Our ATM card still wouldn't work, the Bank of America wouldn't give me cash over the counter, and GE Money in Australia hung up on me five times... I don't care if it's 2am in Melbourne, I want to speak to someone!
I was in a foul mood.
I had enjoyed the comforts of the motel and didn't want to leave. We were close to San Francisco international airport... maybe we could just ride there?
We had to use our NAB credit card to withdraw some money, which we hate doing because it costs us a fortune in fees. But at least we could buy some lunch.
The friendly man running the motel told us the scattered showers would clear by midday. We didn't worry about checking the forecast ourselves. If we had, we probably would have stayed put!
It was uphill to get out of Daly City... Despite following all the clearly marked 'Bike Route' signs we had cars yelling at us to get off the road. The headwind gradually built up and I thought I felt some drops of rain.
But back on the coast we couldn't help smiling to each other as we watched groups of surfers, walkers and cyclists enjoying the beautiful coastline. We lingered perhaps a little too long, because as we left the town of Pacifica and climbed a steep, narrow hill, the rain felt a bit heavier.
We'd ridden steep, narrow sections of highway 1 before, but this time the shoulder was virtually non-existent, and there were LOTS more cars. And the cars didn't like us slowing them even for a few seconds.
We've never been beeped and yelled at so many times. And we hadn't felt so much at risk since the roads of Indonesia.
Through all this, the rain fell harder.
At the top of the hill we debated turning around and finding the first train/bus/plane out of this place. But, being tough, (or trying to be!) we kept going.
We turned a bend and started down the mountain - down the side along the water. Gusts of wind immediately hit us and we struggled to keep on road. The barrier protecting us from the cliffs was low, and the gale felt awfully close to carrying us over the edge. Plus the pouring rain felt like small daggers, slicing our faces, and the grit flying off our tyres was blinding.
We stopped every time there was space to do so. We leant our bikes against the low barriers and huddled between them, trying to protect ourselves from the rain.
It was hard to get going again in the wind. We've ridden in the wind innumerable times, but this time it was impossible. We were stuck on a narrow road shoulder on one of the steepest, busiest roads we've ridden.
The wind dropped for a few moments and we were off again. Being blinded by the grit and rain and troubled by the cars flying past, just inches away. Were they allowing room for our bags?
We took a break behind a truck that had pulled over. The guy offered to take us down in the back but it was full of dirt... not a good option for wet bikes and cyclists...
He told us the name of this mountain road was Devil's Slide...
'Last year the wind was so strong a 65 year old woman was blown across to the other side of the road'
Me: 'That must have left her shaken!'
His matter-of-fact response: 'She died in the head on collision'.
Soon after he left we pulled over under some trees. We must have sat there for hours. Soaking wet. Waiting. Hoping the wind and rain would die down enough for us to get to the next town.
We had all our rain gear on, but we were soaked through by now. After huddling under the trees for a couple of hours we succumbed to the shivering and decided to get out of there, even though the sky hadn't cleared. At least the wind had relaxed enough to let us out.
It had been one of our worst riding experiences. Neither of us would voice it, but we were both thinking of going home. If one of us had dared to suggest it, I'm not sure if the other would have had the strength to say no...
Just as the road flattened at the bottom a lady in a van motioned for us to pull over.
'Got somewhere to stay tonight?'
'Yes you do'.
And with that both our bikes, all our dripping bags and two soggy cyclists were somehow crammed into the van.
She was on her way to San Francisco to take her disabled son to a rodeo show, but they detoured back home (about 20 mins each way) to settle us in. She even arranged for her tennant on the property to bring us some food since she was going out.
Now, we've showered, put on dry clothes, eaten a delicious meal, and Sam has fallen asleep in the bed while reading. Simple things we never expected earlier today, when we thought we'd have to camp on Devil's Slide, because we couldn't get out.
And it's thanks to the kindness of a woman who pulled over in a storm, even though she was taking her son on a special outing.
Maybe we'll keep heading south afterall...
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 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...
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.
Riding off in the rain we were wondering the last time we'd felt so cold. Maybe it was in Scotland or the Netherlands, I'm not really sure, but whatever the case, it was freezing.
The rain began at a slow drizzle, slowly and steadily increasing to a heavy downpour. By this time we decided enough was enough, and soaking wet we pulled into a fudge and ice-cream shop.
As we scooped icecream out of the thick chocolate milkshake the rain began to ease. Back on the road we quickly warmed up and soon the sun was shining through the clouds. Oregonians keep warning us that 'the rains' are due any day... but looks like we've avoided them for another day.
Up and down the mountains we rode. On one mountain Sam noticed my bike was making a strange sound - the wheel rubbing on the brake perhaps - so next time there was a place to pull over we stopped. It wasn't the brake rubbing, rather, it was air slowly leaking from the tube. A check of the tyre revealed there were quite a few holes - it was an old tyre, bought in Indonesia - so we decided to fit the replacement tyre Sam has been carrying the whole way.
Near the top of another mountain there was a crowd of people looking down to the rocks below - sea lions were splashing in rock pools and sun bathing on rocks. With the sun shining they looked happy in their little cove, protected from the cold wind.
Today we were having too much fun taking photos of Oregon's spectacular coast line to do much riding.
For lunch we stopped at the Italian RIviera for an $8.95 all you can eat buffet.
It wasn't near a riviera, and the place didn't even seem all that Italian, but the food was delicious.
Pizza, pasta, lasagne, chicken and vegetable soup, all of it tasted fantastic, and an hour later, barely able to move we clambered back onto our bikes, and sauntered off down the coast at a pedestrian pace.
Difficulty: Shanna 8, Sam 7
Weather: Rain patches, overcast and sunny, VERY windy!
As we packed up our tent and our possessions the rain continued to fall. It was a welcome relief in the night - slightly drowning the noise of the noisy campers and cooling the air. But as we packed our things it was not so welcome, and we realised that it splattered the tent and our bags with mud.
Sam spent time in the bathrooms drying the tent and tarp under the hand dryers and Shanna packed the bags. We left in the rain, but within half an hour the sun was out and it was as hot and muggy as ever. That pattern would follow us throughout the day, short periods of rain followed by sunshine.
We were headed to Burleigh Heads to stay with the people we'd met in Grafton and initially decided to avoid the highway and take the coast road. Within 1km we were grinding our way up some steep hills, and watching the highway next to us meander up much nicer gradients. So at the first opportunity we switched to the highway.
The gradients and pavement were nice to ride on, but the winds were stronger than we'd faced yet. Although Shanna was riding behind Sam, she struggled to keep up and Sam often lost her to the wind. As we neared the border the highway became wider and busier. We crossed the border in the early afternoon and exited the freeway as it turned into the motorway to Brisbane. From here we would take the Gold Coast Highway.
Barry, who we'd met in Grafton, met us at Carrumbin and led us to their house, taking a series of side roads and riding paths. As promised, they lived at the top of a short but steep hill. We made it up with a combination of riding and pushing and were glad to be welcomed so warmly by our hosts.
We showered and spent the afternoon resting before some of Laura ad Barry's fellow cycing friends came over for a dinner in our honour. One of those we met was Jonah, who has the world record for cycling from Perth to the Gold Coast - an amazing 15 Days!
It was the best meal we had eaten for weeks and it was so enjoyable talking to everyone. We felt so welcome and went to bed having made the commitment to stay another day.
Friday 29 Jan
Difficulty – Shanna 5 (morning) 9 (afternoon), Sam 3 (morning) 8 (afternoon).
Distance – 119km
Weather – overcast, sticky and warm
Dealing with now being homeless people, wandering from place to place, we rode away from Woomba woods with tired legs, wondering if it was soon time to have a rest day.
At around 9 in the morning as we rode into Broadwater, we received a call from the agent who handled the sale of our house to say that the money from the sale would be in our account in the afternoon. All of a sudden it seemed as though, we had left our former lives behind. (Thanks so much to Steve, dad, mum, Pete, Derek and Corey for all of your help, it means so much to us!) We talked about the relief that it was all over and how, despite all the work Sam had done, he wouldn’t really miss the house. We talked about being homeless, as officially we were now and decided that we kind of like wandering for the moment (although we aren’t really wandering and we do have a purpose.) And then, as though nothing had really changed, we hopped on our bikes and continued riding.
The road continued to follow the wide expanses of the river and as we rode on we decided that rather than stopping for the night in Wardell, as we had originally planned, we would ride on to Ballina. Eighty kilometers later, some amazingly dangerous roads littered with pot holes and with no shoulder, and we had arrived in Ballina. As we usually do (if there is one in the town) we stopped at maccas at 12.30 to grab some lunch and get on the free but very slow internet to write a journal entry. About this time we had an email from our conveyancer saying we urgently needed to call them, as settlement had been delayed. Shanny called and they said the purchaser had stuffed up the signatures on their paperwork and had to do it all again – and we were told that ‘it would be at least another week before settlement.’ So it turned out we still had a home after all, well for another week at least...
We left maccas, a little tired and exhausted, and ready to settle down for the night with the plan that we would stop at the next caravan park we saw, so we could have a cold shower to wash all the grime and grease from our bodies, and try and get a good sleep. We pulled into a park as we were leaving Ballina but apparently there was not a single place left for us to pitch our tent (unusual considering school holidays were over) and we were told the next one was 40km away in Brunswick Heads, but that he had a cabin he would ‘let us stay in’ for only $80 for the night. We didn’t believe him (we’ve been told all kinds of things by people with agendas so far) and so we decided to keep going, figuring we would find somewhere along the way, as we have managed to do so far.
At the 90km mark the mostly flat road ran out and we began climbing. If we had of known just how long we would be climbing up hill we might have just stopped on the side of the road somewhere and given up for the day. But as it was we didn’t know and so we went over some massive hills. But just as we thought we were at the top, the hills would keep on going up! In total, the next 35km was a challenging series of up, up, up, down, up, up, up and up, up and then one big down. It was hard to keep going and we were both incredibly exhausted, but the view from the summit of the penultimate hill was amazing, and the ride down was even better.
Finally, after almost 120km we turned off the Pacific Highway towards Brunswick Heads about 7pm. We were exhausted and Shanny desperately needed a good sleep while Sam was looking forward to a ‘mosquito bite free night,’ so we decided to splurge on a motel for the night. We pulled into the first one that looked cheap were Sam bargained the guy down to $80 for the room, dumped our gear and bags on the ground and went to get some dinner. Almost instantly Sam was greeted by one of the colourful locals, the first a man with no shirt, flowers in his dyed long hair, some tiny shorts and gumboots said he’d done drugs for 30 years (and his appearance and behaviour reflected that) but now he loved bikes and admired ours (we silently hoped not too much…) Another crazy old man who wanted to just talk to us about how he was a sook and had been thinking about his mum and nan, and about his years in the army fighting the Americans (not sure when that might have been)… and who was promptly shooed off by the kebab store owner.
When our kebabs were ready we went back to the motel. A quick swim in the refreshingly frigid water, some food, a long shower and Shanna was asleep in bed while Sam watched the cricket. We slept well as once again it poured down all night and was still raining when we left in the morning!!
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia