Corona - Looking Back With 2020 Vision, Part I - CycleBlaze

December 31, 2019

Corona

The weather turned spectacular overnight, and the day dawns over ten degrees warmer today than yesterday.  The last clouds are leaving the valley as I walk to a nearby cafe for a corned beef hash and eggs breakfast, giving myself a break from the string of uninspiring motel breakfasts we’ve been getting by on lately.

Dramatic, but transient. The sky will be clear by the time I finish breakfast and head back to our room.
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The weather is perfect for the generally flat forty mile ride from Temecula to Corona.  Unfortunately for us though, we’re going the other direction today.  After biking into a fifteen mph headwind for several hours, we’ll both have had enough of it by the time we drop down to Corona.

This is our second shot at this ride, and we’re repeating it almost to the day four years later.  Then, we spent New Year’s Eve in Temecula, mingling with the masses and shivering on a near-freezing night to watch The Big Grape Drop.  The next morning we biked this same route to Corona, and in my description of it we enjoyed a pleasant ride, with generally light traffic on New Years Day.

Well, today’s ride was a bit different.  More traffic than I remembered, and busier roads.  I dunno - maybe all the guys were indoors, hung over from the night before and waiting for the bowl games to start.  Today they’re all out sharing the concrete with us though, and it’s not as pleasant.  Part of the time we manage to get off of the main drag and onto quieter neighborhood streets, but mostly we’re biking in the company of pickup trucks and SUVs, by far the most prominent vehicles here.

Still, the country is very scenic here as the valley narrows and the hills close in on either side. 

A few miles west of Temecula, near Marietta, the western ridge seems just yards from the road.
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In Wildomar, enjoying a brief respite from the traffic in its quiet neighborhood streets.
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Northbound through Wildomar on the aptly named Grand Avenue, we enjoy the most generous bike lane of the day.
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In Wildomar
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Beyond Wildomar, we soon come to the southern end of long Lake Elsinore.  We’ve been looking forward to this for a few miles, anticipating a peaceful spot for lunch, looking across the lake and avoiding the noise of the traffic for a bit.  And, by watching carefully, we find it.  The western shore of the lake is almost completely privately owned, with tiny Lake Elsinore State Recreational Park providing the only public access.

It’s tiny, but it’s enough.  We enjoy a very nice lunch break, the best part of today’s ride by far, admiring the snowy mountains to the east and a small flock of white pelicans bobbing along just offshore.  Not quite as comical and entertaining as their brown cousins, they’re still a delight to watch.  Today’s little flotilla is on a fishing expedition: sailing along in formation with their huge bills tilted downward, eyes on the water.  Suddenly one will plunge its head under and the other four immediately follow suit.

Lunch stop, Lake Elsinore
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Looking across Lake Elsinore. Is this San Gorgonio Mountain? If so, it’s 11,500’ high, the highest peak in California south of the Sierras, and the most prominent. It’s visible from further away than an other mountain in the country - 190 miles, from the summit of Mount Whitney.
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On the hunt.
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Chow down!
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And we have company!  Four colorful domestic ducks sidle up to us, hovering around me expectantly as I scarf down my second PB sandwich.  Feeling a bit guilty for my piggishness, I toss a tiny corner to each of them and then quickly polish off the rest.  One refuses to believe there’s not more to be had though and hops onto the bench next to me, gradually inching closer.  Give a duck an inch, as the old saying goes.

Please?
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Jen GrumbyI like the decorative shadow on its neck.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyI do too. I took several photos of him on the ground, mostly trying to get ones with the sun on his face; but the one with a necklace won out.
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2 weeks ago
I just know there’s more up here.
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Pretty please?
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Fine then. I’ll just order up a pizza instead. What’s your credit card number?
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Shawn AndersonHere I thought it was trying to dial his cousin Aflac!
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Scott AndersonTo Shawn AndersonNow that’s funny! Laughed out loud.
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1 week ago

Finally leaving our new duck buddies we continue biking along Lake Elsinore, finally rounding its north end and dropping down toward Terra Cotta.  The landscape is dramatic here, with the western ridge abruptly bending east across the head of the lake, the road curving with it.  Ahead are the intensely colorful slopes around the mines above Terra Cotta, a now abandoned former mining community.

I remember this descent to Terra Cotta and the colorful cliffs above it, and was looking forward to seeing them again.  I’d forgotten though what a disappointing descent this is - it’s busy, there’s not much shoulder, and the views are continuously marred by utility poles and traffic.  We never really come to a place with a decent view, as we failed to do last time also.

Dropping past the north end of Lake Elsinore, with the remains of the Terra Cotta Mines scarring the slopes ahead.
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After this and the next few miles on a too narrow, too busy road, I’ve about concluded that I really don’t care for this ride at all, when suddenly everything changes and we’re riding through beautiful Temescal Canyon, its stream bed ablaze with autumn colors.  The best riding miles of the day by far.

Finally, dropping the last few miles to Corona, we’re amazed when the land opens up and gives a us huge view of the San Gabriel Mountains.  I can hardly believe this, all of these snow-capped ranges.  I don’t recall this at all from last time, so perhaps the region was still under drought conditions then.

In Temescal Canyon
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Corona Lake, in TemescalCanyon.
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Dropping toward Corona.
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The San Gabriel Mountains rise above Terramor, a large gated community south of Corona.
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Entering Corona.
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Video sound track: Besame Mucho, by the Dave Brubeck Quartet

We were in Corona on New Year’s Day last time through, so we’re arriving a day early.  We remember that stay well for one thing in particular: our excellent meal at La Luna, a classy Mexican restaurant.  We remember it as the best meal of that short tour and one of our best Mexican meals ever, so of course we’re going again.

You almost hate to go back to places like this.  Maybe they’re not in business any more, maybe the quality has gone down, maybe you’ve oversold it in your memory.  Tonight though, it works out.  We have a delicious meal that’s every bit as good as we remembered the last one being.  Rachael especially enjoyed the pre-meal chips and salsa, remembering her disappointment four years ago when she was unable to have rhem because she was still recovering from a gum procedure.  We share a Tempranillo toast to the passing of a splendid year, and reminisce over its many high points.  On to 2020! 

A nearly new moon to usher in a new decade, Not the best shot, but appropriate for a diner at La Luna. Actually though, it’s a make-up for a much better shot I missed a few nights back because I failed to bring my camera to dinner. A perfectly clear night, and a much slimmer crescent cradling a very bright Jupiter.
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Also, I see that we don’t quite have the right moon for the occasion. It’s arched in the wrong direction.
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Baked salmon with fruit salsa, fried plantain, yucca cake and a tequila glaze,
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Roasted chicken enchiladas with a poblano mole.
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Ride stats today: 41 miles, 1,300’; for the tour: 476 miles, 22,300’

Today's ride: 41 miles (66 km)
Total: 476 miles (766 km)

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Suzanne GibsonLooks like a great finish for 2019 and bodes good things to come in 2020! Happy New Year, Rachael and Scott!
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonThanks, Suzanne. Best to you and Janos too. With luck, maybe we’ll cross paths this fall.
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2 weeks ago