Finally, so it seemed, we packed up and started on the road – or more accurately started on the bike path. Still jet lagged, we woke early and did our final packing. It all seemed to fit neatly in full panniers and by 7am we off. First few hundred meters were to the end of the bikepath by the Pacific Ocean. There is no plaque here but this is the official start of the Southern Tier Route.
The first few miles along the San Diego river were both flat and familiar, as we retraced our steps of the last few days but this time we were getting used to riding bikes laden with gear. Being early Saturday morning there were just a few dog walkers, early cyclists and the homeless awaking from their tents or less salubrious berths along the route. Highly visible poverty in an affluent city is something that will stay with us – but those who were visible were almost all men. Women face different challenges but thier poverty is less on show.
Cycling out of a city is never easy but this was as good as it gets. The traffic was light on those parts of the route that went on roads, and high rise buildings gradually gave way to suburban sprawl. At first it was smart homes with tended lawns and new SUVs but, as we left the city, land prices must have fallen and trailers and rickety buildings took their place.
After about 15 miles we were outside the city limits and went through Mission Trails Regional Park. The park rangers kindly explained the park geography and we followed their advice to cycle the Father Junipero Sierra Trail road, cycling slowly and giving way to pedestrians and runners – of which there were many. We rarely need encouragement to cycle slowly.
After the park the route took us to Carleton Oaks, a pleasant but nondescript suburb, where we stopped for coffee and muffins. Then the serious climbing started, as we rose from just above sea level to 1700 feet at the village of Alpine. None of it was too steep but the climbing took it out of us. This was day one and we are not yet as fit as we know we will be later. It felt tough but manageable for a couple of (almost) “seniors” as we now like to think of ourselves. We have not yet found anywhere to get a seniors discount but are on the look out for that!
The landscape is getting mountainous (as you would expect from the name “Alpine”). It is scrubland and feels dry. It was about 85 degrees which we understand as 29C, so warm but not unbearable. Also it is a dry heat and so is easier to deal with than a heat with high humidity.
Despite only covering 35 miles, we were ready to stop for the day and checked into our hotel. camping will come later but we are breaking ourselves in gently.