Distance (mi) = 25.0
Ave Speed (mph) = 8.8
Max Speed (mph) = 25.5
Time (h:m) = 2:25
Ave del Presidente, bike path, Old Coast Highway, San Onofre nuclear plant, San Onofre State Beach, Surf Beach, Camp Pendleton, Las Pulgas Rd., Stewart Mesa Rd., Harbor Dr., SR21, Oceanside.
I left camp early to minimize the traffic on the route. Starting at Ave del Presidente, just outside the park, today's ride involved riding lightly traveled roads (old highway 1) and bike paths parallelling the ocean side of interstate I-5 ... including traversing several state parks. The key is to continue heading South as the route alternates between bike paths, funky roads, state park parking lots. Some bike paths look like they are closed but take them anyway ... although this can add to the confusion. Be sure to pass the San Onofre nuclear power plant, the San Onofre State Park (a very long parking lot with RV spaces along it), and the Surf Beach Park.
Several miles South of San Onofre State State Park's entrance, you come to a dead end with a narrow tunnel crossing I-5 on the left. Take the tunnel and pedal on ... you are now on Camp Pendleton terrain riding on a wide empty road (sometimes used for aircraft landing practice) with a bike lane. Eventually, you will arrive in a small parking lot area with two options. To the right is the entrance to interstate I-5 (shorter route, very noisy, most cars traveling at 70 mph). To the left is another narrow tunnel which leads to the Camp Pendleton bypass of I-5 from here to Oceanside. I chose this option. After the tunnel, take the first right which takes you to the Las Pulgas Rd. gate. Here you will have to show your picture ID to the marines and tell your reason for entering. Once cleared, follow the main road (Las Pulgas Rd.) for less than a mile, then at Y in the road, take the right fork. This is the Stewart Mesa Road which winds through several training and living areas, eventually ending at Harbor Drive. You cannot divert from the right side of the road, go exploring, and must wear a helmet, among other rules.
The route takes the rider past a big complex called the Camp Los Flores Area 41 and some smaller installations. The base's diverse geography, spanning over 125,000 acres is used for year-round training for marines in addition to all other branches of the U.S. military. Amphibious and sea-to-shore training takes place at several key points along the base's 17 miles of coastline. The main base is in the Mainside Complex, at the southeastern end of the base, and the remote northern interior is an impact area. Daytime population is around 100,000.
The birth of Pendleton came in February 1942 when the 123,000-acre Rancho Santa Margarita y Los Flores was transformed into the largest Marine Corps base in the country. It was named for Major General Joseph Henry Pendleton who had long advocated the establishment of a West Coast training base. During the Korean War, $20 million helped expand and upgrade existing facilities. When Camp Pendleton trained the country's fighting force for the Korean and Vietnam Wars, approximately 200,000 Marines passed through the base on their way to the Far East. Wartime training facilities at the base included landing craft school, amphibious tractor school, beach battalion school, amphibious communications school, and a medical field service school at the naval hospital at Santa Margarita Ranch.
Pendleton remains the last major undeveloped portion of the California coastline south of Santa Barbara, save for a few relatively small state parks.
Upon reaching Harbor Drive, head right and carefully negotiate heavy and fast-moving traffic in order to cross under I-5 towards Oceanside. After crossing under the freeway, turn left at the marked SR21 road (highway 1) to head into Oceanside, a city heavily oriented to catering to the military crowd. I booked a room at Motel 6 after checking out a local RV park with a few tent sites right next to the Amtrak railroad tracks and garbage bins. The motel recommended the Beachbreak restaurant at the nearby harbor for breakfast.