Even Failure Can Be Bliss

By Forrest Smith - Drempd.com

It was a warm 91 degrees when I got out of the car, but I was still itching to get started on my 2,000 foot climb up Lusardi Road.

Gravel Grinding around San Diego

In order to be happy, I personally need to frequently get out and move across a map under my own power, ideally in a natural setting. It’s even better when this is also paired with sore muscles, a tired body, and a clear chest. The more I do these things, the happier I am.

I’m a hiker at heart, but Southern California has a limited supply of hiking trails near me, so I’ve needed to supplement my activity with some biking and gravel grinding (biking on old roads). My ongoing project is to find 10-15 good go-to adventures of both the hiking and biking variety to keep me busy. The spectacular trails can wait for summers in the Sierras and Cascades, but for the rest of the year, it would be great to wear myself out on some local adventures.

My current target was to try and create a little loop trip on a few rough dirt roads along the western flanks of Black Mountain, just to the north of Ramona. Two weeks ago around I rode up the same road I took on today: Lusardi Road. The weather was quite a bit cooler then, and I even wondered if it would start raining. Today it was a hot contrast, but there was an occassional breeze to cool things down. 

San Diego Gravel Grinding - Lusardi Road

Out Lusardi Road (from my ride 2 weeks ago) 

On my previous trip up Lusardi Road, I made it to a gate where the road enters a small stretch of private property. I was excited to see that there weren’t private property signs after the gate, and that according to my map there was only this gate keeping me from continuing at least for several more miles. I turned around knowing that I would come back and push a little further, ideally completing a loop up to Black Mountain.

Despite the heat, I felt good today on my climb. I’m not a huge biker (at least yet), but there is something about just cranking away on a hill climb that I seem to enjoy. Yeah, it can suck, but more of that suckiness that you know you’ll look back on fondly.  I was excited to keep pushing on from where I ended my adventure two weeks prior, and I felt like I had the energy to ride for quite a while.

Lusardi Road


I was easily making progress on my ride — what seemed like a daunting and difficult climb two weeks ago, seemed more effortless and fluid this time around.

Black Mountain behind me as I climb up the valley

I reached the gate where I turned around previously in an amazing mood.  I wasn’t sure if my loop trip was possible since there were several roads of questionable passability, but I was feeling great. I pushed beyond the gate, rounded a few additional turns, and hit another gate — and this one I’m not getting around. Damn.

The dream of my loop trip dashed, I decided to eat some lunch and stare at my map. 

A quick lunch while gravel grinding

So today’s ride turned out to be the exact same trip that I did two weeks ago — with I guess an additional 200 yards or so. While my failure was a definite bummer, it’s hard to be too sad when riding a bike down a long hill, through beautiful oak groves and sweeping views. 

Pamo Valley

Pamo Valley

I’m not entirely done with rides in this area. I still plan on riding up Black Mountain Road and seeing how close I can get to completing my loop on roads from that direction. Chances are I’ll hit impassable gates just after the summit, but who knows.  

The idea of forming a loop is gone but I can still find some good out-and-back roads in this area to play on. Of course, there is that unmarked, steep, and incredibly rough road that I spied heading back down the hill. A road that if did a half-mile of true off-road riding or portaging my bike could connect with that other road, bypassing the gate I ran into today and which could possibly make a loop possible…