Point Loma - Looking Back With 2020 Vision, Part I - CycleBlaze

December 19, 2019

Point Loma

It’s quite chilly this morning so we feel no rush to hit the road.  Instead, we spend our first hours contemplating the most interesting question of the moment.  Is it wise to cross over a 4,000 foot ridge for a few days in the desert and then cross back again, when rain and possible snow are in the forecast, we wonder?  The forecast has worsened again, and the days we have planned for these two traverses are both forecasted to have a high of 42 with chances of rain mixed with snow.  We propose and evaluate alternatives, make decisions.  Results will be made public in a timely fashion. 

Dawn comes to the Gaslamp District.
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We finally hit the road a bit before noon, with a 35 mile ride envisioned - a goofy shaped route that follows the northern arc of the bay to its end at the tip of Point Loma, backtracks, and then circles Mission Bay before returning to the city.  The days are getting short now and sundown comes by about 4:30, but we have plenty of time for this short ride.

We take our time following the bay line, reminiscing over our first ride through here when we left San Diego bound for the desert.  I’m reminded by this that we didn’t actually stay in San Diego last time, which explains why I wasn’t aware of Balboa Park.  Our hotel was out here next to the airport on Harbor Island, so we only saw the city itself in passing biking down its waterfront.

Not far past Harbor Island we leave the bayshore to climb to the top of the ridge that we’ll follow out to the tip of Point Loma.  It’s a low ridge, only about 400’ at the summit, but it’s knifelike at this it narrowest point.  All the climbing along this route occurs in about two or three short blocks, a definite pusher.  I’d forgotten about this ridge, which we crossed at the same point last time returning to the city.  There must be a  more gradual ascent further east, so I’ll study the map before coming this way again.  If I can remember this for that long.

San Diego’s busy waterfront strings together one compelling sight after another. This is the USS Midway, the longest serving aircraft carrier and now permanently stationed here as a museum.
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The Coronado ferry arrives at the Broadway Street terminal.
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I remember this hill! Point Loma has a knifeblade ridge through the center of its last residential area. We crossed it going the other direction when biking back to San Diego on our first tour, the same way - by pushing uphill.
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Jen GrumbyGad your back bikes weren't loaded on this one!
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7 months ago

Once on top, it’s a dramatic three mile ride along the spine of the cape out to its end at Cabrillo National Monument.  Along the way, the road first passes through Naval Base Point Loma, a small military station with unclear boundaries and accessibility.  The road has a barricaded entrance to the base, but it’s open and unstaffed.  A sign posts access rules, including no photography; but it isn’t really clear if that pertains to the road itself, and there’s no indication of when you’ve passed through and come out the other side.  For the most part it just feels like a residential neighborhood.

It can’t be more than about a mile long though until you transition into Rosecrans National Cemetery, a mile long blanket of white headstones covering the ridge and draping down toward the sea.  It deserves a longer exploration, but I wasn’t really sure at first if it was even open to the public or if we could take photographs - I thought we might still be on base.  It’s a very elegant and evocative scene, viewing these white rows against the grass, the sea, the statuesque trees scattered about between the rows.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery blankets the crown of the south end of Point Loma for about a mile, its rows of uniform gravestones sloping down toward the water on both sides of the road.
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Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
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Beyond the cemetery is the small Cabrillo National Monument, another spot I hadn’t known of before.  It’s gated, with a $10/person admission fee, unless you have an access card.  I do have one, back in the suitcases.  It hadn’t registered in planning this part of the tour that we’d be entering a national park or monument, so I hadn’t thought to put it in my wallet after being overseas.  The ranger at the entrance though just trusts my honest face and takes my word for it, and waves us in.

It’s a lovely monument, primarily for its situation.  From its apex at the old lighthouse you have an unbroken view of the coastline from the head of the bay down well into northern Mexico, into the mountainous exterior, and out to the sea.  Spectacular on a clear day like today.  

After taking in those views and making a quick pass through the lighthouse, we find a sunny spot sheltered from the chilly wind and eat lunch.  We don’t stay there long though because it’s too cold and it’s getting on into the afternoon and we’ve only ridden 10 miles so far.  Before we leave the park though we drop down to Sea Cove at the end of Cabrillo Road, a three mile out and back.  I wanted do do this mostly to get a closer look at the modern lighthouse, which actually is pretty uninteresting.  The ride down and back and Seal Cove are well worth it though.  You should definitely make the effort if you’re out this way.

At Point Loma’s south end is Cabrillo National Monument, named for and commemorating Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who in 1542 led the first European expedition to explore what is now the west coast of the United States.
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Crowning the ridge at the end of the point is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, put into service in 1855. It was replaced after only 36 years of service by the New Point Loma Lighthouse down near the shore because this one was often shrouded in fog.
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Living quarters in the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, now a museum.
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The spiral staircase of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.
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Jen GrumbyVertigo! Well .. I know this isn't the staircase in the movie .. but it could be!
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7 months ago
The end of Point Lomo offers a spectacular panorama of the San Diego region. This is the mouth of San Diego Bay, with the naval supply center in the foreground.
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Looking across Coronado to the mountains to the east. I’d be happy if someone could identify them for me.
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The view East from the lighthouse. The white monument below is a new commemorative statue of Cabrillo, placed here just last year.
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The lighthouse that replaced this one no longer exists - it was Sadly razed in 1960. There is still an active light at the point though - this modern, unromantic but utilitarian tower at the Point Loma Light Station. It shows its best light from up here, at a distance.
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Looking west across the Pacific from the crown of Point Loma. At the left, beyond the international border, are the Coronado Islands.
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Dropping down the west side of the National Monument is mile and a half long, hairpin shaped Cabrillo Road that provides access to the light station, Sea Cove, and a wastewater treatment plant. It’s a dramatic ride down and back up again, and popular with the cyclists. We passed probably a dozen of them while riding it. And, have you ever seen a fox crossing sign before? It’s a first for us.
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Jen GrumbyNope. I'm going to watch for them, though. We saw a fox not too far from our apartment .. and it makes sense that it should be able to cross the road safely!
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7 months ago
The public road ends here, by Sea Cove. Access to the land above the steep, crumbling cliffs rimming the cove is barred for safety reasons.
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Public access ends at the parking lot for Sea Cove, a dramatic cove lined with sheer, crumbing sandstone cliffs.
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Access to the cove itself is prohibited, for safety reasons. It’s easy to imagine the land beneath your feet giving way if you stood above its edge.
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Disaster seems imminent for this oblivious cormorant colony on the rocks above Sea Cove. Brings to mind humans and global warming.
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Looking back up the ridge from below. At the end of World War II, two mammoth 16 inch guns were established as Battery Ashburn to defend the bay. The largest such guns in use in the nation, their barrels were almost 67 feet long and capable of firing shells 30 miles out into the sea.
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Paying it back.
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The climb back out gives me an excuse to pause and admire this intriguing road cut.
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Back at the top again, Rachael expresses a tiny bit of frustration that it’s 2:30 and we’ve only gone 13 miles.  She really would like to do a bit of riding today, after all.  With only two hours of daylight left,it’s clear that we can’t complete the ride we originally planned.  Instead, we save about nine miles by lopping off Mission Bay and biking along the mouth of the San Diego River.  
And we pretty much just bike straight through, pausing only briefly a few points to look at the amazing waves and cliffs on the north face of the point; and at the prolific bird life along the river, which rivals or exceeds what I saw in yesterday’s ride; and to take in the heart-stopping spectacle of two pelicans angling down from the sky just in front of us as we drop off the point.  In front of Rachael, I immediately raise my arm and point skyward skyward hoping she’d see them too, which she does - mistaking them at first for a pair of fighter jets off I n the distance.

It is hard to just speed past all this, but it’s a good thing we do.  We make it back to our apartment right at sundown, the day darkening and the air chilling down quickly.  Maximize the day, that’s our motto.

Returning the way we came, we bike through Fort Rosecrans National cemetery again, here with the north end of San Diego Bay as a backdrop.
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 Video sound track: Patricia, by Ry Cooder and Emmanuel Galban

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Ride stats today: 31 miles, 1,400’; for the tour: 58 miles, 1,800’

Today's ride: 31 miles (50 km)
Total: 58 miles (93 km)

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Keith ClassenGlad to see both of you back on the saddle. Your past 2 days brings back fond memories of our one and only time in San Diego several years ago on your way home from a month in Palm Desert. We had our bikes and covered pretty much the same ground in San Diego. Hope to get down there again. A highlight was also seeing Willie Nelson performing at Humphreys on The Bay just next door to where we were staying. Hopefully your fun flight is now just a fond distant memory.
Great video of the ride Rachael...nice looking weather compared to our soggy conditions the past couple days. Keith
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7 months ago
Suzanne GibsonHappy to see you have both recovered and are riding. A great day - sometimes less is more.
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonIt was a great ride alright. If we lived down here I’m sure I’d be out there often.
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith ClassenWe’re still trying to find our way around here, looking for the best rides. If we can find a few more good ones, San Diego could be a nice place to return some winter.
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7 months ago