Although yesterday was a shortish day, nearly 900m climbing on the first outing was tough and as a result we were asleep very early. This, combined with David still suffering from a cold he had picked up on the plane (and no it was not Covid) scuppered our recovery from jet lag. So it was another 4am wake up for David and 5am for me. Luckily breakfast was from 6am and we were on the road soon after 7 in crisp morning air just above freezing.
We decided to deviate from American Adventure Cycling route which ran alongside the freeway I8 for a lot of the time. We had a lot of climbing to do and its not pleasant with the roar of the freeway in your ears. Our route was a little longer and had more climbing but that was more than made up for the fact it followed a quiet side road. The first 5 miles in the early morning sun were glorious as we dipped down into the Jopatul valley. The landscape was rocky but still green at this time of year. Then we had to pay for that descent, as the climbing began. It only finished just before we got to our destination. Pretty tough for day 2, especially when we were both not as fit before starting as we would have wanted. But the cycling was fine and soon we were back into the climbing mentality – low gears and plod, plod, plod. There was enough of interest to keep us occupied and we felt pretty good for the first section, passing ranches and small dwellings. It felt a world away from San Diego.
As the road swung north and eventually crossed over I8 we were beginning to tire. At last we reached Descanso and the wonderful Descanso Junction restaurant. We were sorely in need of a break and this more than fit the bill. The ‘saloon’ style restaurant was buzzing with people in for Sunday morning breakfast. Second breakfast is always our favorite meal when we are on the road, but we have learnt about the portion sizes in the US. So we shared a ‘gourmet omelette’ which was more than enough sustenance for 2. We also remembered the great US tradition of perpetually filling your coffee mug and got a good caffeine hit.
Although only 7 miles to go, most of it was more uphill. The landscape on this side of the mountain was greener with snow lining the side of the road. Yes folks, not a misprint, there were still pockets of snow left from the storm that had passed through Southern California the day before we arrived, bringing very cold weather. We had heard it had been snowing in the mountains and we were now at 3000ft. We were told that a nearby mountain which was 6,00 feet had two feet of snow. It seemed unbelievable that this was the first and probably only snow we would see this year!
At last we topped out at over 4000ft in the one horse town of Guatay before a final swoop down into the much more pleasant little town of Pine Valley. The little petrol station and store were helpful in filling our camping fuel bottle (which takes a quarter of a gallon – impossible at most large petrol stations) and we had a nice chat with the friendly store owner who assured us that we had done the most difficult part of the road from San Diego. It was only midday but we had been plodding up hill most of the time since 7am so we were jolly glad to find the Pine Valley motel, who let us check in 2 hours early.
We could hardly move for a couple of hours but gradually revived enough to take a little stroll round the town and buy some provisions to cook a meal in the evening, now the camping stove was up and running.