Dec 25-30, 2022
Cycling San Diego to LA via Anza Borrego and Idyllwild, CA

Over a year since our last tour, so B and I thought we’d squeeze one in at the end of 2022 and ring in the new year in LA.

a man on a bike riding in the desert

The desert is lovely and surprising. The sky delivers every time. It was however, truly the land of the automobile, and I am glad to be out in one piece on the other side.

Day Start End Miles Elev. (ft) GPS
1 San Diego Alpine 39.4 2688 link
2 Alpine Borrego Springs 68.6 5284 link
3 Borrego Springs Indian Wells 75.6 2123 link
4 Indian Wells Idyllwild 46.9 7082 link
5 Idyllwild San Bernardino 58.4 2084 link

Day 0 -- Sunday, December 25

San Diego

Gear: Surly Long Haul Trucker, rear Ortlieb panniers.

This is the first time I’ve shipped my bike. B and I pack up our bikes in boxes the day before, fly with them (surprisingly easy!), reassemble them once we arrive at the San Diego airport, and bike to our hotel. Given the lack of planning around this trip and the extremely short days, we decide to credit card rather than camp, which was a great decision.

Day 1 -- Monday, December 26

San Diego to Alpine (39.4 mi, 2688 ft)

We took our time the first morning since this was a short day. We rode around Balboa park for about an hour before starting on our route. As with many of the days on this trip, there are some fun off-road bits. This was by far the sunniest and hottest day all trip.

two bikes sitting in front of a museum in balboa park
Museum of Man

Day 2 -- Tuesday, December 27

Alpine to Borrego Springs (68.6 mi,5284 ft)

First big climb day! We ascend out of Alpine, first half on a lovely gravel path, and the second half on pavement. The sky was crazy this day, with long sheets of lenticular(?) clouds spilling over the mountains and dramatic lighting over the desert. We were rewarded with a long and lonely descent into Anza Borrego. In the basin, we battled strong headwinds on our way to Borrego Springs.

sheets of clouds floating over an arid landscape
Never seen them like this
a tall cactus plant in front of a stormy looking cloud
Stretching towards the storm

Day 3 -- Wednesday, December 28

Borrego Springs to Indian Wells (75.6 mi, 2123 ft)

The first half of the day was some of the best riding I’ve experienced. Dawn in the desert: we ride around the mountains at the west end of the basin before starting our route towards the Salton Sea. Desert sculptures, surprising blooms, dry peaks rising from a crackling mud floor, and blinding sand sweeping across our paths… The badlands between Borrego Springs and Salton Sea were unexpected and fun, leading to perhaps the largest congregation of off-road vehicles I have ever seen. Road quality declines significantly as we enter Imperial County. The Salton Sea appears mysteriously in the distance, a salty wasteland mirage. The latter half of the ride was bearable but not particularly pleasant: a mix of highway wide-shoulder riding, flat farm roads straight as far as the eye can see, Jefferson grid plantations, and the oddity of golf courses and manicured lawns in the desert.

desert bloom in front of dry mountains
The desert gives life
badland canyons
the salton sea
It doesn't belong here

Day 4 -- Thursday, December 29

Indian Wells to Idyllwild (46.9 mi, 7082 ft)

The hardest ride day I’ve ever had: gusting wind, heavy traffic, and shoulderless roads. Combined with lots of elevation gain, a heavy bike, and time pressure, this was generally unwise.

a winding road up a mountain
The winding road

Day 5 -- Friday, December 30

Idyllwild to San Bernardino (58.4 mi, 2084 ft)

After the wreckage of the day before, this was easy by comparison, though at moments equally deadly. We climbed and descended from the summit near Idyllwild through dense fog and wind. The drivers continued to pass recklessly in poor weather conditions, and all we could do was hold on to the knowledge that things would improve with every loss of thousands of feet. The ride into San Bernardino was filled with a gentle misting rain: pleasant in comparison. We take the train to LA.

clouds and mountains in the distance
It starts well
looking down at fog
And ends poorly

After recovering and ringing in the new year in LA, a morning hike on the 1st starts 2023 right.

LA skyline from Griffiths observatory
LA from Griffiths