Otay Lake - Looking Back With 2020 Vision, Part I - CycleBlaze

December 20, 2019

Otay Lake

I’d say the bloom is off San Diego’s rose just a bit for us after today’s ride out to Otay Lake.   Well, and maybe a bit off of Mo’s bike shop too.

Today’s ride out to Otay Lake is one I came up with after scanning the map for a longer ride that would give us a peek into the foothills.  This one looked reasonable to me, with a marked bike lane most of the way east from the bay followed by a few nice miles along the perimeter of Otay Reservoir.

It was a poor choice.  

The ride begins the same as the San Diego Bay loop, with a 9 mile run down the industrial east side to the salt works.  Not the most attractive miles, ones that weren’t worth taking a photo of the first time.  Nothing has improved over the last two days, so there are no photos today either - other than of this long-billed curlew wading in the mudflats just off the trail:

I think this must be the best look I’ve ever gotten at a long-billed curlew. I especially like the shadows in this photo, including the one of the bill running down the neck.
Heart 4 Comment 0
So this is what that long bill is for! Happy curlew, unhappy crabbie.
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Jen GrumbyCool shot!

This prompted me to search for a video of a curlew eating a crab. No small feat with that super skinny bill!!
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1 year ago

Leaving the bay, we cut through the outskirts of Chula Vista to tie in to the Olympic Parkway.  On our way there, we pass by the Chula Vista stop for the San Diego Tram.   The tram allegedly takes bikes, so if we were to repeat this ride (which we won’t be doing - it’s definitely a one-and-done type of ride) we might just take the tram down here and skip the previous nine miles.

The Olympic Parkway, as advertised, comes with a reasonable bike lane.  There’s quite a bit of traffic, but it’s safe enough.  It’s a teasing ride, with the hills rising temptingly straight ahead as we gradually climb.  We never really break out of the congestion and suburbs though as we roll our way upward and eastward through Chula Vista and then Otay Ranch.  Like the first nine miles of the day, there’s nothing really photogenic about these miles, so we only stop for traffic lights - which happens frustratingly often.

For ten miles we ride along the Olympic Highway, a busy four-laner that has a fair shoulder marked as a bike lane most of the way. When there is no shoulder, it’s nice that the outer traffic lane is marked as a bike lane also. Comforting.
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Finally we reach the final summit of our rolling ascent, pass though the last of sprawling Otay Ranch, and drop into Otay Basin’s small reservoir.  The next four miles of the ride look like they should be great as our route leaves the parkway and skirts the northern rim of the reservoir.

Scenic it is, but not great.  After a quiet, peasant mile we merge back onto a somewhat busier but still narrow, winding and shoulderless road.  We’re immediately comforted by a share the road sign announcing that this is a bike route, but the sign doesn’t seem to earn the respect of the drivers here.  This isn’t Spain, after all - the sign doesn’t instruct drivers to give a meter and a half clearance when passing bikes, and it’s not clear that bikes are even welcome and appreciated by the drivershere.  There aren’t many cars, but the few that pass us do so at uncomfortably fast speeds and with less clearance than we’d like.

And, for the first time in many months, a man sticks his head out the passenger-side window and yells out an obscenity at me.  Guys and their cars.  Welcome back to America, Team Anderson!

After about twenty miles we finally leave the highway behind for this quiet road beside Otay Reservoir. Good thing I took the photo here - in a mile we’re on a similar but busier and scarier ride for the last few miles before we turned around.
Heart 3 Comment 0
It is a very pretty lake though, surrounded by foothills. The most scenic spot of the day.
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So, the four miles around the lake that were to be the highlight of the ride aren’t pleasant at all.  And actually, we don’t even ride them together.  On the descent after leaving the parkway I realize my rear break had lost its grip, so I stop to adjust it.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t performing well because there are no brake pads in it.  They apparently jumped ship somewhere along today’s ride.  

So that’s a mystery.  New pads, installed two days ago, now gone missing.  Possibly an installation error, but more likely a mechanical defect that caused the retaining clip to snap once it started getting some action?  I’m still pretty new to disc brakes and don’t really know why this might happen.

With nothing to be done I bike on, incur the rage of the shouting drunk mentioned above, and eventually catch up with Rachael coming back the other way.  It’s time for lunch so we look for a quiet, scenic spot to get off the road and enjoy our sandwiches and the view, but can’t find one.  You can’t actually get down to the water from the road here, there’s no shoulder, and almost no place to pull off.  We find one small spot, and sit on a rock in the surprisingly hot sun and quickly eat our sandwiches.

Actually, it’s the Only scenic spot of the day. Better take a second look.
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The ride back along the Olympic Parkway to the bay is mostly a gradual downhill, and downwind.  Should go fast, should even be fun, but is neither.  For one thing, I only have one brake now so I’m cautious, conservative, and even a bit insecure with the thought in the back of my mind that if I lost the pads on the back brake, might the front pads fall out too?  For another, the traffic is much worse now in midafternoon.  And for a third, it seems like we spend more time at a full stop than biking as we get held up by one long light after another.

Not the most atmospheric (hack, hack), but at least we have that bike lane.
Heart 3 Comment 2
Ron SuchanekNo freaking way.
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1 year ago
When it’s not otherwise in use, anyway. In spots the sidewalk seemed the wiser choice.
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Jen GrumbyI can't "like" this one. Just can't.

But I'll give it a Double Aaauuugh!
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1 year ago
I couldn’t begin to count the number of stoplights we stopped for. It’s no exaggeration to claim that we spent about an hour of our ride waiting for the green.
Heart 1 Comment 1
Jen GrumbyMy first thought was, "Wait .. you saw another bicycle in this gnarled mess?"

But then I realized that it was Rachael.
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1 year ago

Finally we’re back at the bay again, with only the nine mile industrial run left.  Third time’s a charm, but really it wasn’t so charming; other than for passing a large flock of marbled godwits.  I’d been wondering what this bird was when I saw others on my solo outing two days ago, but didn’t get a good enough look at them then.

I can’t say it was all bad on the way back. I was excited to see this large flock of about a hundred marbled godwits roosting in the reeds. Had to stop.
Heart 5 Comment 0
Since this is the only highlight from the way back, we should take a second look.
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Video sound track: Mustang Sally, by Wilson Pickett

We got back to the city after 3:30, almost an hour later than I’d expected because of the traffic, lights and brakes.  I left Rachael at the apartment and went straight to Mo’s joint to have my missing pads replaced.  Mo was on the phone when I arrived so an assistant looked at my bike, wondered what I’d done to it, wanted to know who had done the installation (he hadn’t been here before).  Then, wanted to look at Rachael’s bike too in case her brakes were at risk also.  I left the bike at the shop and walked back to meet Rachael at the door (frustratingly, we could get only one key for this place), and she took her bike over for inspection.  Both bikes are just fine, except for the mysteriously missing brake pads.  They install new ones at no charge, so we should be fine now.  No big deal - I’m just glad that it occurred at a good time.  We could just as well have been up in the mountains, maybe at Julian and facing a treacherous ride down-mountain in a snowy mix.

For dinner, we walked to a nearby Mexican restaurant for a celebration meal: happy to be alive, proud to have booked our first hundred miles for this tour already.  So soon - only took three riding days!

Celebrating our first hundred miles. A minor accomplishment to be sure, so a simple name-brand beer seems fitting.
Heart 2 Comment 3
Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraOh, how great! It took me a minute to get this. I wish I’d thought of this first and done this intentionally.
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1 year ago
Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraSo I should have a shot of triple distilled whisky when we hit a thousand? A shame that I hate whisky.
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1 year ago
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Ride stats today: 49 miles, 1,900’; for the tour: 107 miles, 3,700’

Today's ride: 49 miles (79 km)
Total: 107 miles (172 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 4
david alstonThe San Diego Trolley most definitely takes bikes. A fun ride for us really old guys is to ride down wind on the Strand side and then continue south through Imperial Beach when we reach the end of the bay. From there we continue through Border Field State Park all the way to San Ysidro and the Mexican border and then take the trolley back to San Diego. This is, of course, after having stopped in Imperial Beach for the world's best, and maybe biggest shrimp burrito.

David and Maun Alston
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1 year ago
Jen GrumbyYikes. Not the best ride, but the murals in the video looked pretty cool.

And I'm glad the godwits were there to rinse away some of the sour filth left by ill-tempered man in the car.

And holy crap with the brake pads! Very fortunate that didn't happen before a long descent.
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1 year ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThat’s the right take on the brake pads, alright. I couldn’t quite believe they were really missing. I didn’t even know that could happen, but of course they’re just material, and things can break. I guess I should carry emergency spares and figure out how to install them.
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1 year ago
Scott AndersonTo david alstonI think we’re going to give the trolley a try as a way to skip through the city to the east. If we get the weather for it, we’ll take it to El Cajon and make a loop up to Alpine.

I’m so tunnel-visioned. I hadn’t looked at the map to see there’s a park at the border. I doubt it would be a very attractive outing in these days, but in any case it’s currently closed due to floooding.
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1 year ago