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Day 2: Ramona, CA to Shelter Valley, CA

36 miles - The Ascent to Julian and Wonderful Descent to Scissors Crossing and Shelter Valley - February 10, 2017

Breakfast After a good night of sleep, I felt better in the morning. I was ready to go!

But first, I had a hearty breakfast at the Ramona Cafe. I even ate everything in my fruit cup including the icky green honeydew melon. :)

Santa Ysabel, CA The climbing begins in earnest on the east side of town. We'd ascend in elevation for 22 miles to Julian and then speed downhill into the desert.
Cycling in Ramona, CA

No Shoulder For Cyclists

By now, you may have noticed John was often ahead of me. That's because he was in much better shape.

California State Highway 78 goes east from Ramona, and it didn't offer much riding room for cyclists. Everyone was courteous in passing us safely though. I captured that second photo as a truck pulling a tractor lumbered beside me.

Showing the lack of shoulder ...

Elevation 2000 Feet

Elevation 3000 Feet

We reached 2000 feet in elevation and had a brief rest.

I kept making videos early on. It was fun.

Making it to the 2000' sign...

At 3000 feet, I was feeling much better compared to yesterday. Still, climbing is climbing and having to ascend another 1200' to get to Julian is nothing to take lightly.

Santa Ysabel, California

Santa Ysabel, California

Santa Ysabel, California

Now, if you've read my book about my 2008 bike across America trip, you might recall that on my first day I rode from San Diego and finished in Santa Ysabel after it had become dark. I'm pretty sure this is the yellow sign where I placed my bicycle, hoping Jae would see it as I sat helplessly at the gasmart. In fact, I made a video reminiscing about the whole event.

After being humbled on Day 1 with daunting climbs and heat exhaustion, the ascent to Julian had frightened me all morning. It was only seven miles though, and again, my body felt better to take it on.

John suggested I get a picture next to the Julian sign, and I'm glad he did. :)

Cycling Up The Hill Out of Santa Ysabel

The first hill out of Santa Ysabel towards Julian is the steepest. I made a Facebook live video and huffed and puffed. :)

Julian, California

Julian, California

Julian is a charming mountain town with quaint shops and tourist appeal. You're definitely out of the hustle and bustle of San Diego up there. And the weather is much cooler too. You'll enjoy some snowfall during the winter, which makes the soul in this small town Coloradan sing. Honestly, I could live happily in Julian if I were ever to move to the Golden State.
Elevation 4000 Feet in Julian CA When John and I reached the 4000' elevation sign, we celebrated. There was joy in knowing we were almost done with the climb, and do I have to remind you there is nothing but glorious downhill out of Julian? :)

A "not too shabby" video to commemorate the moment ...

Julian, California

Horse & Carriage

Julian has restaurants and shops on Main Street. Visitors, many from out of state, were milling around. There's also a business that offers a horse & carriage tour of the town.

My video when we arrived in Julian ...

The Interesting People You Meet: Dustin in Julian, California
Steve and Dustin in Julian, CA
Photo: Me with Dustin Lytle at the Julian Market.

John and I parked our bikes in front of a general store with a deli inside. The cashier noticed my Colorado cycling jersey and asked where I live. When I told him my current home is in Trinidad, Colorado, his eyes grew large and said, "I graduated from Trinidad High School two years ago!" We bonded. :) It turns out Dustin had lived most of his life in Julian, but he moved to Trinidad for 18 months to be with his dad during his junior and senior year of high school. Soon after, he moved back to this laid-back mountain town. He told me about his future career plans that include helping those in recovery from addiction, which intersects with some of the things I've done as a talk therpaist. We had a nice connection and I was already feeling good about making it in Julian. It was only natural that I'd get a photo with Dustin.

See, there are many benefits to biking across America. If you have any social skills and a willingness to connect with others, you will surely meet many people on your own tour. I already had nice connections with people in Prescott, AZ and Blythe, CA during the process of traveling to San Diego. Then yesterday on Day 1, it was a special thing to ride with Stan and Neville on that bicycle trail in San Diego. Now today, it was Dustin who'd be the guy I'll always remember and is forever enshrined in this esteemed journal. :)

It's hard to explain without making it sound like a cliche, but on some levels, the bicycle tour is only as good as the people you meet along the way. I usually smiled and "took it in" when someone like Dustin made a big deal about my ambition to ride all the way to Florida. Whenever someone would, the benefits were threefold: 1) Usually I got a refreshing dose of encouragement, 2) I'd give them a Bike Ride For Empathy card and sometimes they'd track my daily updates on Facebook (as Dustin did), and 3) sometimes I'd get a photo with them and post it online so my followers would be entertained.

I will also add this: sharing my experiences (sometimes in real time) made the expedition more enjoyable. If you had told me that I would bike across America, but couldn't take pictures or videos, couldn't share online updates, and couldn't even make this journal, I doubt I would be interested in going. Maybe it's a reflection of my personality, but it feels ingrained in me to want to share my experiences with others. Otherwise, why do it?

The Descent East of Julian

John and I enjoyed Julian for a while, and then we were back on our bikes. We were excited. Why? Must I remind you again? We had been talking about it all morning. What awaited us? Downhill. Glorious downhill. For the next ten miles, gravity would be our best friend. All we had to do was hold tight, tap the breaks now and then, and watch for hazards.

As we sped around 25-30 mph, it would have been dangerous to pull out the camera for picture-taking. Trust me -- the scenery was beautiful. If you want to see it yourself, bike or drive it. Maybe google maps will show you too.

Adjacent is one photo when things finally calmed at a curve near the bottom.

Desert Road John and I had become spoiled with the descent. Then we had a gentle ascent in the desert. Near the top, we stopped (not because we were tired) but because the mix of desert and mountain scenery demanded to be admired.

Scissors Crossing, California

Vallecito Butterfield Stage Station

Scissors Crossing, California

The beauty of the desert was on full display when we arrived at Scissors Crossing. For months during the planning stage of this trip, the name "Scissors Crossing" intrigued me. Apparently nothing is there, but it does have a wikipedia page. Apparently this was the site of a historic stage station.

At this spot, my 2017 route would deviate from my 2008 route. Instead of going east towards Brawley, John and I biked south on County Road S2, which is often referred as the Great Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849. We'd only bike a few more miles and stay for the night in Shelter Valley.

The desert was magnificent. It was only Day 2, but even at this point, I took as many photos and videos as I wished. For later on, when I would be in central Texas and the eastern USA, I knew there'd be a huge downgrade in scenery and I'd long once more for these mountains, desert vistas, and wide open spaces.

Regrets that it's more shaky than usual, but at least I have it for memory's sake.

Scissors Crossing, California

Scissors Crossing, California

TOP: Facing east at Scissors Crossing, there is another turn-off ahead that leads to Borrego Springs.

SECOND: Facing south towards Shelter Valley.

Shelter Valley, California A sign posting mileage for Shelter Valley, Agua Caliente Springs, and Interstate 8 in Ocotillo.

By the way, do you see the public notice of a bicycle event on February 18? Ahem! I was disappointed that the county didn't put an announcement about when the Great John Wylie and the not-so-famous cycling author Steve Garufi would be riding through. Come on! ;)

Stagecoach Inn in Shelter Valley, CA

Stagecoach Inn in Shelter Valley, CA

Stagecoach Inn in Shelter Valley, California

We enjoyed our stay at the Stagecoach Inn, and it was especially helpful to have the two of us spliting the high rate.

We had bunk beds. A lot was made of sturdy wood. Our room felt like a mountain cabin.

In the room next door were two middle-aged women from Ramona who had horses on the grounds. (The Stagecoach Inn's big appeal are the many equine trails throughout the pristine desert.) All I will say is, the women were friendly and noisy -- like the kind of noise you'd expect from rowdy college kids. They were laughing and roaring it up at night, and then even in the morning, while they were apparently making breakfast at 7:30 a.m., we could hear them again carrying on in laughter.

I should have gotten a photo of the women, but didn't. However, I did make a "not too shabby" video of their adorable horses, Shooter and Olivia.

Horses in general are not too shabby. Am I right? :)

Rocking Chair There was a rocking chair outside our door. In the evenig, I sat there for hours and enjoyed the peacefulness of the grounds.

It was easy to conclude Day 2 had been better than Day 1.

Maybe this is obvious, but biking across the country isn't much different than anything else in life. You have good days. And you have bad days. Sometimes you feel so proud of what you've accomplished, and then other times you feel like you failed and disappointed those around you. Whatever the case, the earth keeps on spinning and every day is a new one. You just have to keep rolling with the punches and do your best. This bike tour would be 53 days long, and surely there would be great ones, good ones, so-so ones, and a few that were so bad that I wish I could have a do-over. That's the way it was.

Keurig Coffee Maker Kudos to the Keurig coffee maker in our room. That brewed some good stuff! Mmmm. :)

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