San Diego Randonneurs


By Wei Sun
06/07/21 21:34

It was a pretty good indicator of how the day was gonna feel when the wind blew my car door directly into my back while I was unloading the car that Sunday morning. Heading out from the Chevron just off the 8 in Ocotillo, with the wind at our backs we were flying down the road.

An important note about Ocotillo: its 2nd-most notable feature are the eponymous plants, a many-stalked, spiky green growth with pink flowers that dots the landscape.

Its most notable feature is the forest of enormous wind turbines which must light up half of southern California. And a quick mile after leaving the gas station, we turned left into a headwind so reliably strong it can power a small city or two and kept riding into it for 65 miles.

Even with the sapping headwind, we made decent time through the first 45 miles. We’d covered this ground late last year on the first attempt at this 200 kilometer brevet, and the scenery along that stretch of the Great Overland Stagecoach Route of 1849 (you must always refer to it by its full name, I don’t make the rules) is magnificent.


Ocotillos and cholla cactus border the road, and further back are mountains and valleys. Deer leap out of low lying bushes and then disappear in the scrub on the other side of the road, jackrabbits sprint along when you spot them.


The further along we went, the higher we climbed (did I mention the first half of the ride was a climb?) and the mountains went from barren, eroded desert hills to more jagged, pine-dotted ridges which were dusted with snow, making for picturesque viewing when I could pick my head up to look around.


About the time we crossed the 78 to begin the final climb into Ranchita (our lunch and turn around spot), my reserves started to give out. The headwind would gust, and I would feel all my forward momentum bleed away.


Even the periodic dips in the road couldn’t get me up to a decent speed, and every time I looked at my odometer I willed the number to be higher, closer to 65 miles and thus lunch and the downhill, tailwindy trip back, but apparently my willpower was insufficient and it crept up only slowly. We made it over the second to last hill, enjoyed what felt like a lightning-fast 1 mile descent before turning onto the final climb into Ranchita. Thankfully, that portion had the wind at our backs, and it was a night and day difference from the climb just a mile before.

Arriving at the lunch spot, we were greeted by David, who was the brevet organizer, and a giant white statue of the Ranchita Yeti wearing a Mardi Gras inspired bikini.

After a much-needed sit down to recharge and refuel, I topped my tires off with air, and we set off.

We flew almost the entire way back. A gentle downhill, with the wind carrying us along, we were looking up and noticing stuff we missed on the way out, such as the brilliant street names in Shelter Valley (Shooting Iron Trail was pretty choice, but I could truly relate to Saddle Sore Trail at that point). Even stopping for a flat couldn’t kill our spirits as we rocketed along the Great Overland Stagecoach Route of 1849 all the way back to Ocotillo, racing the sunset.

On the final drag in among the wind turbines, our shadows stretched far across the road as we sped along under the spinning blades, all of us now motivated by the same pressure system. But even this could not last for long.

We approached the final turn to head towards the Chevron, and turned directly back into the wind for a long last mile.