There are many, many different landscapes in California. From rolling desert hills covered in dead brush to magnificently wooded, purple mountains to 1000′ sea cliffs, the panoramic views of the Golden State are abound, and photography does not do the scenery justice. On this ride, we did over 9000′ of climbing over 70 miles.
We took off promptly from Riverside at 8 AM. Bikes primed, legs rested, but still feeling the IPAs from the night before, we knew we were in for a world of hurt later in the day. We took the pace casually, slogging through surface streets and headwinds to get to the base of the climb. There is no connection of regular surface roads to Highway 138, so we took it upon ourselves to appropriate the local 15 freeway. Riding on the freeway was a bit of a new experience. I was not aware that it was open to cyclists. We encountered no trouble, other than a Latino family in a sedan on the side of the road, who smiled and waved us on when we asked if they needed help.
We finally exited the freeway after being passed by hundreds of speeding cars, and took a quick food break at the offramp as station. Along the whole ride, we took plenty of rest stops, as the overall mileage of the route was significant. Adding to this, the entire route was simply littered with out-of-nowhere steep climbs that just crushed us, most notably through the windy, almost European (if there were any Californian deserts in Europe) steep climbs of highway 138. Riding down it, I concluded, would have been much easier, seeing as grades exceeded 20% in certain areas. The highway wove through a series of sharp, deep ravines that would have spelled disaster for anyone to go off the edge. As we attacked the climbs we had to be particularly careful of the countless blind corners and surprisingly large quantity of vehicular traffic going around them. In certain places, it would have taken one car taking a corner wide and I would have most definitely been super out of luck.
As we neared the top of the winding section we entered a valley with a straight road that leads directly to Silverwood Lake. On the way we found a completely random sushi restaurant, that Donnie noted “actually was pretty good”. We stopped there for a moment to gaze at the scenery and take a picture in front of the sign, which was pretty funny looking.
Some fast drafting down the straight road brought us to another climb, which had a beautiful surprise waiting for us at the top. We dismounted our bikes and sat and drank the beautiful view all in – it was almost scary how silent the ambient noise was at the vantage point, as there was nobody else there. We had the view all to ourselves. We paused there for a while, feeling the 50 miles in our legs already, knowing that the worst of the climbs was yet to come, the climb back up from the Silverwood Lake valley up into Crestline.
As we left the serene vantage point we began a long series of climbs that transitioned from the desert landscape to the forested peaks of the San Bernardino National Forest. The appearance of the tree line was sharp, and being on the north side of the mountain, which received less and less light in these Autumn months, was cold and we donned our warmers. Temperatures continued to drop as we gained in elevation. The trees closed in more densely as we fought up the steep sections of the road into Crestline. All of us were broken by the climb, and some of us were actually forced to walk parts of the road due to its sheer steepness and the amount of miles we had already ridden. At the top of the climb we finally stumbled into a pizza shop and ate to our hearts’ content. The pizza was not even the best pizza I’d ever ordered at a restaurant, but the hunger that had stricken us after so many miles made it some of the best pizza we’d ever eaten in our lives. Funny how cycling can make you appreciate the simple pleasures after you slog through so much shit and pain.
It was a steep, fast 10 mile descent back down to the valley floor in San Bernardino. With our bellies full of pizza we simply got into aero tucks and coasted down the meandering mountain road. We had all become closer on this ride, having all suffered together. I look forward to exploring more of the beautiful scenery California has to offer with my teammates.