East Grade & Palomar Observatory Ride-23 Nov 2019
by Rob Verfurth
Riders: Geoffrey M, John A, Len, Hodges and Rob
Previous Dudley Dream Rides have been epic cycling adventures. The climb up Mesa Grande is a good warm-up for the East Grade climb ahead. Palomar Mountain is one of the best local climbs around. There are lots of options to take once you get to the top and the inevitable return back up and over Mesa Grade is a last leg thrasher as you try to get back to the car. Lots of great painful cycling memories for sure.
The group ride last Saturday felt a bit like the days when I use to surf at dawn in Del Mar or La Jolla Shores before work over a decade ago. The guys would decide on a meeting spot based on early surf reports. We would meet at the designated spot and watch the waves breaking before getting our wet suits on and surfboards out of our cars. If the waves looked bad, the guys would suggest another spot and we would drive there, hoping for better waves. Sometimes we were equally disappointed and then they would maybe try a third location. I quickly tired of wave chasing so I would bring my running gear and would just run if the group moved onto a second surf location.
Our experience on Saturday was not quite as frustrating, but we did change the ride due to weather conditions. As we drove into Santa Ysabel the trees were bending from the wind gusts and it was even colder than forecasted. We decided NOT to ride along a fairly busy highway 79 north to Mesa Grande. We decided to drive over to Lake Henshaw and start from there. After an hour drive to Santa Ysabel, we drove another 30 minutes to get to the store by Lake Henshaw.
Our group was fairly small, only five riders. We put on layers as it was still a bit breezy and cool. The sun was shining as we spun out toward East Grade. Geoffrey M was riding up East Grade for only the second time with Strava data so he was going for a PR. The rest of us stopped at the early observation deck for some nice views and a group photo. The boys were nice and they kept up an easy pace so I could hang onto their wheels for most of the way up the climb. About mile nine Hodges, John A and Len picked up the pace so I was left sweeping. It got colder as I approached the top of the climb and headed straight for the Observatory. Len had stopped to put on his extra jacket and the rest of the guys were already on their way there. Len passed me on the climb and then Geoffrey came back down a mile to escort me to the top. There was lots of snow on both sides of the road as temperatures fell into the low 40’s. The winds blew in strong gusts but it was a pretty day on top of Palomar. Hodges and John A were up looping the Observatory when I made it there.
We did not stay long and all headed back to Mother’s for coffee, pie and some warmth by the fireplace. There was talk of going to Boucher Hill Lookout Tower, but I said I was heading back down East Grade to get home. I headed out first and the gang eventually all followed. I stopped by the observation deck near the top for more photos before making the rest of the fast descent . The winds whipped, especially in the narrowed funnel sections of the road. The new pavement on all of East Grade is great, but we were all a bit cautious on the way down due to the winds and cold temperatures.
Everyone regrouped at the bottom and we made our way back to the Lake Henshaw Store. Any ideas of then riding to Mesa Grade for more miles was quickly dispelled as we were all ready to call it a day. It was a fun 35 mile ride with over 4K of climbing, but by the time I got home it was a seven hour adventure. I recommend we look to plan the next Dudley’s Dream Ride away from winter weather and decide on a local option the day before if conditions look bad. I did manage to take a few photos, even with the gusty winds; tough to ride with no hands for sure. The photos are in the link below.