Day 11: Bodega Bay – SAN FRANCISCO!

It was a bittersweet morning. This was our last day of our trip and although we were ecstatic to make it to San Francisco, we were sad the trip was ending. Especially since Dad and I finally felt like our bodies were in ‘touring’ shape, haha! It’s true that you can continually push your body to extremes and it will adapt…eventually.

We got on the road around 8am , continuing on our trusted Route 1. About an hour into our ride, we ran into brothers Alastair and Andrew, who we had first met six days ago in Newport, OR. We’ve crossed paths since we met them — staying at the same campgrounds some nights, seeing each other on the road — and we were happy to catch up to them again. They went ahead and we made plans to meet in Pt. Reyes Station for lunch.

It was a hilly en route to Pt. Reyes, but we were rewarded with farmland views and some of the best downhill biking I’ve ever experienced. I know I said two days ago we had an awesome downhill after the Leggett Hill but today the road conditions were perfect. Hardly any cars, gentle turns (at least not 90-180 degree turns), smooth pavement — it was so much fun! The scent of the eucalyptus trees that lined the roads may have heightened our senses, but it was pure euphoria. I think I may have been laughing aloud all the way down haha!!

Feeding time!

Feeding time!

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At the bottom, we went through the town of Tomales, which is known for their oyster bays. We passed by many oyster distributors I’ve heard of from my SF friends — Hog Island, Tomales Bay Oyster Company. It was a bit early in the day (10am) for oysters (for me at least!), but a beautiful place to enjoy fresh, local oysters.

We made it to Pt. Reyes Station and met up with Alastair and Andrew. We all had lunch at Bovine Bakery, a spot that was recommended from a fellow camper two nights ago and was very popular with SF cyclists on day trips. It’s about 80 miles roundtrip from SF.  IMG_4374IMG_4376

Looking at our maps, the route had us diverge off of Rt. 1 and go inland through towns like Lagunitas, Fairfax, Corte Madera, but Alastair and Andrew said the trip on Rt. 1 would be terrifically scenic, but hilly. We like the sound of ‘scenic’ and took our chances with ‘hilly’ and continued to truck along Rt. 1. It was a terribly hilly ride, especially since we didn’t expect too many hills today, but the views were once again breathtaking. Here’s a view of Bolinas Bay/Stinson Beach (and the first time we saw people actually swimming in the ocean!):IMG_4381IMG_4382

After some more steep climbs near Mr. Tamalpsis State Park, we descended into the Marin City and about 10 miles later, had our first view of the city of San Francsico!!! When we finally got to the bridge, we couldn’t help but take some pictures!IMG_4384IMG_4385IMG_4390

The Golden Gate Bridge is really a stunning piece of work and we were able to enjoy the views since there wasn’t even a trace of fog.

We made it!!!

We made it!!!

However, it was astonishingly windy on the bridge. I should submit this picture of Dad to Michelin for consideration of the next Michelin Man!IMG_4397

There was lots of activity in the SF Bay. Sailboats, windsurfers, kitesurfers, large  container ships…we even saw dolphins! After dodging the tourists, we made it to the end of the Golden Gate, only to be completely confused on where to go. The only bicycle signage we saw was where not to go. Thankfully, other cyclists helped us fund our way into the city and we biked straight to Free Wheel on Hayes Street. They were able to pack up and ship our bikes to CT for a flat rate of $200. They were very helpful and had a great shop. Thank you Monica and Andy for the recommendation!IMG_4398IMG_4408

We met up with Monica at her apartment and enjoyed a real shower, real towels, a wonderful home cooked meal, laundry and clean clothes. It was an awesome way to end our 11 day adventure. Looking back, it’s hard to believe it went by so fast. That being said, Dad and I are already planning our next trip: SF to San Diego!!

Official mileage log

Official mileage log

Miles: 73.9

Total Trip Miles: 1033 miles

Weather: Sunny!

Riding Conditions: Overall, good! The road from Bolinas Bay to Marin City was narrow and had more traffic than we were used to. And finding our way off the Golden Gate bridge into the city was confusing. And those hills in SF are no joke!

Campground: Monica and Jeremy’s beautiful apartment in NoPa. Grade: A+

Day 10: Mendocino, CA – Bodega Bay, CA (Sonoma Coast State Park)

It was another cold morning (surprise, surprise) with the temperature hovering around 50 degrees when we left camp. However, the sun was shining and we warmed up quickly. ‘Warmed up’ is a relative terms these days. For us, it meant that we could take off our down and rain jackets and ride comfortably in a t-shirt. Today is July 31st. In NYC, it was probably 80 degrees (with 95% humidity) by 8am this morning. My down jacket would be no where in sight, let alone on my body. I can unabashedly say Dad and I were taken aback by the Pacific Northwest’s chilly weather.

Today’s route was entirely on Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. We hugged the coastline and passed through acres of farmland and small towns. If I were a cow, this is where I would dream of retiring. Temperate weather, constant wind to shoo away fleas, acres of land for grazing right next to the Pacific Ocean — yes, please! I wish I had a picture of a cow actually grazing on this little slice of cow paradise, but this view will have to suffice.IMG_4302

The awesome tailwinds of Oregon seemed to catch up to us today and we had some solid stretches where we were crusin’ with minimal effort. At one spot, Dad and I took a picture, mostly for the ocean view, but as you can see, the tree in the background really takes the spotlight.IMG_4313

After 50 or so miles of riding, we decided to take a coffee break in the town of Anchor Bay (pop. 340). It just so happens that a medicinal marijuana dispensary was located next door. Dad and I couldn’t help ourselves and rang the doorbell to enter. We were greeted by Tim, who we chatted with for the next half hour. Mostly about marijuana laws, how to procure a medical marijuana prescription in California and what’s next for the industry. It was an eye-opening conversation. I have to say, it’s been a bit of a culture shock coming from the East Coast and seeing how common pot smoking is here. We feel like uptight New Englanders (or as my dad says “constipated Yankees”) but we can’t help it. The broad tolerance and visibility of marijuana is very different to us. In any case, we couldn’t leave without taking a souvenir picture.

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You can’t see it here, but there’s a “420” neon sign in the window.

Tim mentioned that we would start climbing the notorious windy roads of the Pacific Coast Highway about 15 miles from Anchor Bay. He was right in regards to both the distance and the road conditions. This is the type of road you see in car commercials for the Porches, Audis, BMWs, etc. The views are stunning. Absolutely stunning. Too bad I wasn’t able to capture many of them on my camera since I didn’t want to fall over the 300+ ft cliff on my right. Or because I was braking as hard as I could and still going 20mph. Oh, and that there weren’t guardrails for half of this twisty, narrow stretch. It was a challenging technical ride as you had to control your bike going up a steep hill with non-existent shoulders and on the downhill, the sharp switchbacks required constant braking. I mean, I got a serious forearm workout today. But, the views always make up for it.

Climbing...

Climbing…

...and some more climbing. Can you find Soo Mi?

…and some more climbing. Can you find Soo Mi?

After the major climbs, we were about 15 miles from camp, so we picked up dinner in Jenner (deli sandwiches, chocolate milk and some random snacks) and went on our way. As we approached the town of Gleason Beach, we admired the houses that were perched right on the coastline and had unobstructed views of the Pacific. It wasn’t until we were about a football field away did we notice that the “empty lots” from afar were actually spaces from houses that had eroded into the ocean! Some of the houses still standing were tagged as unsafe to enter and occupy. Yikes. IMG_4350IMG_4351

We made it to camp with an hour of daylight to spare (woohoo!), when it started to sink in that this was our last night on the road. Evidently, this campground is the last night for a lot of other touring cyclists too. The bear box was filled with extra food (mostly noodle or canned-type food), maps, books, vitamins and was covered with doodles from those passing through. I kind of regret not writing something now….IMG_4359

Miles: 99.6

Weather: Chilly morning that warmed up to mid-70s.  Not a cloud in the sky.

Riding Conditions: Good except for those monster RVs and logging/shipping trucks that drive along Rt. 1 and put everyone around them in danger (other cars, cyclists, cars pulled over at scenic overlooks, etc.). And, return of the tailwind!

Campground: Bodega Dunes Campground at the Sonoma Coast State Park; $5/person, free hot showers (tip from a ranger we met at a gas station 10 miles away from camp), hiker/biker area was very sandy (hard to set up tent); Grade: B

Day 9: Weott, CA – Mendocino, CA (Russian Gulch State Park)

An educated guess: Redwood trees, due to their size, emit more oxygen than a typical tree, like an evergreen. Kinda makes sense, right? I came to this highly scientific conclusion based on how good Dad and I felt this morning. Maybe it was the extra oxygen, or maybe we were finally getting into “bike touring” shape, but we felt grrrrreat!IMG_4278

From sleeping among the giants, we continued to ride on the Avenue of the Giants. Traffic was light and the road conditions were solid, so Dad and I spent most of the morning riding side by side. We rode along the south fork of the Eel River, which we found hard pressed to even call a river. It was probably a foot deep, at best. But we knew it had to be ripping other times during the year because it had a naturally wide base. It wasn’t until we reached a flood meter painted on a bridge that we confirmed our theory.

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What happened in 1964?!?

What happened in 1964?!?

At this point, we rejoined Rt. 101 and started to pass by some of the cheesier tourist traps, such as “Confusion Hill”, “Legend of Bigfoot” and the “Famous One-Log House”. Although extremely corny, they are good photo-ops, don’t cha think?. (Note: there is no picture of Confusion Hill because it was a mile off the road, and what could be so confusing about it anyways?)

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We finally reached Rt. 1, the main road we’ll be on for the rest of our trip, and were greeted by Leggett Hill. We knew it was coming because some cyclists at camp two nights ago spoke with fear about this four-mile, seven percent grade ‘monster’ and our maps warned of an “arduous” 28 miles between Leggett and Westport. Honestly though, it wasn’t that bad. Especially since there was a 14-mile downhill after the summit. Not only was it 14 miles of no peddling but it was a fun – twisty-turny, lean left and right, smile on your face – downhill. Since we were going just as fast as most cars, about 25-30mph, we could ride in the middle of lane without trouble. And to make the hill even sweeter, we were reunited with the Pacific.

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As you can tell by the pictures, it did drop about 20 degrees by the time we reached the coast. There was fog and lots of farmland on this part of the coast line. It was hard to tell if this was California or Scotland!

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We had about 20 more miles to go to camp, and thought that after the ‘arduous’ leg, it would be a easy ride into Fort Bragg. Hah! I actually thought this part was harder as it was steeper, shorter climbs that just kept coming. The trend on the coast road seems to be that if you stay along the water, you will climb up and down with the cliffs for awhile, then descend sharply away from the water, make a big, sharp curve at the bottom, and then climb sharply back up to the coastal cliffs. This type of riding is very different from the long, constant climbs my dad and I are used to and as we’ve learned, it seems to use different muscle groups as well.

Not taking into account these short climbs, we had to sprint the last ten miles to camp to avoid biking (once again) in the dark. However, I couldn’t resist taking this picture of what was shaping up to be a truly spectacular west coast sunset. IMG_4296

Miles: 99.9 (really)

Weather: Not a cloud in the sky. Warm (reached 80 degrees – !!) in the afternoon; dropped to 55-60 degrees once we reached the shore around 5pm

Riding Conditions: Great throughout the Avenue of the Giants; Rt. 1 barely had a shoulder making it a little treacherous when biking up Leggett Hill (with RVs and trucks passing by)

Campground: Russian Gulch State Park; $5/person ($1.25 for 10min hot shower); 1/4 mile steep downhill from camp entrance to hiker/biker site = fun wake-up call (uphill first thing tomorrow morning, ugh); Grade: B+

Camp the next morning

Camp the next morning

Day 8: Klamath, CA – Weott, CA (Humbolt Redwoods State Park)

It was a strange night at last night’s camp. It was a typical evening as everyone was in their tent by 9/9:30pm. After the rumblings of other campers adjusting their sleeping bags came to a stop, and I finished writing in my journal and reviewing maps, I drifted to sleep only to be awaken by a trumpet/vuvuzela-like noise. Definitely not a man-made noise, I concluded it had to be from an animal. But what kind? There I was, eyes wide open, heart beating faster than it was biking up that climb earlier in the day. “Maybe one of those elks the ranger warned us about?” Images of my body being crushed by a stampede of wild elk raced through my head. I stared anxiously at the mosquito net lining of my tent thinking of what to do. After several minutes of silence, my fatigued body took over and I fell asleep.

The next morning, I ask my dad if he had heard this noise. He replied, “No, but something did bump into me.” (!!!!) I believe that an elk walking by, didn’t see my dad in his hammock, walked/bumped into him, was startled and let out an “ahhh!” noise. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

As we were leaving the Prairie Creek Campground, we actually saw some elk resting in a field. They are quite majestic looking, with their large antlers. In the picture below, they are just below the fog line (another foggy/dewy morning as you can see!).

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We had heard there was a good diner five miles south of camp, so Dad and I decided to skip our oatmeal this morning and get breakfast on the road. I guess all the other cyclists at camp last night heard the same thing because we ate with about 10 others!

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Stomachs full of french toast and eggs, we powered through the morning riding by towns like Trinidad (great supermarket), Arcata (hippie haven) and Eureka (largest CA city north of San Francisco with lots of Victorian architecture). We entered and left Eureka on Rt. 101, which became a freeway at this point. Imagine cars/semis/logging trucks on your left side going 65+ miles, exit ramps every two miles, shoulders littered with debris…. it was totally mentally and physically taxing on us. Thank goodness our ACA maps directed us off the highway five miles after Eureka onto country roads alongside Rt. 101. To give you an idea of what it’s like riding on Rt. 101, we took this picture from an overpass.

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Although our route was longer (and much hillier) than continuing straight on Rt. 101, we had gorgeous views of the Eel River and farming valley.

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We had an hour and a half left of riding when we entered the aptly named Avenue of the Giants, a scenic highway that runs right through the Humbolt Redwoods State Park.

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Shortly after we started riding on the Avenue of the Giants, it started to get darker…and darker…and darker. Dad and I joked that at any moment, the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz were going to appear over our heads haha! Luckily car traffic was non-existent and our headlamps are powerful lights. We safely arrived at camp at 8:55pm. By 9:05pm, it was pitch black. Whew!

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Can you see Jim’s headlamp?

Miles: 106.7

Weather: Chilly morning (52 degrees); Temperate day, never rising above 65 degrees

Riding conditions: Decent until the Rt. 101 stretch starting after Arcata — it felt like we were on a interstate highway! So thankful for the country road detour provided by ACA (although those hills were steep!)

Campground: Burlington Campground in the Humbolt Redwoods State Park; $5/person ($1 for 10min shower); short distance from the road; camping among the stunning redwoods. Grade: A+

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View of the Burlington Campground’s hiker/biker camp from the ground.

Day 7: Gold Beach, OR – Klamath, CA (Prairie Creek Redwoods State Forest)

Leaving Southern Oregon, we hugged the coastline and took  in more stunning views of the sea stacks, cliffs and the Pacific. We also passed over Oregon’s tallest bridge, Thomas Creek Bridge. At 345 feet tall, it was a bit hard to look down. It definitely gave me vertigo.20130729-225651.jpg

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We were very excited to reach California although it seemed like right at the state line, our reliable tailwind had shifted into a headwind! Thankfully, it wasn’t as strong as what we enjoyed over the past couple of days. Whew!

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The first town we reached in California was Smith River, which is known as  the world’s largest supplier of Easter Lilies. You can see a crop growing in the background below. You can also see that the lilies have a light blue dusting, which I initially thought was a part of the plant. Wish someone had told me it was fertilizer before I tasted it… (just kidding).

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Just before we reached Crescent City, about 20 miles south of Smith River, we passed by Pelican Bay Prison, one of the largest supermax prisons in America. Honestly, we almost missed it but then noticed the four very tall watch towers in the complex. It was weird to be freely biking by a prison that is known for their solitary confinement treatment. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the grounds.

Although Crescent City (pop. 7,600) is one of the larger towns on our trip, there’s not much to report about it. Just about every other house we passed was for sale and many storefronts were empty or boarded up. It wasn’t until afterwards that I learned that half of the population are incarcerated prisoners, since Pelican Bay is included in the Crescent City’s township. I don’t think that would have affected the city’s housing economy though. Maybe a lot of these empty residences were second homes? Another item to add to the “Things to research when you have internet” list…

Immediately leaving Crescent City, we approached a major climb of about 1,000 ft of elevation. However, the climb was our entrance to the Redwoods National and State Park and each pedal stroke was sweeten with views of old redwood trees. We felt like ants, maneuvering our way through the world. Everything was larger than life and you couldn’t help but look up and up and up.

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We finished the day at the Elk Prairie Campground in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park — along with 25 other cyclists!! We knew there were going to see other touring cyclists along the way, but I never imagined this many!

The next couple of days will probably be high mileage days so that we can get to San Francisco by Thursday, August 1st (my original deadline of July 31st is looking very unlikely at this point). Thankfully, there is only one other major climb left in our travels and many campgrounds along the way.

 

Miles: 94.3

Weather: Warmner morning than usual (only required a rain jacket not down and rain jacket as we have worn most days); hazy clouds and temp dropped to 55 by 6pm.

Riding Conditions: Mainly stayed on Rt. 101 into CA; no issues with pavement, traffic or shoulders

Campground: $5/person, hot showers ($1 for 10min); lots of bikers but hard to talk to everyone; bear and elk in area required use of bear food containers. Grade: A

FAQ: Where are you guys??

A quick note to let all our faithful followers know that we did indeed make it to San Francisco, CA safely (and with big smiles on our faces) on Thursday, August 1st. Before we started the trip, we thought blogging would be as easy setting up a tent (or hammock) every night, but we soon learned about the limitations of 3G cell service, a buggy wordpress iphone app, and that our bodies were screaming “go to sleep!” for good reason. Therefore, we are a few days behind in posts but fear not! With handwritten journal entries, pictures and maps, I’m sure we will be able to give you an accurate account of the second half of our Pacific Coast trek.

And to answer your question, I am back in NYC and Jim’s in CT. Both with sore legs and wicked tan lines, but still smiling.

Day 6: Charleston, OR – Gold Beach, OR

It was a very cold start this morning — 45 degrees when we woke up at 6:30am! Can you believe it’s July 27th and 45 degrees over here?!? Luckily, we had several climbs in our first 15 miles to warm us up. Btw,  I don’t think I’ve ever wrote ‘lucky’ and ‘climbs’ in the same sentence hah.

It was also another day of meeting people along the way. There was Gary who was making his way north in a recumbent bike. He had hiked the Appalachian Trail and is now traveling the west coast via bike. Dana’s also headed north, going to the Grand Tetons for a wedding. And Steve is from Utah, and is biking south to San Francisco because his wife’s in NY for two weeks so why not? (It’s also his fourth time down the coast).

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We decided to make it a shorter day than usual due to campground locations, but we didn’t realize that the campground we were planning to stay at was hosting the county fair! Thankfully they found us a spot and we were able to enjoy the fair, including Saturday’s spotlight event: Tuff Trucks Competition. Think of a red neck monster truck derby and that’s what it was. Pieced together trucks, raunchy MC, dirt flying — Dad and I loved it. There’s no way in the world we would have ever seen something like this out east and here we were, sitting in the second row, screaming and hollering with everyone else haha! (Video to come, once I figure out how to load it onto the site…)

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Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay for the whole fair and missed out on some great events, like:

  • watermelon spitting contest
  • ugly dog contest
  • all you can eat ribs eating contest

But what’s a fair without fried dough (or funnel cake as they call it here).

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Thankfully the ruckus didn’t go on too late and we were able to go to bed at a reasonable hour (and wake up refreshed for a long day ahead of us).

 

Total miles: 80.7

Weather: Cold morning but warmed up to the low 80s

Riding conditions: Another day of amazing tailwinds negated any road issues we had

Campground: Curry County Fairgrounds in Gold Beach, OR. Cold showers and noise from fair (especially screams from the Zipper — my amusement park ride nemesis). But what an experience! Grade: B+