St Paddy’s Palomar Punishment Ride Report-12 March 2016
by Rob Verfurth
Riders: Larry, Andrew, Jim W, Len, Steve B, Todd, Quoc and Rob
The much anticipated Palomar ride was tempered a bit by rainy weather during the week leading up to the event, along with snow above 4,500 feet on Palomar Mountain. This was a great group ride last year, so I had high hopes for another good Descenders turn-out this year. Unfortunately, schedules and the weather deterred some from riding. We still had 8 Descenders out for the event. Personally I had been under the weather due to a head cold gained when my daughter brought home three friends from college for spring break. They had a great time and shared lots of college germs. In any case, I almost decided to stay in bed as well. I met Len at the shopping center near my house so we car pooled over to Stone Farms. This is an out of the way location near the top of Jesmond Dene Road. It is full of green gardens growing kale and other food for the Stone Brewery. The muddy road up to the start area opened a bit to a field of parking for us VIP’s–car-poolers. Len and I got our numbers and did final prep to ride. We caught up with the rest of the guys at the start line. All except Quoc. He does not have a Descenders kit yet, so I did not see him. It was chilly and likely not to get much warmer. I managed to take one photo of Larry, Jim and Len before we got to the start line. It was too cold and I was too sick to take more photos.
We were basically at the front of the ride when we headed out and descended Deer Springs, looping around to get back into Escondido. A small group of three riders blew by us on a mission. We caught up to them a few times at lights but they eventually headed off up the climb of Valley Center Road. The Descender group split on the climb with Larry, Jim, Todd and Andrew going out front. I was in no man’s land, riding alone, while Len and Steve B were sweeping. There were only about 350 total riders so we spread out quickly and kept our own pace. I pedaled along Woods Valley and descended past Rincon. The first SAG stop was just off the main road before the Taco Shop climb of Palomar. I was already feeling terrible so decided to hit the stop for a break. Andrew was there getting food. He was planning on riding the full Supreme Punishment route and go for his first century ride ever. I was weakly dreading the climb ahead and hoping I would make it to Mother’s.
I set out alone and started my climb at the Taco Shop. I could see the clouds thicken atop Palomar. The sun was shining but I knew what lay ahead. A few riders passed me, I was barely hitting 6-7 mph. At the Y, there was a sign up tent for the KOM. I gave a slight chuckle as I rolled slowly by and started up South Grade. My time on the first 5 mile section from the Taco shop was just under 45 minutes. According to Strava, most of my previous times were 35-36 minutes. It was slow going. I had not seen Len or Steve B, maybe I missed them when I stopped. I was hating the climb. After a few switchbacks, the temperatures were falling and the clouds above thickening even more. I knew every stoke up burned away what little enegery I had, Cole Grade was still on the plate. Soon I saw Jeff Cresap flying down from above. It only took me a moment to decide to u-turn and try chase down Jeff. We had done a SPP ride the Sunday previous to test out my new 30T cassette. Jeff told me he would likely ride up Wohlford and see us on Palomar. We stopped at the Y to warm up Jeff’s fingers. He had seen Len on the climb above us. It was very cold, snowy and foggy so Jeff turned back before the top as well. I convinced him to ride back to his car via Cole Grade so I hid on his wheel along highway 76. We stopped at the school before the climb and slowly made our way up Cole Grade.
At the top, we sped up until we hit Miller Road and turned to continue on the route. We eventually got back to Valley Center Road and rode to Lilac. I turned and he kept going straight to Escondido and his car. It was good to have Jeff escort me along, I was now 50 miles into the ride and ready to stop. A young rider named Pasqal blew by me on Lilac. He had a small bag on his back that he positioined at the top of Palomar with more clothes. He knows Rick B and does the Sunday Ramona Grade rides; no wonder he was riding so fast. I hit his wheel and hid for about a mile, buring a few more matches. There was the last SAG stop in the shopping center on the left so I stopped for another break. The route was to go down Lilac Road loop over to Circle R Drive, descending down to Old 395. I was spent and just took the shorter route to Old Castle Road, spitting out near the Gopher Canyon light. I still had the dreaded Old 395 south route to get back to the start. It was slow going but I made it back to Stone Farms about 12:15 pm, finishing with 67 miles and about 6,300 feet of climbing.
I had thought about going home with Cresap but Len was my ride home and all my stuff was in his locked car. I sat around the finish area, hoping the temperatures would rise and listened to some of the Irish Music that started soon after I got there. More riders were coming back from their various loops. Larry & Jim returned from their 88 mile adventure that included the Observatory out and back, lots of snow on top. Todd had to retreat home quickly so he must have climbed back up past Rincon to get back to the start instead of Cole Grade. Andrew was at Mother’s comtemplating the East Grade descent when Jim & Larry last saw him. I assumed Len, Steve B & Quoc were still out riding. Len eventiually rolled into the finish. He had a number of shoe cleat issues that caused him some delays. He did not stop from the start of his South Grade descent due to his shoe, a real trooper. I think Len rode about 80 miles. Andrew eventually got back well after we departed but he did finish the 100+ mile loop, great accomplishment for his first century. Quoc and Steve finished but I did not see them again. Len got me back to my car. I went home and went to bed. Great event under difficult weather and health circumstances. Hope to be strong enough to ride Montezuma this weekend, should be warmer; at least in Borrego Springs. The one photo I took is attached below.