Beautiful views + fruit surprises: Escondido to Mira Mesa

1/7/22

Today I bade farewell (for now, though we hope to meet up again before I head east) to Michele and Dawa. They were kind enough to indulge me in a selfie, although Dawa might not have been fully ready for her close-up.

I hopped onto my rig and set a course for Mira Mesa, about 18 miles south. There was about 1000 feet of elevation along the way, so it was a good way to get a bit of exercise after several mostly slothful days.

Two decent-sized segments of the route took place on dedicated bike paths, which was really cool. I went through Hodges Lake, although the lake itself was barely visible from my vantage at the far eastern edge. But the bridge was cool.

Shortly after the bridge, I got back on some busy roads. I made a couple of wrong turns, and had to double back for short distances. Google Maps couldn’t seem to make up its mind on the routing, either: after scaling a 100’ hill, I checked again to see where to go next, and it had apparently changed its mind and told me to go back down the hill and take a different turn.

No thanks, Google. I’m going with your first instinct.

At another point, I turned right where I thought the map showed me to do so, but it was onto a very wide and busy road, with multiple lanes in each direction and a concrete median bisecting it. I double-checked after going maybe 100 yards, and found that no, I was supposed to have crossed that big road, and then turned right on the sidewalk on the opposite side, to meet up with a bike path about 100 yards in, right across from where I was at that moment. So frustrating! I wished I could just cross the road right there, but there was no way I’d be able to get the rig over the median with three lanes of traffic swooshing by in each direction. I’d need to turn around again. Not a big deal in terms of distance, but this was becoming a pattern, and I was becoming cranky.

But then!

I happened to look down at my front tire, and what should I see but two red madrone berries lying right next to it on the sidewalk.

Could it be??

I hadn’t been sure if they really did grow this far south, and if they did, I had been concerned it might be too late in the season for the berries to still be good. (Google had told me that November and December is the season, at least in the Bay area.) I thought I might have had the last of this delectable treat for the year.

I glanced up at the bank to see where those two might have come from, and lo and behold, my eyes fell upon the motherlode! I had never seen a madrone tree so full of spoils! The branches were laden, and the ground—my favorite place from which to glean almost any fruit, since I know they’re nice and ripe there—was absolutely carpeted. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I clambered up the steep bank, and sampled a few.

Perfect!

Well, actually most of them were not perfect—too hard and dry, not soft and flavorful—but there were so many that even if only 5-10% were perfect, I could still enjoy a dozen or more.

And I did. And they were warm from the sun, and it tasted like eating strawberry jam. (No wonder these are sometimes called strawberry trees.)

I giggled with glee, looking up at the boring strip mall above, from whose parking lot I’m sure no one had ever noticed this tree. I looked down at the passing commuters, zipping by in their metal boxes, surely never having noticed this tree, nor even having any safe way to enjoy it. If they even knew that madrone berries are edible. Which most people do not, I’m finding—and I only found out this marvelous secret within the past couple of months, myself!

It was another reminder of the magic of this journey, and of this way of traveling. (Including my slow pace!) It was also a reminder of how situations can turn on a dime, from good to bad or bad to good—or both!—in a very short time frame.

Having had my fill, I descended the bank. Now I had a smile on my face as I backtracked to join the bike path on the far bank.

There were more pretty views to be found there, as well, as the sun began to set.

I arrived at the house of my Warmshowers hosts after dark, and was greeted warmly by the human and canine denizens. They made me a lovely dinner of vegan burritos, and regaled me with amazing and hilarious tales of the highs and lows of their own bicycle tours, in the US and Europe. (They ride a tandem when they tour, and they are waaaaay more athletic—and adventurous!—than I.)

When they showed me my room, I had to appreciate the themed comforter!

Tomorrow I will head south again, to the Normal Heights neighborhood of San Diego, where I’ll be staying in my friend’s house for a night while she’s out of town. I may take a longer, more scenic (coastal) route than I had initially planned, because tonight’s hosts have hand-curated it and highly recommend it. We’ll see how I’m feeling in the morning.

But today was a good day.

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