In Temecula: the De Luz loop - Looking Back With 2020 Vision, Part I - CycleBlaze

December 28, 2019

In Temecula: the De Luz loop

It’s crisp and clear at daybreak this morning, the temperature just above freezing.  It won’t be warm enough for us to feel like cycling for a couple of hours yet, and isn’t expected to warm up past sixty all day.  The weather is really different here in the interior, a thousand feet up and walled off from the coast.

We’re here in Temecula for four nights almost by accident, having originally planned to be here only a single night on our way back from the desert.  When we dropped the desert from the tour though, we added two days here as a promising spot for day rides; and when we arrived we added one more because it looks like we’re due for another cold and wet one come Monday.  Might as well just stay put here for that day and wait it out.

The loop I have picked out for today’s ride climbs back west into the coast range we just crossed yesterday, but on hopefully much quieter roads.  I’m hoping to get up high enough to gain a good view of those mountains we got just a glimpse of when dropping into Temecula Valley yesterday.

We wait until 10 to leave the room, stop in at a nearby Italian deli to pick up a sandwich for lunch, and a mile later we leave town heading northwest on Rancho California Road.  We cross small, nearly dry Temecula Creek and then almost immediately start climbing through a narrow canyon up the face of the ridge.  A few miles later the road opens up at the top and we get the views I’d hoped for.

Climbing away from Temecula on Rancho California Road. Barely a mile from downtown and we’re on this quiet, lightly trafficked road through the scrub brush.
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It’s a steady six or seven percent grade for about two miles, just enough to warm you up on a cool morning.
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Wow! The eastern edge of the long valley is lined with snowy ranges like this one - there’s another one further north, and another south. You don’t have to put in much of an effort to get great views here.
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So that was the main reason I wanted to come this way.  I’d be pretty happy with just this, and suggest we coast back down to town and go back to bed.  Rachael thinks we might as well see what else is up here as long as we’ve come this far though, so we cross through a saddle and drop off the west side of the ridge.  

For the next twelve miles we bike west and down along the course of Sandia Creek.  We  lose sight of the snowy mountains immediately, but the views west and all around are just as fine.  It’s a fantastic ride through rugged, high profile country, our downhill progress interrupted several times by short, punchy climbs.   For mile after mile we bike through gorgeous cycling country, the best cycling we’ve seen since leaving Spain.

I don’t know if Sandia Creek Road is normally this quiet, or if we’re just lucky today - there’s a break in the road where short segment barricaded at both ends for a road repair project, so you can’t just drive through.   I don’t think we’re seeing anything but local traffic today, which is ideal for us.  

We finally bottom out at an elevation of about 300’, and pull into a small park to eat our lunch.  Here, just north of the small town of Fallbrook, we’re finally starting to see a bit of traffic, and some walkers.  We’re in a small preserve, the Santa Margarita River Hiking Trail, and the road by the trailhead is lined with cars.

Dropping west down Sandia Creek Road.
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This is beautiful country, and very diverse. Orchards, horse ranches, vineyards, palm trees, white fences.
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In horse country.
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Still dropping down Sandia road, a bit fitfully - coast for a mile or two, and then shift down for a short, steep climb.
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Awesome. There’s a lot of color in the woods now - we’ve had to wait until mid-December to see much fall color this year, but we’re getting it now.
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Bruce LellmanThis road's surface and little hills are exactly like the roads we're experiencing here in Thailand.
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7 months ago
Road closed, but not for bicycles. Lucky us!
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Scary! Life on the edge.
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Ron SuchanekThose naive sign makers... Don't they know your middle names are Danger?
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekYup. Don’t tempt us.
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7 months ago
Gorgeous, with such varied texture and color. The photo doesn’t really capture it.
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Yippee! We’re going the right way on this one.
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Ron SuchanekI know I'm a few days behind, but here's what you should do: go ride uphill. It'll be fun.
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7 months ago
What more could you ask for?
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Bruce LellmanOK, now this looks like northern Thailand, Laos, Vietnam.
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanYup. I have a feeling you wouldn’t be that happy here, even if there were temples and night markets. Pretty lumpy country.
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7 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonWe're getting pretty strong now, after 1000 miles, but not strong enough for 21% grades! Especially not carrying 25 kilos.
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanNo problem. Just go the right direction. Gravity is our secret trick.
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7 months ago
Ron SuchanekTo Scott AndersonGravity, eh? I'm intrigued.
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7 months ago
Still dropping.
Heart 4 Comment 2
Jen GrumbyThat is a road that beckons!

"Come on and see what's beyond that bend ..."
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyIsn’t it though? Irresistable.
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7 months ago
Rachael’s up there near the top of this slalom run, changing her GoPro battery I think. Lots to shoot today. Later, back in the room she’ll moan that she doesn’t know what to cut from her fifteen minute video.
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Finally, we bottom out just north of Fallbrook at the end of Sandia Creek Canyon, as the creek empties into the Santa Margarita River.
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The Santa Margarita River
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After lunch I walk over to the park’s information board to study the map, and come away concerned.  It shows our route entering Camp Pendleton just ahead, with (forbidden) in parentheses beneath its name.  I hadn’t realized the base extended out this way and haven’t seen any indications on the road, so I google it and find a map of the base.  It looks correct - we’ll cross a small corner of the camp, just ahead.

We wonder if we’ll have to turn back here and climb back up Sandia Creek Road with its 21% grade, but we might as well go ahead and find out for sure.  We bike toward the camp, half-expecting to find a guard post after each new bend in the road.  But it never comes.  The left side of the road is fenced off and the scarred hills look like they might be worn from tank traffic, but there’s nothing more than that.

The ride continues great the rest of the way.  After a two mile climb from our picnic spot, we drop again and lose it all before climbing once more, on long lazy ascent that will gain 1,300’ in a dozen miles.  Along the way we’ll pass through more wonderfully diverse agricultural land, then a long and shaded live oak forest before breaking into the open again at the high point of the day.  There’s a bit more traffic on this road, and most of it is as you’d expect - guy cars, pickup trucks, in a bit of a hurry.   It’s still very low volume though, and quiet enough that you can hear a vehicle coming well before it arrives.

At the top, we get the same great mountain views we began the day with.  It makes a great end to a really outstanding ride.  I’ll bet it makes a spectacular spot to drive up and enjoy the sunset.

Climbing east again up De Luz Road, we rise through dry, forbidding country on the edge of Camp Pendleton. A much different look than just a few miles south in Sandia Canyon.
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After a few miles we top out and start dropping again, back into verdant, diverse country once more.
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Video sound track: Air, by Jesse Cook

From the distance I thought this persimmon orchard was orange from its autumn leaves; but it’s just the fruit.
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More of the same, which is just fine with us.
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The pomegranate: Mother Nature’s Christmas ornament.
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Jen GrumbyOne of the finest looking ornaments I've seen!
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7 months ago
We bottom out just ahead, back nearly as low as we were at our lunch break. Beyond that lies a lazy 13 mile climb to the high point of the day.
Heart 3 Comment 0
It’s a gently undulating climb, with about a dozen low dips where the road crosses a small stream. Most of them have a bit of water over the road, and look like they could get significant flooding. I think if we’d been a day earlier we might not be doing this ride.
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At the end of the day we’re back on top of the ridge again, looking across Temecula to the mountains. This is Mount San Jacinto, elevation over 10,000’.
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From the top, we drop down Rancho California Road again, the one we climbed up at the start of the ride.  It’s a much different ride this time - fast and downhill obviously, but also quite cold.  The sun has dropped below the ridge so we’re riding in the shadows now, and the day is cooling down fast.   it’s a big relief when we finally bottom out, cross Temecula Creek and find the sun again.  It’s still an hour until sundown, but we’re really glad we’re getting off the road before it gets any colder.  

For dinner, we decide that the Thai restaurant can wait another night and opt instead for Soro’s, a Mediterranean place that features a mix of Greek and Turkish dishes.  It’s a bit surprising how ethnically diverse Temecula is, but it’s easy to believe that Mediterranean immigrants would feel very much at home here - the hillsides today looked like we could have been biking in southern Italy.

This butternut squash/root vegetable soup was amazing, and convinced us that we should come back to Soro’s for a second meal.
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Rachael’s grilled chicken shawarma was nearly as good as the soup. Definitely merits a return visit.
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Ride stats today: 40 miles, 4,000’; for the tour: 344 miles, 14,400’

Today's ride: 40 miles (64 km)
Total: 344 miles (554 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 10
Comment on this entry Comment 1
Jen GrumbyBeautiful ride.

I can see where it would be challenging to edit video of this visually stimulating landscape!
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7 months ago