I volunteered to help lead a retreat for our students at the university where I work as a professor. I thought I’d ride up there to get a little training work in for the Death Valley Double, which happens this weekend. The retreat was at a camp just past Julian near Mt. Cuyamaca. According to Bikely, the northern route would take me through Ramona via Old Julian Road, and up the 79 in to Julian… then a bit further to the camp.
With the Protovelo loaded with front Ortlieb and Acorn bags, I set off around noon on Friday, perhaps an hour and a half later than I intended to depart. A friend said to give myself 5 hours. He is a much stronger cyclist than I, and I should have taken that into consideration.
The ride up was difficult. The camp is at about 5,000 feet elevation, and my journey began at sea level. Needless to say, there was a lot of climbing. Fully loaded 3 days worth of clothing, books to read, and a couple of clips from movies to show, my progress was slow. By the time I reached Ramona, my left shoulder had begun to bother me, as usual on this bike. I should try a 7cm stem with drops, instead of the 9 on there now.
By the time I made it to Julian, it was 6pm and growing dark. I asked shopkeepers, who were closing up, how far to the camp. One kid said “10 or 15 minutes, driving, nearly all uphill.” I was worried. With two blinking lights and a reflective randonneuring sash, I had good visibility, but I was exhausted and now possibly late for the opening. These would not constitute my ideal riding conditions.
There is also a feeling of worry that comes from trying to ride somewhere under time pressure when not sure just where the destination lies – perhaps around the next bend, or up this next climb? For a moment, with the moonlight casting shadows from my spokes and the crisp evening air making the scent of pine more palpable, I felt this great peace. Then, I saw the driveway for the retreat center.
It was a good retreat. It snowed on Saturday – perhaps 2 inches. By Sunday morning, there was a good melt and I heard the roads were cleared. I suited up and left a bit early, looking forward to a long ride of mostly downhill through some beautiful backwoods scenery and windy country roads. The ride home was spectacular. I listened to the Fleet Foxes and The National as I wrapped around winding roads, with very little traffic. The countryside was green, and I made noises at the animals I passed along the way: cows, sheep, pigs, and even some camels in eastern Ramona. I couldn’t conjure a camel noise, so I left them in peace. Nice way to end a retreat.