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

December 29, 2019

In Temecula: the Lilac loop

Yesterday’s ride through De Luz was about as good as it gets.  We’ve got some misgivings about Temecula, but we’re really excited about the city as a cycling destination.  

Today’s ride through Lilac was quite different.  We’re less certain about this place as a cycling hub now, and for that matter less enthusiastic about the  place itself.

It’s foggy this morning when we walk to our motel’s kitchen for breakfast, and just above freezing again.  We won’t make it out onto the road until 10, when it’s still just 45 out, and warming up slowly.  That’s one thing about winter cycling here - with the short days and the cold mights, the biking window can be pretty narrow. You have to be careful about your time budget if you don’t want to get caught out on the road too late in the day for comfort and safety.

It’s been bugging me ever since we arrived that I think we didn’t find the best route up from Oceanside when we biked up 

into here.  Today, I want to explore the alternative I came up with to see if it really would have been better.  We’re biking halfway back toward Oceanside today.

The ride begins with a backtrack of the last four miles, to Rainbow - the spot where we started that final descent into the valley.  It’s a better ride going the other direction - it’s a modest climb, the traffic is lighter this morning, and we don’t mind the roughness of the road so much when we’re not speeding downhill across it.

At the top we pause to look around a bit more than we did the last time, but there’s still not that much to see.  The views are nothing like what you get by leaving town up Rancho Colorado Road - it’s too closed in, and you’re down below the rocks, looking up at them.  Nice enough rocks though.

At the gap through the ridge at the top of Rainbow Road.
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It’s mostly overcast but we got a bit of sun, briefly. Seemed like a nice spot to get a picture of the bike against a rock - we haven’t had one of those for awhile. Rachael’s more than happy to wait for this, of course.
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Here’s where we choose the road not traveled the first time.  Then, we climbed up from the west on Old Highway 395, the road that parallels the freeway; but instead of dropping down from Rainbow that way today we slip into the top of Rice Canyon and fall through it down to the San Luis Rey River.  And, I was right - this route is much better.  It’s a narrow two lane road, a bit rough surfaced, but quite nice.  Hardly anyone is on it but us bikes, along with several others coming up the other direction.  Obviously, this is The Way.

The very pleasant descent through Rice Canyon.
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Jen GrumbyAnother road that beckons ...

"Look at my beautiful tree-lined borders .. maybe there are more trees up ahead?"
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3 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanWhat a beautiful road! I never get tired of photos of roads. All are different and all are enticing. They beckon me to go down them.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanIt’s the same with me. It’s like ocean waves - they all seem just a bit different and pull you in.
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3 weeks ago
On Rice Canyon Road. This section looks just a bit spooky, narrowing to one lane, but there are few cars and they seem in no hurry.
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On Rice Canyon Road.
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Still dropping. Pretty modest grade, one that would be quite fine going the other way.
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An impressive but private oasis, Rice Canyon.
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Finally we bottom out at our old friend, the San Luis Rey River.  It’s not such a bike friendly stretch here though.  There’s no choice but to follow busy Route 76 from here, in either direction.  This is a particularly tough spot, with granite cliffs walling in the valley.  Not much room for a road, so there’s shoulder.  A bit tense rounding the bends along the base of the cliff, but it’s only like this for perhaps half a mile.  We just keep our wits about us, watch for a decent break in the traffic, and are past it soon enough.  A mile later we turn off onto empty Pankey Road, cross the valley and under the freeway, and end up at another old friend, Old Highway 395.  

From here, we follow Old 395 eastward and climb up and out of the river’s wide canyon, angling across the face of the slope at about 5-6 percent for about two miles.  At the top we come to Lilac Road, a quiet east-west rural route.  If we turned right here, we’d drop back down again, soon arriving at the San Luis Rey River Trail.  Easy sailing from here all the way to the coast.

so, no folks, I think there’s no route from the coast to Temecula that completely avoids the highways, but this one comes pretty close.  Definitely much better this way.  If you came up from Oceanside you’ve got a fast two mile drop here down Old 395, and a short mile on Route 76, but that’s about it.  The rest looks like nice riding all the way from Oceanside to Temecula Valley.

Route 76 generally has a good shoulder, but here for about a quarter mile it disappears under those cliffs. Too bad - it’s a scenic bit of land, that you’d like to appreciate more than we did.
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No Hankey Pankey here today! who knows why I thought this would be a good shot, but here we have the Lady in Blue being a good sport again, happy to stand around on a cold morning while I indulge my whims. Thanks, Rocky!
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Bruce LellmanThey had a golden opportunity to name the crossing road Hankey. What's wrong with the people who name roads anyway? I've always wondered if they are the same people who name paint colors. Now that I think of it, 'Golden Opportunity' would be a great name for a paint color. Excuse me for digressing.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanI agree. They’ve really missed the buck here. Shearer Crossing is interesting enough, but with Hankey they’d have a genuine tourist attraction, like Wall Drugs. They could set up a photo booth and sell bumper stickers.
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3 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonRight!!
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3 weeks ago
Climbing Old Highway 395, leaving the river behind. We’ll top out at Lilac Road, at a funny spot. From here we can turn right toward the coast, follow the ridge for a ways, and then drop back down to the river. Or, you can turn left toward the interior, follow the ridge for a ways, and drop back down to the river at a different spot. Either way, it’s a giant PUD. Why not just stay by the river in the first place?
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We’re not going down that way today of course, so perhaps we’ll never know what lower Lilac Road is like.  Judging from the upper road though, it’s probably a fine ride.  For the next ten miles we follow it as it bounces along the top of the ridge, giving ever changing views down into the San Luis Rey valley and around.  Along the way it passes one cultivation or ranch estate after another, growing everything imaginable.  Nurseries, lemon groves, pomegranates, tangerines, and especially avocados.  We pass one sign warning that it’s a crime to steal avocados.  They’re just leafy trees now, the avocado crop long ago in I imagine.  I’d like to see it.  I’ve never seen avocados on a tree, and it seems like it would make an odd looking crop.

But, oddly enough, about the one thing we don’t see is lilacs.

In addition to the missing lilacs, the other thing it lacks is any public land.  No small parks, not even a picnic bench anywhere.  We finally just squat on a concrete wall by the side of the road and eat lunch, and then bike a few miles more casing out every bend in the road where we could dash off behind a tree for a bit of relief, but no luck - it’s fenced everywhere.  Rachael is starting to sound a bit desperate when finally we round a bend and are saved by a tiny roadside cafe, the Yellow Deli.

On Lilac Road
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On Lilac Road
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A nice old Farmall, looking a bit silly all layered with twinkle lights.
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On Lilac Road. Big country, dramatic views.
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Hooray, we’re saved! The Yellow Deli not only has public facilities, it even has peanut butter cookies.
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And I do mean public facilities. You can’t get more accommodating than this.
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Back on Lilac Road again, we bike on.  One last five hundred foot climb (did I mention this is a rolling road?  Some of these are pretty big rollers) and we finally top out and begin the long, steep drop back to the San Luis Rey River again.  As we drop we can look across the valley to see a matching or higher ridge that we’ll have to cut through once we’re down.

About halfway down, we enter the Pala Indian Reservation and the pavement suddenly ends.  Progress slows as we continue steeply down this rutted, washboard surface.  It’s sure a good thing I’ve got brake pads on both wheels again!  

As usual, I’ve gotten behind Rachael here but I’m sure we’ll meet up at the bottom when we cross Route 76.  Surprisingly though she’s not there when I arrive, so something’s gone wrong.  I phone her, and we determine that she’s a half mile behind me.  She missed our turn on that steep descent and took the wrong road for what can’t have been more than a hundred yards - she shows me her evidence on her GPS.  I must have biked right past her.

Christmas Cactus
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Bruce LellmanOh, Bill's going to reprimand you.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanProbably. I know what a Christmas cactus is, actually. I was just thinkin the red gave it a seasonal touch.
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3 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanOh I know you know but I'm just waiting for a link from Bill on that cactus. And the plant.
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3 weeks ago
Dropping off the east end of Lilac Road to the San Luis Rey again.
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Rugged landscape, everywhere you turn.
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On Pala land, with their huge new casino and resort spa. Our route out of the valley must be through that cleft in the ridge to the left of it.
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On the Pala Reservation.
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Here she comes, zooming toward me. Reunited!
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So, one last climb and we’re done.  We cross Route 76, pass through the last of the reservation land, and start gradually climbing up the ridge along Pala Temecula Road, another of those quiet, pleasant canyon roads we’ve come to expect here.

Oh, wait.  That’s the Pala Temecula in your dreams.  This one is the one in your nightmares instead.  It’s a really terrible road - winding, narrow, heavy with speeding and impatient traffic wondering what the hell bikes are doing spoiling their concrete paradise.  Campers.  Busses.  Busses, for god sake, on a narrow twisty road with poor visibility.

And a margin filthy with fragments of shattered glass.  It’s a wonder we survived this ride, and also a wonder that we didn’t flatten.

So, our advice to you obviously is don’t come this way.  Turn back and climb up Lilac Road, maybe; or follow Route 76 a few miles back downriver to Rice Creek; or call Lyft and ask them to help you to get the hell out of here.

On quiet, peaceful Pala Temecula Road.
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We end the day walking a kilometer to that Thai restaurant we’ve been looking at, and our impression of Temecula dims a bit more.  The only route is on the sidewalk alongside a virtual highway, quaintly called Old Temecula Front Street.  It’s the main thoroughfare through town, but the traffic is terrible - incessant, fast moving, loud - until you’re in town center, when it’s incessant, slowed to a crawl, and loud.  It makes you anxious walking on the sidewalk in the dark, imagining a car leaving the road and jumping a curb somehow.

So, I don’t know.  On the balance, I’m not sure we’d come back through Temecula again.  The cars really ruin it.  

The Thai meal was great though, but quite spicy.  The server warns us when she takes our order, asking how hot we want our pad Thai on a scale of one to five.  I daringly propose three, Rachael votes for two, but our kind waitress shakes her head to both ideas.  Try one, she suggests.  You can always add more chili flakes if you want more fire.   Good advice, because it is still plenty warm. If we come back again, we’ll ask for a half.

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Ride stats today: 41 miles, 3,300’; for the tour: 385 miles, 17,700’

Today's ride: 41 miles (66 km)
Total: 385 miles (620 km)

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Jen GrumbyUgh! Sorry this day ended on a sour note.

Nothing like unnerving traffic and an excessive presence of cars to dampen the spirits.

Glad you had the prior day's ride to balance it out.

Here's to a more peaceful day tomorrow!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyNot the best end to a ride, alright. My fault though - the evidence is right there on Google Maps if I’d studied it more closely. Sloppy.
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3 weeks ago