Info on Palomar Observatory
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As with many of our rides, this one starts from the parking lot near the Mobil gas station which is located near the I-15 and Rt. 76 (just North of Escondido). The ride will cover around 150? miles and last from 4 to 6 hours if you stop to enjoy the view and take some of the side trips.
The ride begins by heading East on Rt. 76. You will pass a farm with a lot of "fragrant" cows and continue past the Pala Casino. The road features a lot of turns and casino traffic. Once you get past the casino, the pace will pick up. The road becomes straight as you pass thru the valley and are surrounded by orchards. According to Simon Parry, Rt. 76 follows the Elsinore Fault.
As you pass Valley Center, the road begins a rapid climb up the mountains with wide sweeping turns. There are numerous turnouts from which you can enjoy the view but we usually get caught up in the charge up the mountain. You will eventually reach a split where Rt. 76 continues straight ahead while South Grade bears to the left.
South Grade is a very popular sport bike road and will take you to the top of the mountain. South Grade features seven miles of steep, twisting turns. Many of the turns are 180 degree and can catch you off guard. Over the past 2 years, 43 bikes have gone down. Be careful that you don't add to the count. Depending upon how fast you ride, you should be prepared to be passed by a string of sport bikes at any time.
Once you reach the top, you should turn left. We recommend that you stop at Mother's Kitchen for a break. This is a popular stop for sport bikes and cruisers. There is a general store located next door. You should be aware that parking is a sensitive issue. Motorcycles are asked to park in the North (far) half of the lot. Mother's and the store are concerned about their car driving customers having a place to part. We suggest making a purchase or having a meal during your break. Note that Mother's is strictly vegetarian.
There are two side trips that you can make at this point. You can continue North for several miles of fun riding until you reach the parking lot of the Palomar observatory. A moderate hike and a climb up some stairs will give you great view of the 200 inch telescope. There is also a small museum nearby.
You can also make a side trip to the Palomar Mountain State Park. The is an entry charge of $2 per bike but it is well worth the price. You can follow a road down to Doane's pond which has numerous hiking trails. Another single lane road will take you high on the mountain, past numerous antennas, for a breath taking view. A side road takes you to Bailey's which is part of the original town of Palomar.
Leaving the Palomar Mountain peak, route S7 follows the ridge to the East, slowly descending. Along the way, you will pass a Shrine on your right which commemorates fallen fire fighters. It is worth a stop just for the view and to see all of the items left at the shrine. As you continue your descent, you will see Lake Henshaw in the distance to your left and ahead. At the end of your descent, your road will Tee into Rt. 76 where you will turn left to continue East.
Lake Henshaw will be on your left. If you choose to stop for a closer look at the lake, watch out for the metal grating at the entrance. The Lake Henshaw restaurant is located on the right side of the road and has a good menu. Note that there is no air conditioning so your stop can be warm during the summer.
As you continue East on Rt. 76, you will pass the West Loop sideroad. You will want to turn right on the Center Loop which leads to Mesa Grande road.
Mesa Grande road is another popular sport bike road which features a rapid ascent with tight 180 degree switchbacks, a long flat plateau, and a descent with more sweeping turns. You will Tee into Rt. 79 where you will turn right. On your left is the Santa Ysabel mission which welcomes visitors.
Rt. 79 ends at Rt. 78 in the town of Santa Ysabel. You can get gas here, eat at the restaurant, or buy pie or pastries at Dudley's bakery. We always like to stop at the Julian Apple Pie Company for a slice of apple pie with ice cream. You get the best price for pie here. Afterwards, the ride heads West on Rt. 78.
Rt. 78 has a number of sweeping turns and can be fun to ride. However, it also has a fair amount of traffic that can impede your progress. You can make a side trip to view the Lake Southerland Dam by turning right on Lake Sutherland Dam Road (obviously). The road will gradually take you down to water level. There is a store where you can make some modest purchases.
The ride continues East on Rt. 78 and will take you into the town of Ramona. Watch for Rt. 78 to turn right at one of the traffic lights and you will want to follow it. A stretch of Rt. 78 will give you another gorgeous view of the mountains as you descend. You will eventually pass the San Pasqual Battle Museum which makes for another interesting stop.
Finally, you will continue past the San Diego Wild Animal Park which is worth a full day visit. When you reach Escondido, the ride is concluded. We hope you enjoyed the trip.