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So far and yet so close. Only minutes away from the hectic San Diego traffic, rolling meadows lie open to the sky, and boulder-studded hills form a backdrop akin to the interior of some sleepy Aegean island. Ethereal Lyons Peak, rising almost 4000 feet above sea level, dominates the viewscape.

The town of Jamul -- really a diffuse collection of suburban and semirural housing -- is the starting point for the challenging and scenic bicycle ride profiled here. You'd best start this ride very early on Sunday morning, when traffic on the normally busy Highway 94 (Campo Road) is muted. Bring along your own water and food; both are unavailable along the route.

Find any convenient place to park in Jamul, near the intersection of Highway 94 and either Lyons Valley Road or Jefferson Road. Start riding east on Highway 94. Once over the first summit, you glide through a broad valley, covered this time of year with a verdant carpet of tender grass.

Five miles out from Jamul, a turn left on Honey Springs Road takes you away from the highway traffic. Ahead lies an upgrade that will separate the stronger riders from the less able ones. Low gears are the ticket to slow-but-sure progress. Well into the climb, you'll spot Lyons Peak on your left, topped by antennas and a fire-lookout tower.

After reaching a summit, roll down the steep grade toward Lyons Valley and keep straight at the intersection of Lyons Valley Road. Skyline Truck Trail, the generously wide road ahead, is a ridge-running route offering you the easiest passage back to Jamul. Years ago, this was a dirt road suitable only for truck and four-wheel-drive traffic, hence its persisting archaic name. From the summit of Skyline Truck Trail you can look north across a promenade of mountain ranges varying in color and texture, culminating with the wave-shaped form of Cuyamaca Peak.

West of that summit the narrow, paved, and delightfully meandering Lawson Valley Road takes off to the right. A tempting but possibly tiring side trip of five miles out and five miles back can take you to one of San Diego County's truly remote rural valleys -- Lawson Valley.

Back on Skyline Truck Trail, the final, swooping downhill stretch effortlessly transports you back to the edge of Jamul. Near the bottom of the grade, Lyons Valley Road angles in from the south, and the road you travel from then on assumes that name. Continue on to reach Highway 94, where you started your ride.

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