About twice a year, I take a ride from Orange County to Downtown San Diego. It’s about a hundred miles, and depending on your pace, may take you anywhere from 5 to 10 hours. At the end of your ride, you hop on the Amtrak Surfliner back up north while you think to yourself “let’s never do that again”.

Here’s a quick look on what you swear off every time:

  1. Look at me ma! I’m riding on the freeway: Part of this ride forces you to go through Camp Pendleton Maine Base. Cutting through the base isn’t always a viable option; you’re really at the mercy of the guards at the gate. The more reliable route is the 7 mile long bike lane on the I-5 Freeway. That’s right, the bike lane. On the 5 Freeway. This lane is actually one of the wider, flatter, smoother pieces of asphalt along this trip. However, you never really get to enjoy it because you have to avoid debris, storm grates, stalled cars, and CARS COMING FROM BEHIND AT 80MPH. (Actually this is usually pretty satisfying when you can pass people stuck in traffic, what now Toyota Prius?)
  2. Point of no return – Solana Beach: This is the second to last Amtrak stop before downtown SD. While this may seem like a sign of encouragement that you’re almost there, it’s hardly indicative of what’s ahead. After Solana Beach, there’s a large series of hills (we’ll get to that in a bit). There are also some sketchy areas where there’s no bike lane, and this part where you have to ride through San Diego Airport. If you don’t think you can make the last 30 miles, this is your stop. There’s beer on the train, I heard that goes well with your tears of shame.
  3. Torrey Pines: 3 miles long. 400 ft high. Don’t make the same mistake I did the first time, thinking “Oh, I’ll ride up the pedestrian route.” No. Bad roadie. You put your nose to the wheel and climb up that hill with the cars. For starters the pedestrian path is much steeper and secondly it’s filled with pedestrians. Old pedestrians. Old pedestrians that don’t seem to see that you’re trying to push this 30 degree incline on 48×16 and fuck up what little cadence you have left.

As always, don’t forget to wear your helmet and bring the necessities. Riding a full century isn’t like a normal 40 mile training ride. Keeping your caloric intake is a must for continued riding. Fortunately for those who aren’t into Powerbars or Camelbaks, there’s a plethora of places to eat along the way; I’m not really sure if they’re any good as I end up eating Del Taco everytime.

(Find more information about Southern California in the WanderRegions section of our site.)

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