Margaritas Are the Cure for All Hills

By Jane Mountain | December 20, 2012

Tent at KOA

In preparation for our big cycling trip next year, we decided we should get out on a few more-or-less fully loaded trips before we go. Our first trip was to be a gentle 3-day excursion:

Day 1: Poway to San Elijo State Beach (21 miles)
Day 2: San Elijo State Beach to Chula Vista (35.8 miles)
Day 3: Chula Vista to Poway (33.4 miles)

Turns out, gentle is not exactly the right word.

Day 2: Saturday, December 15

If you missed Day1, Part 1 or Day 1, Part 2, read them first… We’ll wait for you.

A bright, sunny sky greeted us Saturday morning. Hallelujah!

Since we had all our camping supplies with us, we put together a quick breakfast of homemade granola and hazelnut milk in our hotel room. After that, it took almost no time to get ready. It’s amazing how easy it is to get organized when you wear the same clothes every day.

We retrieved our bikes from the hotel back office, leaving a good quantity of dried clumps of mud to mark our trail. More clumps of mud needed to be scraped out of gears and fenders before we could go anywhere.

Watching Stephen remove his front wheel in the Doubletree entry way, I knew I would be fighting a major case of “are we there yet?” all day long.

My logical brain knows that it’s all about the journey, not the destination. My emotional brain still wants to get where we’re going as fast as it can.

Impatience is a family trait. And not an attractive one.

A few minutes of scraping and banging and we’d created another muddy pile at the front of the hotel. Our sincerest apologies to the Doubletree maintenance and cleaning staff!

Mud in the City

Yet another bike trail kicked off the morning, but this time it was wide, paved, and pleasant. At least for a while.

After a few twists and turns, Google maps led us down a “No Thru Street”. Sigh. At the end of the street, there was a rough trail leading off into what looked like a makeshift garbage dump.

We are obviously slow learners, because instead of turning around and taking a different route, we ploughed straight on in. A mini repeat of Friday’s shenanigans ensued. Though the trail was mercifully short, it took about 45 minutes to navigate. In those 45 minutes we managed to pick up a day’s worth of sticky, heavy mud.

After we emerged back onto the street, I held the bikes while Stephen circumnavigated the nearby apartment buildings, searching for a hose. He didn’t find one, but it provided me with another opportunity to practice patience in the face of minor delays.

A series of steep hills followed. Down, up, down, up. Big hills are crazy intimidating when you’re at the bottom looking up. But we found that the hills looked much worse than they felt. Score one for yoga. Our leg muscles were more than up to the challenge.


After many more hills, and countless stops to check the map, we arrived in Old Town San Diego. The last time I was here was almost 30 years ago. My 10-year-old self remembers Old Town as being a wonderful maze of authentic old time Mexican buildings, where you could buy a churro on every corner.

In reality, it is two blocks of tacky gift shops and touristy restaurants.

After 20 miles of hills, a touristy Mexican restaurant is like heaven.

First, they give you a special spot for your bikes.

Then, you sit down and these magically appear.

Tortilla Chips

And minutes later, they bring you a margarita the size of your head.

Fueled up, lubricated, and free of hills, we felt ready for the final 10 miles.

Google maps steered us through a series of dead ends and streets that just didn’t seem to exist. Eventually we gave up on the map and just headed in approximately the right direction.

After a while, Stephen’s chain started suffering from the steam cleaning it had received the night before. For the final few miles he squeaked slowly along in one of the few gears available to him.

Meanwhile, I struggled valiantly with my “hurry up, let’s go” mentality, letting it get the better of me more than once.

Kamping at the KOA

We were both thrilled to see the bright yellow KOA sign appear in front of us, signifying that we’d made it home for the night. A KOA in the middle of the city is hardly roughing it, but it did give us a chance to set up our tent for the first time. Hard to believe it will be our home for much of next year.

We imagined that after our bike trip, we would build our very own KOA-style cabin and live quite happily in that. Anyone know if they sell KOA Kabin Kits?

Our new stove didn’t get its inaugural run though, because the KOA Kamper Kitchen is fully equipped with electric stoves and fully plumbed kitchen sinks.

We could have avoided cooking altogether, as an overly friendly guy named Russ invited us to join his family in their cabin for a home-cooked ham.

We’ve often discussed what we’ll do if well-meaning locals offer us home-cooked meat after a hard day on the bikes. Although, in our imaginations, we are in the middle of rural Romania when it happens. In reality, this is the second time we’ve been offered dinner, and we haven’t even left the state.

Side note: Our first dinner offer was on Thanksgiving, from a family living in a tent on the Arroyo Seco. People are amazing.

In this instance, we politely offered up our vegetarian excuses. Russ didn’t seem to mind. He quickly changed his offer from ham to tequila.

With the best intentions, we promised to stop by after dinner for a few drinks. We never made it.

Apologies Russ, but we were snuggled and warm in our sleeping bags by eight, worn out from the day’s events.


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