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

January 3, 2020

Oceanside

We’re finishing off our tour with a string of perfect days.  Today is as comfortable as yesterday was, and tomorrow looks to be the same.  After that we’ll be back in San Diego again, transitioning to the next, quite different segment of our winter tour.  We’ve been catching ourselves starting to think ahead to what’s coming next, but we shouldn’t.  Let’s look around and enjoy the sunny Southern California coast a bit longer, while it’s still in our faces.

This morning it’s brilliant as we bike south from Dana Point.  It’s a calm morning, and the low sun gives it a beautiful, mesmerizing sheen.

On Dohany State Beach, just south Of Dana Point.
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Looking back at Dana Point.
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A calm sea off Dohany Beach this morning.
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Today’s ride to Oceanside is another repeater for us, and we think we know what’s in store for us.  My memory of it is dim and I didn’t keep as detailed a blog back then, not enough to trigger a very clear picture in my mind.  The main thing I remember is how lucky we were to be able to bike through Camp Pendleton and avoid the freeway for the final miles before Oceanside.  It’s easy - just show your credentials at the guard station, and enjoy a quiet ride and a bit of a climb before dropping to Oceanside at the end.

Except, not any longer.  As we’re biking out of Dana Point another biker pulls up and chats with Rachael as they pedal along together.  I’m watching this in my rear view mirror, the two of them slowing down and receding from me.  Then suddenly he breaks away, picks up some speed, and overtakes me.  She’s sent him on to share the news: we can’t bike through Pendleton any more without a permit.  We can apply for a permit, but only in Oceanside - on the other side of the base.  Without passing through the base there’s no option other than the shoulder of the San Diego Freeway.  

He explains where the freeway access is, but it doesn’t fully register.  Between here and there we’ll ride a bit anxiously, worried that we might miss the last exit and end up with a lengthy backtrack after being rebuffed at the entrance gate. 

First though, Capistrano and its amazing wall of cliffs, and then San Clemente.  At San Clemente the bike route leaves the coast and pushes you up town and through the mansions, which is less scenic but smarter than what we did last time, taking the coastal path.  It’s amazing looking up at the cliffs from below, but it’s a narrow path, not really intended for bikes.

As we enter San Clemente we stop at a light and check the map, trying to decide which way to go.  We’re right by a bike store, and the owner steps out the door and talks it through with us, says we should definitely take the high road.  Also confirms the bad news about Pendleton, and gives us another version of how to find the last turnoff to the freeway, which I still don’t fully grasp.  Polka Road, a gate on the left, something like that.

Below Capistrano the bike route follows the coast highway, nicely separated from the traffic by concrete barriers.
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Beneath the cliffs of Capistrano.
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Just south of San Clemente begins the best part of the ride, miles I’d rate as some of the most enjoyable along the coast.  We leave the cars behind, turning off onto a paved cycle path that parallels the freeway for a mile or two before merging onto the all but abandoned Old Pacific Coast Highway.  A dead ended stub of the old road, it carries us on for five miles past San Onofre State Beach.  At its end we get a few more miles of paved bike trail, the Old Pacific Highway Trail.

In all we enjoy ten miles of flattish, quiet, virtually car free riding.  Nearly all of the traffic we see is other bicyclists, some going the other way coasting down to the beach from the San Onofre campground with surf boards strapped to the frame of their bike.

On the Old Pacific Coast Highway.
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A common sight at the north end of this road. I remember it from last time as well.
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Jen GrumbyI'm glad you got a photo because I would have a hard time visualizing a surf board carry set-up on a bike.

So cool!
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7 months ago

It’s a great ride, made even better by the fact that there are frequent public facilities as you bike through San Onofre.  They‘re easy to find, even by looking at your map.  On mine, they’re listed as Restroom #1, Restroom #2, and so on through #11.

It’s time, so we pull in at Restroom #1, and I watch the bikes while Rachael makes a quality inspection.  When she comes out, Dominic from Philadelphia bikes in, his Surly Troll loaded down for Dominic’s expedition down the length of the Baja peninsula.

Dominic from Philadelphia, Baja bound.
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So we chat, compare notes, discuss where the freeway access is.  And then another biker rolls up - Restroom #1 is a very popular stop-off for southbound travelers.  Folks call me Bones, this tall lanky guy with a strong Aussie accent tells us.  From somewhere along the Great Ocean Road, he’s on a five year visa to see the world.  Currently he’s working down to the end of the coast before turning east and back north toward Laborador.  

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Bones comments on what a great oasis little Restroom #1 is.
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Jen GrumbyAnother Surly!

Long Haul Trucker this time? I can't tell.
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYup. Fitting bike for a fit guy.
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7 months ago

We all chat, Rachael and I feeling just a bit sheepish talking about our cushy little adventure, with its short days with a bed and shower at the end.  Dominic and Bones start comparing notes, know some of the same bikers also traveling south.  And then it’s time, and we all head south again.  Dominic and Bones, with their heavier tires and immense loads, soon disappear in the distance.

Rachael drafts Bones for a ways, but he and Dominic soon disappear.
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The road looks much like this for the next six miles.
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Eventually, this all ends and we hop on to the San Diego freeway for a deafening, tense but reasonably safe ride down its surprisingly well-swept shoulder.  It’s 7.8 miles until we finally come to the Oceanside exit, more than happy to leave the freeway behind.  At least the ride goes quickly, with the southbound traffic generating a strong tail wind to blow us down the road.

And, for the record in case you come this way.  It’s pretty easy to find the freeway access point.  Just keep following the well marked bike route signs for about ten miles south of San Clemente.  Eventually the path crosses under the freeway, and not long afterwards ends at a T-junction with Las Pulgas Road.  Turning left, you’ll quickly come to the entrance station to Fort Pendleton.  Turning right, you cross over the freeway and arrive at the southbound on ramp.

And it’s bike-legal, for exactly these 7.8 miles.  Bikes have to leave the freeway, like it or not, when they come to the Oceanside exit.

Communing with nature on Interstate 5. If you prefer not to do this, obtain a permit at the Oceanside gate so you can bike through Camp Pendleton instead.
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Drat. We have to leave all this fun so soon?
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Jen GrumbyI'm sure you were both wishing for another 10 miles or so of this scenic and peaceful road.
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7 months ago

It’s still early afternoon when we leave the freeway.  Too soon to check in at our motel and we haven’t biked all that much anyway, so we decide to lengthen our day by riding out to the end of the San Luis Rey River Trail and back.  This is the same delightful trail we rode last week on our way to Temecula.  It’s the same wonderful ride, but there’s nothing really new to say about it.

Except that I saw a roadrunner, well camouflaged in the brush by the side of the trail.  How great is that?

San Luis Rey River Trail: the perfect antidote to the noise, stress and grime of the freeway.
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I think I’m going to go on a shopping spree. That outfit would look great on me!
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Jen GrumbyAaaaugh! Those tights are simply awful.

We'll .. they might (?) look OK on a clown.
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyOh. Thanks, fashion consultant! We really are going to have to make room for you in one of my panniers I guess. GBO would love that I think - he gets pretty lonely back there. Not sure about that boob-fixated Ron-guy tho.
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7 months ago
Jen GrumbyI'm in!

And Ron wants to go, too. If we can make our way up to Seward, AK we can take a side trip to Northwestern Fjord in sea kayaks. Ron will be happy to guide us all to a rock feature he named Boob Island.
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7 months ago
Beep, beep! I was lucky to see this roadrunner on the shoulder of the path, because once he moved into the thickets he was hard to make out from the background.
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Jen GrumbyThat's some great camouflage!
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7 months ago
My new favorite rock. Everyone needs a favorite rock.
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Returning to Oceanside on the San Luis Rey River Trail.
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Video sound track: Like a Rolling Stone, by Robert Allen Zimmerman, whoever he was

We make it back to town and to our motel about 3:30, quickly shower and change and then head down to the waterfront for our last beachside experience of the tour.  After arriving in San Diego tomorrow we’ll be leaving the ocean and may not see it again for months.  

We make the most of it, joining the crowds on the amazingly long Oceanside Pier, catching another striking sunset, soaking up the scene.  Afterwards we walk down to the harbor for a fine fish dinner, maybe the last for awhile, at the Lighthouse.  It looked like the best choice within walking distance of our room, and as soon as we see the tall red and white lighthouse with its flashing bright beacon, we remember that we’ve been here before.  It’s the same spot we ended our day here last time.

The Oceanside Pier
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The Oceanside Pier. Spectacular breakers, the water filled with surfers.
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A striking red hat, worth remembering. These two must have taken ten minutes posing for each other, before they roped in a passer-by to take shots of the two of them together for another five.
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The view south from Oceanside pier.
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And north. Might as well look both ways.
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One of a pair standing side by side on the railing, casting nice pelican shadows on the wall beside them. A third one waddled on the deck, looking for handouts.
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Jen GrumbyHe's giving you the eye ..

"C'mon, Human! I know you must have a spare fish in there somewhere .."
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyMaybe. It’s a very sphinxoid expression though, and could mean anything. The Pelican Mona Lisa.
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7 months ago
A nice sunset, but less romantic than the view from Newport Beach. Needs a small offshore island to complete the picture.
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One last look.
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Bruce LellmanI hope you are watching for the green flash. It sometimes happens. I didn't even believe in it until I saw it on the Oregon coast. It was really a beautiful and mysterious thing. It happens a split second after the sun fully disappears and right where the sun was. Has to be very clear.
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanOh, right! Nice timing, Bruce. Pass this on to me after we’ve left the ocean for the next few months.
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7 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonWell, the green flash probably wouldn't have happened anyway! It's rare. You've never seen it, I take it. It's a miraculous phenomenon. A high vantage point helps. There must be very clear atmosphere too.
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7 months ago
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Ride stats today: 49 miles, 1,200’; for the tour: 593 miles, 25,400’

Today's ride: 49 miles (79 km)
Total: 593 miles (954 km)

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Jen GrumbyThat Camp Pendleton permit rule is certainly inconvenient for southbound cyclists.
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7 months ago