It was another cold, misty morning on the Californian coast.
And the hills continued to take us up over small coves, around inlets and back down to the shore.
It was one of our cheapest eating days for a while, because the towns were so small there was nowhere to really eat. All we could do was stop at the small markets and buy some fruit, milk, eggs and the camping staple- a can of chilli and beans...
We didn't make it far past the town of Tomales. Our legs were still tired and the day had somehow run away from us.
Just outside the town we rode over a large bridge spanning a gently flowing river; we looked up and dark rain clouds were threatening, so we decided to check it out. This section of highway 1 was so quiet, and the few cars that passed over weren't very loud, so we decided to make camp.
While preparing food I noticed a car up on the hills, and a person seemed to be looking down, watching us. Did they have binoculars? I looked up at them for a while... and eventually they moved on.
Then I spotted them further around on another ridge, looking in our direction again... Now I was starting to freak myself out. I saw them a third time, almost out of site... the car paused, then drove away.
We've camped in many places like this around the world but this incident in such a remote part of America made me uneasy.
I was only able to fall asleep that night because Sam was still up reading. But when I awoke in the night I was sure I heard splashing in the river and movement in the bushes.
Six hours sleep would have been a dream!
Instead, it was less than four.
Last night it was a mission just eating our food, the raccoons were out and they were baying for blood! Either that or just our meagre rations!
At about 5am the crazy lady and her German friend started yelling at each other again... the German man was out and about, shuffling around in the bags, yelling at racoons... he was dressed and ready to ride, but the crazy lady was still in her tent.
After an hour of listening to them we decided we might as well get going.
Tired and cold, we decided to avoid these camping sites in the future. We think we'll return to wild (free) camping for a few days...
We rode up the hill to get out of the campground just as the sun was rising. It was actually quite nice to watch the world grow light, and the roads were so quiet... we could almost appreciate the early start.
But we were so tired and our legs hadn't recovered.
The day is all a bit of a blur - ride to small town, eat a little food, ride to small town... Oh - all of it up and down mountains of course.
We passed some spectacular scenery... but we were so exhausted.
About 2pm we stopped in Jenner and ate some food... after an hour of sitting there we decided to buy some supplies and then just find somewhere to camp. The thought of riding another 10 miles over the hills to the next town was too much.
Just outside of town we found some overhanging trees on state park land, that weren't actually part of the touristy state park site. Perfect. We collapsed and struggled to stay awake (slept on a tarp) for the few hours until it was dark, and we could safely set up the tent....
The morning saw us following a dirt path through some scrub, trying to find the path to Fort Bragg as directed by the park ranger... We finally found the right path (not in the bushes) and enjoyed a scenic ride to town.
In Fort Bragg we said bye to Ned and Charlotte - our paths were taking us in different directions and we weren't sure if we'd run into each other again.
It was a tough day on the bike; the rolling mountains seemed never-ending and the towns were small and far between. I'd been dreaming of a milkshake (more like icrecream put through a blender here in America) for days but these towns couldn't help me out.
Despite the tough hills and a late start to the day we still made it to our planned desitation - the regional park outside of Gualala. The shower here was minimum $1.50 for 5 minutes... and the hiker/biker area was tiny. We longed for the parks of Oregon.
We chatted to the hiker who was already in camp, and as we ate our dinner of canned chilli and beans and Ben and Jerry's iceream a pair of cyclists we like to call 'the crazy lady and her German friend' turned up. It was well and truly dark and we were getting ready for an early night after two long, tough days, but they spoke so loud they were almost yelling... but they are quite old so maybe they have hearing problems.
Just as we were settling a group turned up in a van - here to celebrate a birthday all weekend. And they were camping near us. There must have been a dozen of them in three or four different car loads... carrying all their things past us to their camp site. I politely explained to them at 8.30 about our trip and how we were getting ready for bed. They gave me a few 'Right ons' and said they'd be quiet...
With his earplugs installed, Sam fell asleep... but I lay in the tent seething as I listened to them get louder and louder. The guitar came out. In a particularly bad rendition of 'Oh-bla-de oh-bla-da' Sam was woken, despite the earplugs. It was 11.30. I strolled over and politely, but firmly, requested they be quiet.
An hour later Sam gave them a not so polite, and much firmer, demand to stop their noise. It was 1am, and we were hoping we still might get six or seven hours sleep...
As we'd prepared our dinner at Richardson campground near Garberville, Ned and Charlotte turned up, their orange vests irredescent in the twilight. We had plenty of food and they had none, so we happily shared some spaghetti bolognaise with them and they ate it with stale bread.
We hadn't seen them for a couple of days so we caught up on who'd done what since we'd last been together. As it grew dark, Jodie arrived too... a pattern was emerging...
We had a big day ahead of us - a mountain to cross and many smaller hills too - before we made it back to the coast. One stretch was 43km without anywhere to buy food... we needed to be prepared!
The mountain was long (about 700m high) but the gradient was good and we felt refreshed after our rest day. I actually enjoyed the climb and flying down was one of the best experiences of the trip! So beautiful through the redwoods, winding down the mountain... Even though the mountains were tough, the downhill sections always made them worthwhile. And riding with friends made the pain more bearable.
Back on the coast we met a group of American cyclists; touring the coast without their bags - they would take it in turns to drive the van with all the gear. Boy were we jealous! They rode fast and Sam jumped on the back of the group until the small town of Westport.
Our group decided to push on from here to the state campground just north of Fort Bragg... We set up camp with the deer, as far away from the noisy group of school kids as possible.
We had a day off today.
Last night we watched a film at an old cinema. Before the film began we bought some buttered popcorn that you flavor yourself with a choice of almost twenty different flavors. We sat down in the massive hall and then the girl who served us the popcorn walked down onto the stage and gave a little speech. It was cool.
The film was called 'The Kids are all Right.' Has anyone else seen it, I found the story quite interesting, and we had a discussion about the plot and themes with some of the other cyclists we've been riding with lately the following night. One of the girls found the concepts explored offensive on principle, and decided she wouldn't watch it for that reason.
During the day while sitting in the main street we saw a woman throw two large garbage bags full of something over a fence. The fence turned out to be owned by a little Indian man, whose hotel grounds the woman now found herself to be in. She explained to the little Indian man that the bags were 'full of totally legal marijuana,' and then asked if he wanted any. Laughing, and a wry smile on his face the Indian man declined.
As it turns out Garberville is to Californians, a little bit like Laos is to the Golden Triangle in Asia, except here they produce 'totally legal' marijuana. (Just to clarify, actually it isn't legal, but even the law seem to turn a blind eye). Shanna was approached by a woman (respectable looking) who asked her if she wanted a job. Someone else in the town showed us the special code, or the snip, snip scissor action, referring to the harvest of Garbervilles copious, sprawling marijuana crop, hidden (or not so hidden) amongst the Red Wood forests.
And actually, there doesn't appear to be too many people in this little town that don't see smoking pot as anything but normal. In fact, it seems that many Americans have come to embrace this drug (addictive in my opinion) much more than I ever would have imagined. It appears to have become quite mainstream here. We've had several (more than two, three or four...) offers, and politely declined of course.
I've never been able to figure out what differentiates the casual user from the habitual, but what comes to my mind when thinking of how many people we've met here that either need it or see some intrinsic value to its use, is that I feel a little sorry for them.
If you need pot to enjoy life, or simply to get by, then I don't feel particularly envious.
But hey, each to their own. And who knows, maybe I'm the one missing out...
My ears were hurting, it was so cold! We started riding at 7am and I felt about as cold as I've felt on the whole trip. My feet were numb, and my hands were stinging inside my gloves.
The headwind was strong and my legs were tired already - it was day six of riding and we'd had some tough conditions during this stretch. I wondered how I'd be able to get anywhere today...
About 9am we arrived at the turn-off for the Avenue of Giants - home of the redwoods, the tallest trees in the world. We'd had a sneak peak of their majesty a couple of days ago and I was excited about riding through them for the next 45km or so...
It was still cold, and the trees blocked any warmth from the sun, but as soon as we rode amongst them my legs felt stronger, the wind calmed down, and I forgot my weariness.
It was like riding in another, magical land... a land where mystical creatures live in tree hollows and fairytales seem real... I felt like I could walk across one of the massive fallen trucks and end up in the Land of the Faraway Tree... It's no wonder the Bigfoot legend began in this area; I could imagine him peering at us from behind the trees.
As the morning wore on the temperature soared... by midday it was quite hot. The warm sun felt so good! Much better than the biting cold of the morning. We stopped in a small town, population 110, and bought some fresh burritoes with salad from the general store. Delicious!
Mid-afternoon we left the Giants behind and climbed a final hill into Garberville, where we devoured burgers and fries and washed our stinky, sweaty clothes...
Saw lots of wild Elk today, amazing!
Cycled through a beautiful morning fog, mist, straddling a freshwater lake on one side of the road and the ocean on the other. Magic!
In the afternoon we left Eureka and headed south into the wind.
Tough day, sore legs.
But worth it. Of course... Three months to go.
We met up with Ned and Charlotte again in Crescent City, and headed south on the 101 together.
The wind was calmer and our spirits were high - we all had a good laugh at a sign that boldly proclaimed 'Don't be a crab, eat one!' as we left the city. We saw a bunch of hippies with guitars sitting by the beach and realised we really were in California!
Just outside of town there was a mountain to climb - our biggest since arriving in the USA. Ned and Sam went ahead and Charlotte and I ground the pedals together. I was glad to ride with Charlotte - with Sam I tend to be a bit sooky and complain a bit... but with Charlotte I had to just smile and keep chatting through the pain. And there sure was pain! But we got to the top - and quicker than the boys expected! Partway up we even saw some gigantic trees - had we arrived in the Redwoods??
Going down the other side was so much fun. We all laughed and jeered and overtook each other - taking photos along the way. It was one of the most fun descents I've ever done! And the seaside scenery was beautiful.
Ned and Charlotte made a quick stop in a small town to try and buy some food but we had enough with us, so we continued down the road... Or rather, UP the road. We had hit another mountain. Not quite as big as the first one, but still enough to make my legs turn to jelly.
Partway up there were signs pointing that the bike route went right, off the 101. We debated what to do. Follow the main road? Or take the bike route? We'd talked about meeting up with Ned and Charlotte at the upcoming camp site but which road was it on? I tried to call them. No phone reception. We chose the bike route.
Around the corner the gradient got even steeper. Had we made the right decision? We keep climbing higher and higher. At least the road surface was nice and there were few cars.
Then we were in the redwoods. Around us was the densest forest I've ever been in. The temperature dropped. It got darker. Wow was it beautiful. The last five miles, flying downhill to the campsite, was some of the best, most beautifully scenic riding we've ever done, massive, ancient redwoods towering above us, lining the road like a procession, interspersed with deciduous orange and red leaves, hanging from trees coated lightly by silvery crystalized mosses.
At the campsite we were setting up when Ned and Charlotte arrived. This campsite had bear lockers to keep our food safe and it had cold showers for just 50 cents... But in Oregon campsites provided hot showers for free- so it wasn't such a tempting offer.
Another girl, Jodie from Cleveland, turned up after dark and the five of us stayed up far too late talking and laughing...
We awoke to the pitter patter of rain softly falling against the tent, and looking outside through the mesh, realised that we were in a thick, rainy mist.
After a couple of hours holed up in the tent we emerged to find the wind had died down a little, and the rain was only a light drizzle, but on standing we both realised that our legs were completely exhausted.
Riding towards Crescent City we were about to cross the border from Oregon into California when we saw a man pushing his bike and trailer with a dog he'd picked up on the road about a week or so ago. The dog had subsequently had six puppies, all of whom were now getting a free ride in his bike trailer. We'd already passed him, walking with the dog and bike, a few days before, so it seems that he and the dog have been walking almost non-stop.
By lunch time we stopped at Crescent City, where we decided we were done for the day.
In the evening we ate at Denny's, an American restaurant chain. Much to our surprise the food was some of the best we've ever eaten, and the price tag was equalling appealing, two mains and two deserts for $23.
Distance: 101km (+12)
Just as we were about to leave the town we saw a wily old man, greasy beard hiding a crafty smile, on a face that looked weathered by centuries of strong winds. Motioning at us to pull over we slammed on the brakes, wheels screeching in the rain.
'Where y'all headed?'
'Not sure, we hear the campsite ahead is closed'
'Who told ya that?'
'Everyone in the town'
Well I got news for y'all, its open to bikers, so y'all head on down, it's only another seven miles or so.'
Seven or so miles through the blustering wind and sure enough, old mate was right. If he hadn't of told us, we never would have known, the place had signs and barricades everywhere indicating it was completely shut up.
The following day the wind started early, howling through the pass where we were camped between two mountains. But, as we would discover later, it was nothing compared to the mountains we'd have to ride up... All day...
By the end of the day I was, for the first time in months, close to not being able to go any further, so when we found an RV car park in the bay just on the other side of town I wasn't thinking, and started to set up the tent...
But soon the chatter and laughter from the group of retired, botoxed millionaires in their RVs the size of super-sized busses reminded us that we'd get no sleep in a place like this, and when the manager told us we'd have to move the tent to a place next to a car park filled with what looked like aspiring gangsters sitting on the front of their pick up trucks drinking beer, we decided to leave.
Despite the elderly peoples friendly protests for us to stay and join their campfire and listen to their travel stories, we packed up in the late twilight and rode back into the cold wind to find somewhere to free camp.
It was so dark now that we almost missed the state park amongst the beachside mansions. Down a gravel path, through some trees; and we found a perfect patch of grass behind some bushes. Relieved, and looking forward to a peaceful night I, (unlike Shanny) exhausted and still covered in layers of sweat and dirt, easily fell asleep to the sound of waves pounding against the cliffs beneath.