Tuesday, September 18, 2007
We woke up this morning and sadly said goodbye to everyone. We opted to back track a little bit and ride the 1 all the way into the city, rather than sticking with the shorter, flatter route along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, because I wanted to see the spectacular scenery along the coast line. Jack and Albrecht were doing the same
route as us but left much earlier in the day, and Frank and Rike opted for the short ride as Rike had 2 more broken spokes and they were anxious to get in and get off the bikes.
Chad and I stopped for lunch in Bolinas, one of the most offbeat, hippie, cool places I've ever been. It is located just across a narrow channel from Stinson Beach, but to get there by car you have to drive around a sizeable bay. The locals are very protective of their town, and the county has stopped putting up road signs that point to Bolinas because every time they put one up, someone from the town takes it down. I was thinking, as we rode into the town, that Bolinas is also unique to me because while I've visited it exactly three times, I've arrived by bicycle to visit it exactly 100% of the time. I think I'm going to make a personal rule, actually-- Bolinas will be a place where I will only allow myself to arrive by bicycle.
Perhaps the other thing that draws me to Bolinas is the town's heavy emphasis on organic agriculture. Something about the proximity of the farms in Bolinas to the beach makes me think that this would be a great place to retire to, should Chad and I ever decide to take a break from the daily grind and become farmers. Anyhow, I bought lunch at one of my favorite haunts, the People's grocery-- it was a yummy tofu curry sandwich with peas and carrots-- something I'm not usually that into, but that was excellent today. Then again, everything tastes great when you're riding your bike all day.
We left Bolinas, rode around the bend and began the breathtaking ascent south of Stinson Beach. It was every bit as glorious as I remembered, and I hope that Chad felt the same way!
We continued up through another brutally steep section of coastal ascent-- my inclometer read 23%! This time I didn't gasp or start crying-- I just stood up and powered through, and I heard Chad give a mighty yell in front of me as he did the same.
At the top, we stopped to look around at some of the most spectacular scenery of the whole trip. We caught our first glimpse of the city, lying just beyond the Marin headlands. I got sooo giddy... but there was still lots of scenery to see. Just above Muir Beach, we headed inland to see the Muir woods national monument. I thought it was a fitting thing to do, given the impact that John Muir had in preserving all of this amazing land for everyone to enjoy. I spent a long time in the gift shop while Chad took a nap outside-- it was nice to reflect on Muir's contributions to our collective environmental consciousness, and to read some of his quotes and thoughts.
We climbed out of the Muir Woods National monument and were greeted with another spectacular view of the Marin Headlands, stretching out for miles to the east of us. The descent down was bittersweet-- amazing, fast, fun, and familiar, but also a little melancholy because it was the last real descent of our journey- we were nearly at the end of a three week odyssey into an adventure neither one of us knew anything about before we left. There wasn't much time to be sad, though, because the Golden Gate lay just ahead.
We finished our windy descent down into Mill Valley, past cousins Clint and Cori's homes, and dodged traffic to get onto the bike path, right past Mike's Bikes of Sausalito. It felt great to be back in familiar territory, where my love affair with the bicycle began. How fitting to arrive by bicycle!
As we rolled through Sausalito and were enjoying the views of the Transamerica tower, we had a big surprise-- there at the pub on the sidewalk, Frank, Rike, Jack and Daniel were waiting for us with COLD BEERS! What an amazing surprise. We laughed like old friends and hugged, then sat down to enjoy our beers.
When we were done, we all decided to ride across the bridge together... a fitting end to an incredible journey with our wonderful friends from the road. Truely an adventure of a lifetime!
Here's Chad, going across the bridge.
A picture of the boys, celebrating their victory!
Here's Daniel giving a solid fist pump.
Daniel is the MAN!
Chad and I, paused for a photo op in the middle of the bridge. The weather is of course absolutely fabulous. Yeee hawah!
Jack, savoring his Golden Gate Moment!
On the other side, Frank and Chad giving a mighty high five.
Frank and Rike celebrating their love for bikes and for each other!
Chad and I-- we made it!!!!!!
Today's stats: 50 or so miles, 3500 ft. of climbing.
Trip totals: 1031.38 miles, 48,731 feet of climbing!!! We averaged 57.3 miles per day.
This morning we were tricked by a Eucalyptus tree, under which we had placed our tent the night prior. We woke up early and heard rain on our tent, so we went back to bed and slept in-- although we could have reached San Francisco today, we decided to extend our trip one more day and take our time today. When we woke up 2 hours later, it was still raining! Or so we thought-- when Chad stuck his head out of the tent, the only place it was raining was under the Eucalyptus tree! It was misty out, and the tree was especially adept at gathering moisture with its long, pointed leaves, and watering its own roots. Pretty amazing adaptation!The pic above is of Chad looking tricked by that tree.
We rode into Point Reyes station-- but on the way in we came across this guy who had ridden 1000 miles so far, packed to the gills with stuff and RIDING WITH HIS DOG RUNNING NEXT TO HIM! He told us that the dog had 1000 miles on her, just like his bike. We felt sorry for the dog, but actually the dog seemed okay with the whole arrangement,so we opted to mind our own business rather than call animal control. Strange the things you see on a bike tour. This was the second dog we've seen on a tour-- the first was in southern Oregon, but that one was in a Burley-type trailer, watching the scenes go by.
When we got into Point Reyes, we stopped and chilled out for awhile, as we decided whether to stay there in Olema or head on to Samuel P Taylor. We soon saw Albrecht, who had stayed at Olema the night prior, at the price of $40! We decided very quickly that Samuel P Taylor would be a better choice. Albrecht decided the same thing. Not too much later, Jack came rolling into town, and his plan was also to stay at Samuel P Taylor! Not only that, but Frank and Rike, who stayed at the same campsite as Jack the night prior, were also planning on staying at Samuel P. Taylor, so we would have a reunion on our last night in town!
We got to camp and set up, in one of the most beautiful hiker biker camps to date. While the scenery was fantastic, it was the people whom we were more excited to see.
Albrecht arrived first, followed soon by Jack. Finally, Frank and Rike arrived, and we greeted them like old friends!
We stayed up very late talking, drinking a little wine, and enjoying each other's company in an amazingly beautiful backdrop, apparently one of the very first campsites in America to be promoted for recreational camping. The only down side to our last evening was that the raccoons scored a very smashing victory over us. Just after dark, they stole a bag of bagels off our table, then in the middle of the night they managed to steal most of our food supply out of the bear/ raccoon cupboard we put our food in. SNEAKY little buggers! Oh well. All in all, a great last night of this amazing tour. Today's stats: 41.91 miles, 9.6 mph avg, 2726 ft of climbing (my legs were again really tired today, due to yesterday's huge climbing).
We started the day early in the morning mist and stopped for breakfast at this wonderful organic grocery store/ cafe. Chad had a huge egg, cheese and sausage sandwich and I had corn meal blueberry pancakes that were amazing. Not bad for a town of 525 people. Chad was pretty sure he saw Ken Kesey at the cafe, but we couldn't actually confirm that. As we were eating Jack and John both showed up-- Jack brought my favorite shirt, which I had left at the camp that morning-- so nice of him to look out for us! Unfortunately, Jack had decided to ride shorter than we were aiming for today, so we wouldn't get to enjoy his company for another night. We shopped for a few lunch snacks, and the shop owner gave us some free bananas, which were much appreciated. We also met a HUMUNGOUS chocolate lab named Webber who kept trying to sneak into the store.
We departed breakfast with happy, satisfied tummies, and began a short climb to the top. When I got there, I had a feeling my wallet wasn't with me-- looked in my bag, and sure enough, it wasn't there! I booked it back down the hill and there it was, sitting on the steps to the shop.
The first 35 miles were pretty easy and breezy-- our tail wind has returned! We took an early lunch and again enjoyed tomatoes, avacado, cheese, and whole wheat bread, with a banana, an orange, and a peach.
After lunch we began a climb that turned out to be much less challenging than I was expecting with absolutely EPIC scenery. The road was really exposed, and although the traffic was heavy, we were blessed again with road construction and a traffic light that pretty much made the road empty for us, as long as we let groups of cars pass. That wasn't a problem, because the scenery was so amazing.
The cows along the edge of the bluffs were especially funny to me. The guidebook warned about cows jumping out, but they don't exactly jump. Mostly, coastal cows are not any more intelligent than inland cows, it seems, nor do they move any faster.
We had an amazing, spectacular descent into Jenner, along one of the windiest roads in CA. I saw a postcard advertising it as Dramamine Drive because you are forced to stay awake while driving it. Looking at it from the top, the road looked like a giant piece of grey ribbon candy with a yellow stripe. At times on the way down, around the corners, I felt inverted momentairly, the hairpins were so sharp and you changed pitches so quickly.
At the bottom, Chad stopped and looked over a cliff into the bay that the Russian River flows into, and saw a bunch of seals playing in the water. Turns out they do more than just sunbathe, and watching them in the water was really entertaining.
We climbed out of the Russian River gulch, and from that point on the traffic became almost intolerable-- it was Labor Day, and by the late afternoon we felt like we were nuts to be riding. Although drivers were very polite, the motorcycles' noise freaked me out, and by the end of the day I was very happy to be off the bike. We set up our tent under a big eucalyptus tree at Bodega Dunes State Park, where it was hauntingly quiet after such a big day. After setting up camp, we rode into town and spoiled ourselves with fish n' chips and fish tacos. All in all, an amazing day. When I looked at our stats for the day, I could not believe it-- 4547 feet of climbing! 68.65 miles, 11 mph average! While I'd like to claim we are just getting stronger, our huge tail wind definitely helped out our mph over that many hills. This was our hilliest day.
Monday, September 17, 2007
My legs were TIRED today from yesterday's monstrous climbing day, and I started out crabby. I think it was the combination of yesterday's exertion, rather heavy traffic on narrow roads, and innumerable short, steep, canyon climbs, but I just stayed in my bad mood for most of the day (poor Chad was very nice to me, but I'm sure got sick of my mood today!). We had talked about trying to do a long day today(70 plus miles), but decided to do only 40 miles, given the epic size of yesterday's ride. This turned out to be a good decision, because although today was short with less climbing than yesterday, it turned out to be a difficult day for me.
The scenery was beautiful, though, and around lunch time we stopped just north of Elk to check out a picturesque little resort with an art gallery and beautiful gardens. Shortly after lunch, we came to the steepest climb on the entire route, according to our guidebook. Thankfully, it was short. It was another one of these terribly steep swoops into and back out of a canyon, except this time the road wound through 2 haripins before coming to the top-- I think the grade was around 22%. I made it to the top of the fist hairpin with legs burning, gasping for air, and sniveling. I think this is a common thing among some female cyclists I know on especially steep climbs-- you get to a point where you are pushing yourself about as hard as you can go, and for some reason the emotions just take over and you start gasping and crying! No reason, really-- you just kind of crack emotionally. Anyhow, I stopped for a minute, let my breathing return to normal, and looked out at the ocean and realized that no matter how hard this ride is for me in places, I'm damn happy to be on it.
Once I had calmed down, I hopped back on the bike and pedaled slowly up the rest of the hill in a much calmer state than before. Chad was waiting patiently for me at the top, and we continued on. About 10 miles from camp, Chad started to want to hurry so that we could get to a store for some dinner food, but I was pretty beat so I told him to go ahead. Being alone for 10 miles was actually a nice break-- I got to go at my own pace without worry that Chad was waiting for me, and he got to go ahead at his own speed.
By the time I got to camp I was feeling better, despite the fact that our campground was pretty barren, with little shade cover and no showers. Oh well-- every other site has been so cozy and welcoming that you can't expect them all to be that way! Anyhow, Jack and John were at the site, so we visited with them for awhile, ate some light snacks for dinner, and then strolled down to the beach to watch the sunset.
It was a particularly amazing sunset, which goes to show you that even on the most challenging days, these adventures have many gifts to offer.
Today's stats: 43.04 miles, 9.8 mph, 2601 ft of climbing
Almost immediately out of Richardson Grove this morning we started climbing. About 15 miles out of camp we said goodbye to the 101 and turned onto the 1, towards the ocean. We went up, up, up to the highest point on the entire Pacific Coast route, Leggett Hill. The hill, though we had been dreading it, was actually very pleasant-- gradual, windy, on a very lightly traveled road. The shady eucalyptus groves and the golden brown soil of the hills again reminded me of some of my favorite climbs in Berkeley (the pic is me at the top, celebrating!).
The descent was one of the longest I've ever done-- lots of windy corners in and out of the shade. We came around one hairpin and there were in two people in motorcycle jackets but with no motorcycles, sitting in lawn chairs by the side of the road, obviously smoking a joint. Only in Northern California!
The next climb, Rockport Hill, was not as long but it was quite steep, and turned out to be quite a bugger. The way down was incredible, though, as we finally re-emerged at the Ocean, our first glimpse since Arcata. We stopped for a long leisurely lunch in Westport, where we were able to find, in a small convenience store, Brio bread, an organic tomato, a ripe avacado, and cheese from a town up the road called Lolita. Even in the tiniest towns here, you can get fancy cheese and organic produce. Gotta love it!
We hiked down from the store to a little park with picnic benches and a view of the ocean to enjoy our lunch. There we met a really nice guy named John who owns a bicycle shop in Chico, CA. We had a nice chat with him, then he returned to his book while Chad took a nap under the table and I looked at the ocean and planned our route for the next few days.
When we got back on the road we only had 12 more miles left for the day, but they were some of the toughest 12 miles I've ever ridden! The 1 winds in and out of countless canyons along this part of the coast, plunging down into the canyon, turning 180 degrees and then shooting steeply up back out towards the water, over and over again.
The scenery was spectacular, though-- lots of small ranches and wide-open grassland mixed with groves of trees, right along the sparkling Pacific. Chad and I decided that it would be pretty cool to own a litte vacation ranch here someday.
We ended the day at Mackerricher Beach State Park, where we bumped into our friend Daniel again, and also met two other riders-- John, a retired computer science professor who just turned 70 and is riding from Eugene to San Francisco, and Jack, a retired British plumber in his 70's who is riding from Vancouver, BC to MEXICO! Jack was a wonderful spirit for us to bump into-- he gave us a can opener and a booklet about good restuarants to try in the area, and kept us entertained all night with stories of trekking in Alaska and Ireland.
At some point Chad and I rode our bikes into Ft. Ross for dinner-- there was a really nice bike path from our campground to town along the beach, and, thankfully, flat for a change. We ate burgers (a veggie one for me) and french fries, then headed back to camp. At the camp entrance, there was a complete grey whale skeleton on display with a bunch of educational/ interpretive material, so we spent some time checking it out. We stayed up much later than we should have, but we really earned it-- we climbed 4458 ft. today!!! That was over 55.52 miles, with an average speed of 9.5 mph. Woo hoo! Our biggest day of climbing on the entire tour, we're pretty sure. And we feel great!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
We said goodbye to August today in a blaze of heat-- after about 1:30, the thermometer didn't drop below 90 until we were done riding. Ugh! We left Riverwalk this morning around 8:30 and absolutely flew until we reached the Avenue of the Giants, where we intentionally slowed down. They are truly amazing-- I feel awed by their presence, and they radiate a quiet, calm energy that makes you want to stop and reflect, really acknowledge all the history these trees have lived through. Some of them are up to 5,000 years old. Can you imagine? They've been around since biblical times!
There was a distinct contrast, of course, between the quiet, cool, calm of the redwoods and the intense heat (and traffic) between redwood groves; also a contrast between the elegant naturalness of many of the trees and the schlocky-but-fun tourist attractions along the way.
We stopped at the immortal tree, which apparently has lived through fire, flood, and disease, which apparently redwoods are equipped to do as a survival mechnism. We also visited my personal favorite, the drive thru (bike thru?) tree.
Chad and I also found a Califorina house in our price range! Here we are checking it out-- I think it's a good fit for us!
We continued on through the heat, stopping to take a dip in the Eel River, aptly named because of the lamprey migration that happens in the river every spring. We also stopped in Garberville, a town in the middle of nowhere-- hot nowhere, actually-- with more hippies than I've ever seen in one place! They also had a great natural foods store with really nice folks.
When we reached our campground at Richardson Grove, we walked down to the Eel again for a swim at the end of our ride. The river was wonderfully rich with life-- we saw lots of lizards and frogs, tons of insect life, and lots of little fingerling trout.
We took a dip in an amazingly deep swimming hole where a family was playing in the water, and then hiked back up to enjoy our last night in the Redwoods.
I borrowed a patch for my sleeping pad from a man a few campsites over-- Sam, a really nice guy. Chad and I started to get ready for dinner, and, realizing it was Shabbat, got out some bread and candles, and then lamented that we had forgotten to buy wine to celebrate the Shabbas. Just then, Sam came walking over to offer us a bottle of wine, since he was so impressed with our endeavour! It was quite amazing. We accepted and spent the evening chatting with Sam about all kinds of topics, from politics to racial relations to transportation and urban planning. We were very grateful for good conversation and great wine, with just the right timing.
Today's stats: 60.76 miles, 2205 ft of climbing, 10.9 mph avg.
Greetings! This morning we delayed a bit in leaving our campground... Albrecht, our German bicycle-mechanic friend, was out quite early, but we decided to stay and go on a hike to try to see some sea lions, which we could hear barking. We never really made it to the sea lions, but we saw some amazing scenery. The light was absolutely gorgeous.
We left the campground around 9:30 and did a short ride into Arcata, which was so charming that we decided to spend the afternoon relaxing there. We had lunch at this amazing bistro called Brio, which had the most amazing almond croissant I have ever eaten. Chad really enjoyed the coffee!
After lunch, we hit up a bike shop to stock up on GU and powdered drinks for the big climbing days coming up, and I found a cute wrap skirt at a little import store. Turns out that the wrap skirt is a VERY convenient camping clothing peice-- it can go on over anything and is very comfortable and flowy! Finally, we did our grocery shopping at the Arcata food co op, which was incredible. The biggest natural foods selection we've seen on our entire trip, and very eclectic clientele. Great people watching!
We left Arcata in the late afternoon to see if we could make some time and get south of Eureka. Rather than getting back on the busy 101, we went along the water, on a less traveled road, that went across the bay. It was slightly foggy but also a little sunny-- absolutely incredible scenery.
We wound up in Fortuna, CA for the evening at an RV park called Riverwalk-- a little more expensive than the hike and bike's we've been staying at, but they had a HOT TUB. We jumped in as soon as we got there, and it was one of the nicest luxuries we've yet experienced. A better value than Econolodge for sure!
Today's stats: 51.1 miles, 11.1 mph, 1502 feet of climbing.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Today was incredible!!! We took off from the Econolodge around 8:15, took a quick stop at the grocery store, and began climbing shortly after leaving Crescent City, up, up, up into the Redwoods. This climb was supposed to be one of the harriest in terms of narrowness, steepness and heavy traffic, but when we started up it the road was under construction and the entire right lane was closed to cars (but bikes were no problem). As we got further up they had traffic stopped in both directions but allowed bikes through, so we basically had the road to themselves, which was a blessing.
We continued over the summit and down the descent in solitude, as the road wound back down to sea level.
We came upon the Trees of Mystery, a goofy tourist attraction with a talking, 100 ft tall Paul Bunyan statue who was accompanied by an equally large Babe the Blue Ox. At first we thought it was a recording, but then the statue started asking us where we had ridden our bicycles that day and where we were headed, and told us to be safe! A very funny tourist attraction, actually.
Soon we started our second large climb of the day, back into the Redwoods. The climb was really steep-- too steep for me tugging the trailer-- so Chad took my backpack out of the trailer and wore it the rest of the way up (and still finished the climb ahead of me!). At the top, we took a small hike down an interpretive trail that explained the process of a road removal project that had been completed there. It was pretty incredible-- it is not that they just let the plants grow up, they actually regrade the hillside to its original topography, using heavy machinery, so that you cannot see at all where the road was. The idea behind this technique is that the natural drainage of an area is the best state for the area to be in.
Along the trail we also saw some of the biggest Redwoods I've ever seen.... they were very spiritual trees.
We enjoyed a nice descent back down, and stopped to take some pictures of Corkscrew tree, aptly named!
We continued on into Orick with the sun beating on our backs as we emerged from the Redwoods-- my thermometer said 98 degrees! We finished up our day at Patrick's Point State Park, which is one of the most incredible state parks I've ever visited. The hiker-biker spots were tucked behind some fantastic ocean cliffs-- a short hike took us out to the shore, where seals were bathing in the last rays of sunlight before sunset. The cliffs, seals and sunset made this one of our favorite days yet.
Today's stats: 58 miles, 10 mph, 3572 ft of climbing.