During the past five years, two new east-west highways have opened up for traffic in the Poway and Santee areas: the Tierrasanta-to-Santee leg of Highway 52 and Scripps Poway Parkway. Both roadways were designed to accommodate high-speed auto traffic, as well as bicycle traffic, which is relegated to the road shoulders in both directions. By bike-riding the 38-mile loop route marked by arrows on our map, you can experience some of the smoothest, fastest stretches of pavement in San Diego County.
It's best to undertake this trip early on a Sunday morning, when traffic volumes are relatively low. Begin anywhere you want along the route, but Lakeside is recommended as a start point to take advantage of the west wind that often kicks up by midmorning. With elevation changes of more than 2000 feet, this is a trip for experienced riders only.
Start on Woodside Avenue or Maine Avenue in Lakeside, and reach northbound Highway 67 via Mapleview Street. After three miles, the highway broadens to two northbound lanes plus a shoulder, and you commence a 1000-foot ascent up through desolate hills at about an 8 percent grade. This is the most difficult and dangerous (traffic-wise) part of the ride, and it's best done in the early morning to take advantage of cool weather and light traffic. Three more miles of somewhat easier pedaling follows, until you reach the traffic light at Scripps Poway Parkway. Turn left and descend the nearly virgin blacktop pavement of this curving multilane road. You sweep down toward Poway's south industrial district, reaching frightening speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour if you don't do any brake work.
The road levels out amid the new and gleaming buildings overlooking Poway, after which a steep downgrade takes you to an intersection with Pomerado Road. Turn left. You negotiate another perhaps unwelcome upgrade, then you enjoy an easy and breezy descent amid the fragrant eucalyptus groves of Scripps Ranch. Cross over Interstate 15, and go left on Kearny Villa Road. This part of Kearny Villa Road is the old I-15 highway now rendered almost traffic-free by its newer counterpart just east. Pass over Highways 163 and 52, and be sure to keep straight on Ruffin Road just past 52.
Next, make a left on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, a left on Santo Road, and a right on the ramp eastbound onto Highway 52. The nearly five-mile stretch of freeway ahead, which goes up and over a pass, is not only bicycle-legal, it has a posted bike route on its shoulders. The two-mile descent on the far side of the pass is another screamer -- especially if the wind is in your favor. Be sure to exit the freeway at Mast Boulevard in Santee, the end of the bike-legal stretch.
Go east on Mast, make a right on Cuyamaca Street, and go left (east) on Mission Gorge Road. Ahead, Mission Gorge becomes Woodside Avenue, and that takes you back to Lakeside.