miles from the summit I met up with Chuck again as he was heading down the mountain, and we stopped for a chat before continuing our rides. I was extremely happy when I finally hit the 6000 ft sign – almost there!
Two minutes later I was pulling in to the summit rest stop to refuel for the ride back down the mountain – victory half attained. There were only a few other riders at or on their way to the rest stop by then, most of the slower riders having opted for the 28 mile ride instead of climbing Laguna. I played leap-frog with a few other riders again on the way back down Sunrise Highway, and found that only one or two of the dips was hard enough to really feel like climbing on the way back down. I was disappointed to find out that trying to slice through a strong side-wind at 30MPH is not actually easier than trying to suffer through it at 6MPH – it’s just scarier because you’ll crash harder if you fall.
The 6 miles on Highway 79 back to Julian were tough, mostly because I was tired and ready to be done riding for the day. It was also tricky making it through the town of Julian itself – it was a very nice fall day, and town was overrun with unpredictable tourists in car and on foot…probably the faster people had an easier time getting through before town got super-busy. At least by then I knew I was almost done – just two more miles (including one last short-but-steep hilly bit) to make it through before enjoying apple pie at the end!