Dennis Avery, whose father founded Avery Dennison Corp., funded philanthropic endeavors across the globe and a whimsical sculpture garden of prehistoric and other creatures in the desert northeast of San Diego. This bike tour is routed through the sculptures found in the southern part of the Borrego Valley.
Ricardo Breceda’s Sky Art metal sculptures were commissioned by Avery and placed on land owned by Avery. The sculptures are based on the fossil record from the Pleistocene era with animals such as Eocene horse, sabertooth cat, and mammoth. This southern valley is also where hard science meets fantasy with a sprinkling of dinosaur sculptures that do not represent fossils found in this region. The dinosaurs are contained in their own “Jurassic Park” with Tyrannosaurus rex, Spinosaurus, Allosaurus, and more, isolated off the main road.
The Sky Art metal sculptures first appeared on Avery’s property in 2008. They remain open to the public for viewing. The original sculptures were based on real animals as depicted in the award-winning book Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert. A Sky Art Metal Sculptures of Borrego Valley laminated map gives details about each of the sculptures as does a new e-book entitled Metal Sculptures of Borrego Valley, which has links to articles, stories, and videos about the sculptures, the artist, and the landowner. For those who want even more details and photographs, there is also a coffee-table book entitled Ricardo Breceda: Accidental Artist that has won numerous awards.
A mountain bike is recommended for this ride in order to view the dinosaur area, or the dinosaurs can be skipped if riding a road bike. Begin the ride at Christmas Circle and cycle down SR-3 or Borrego Springs Road. At mile 3.8 will be the first sculpture on the left (north). The Aiolornis was the largest flight-capable bird with a wingspan of almost 17 feet. Continuing down the road are sabertooth cats attacking Eocene horses, more horses grazing, and mammoths. Across from the mammoths to the east is Anzio Drive. It is paved for about one-quarter mile where another stunning Aiolornis is found clutching his prey. Continue down this road only with a mountain bike. After one mile from SR-3, turn right (west) on the dirt road to view the dinosaurs.
After a mile, turn right again to return to SR-3. For a short ride, turn left and return to Christmas Circle. To extend the ride, turn right and continue to the junction of SR-3 and Yaqui Pass Road. La Casa del Zorro is on the southeast corner. Continuing along Borrego Springs Road a few hundred feet leads to a warehouse on the left (north) where artist Ricardo Breceda can sometimes be found. The entrance to his work area is marked by a metal dinosaur. Stop by and say hello to him, as he loves visitors.
Complete the ride by cycling north on Yaqui Pass Road, which turns left (west) and becomes Rango Way. As soon as this turn is made, look right to the first driveway that leads to what is called today “Old Borego” (with one “r”), the original center of town. Rango Way turns again to the right and becomes Borrego Valley Road. Continue for another 3 miles until the junction with Palm Canyon Drive. Turn left and return to Christmas Circle. There are 27 sites and 131 sculptures in the valley. For a bike tour to see the rest of the sculptures, see last week’s Roam-O-Rama column.
- Distance from downtown San Diego: About 85 miles to Christmas Circle (Borrego Springs). Allow about 2 hours by car. From Ramona, drive east on SR-78 to Santa Ysabel. Turn north on SR-79 and drive to the junction with SR-2/San Felipe Road and turn southeast. At the junction with SR-22, turn east to Ranchita and follow SR-22 to the stop sign in Borrego Springs. Turn left and drive to Christmas Circle and park. Facilities.
- Biking length: From 9 to 15 miles, depending on route. Difficulty: Easy to moderate. Requires mountain bike for dirt portions. Facilities at Christmas Circle. Carry water. Relatively flat. Wind usually from the west. The sculptures can also be viewed in summer months if riding either early morning or late afternoon.