Sunday, August 01, 2010

Solo Black Canyon Blast

A couple weeks ago - the weekend of Emily's big dance recital which will be the subject of a future blog post - I took the opportunity of having mother-in-law Mary in town to take a solo blast to find and ride some dirt roads.

Creeping past mom (who was asleep on the couch) and my friend's beagle that we were "dog-sitting," I quietly headed into the garage and fired up the F8GS motor after putting the garage door down. There was a little nip in the air, but most early mornings these days are around 60 degrees and pretty comfie.

I shook off sleep and motored away from Buckwheat Manor towards the Wild Animal Park and the "real" start of my ride. Riding past the Orfilia Winery and the llamas on Old San Pasquel road to a gloriously empty Hwy 78, the trek was fast and smooth. My plan was to try and find the south entrance to a longish dirt road called Black Canyon truck trail that my buddy Mark and I had traveled on several times, then motor out to Lake Henshaw on the dirt. However, we'd always traveled from the northeast side coming from Sutherland Dam. I recalled one of those occasions in 2009 when we exited on a road called Haverford, so that's the one I turned on this particular morning.

It wasn't clear how to get to the road so I found myself winding through pleasant rural neighborhoods waking up.  Folks were jogging or walking dogs, slopping pigs, getting their morning papers, and nearly all waved as I rode by.

Finding a promising sign for Pamo Ranch road - promising because it said "Dead End" and "Pavement Ends" - some instinct inside told me to press on regardless. I wasn't disappointed!

It turned out to be a paved road winding down into a valley past the Ramona dump, which after a mile or so turned to dirt - yahoo!  The land on both sides had signs saying it was owned by the City of San Diego but I just figured that meant as a taxpayer I could cruise on until they stopped me!  Early in the morning and surrounded by small foothills, the sun peeking over, it was a relaxing time for a ride.

I spent a lot of time up on the pegs learning the feel for the bike on the dirt.  Mostly I stayed in second or third gear since Pamo was pretty flat with lazy turns - 2nd gear on the F8 is wide-band joy.  Had to slow down for some turkeys crossing the road, but the cows stayed put in the fields barely looking up as cows do.

Start of Black Canyon road
 Eventually Pamo ended with locked gate and a ranch in the distance and I turned around.  Heading back into the neighborhood, I saw a promising road that seemed to lead into the hills beyond.  Turned out it was in fact the entrance to Black Canyon road.  This one was a bit more technical than I recall, with lots of narrow curves.  Again, up on the pegs most of the time, in 2nd gear, and working on throttle control (which would serve me well a couple weeks later up in Big Bear).  

About 10 miles along, I stopped at the new bridge built near Sutherland Dam to replace one constructed in the 30's, and then continued on to the Mesa Grande Indian reservation.

Black Canyon through the reservation was wide and well-graded, but had a few wash-board areas - still, no issues at all for the F8.  I love poking around through the back-country and came across the Shooting Star Ranch as well - love that gate!

Shooting Star Ranch
Beauty shot on Black Canyon
I've always sung the praises of the twisty Mesa Grande road which was re-paved a few years back. The dirt ends right at the old Mesa Grande store.  I turned left and immediately was on the gas, flying through the corners heading for breakfast at Lake Henshaw.  The versatility of the big dual-sports never cease to amaze me!  The lake was looking beautiful and I couldn't help but stop for a "self-portrait!"



Breakfast was hearty, the coffee was hot and the boot-wearin' waitress cute, but it was also getting to be mid-morning.  I'd had it in my mind to be rolling back into the driveway in Rancho Penasquitos at 10am, and that was going to take some "scooting" to get 'er done.

I jetted the straightest way I could think of, which was back through Santa Ysabel to Ramona and into Poway.  I clipped along as fast as possible and arrived at about 10:15am, tired but all smiles.

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