Day 6: Leaving Arcata
I wish I could tell all of you how many miles I’ve done. I’m curious myself, but that first night’s rainstorm wiped out my battery and I haven’t bothered to replace it. Andre and I left Arcata with a bit of a rough start. First of all, I was very late getting ready. I think part of that had to do with the epic breakfast: quinoa flakes cooked in coconut milk and topped with bananas. But then we rode through downtown Arcata on our way to get coffee and Andre got doored, completely taken out and slammed to the ground. Everything was fine, he and his bike, and the guy was completely remorseful but it reminds of how vulnerable a bicycle is. Those Recyclists I met in Jedidiah Smith have dropped two riders because they got hit by cars (both are alive and recovering).
On the way to the race Eureka looked ugly and boring. Andre and I took the bike route and we were completely surprised by the beauty of some of the homes. The homeless people were productive too. They were picking up all of the leftover railroad tracks so they could sell it for drugs.
We chose to ride on the Avenue of the Giants which is a spectacular parallel route along the 101. Once again I was speechless as we watched the glowing sunset light up the top of the redwoods, accented by
the winding sparkles of the Eel River. Along the road we passed a labor camp prison and an empty campground. I was tempted to try and steal some firewood but Andre talked me out of it.
We found a day visit site that we could hide in and made camp in a small grove of trees next to an elk trail. While hanging our bags to protect from bears we saw a glowing caterpillar…glowing. The moon was out and bright so Andre and I went to the river and hung out looking at it and all its splendor. We were enjoying our time when all of a sudden a crash smashed in the trees. “What was that?” I asked Andre. “I think its a tree falling-” he said as the sound hocked a loogie and then crashed again. We
made it back without a knife attack and promptly went to our separate tents, but I couldn’t shake the thought of an escaped convict coming to hold us hostage. Just as my efforts to fall asleep were succeeding four creatures, two on our side of the river and two on the other barked loudly to each other. Then, within moments one was on the complete other side of our site and it began to make another sound. It made a small screech like a door swinging open and then would let out, “ARPGH!” It moved too quickly and silently across the night’s void to travel by land, but birds don’t bark. Earlier I had wondered what the evolutionary advantage it was for a caterpillar to glow. Based on my mesmerized state I joked that it was to lure humans and distract them so inter-dimensional dragons could feast on the stupified humans and shed their dead scales onto the caterpillars who would collect it all with their hairy spindles. “Kreeeeeak…ARPGH!” came from the trail entrance to our camp.
Day 7: There’s A Climb Ahead
I woke up super early to fetch my headlamp that I had left at the riverbed but still got off to a slow start. I was about a half-hour or more behind Andre and I could feel his impatience. I finally got all of my bags to my bike and loaded them on when I felt a loose screw on my rack. Actually, it was completely out. I tried to put another one in but it was not working and I didn’t want to deconstruct the bike on the side of the road. I gave up, not wanting to hold Andre up any more. Once we got coffee though, I got it fixed and all was well.
My ankle was feeling sore (it had been since before Arcata) and so I was riding slow. Overall it was just not my day. Two hours of sleep, feeling rushed. Just a bad day. But then a little after noon, I hit my stride. There was a long stretch of climbing and I just killed it. Finding that second wind really feels good and you you can accomplish anything. Well, we got to Leggett where we had been warned by multiple people there was a massive climb on a narrow road. I wanted to quit for the
day, but Andre wasn’t having any of that. We decided to climb as far as we wanted to before dark looking for a camping space. Everybody (including other cyclists) are chumps. The hill was nothing. Sure it was tight. Sure it was steep. But it wasn’t that long. Maybe with everything else that we had done Andre and I were prepared for everything.
About halfway up we found this cleared out section with a concrete barriers blocking it and decided it was our home for the night. Broken bottles shattered by the scattered shotgun shells littered the ground in between
piles of cleared brush and surrounded by large overgrown bushes hiding us from all angles.
Using the cleared brush we made a fire, the first one of the trip since Ashland and cooked our dinners. We were having a great time drinking whiskey, swapping stories, watching the purple sunset and then we heard voices talking in the distance. We figured we were trespassing (despite not seeing any signs) and wished so badly we didn’t have a fire with smelly smoke. After about 15 minutes the people left and all was well with the world. With no animal sounds in the vicinity, I went to sleep without a hitch and got a solid night’s rest.
Day 8: Andre Owes Me A Quarter
We woke in the morning completely frigid. Ice covered our tents and bike covers. We were at such a high elevation and the absence of clouds at night created the perfect atmosphere for cold-stiffened limbs and smoky breath. It was difficult and slightly painful to pack up. Once a patch of sunlight drifted into our site we both stopped what we were doing and stood for a few minutes to warm up. And the best part was that we had the rest of the hill to start us off for the day. But again, it wasn’t so bad. And once we got to the peak we were astonished to see an ocean of fog floating just below us. It completely filled the valley below us and we couldn’t see where it ended. It must have been the culprit for our frozen morning but we missed it shrouding us because we were on the east side of the mountain. Immediately after the spectacular view we bombed down what we climbed. I had the forethought to raise my front panniers so I get some real killer speed and take the turns tight without worrying about scraping bottom. I had to put my brakes on and slow down for some moving van that passed me on the climb. I was bummed about losing speed, but it was fun to slalom behind the van and play cat and mouse.
We got to the bottom and I could smell the ocean. I got excited and pushed for my second wind but the sea never revealed itself. And then came the real hill. I don’t know if this is the one that everyone warned me about but it was so much harder than the Leggett climb. Mostly because it was the second monster of the day. Andre and I both struggled on the bastard, but we were rewarded with Highway 1 and a view of the Pacific. Once again, the sheer expanse and coalescing moods of the ocean brightened my spirits and caused me to slow down and breath deep the salty dew. Plus, I saw it first so Andre owes me a quarter.
We ate lunch at a small hotel. The owner was a great who let us make our lunches on his patio while we played with his cat. The sun was out and Andre and I were happy to toil up and down the rolling hills with the wind at our backs and the sun in our faces. I got the funniest little tanline that afternoon. We paused
for a moment in Fort Bragg and grabbed a beer at North Coast brewery. I had the Pranqster and Andre had the Ol Rasputin. His was the better choice. Smoothest, creamiest stout I’ve ever had. Truly a rich beer, dark with coffee and chocolate. Mmmm. On our way out we saw another tourer. Frank from Louisiana. Man, this guy was great. Really wanted to ride with him and hear what more he had to say. With weedy breath, the hipped-out Santa Claus told us his journey to find a home. Costa Rica, Nicaragua, while beautiful were too expensive for him. He told me I had to ride through the downtown streets of Mexico City. The most dangerous game I’ll ride, but the most thrilling. We talked about bike polo for a bit. Back in the 70’s, when he was in college, he and some other architecture students would play in the sloped hallways of the Superdome. Unbelievable! Frank was a dude, and I hope I come across him again someday.
We finished the day at some campground in Mendocino and walked out to the beach where we drank whiskey and listened to waves crash. It was surreal to see cars driving around the bend behind us silently. After spending so many hours with roaring motors and humming tires speeding past you its nice to recognize the oppressive vehicles overwhelmed by the ocean. With that said, I am thankful that cars aren’t silent because then they would be even more deadly than they already are.