So what if the corner store is the longest trip you’ve ever pedaled? At least one overnight excursion should be within the range of you and your bike. That trip is to San Clemente, 70 miles up the flat coast, where three state campgrounds provide overnight accommodations at $2 a night.
Four other trips described below — to Lake Elsinore, Julian, Borrego State Park, and Tecate — are much more difficult, and are not recommended to cyclists who’ve not first conquered the trip to San Clemente. It’s a good idea to start with a trip sponsored by the American Youth Hostel (call Aillene Elliott at 239-2644). These trips — some of them one-day spins to Escondido and back — offer expert advice and good experience. You’ll need both to enjoy cross-country cycling.
Starting at UCSD, go north on Route S21 (formerly Highway 101) to Carlsbad, 26 miles away, where S21 turns into Carlsbad Boulevard. Go across the Buena Vista Lagoon, and turn left at Cassidy Street in Oceanside. This takes you back to the beach front — Pacific Street — which you continue to follow north around the Oceanside Boat Harbor and onto Harbor Drive. This goes under Interstate 5 and turns north into Stuart Mesa Road, which you follow to the entrance of Camp Pendleton. Here you sign a “Letter of Instruction” and thereafter follow the bike route near the freeway. This route passes through San Onofre State Beach and ends at the state beach in San Clemente. Following El Camino Real you can go further to Doheny State Beach, or — if you feel up to it — keep right on going to Long Beach.
An experienced cyclist can make it to San Clemente in four hours, but you should allow yourself six to eight. An experienced cyclist, incidentally, is one who can fix a flat tire on the roadside.
This trip is longer and steeper than the jaunt to San Clemente. Starting again at UCSD, follow the same coastal route to San Clemente and remain on El Camino Real (Highway 1) to San Juan Capistrano. Here turn inland on Highway 74, also called the Ortega Highway, which climbs into the hills and up to the lake. The telephone number of the state campground is 645-4115; always call ahead to learn if campsites are available.
A steep downhill grade takes you from the summit to the lake, and if you haven’t learned already, this piece of road may teach you that downhill riding is the most dangerous of all. Well-banked mountain roads will permit you to reach 50 miles per hour without realizing it. You’ll wish you were wearing a crash helmet.
From the state campground the next morning take Highway 76 south to Wildomar and on through Murrieta, Temecula, and down the steep grade through the Pala Indian Reservation to Bonsall. West of that town you can continue on Highway 76 back into Oceanside. Return by the coastal route to UCSD. The trip runs 80 miles each way.
The most scenic route is also the steepest. Pack fruit and water for refreshment. Beginning again at UCSD, follow Eastgate Mall until it becomes Miramar Road, then Pomerado Road, ending in Poway. From here follow Route 4 (S4) east to Highway 67 and up a steep hill to Ramona. Look for the Old Julian Highway (Highway 78) and follow it east to Santa Ysabel, where the same road becomes very steep and takes you up to the old mining town of Julian, elevation 5,000 feet and 45 miles from the sea.
There is no state park in Julian, but members of the American Youth Hostel can pay $3 a night at Camp Stevens, a mile and a half east of town on Highway 78. You must call ahead, however, to Peter Bergstrom at 765-0028.
Borrego State Park
This 45-mile ride is really an extension of the trip to Julian, and can be made in less than four hours because it is mostly downhill. But the hill is steep and dangerous, and cyclists should be in no hurry to descend it. Brake and release, brake and release to combat the pull of the slope.
From Julian start on highway 78 east toward Banner and down the famous Banner Grade, passing through hills where a million dollars in gold was extracted last century. At the bottom of the grade keep on Highway 78 east through Scissors Crossing, and on to Yaqui Pass Road (S3), which turns north and takes you up to Borrego.
To continue to the state park headquarters, turn west in Borrego onto Borrego Springs Road and follow it west, then north where it intersects Palm Canyon Road. Turn east on Palm Canyon to Pegleg Road, then north to Henderson Canyon Road, then east into the park station. The park is open October through June and information may be obtained locally by calling 294-5182, the state parks department.
To avoid climbing Banner Grade on the return trip, take Montezuma Canyon Road (S22) up the long slope west to Highway 79, then turn south and follow Highway 79 to Julian. (You may have noticed that odd-numbered highways run north to south; even numbers go east-west. This holds true of freeways, too.)
The owners of the brewery in this Mexican border town will be happy to show you the works. But you must call in advance to state your day of arrival. The one-hour tour begins at 10 a.m.; call 903-354-1201 and be prepared to speak some Spanish. (And you may need help from the PacTel operator to place your call correctly.)
Just getting to Tecate is a challenge. The 35-mile trip is spectacular and hilly, and like most of the others, is best on a cool day. The difficulty starts when you try to find Highway 94. This is an easy matter if you are driving a car, because the road is all freeway through the heart of San Diego. To find the junction where the freeway ends, start at San Diego State University and take College Avenue south to University Avenue. Turn east to La Mesa Boulevard and south to Spring Street. Going south, find Campo Road and go east until it merges with Highway 94 where the freeway ends.
People who live in Chula Vista or thereabouts will find the going easier. Just take Otay Lakes Road east until it intersects Highway 94 and turn south. Once on 94, follow it through Dulzura and Engineer Springs, then up a last grade to the Tecate turnoff, ending at the border.
Overnight camping costs $4 at Portero County Park, three miles east of the Tecate turnoff. Reservations are not necessary but can be placed three weeks in advance by calling 299-2267.
San Diego abounds with possibilities, and the best place to go for information is the American Youth Hostel at 500 W. Broadway. Three books available at the hostel have maps and information for dozens of trips. These books are Pacific Coast Bicentennial Route, by the state Transportation Department; Bicycling San Diego, by Mary Cook Jessop ($2.95); and San Diego by Bike and Car by Carol Mendel ($1.95). '