DAY 22 & 23: Avenue of the Giants! 

Day 22: (2016-09-17) ~ 70 miles from McKinleyville to Burlington Campground, Avenue of the Giants, CA. Mixed conditions.


Well, today was our first day riding as travel companions and I am happy to report it went very well. It’s hard to know how things will go given that most of the time people who end a relationship don’t spend the next week in close quarters, but if today is any indication it should be a good week. Wohoo!

After some discussion we settled on shooting to get all the way to the Avenue of the Giants knowing it would be over 60 miles. We could have stayed somewhere along the way but our AirBnB stay had us in a weird spot which would make for either a very short or very long day. And it’s the Avenue of the Giants! So we set off for a long day at least knowing that the last 10+ miles would be quite, peaceful, and low traffic.

The morning started with fruit and eggs… man, was it good to have some eggs in the morning! Rick offered us their chicken eggs so I fried up a bunch of fresh eggs, added salt and pepper, and topped it with hot sauce. It sure beat muesli! I needed more calories though, so I also ate my second packet of pop tarts. Brown-sugar cinnamon, of course. Classy. The boys were up early and I got to banter with then a bit while I was in the kitchen.  You can probably guess which words they used in their ad-libs book…poop and turds came up a few times.

By the time we finally hit the road it was 10:30 but we made good time out of McKinleyville. we followed the Hammond Coast trail again for a while, took a few country roads, then hopped on 101 and enjoyed many miles of flat riding. So rare! We passed through Arcata, home to Humboldt State University, but didn’t stop as it was only a few miles in and we had a lot of ground to cover. Eureka’s old town business district appealed to us with its quaint charm but otherwise Eureka sucked. There was a lot of traffic, much inconsiderate, and plenty of big fuck-off trucks.

Plus, in the half hour we were in the grocery store someone stole our bike lights and my multi-tool. Foolish thieves, why not steal the tent worth $$$!? Your loss, our panic attacked averted. Whew. DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING UNATTENDED IN EUREKA! Over the next week we shared this story with others and were surprised how many other people’s gear went missing! Supposedly thieves in Eureka often steal things like lights, which can be easily sold for drugs.

That aside, it was a pretty good day. We kept a decent pace all the way through Eureka and on to Ferndale, the cutest little town. It was adorned with a mix of old West style stores and very well-preserved Victorian homes. The library was open and we stopped for bathrooms and water. They had a couple of shelves of books for sale but nothing small enough that looked interesting. I think one day I am going to do a trip, by car, and just hop from library to library reading books and stocking my own library from books they’re selling.

Ferndale public library. Very cute and an excellent stop for poops and wifi 🙂

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Of course the photo does not do it justice, but Ferndale is a very cute little town and helps us bypass 101 for a while, which I appreciated a lot.

 

I’m really liking this area of California and I definitely plan to come back here. I really wanted to ride the Lost Coast alternate route but it would not be happening this time. It adds an extra 70 miles or so and has some serious climbing. The beauty though is in its remoteness – the area earned its name after major population decline in the 1930s’ left the area almost completely unpopulated. Very little development has happened in the area and, although CalTrans planned to continue highway 1 through here, there is currently no major road. Land access for the tiny towns is limited to a few old mountain roads and I’m sure most supplies come in by ship. I’d love to do this route one day! And  I still think this whole coastal trip so far would be the perfect road trip with my mom, if only I can get her to do it.

Leaving Ferndale we rode on quiet country roads for a while, including a nice, flat, sunny (and warm!) stretch of road through farmland that reminded me a lot of Pennsylvania. A lot of this section of California is like PA. Eventually we got into more forested areas and climbed a bit but traffic continued to be light all the way past Scotia where we reconnected with 101. We trudged into camp around 19:00 to remarks at our late arrival from fellow bike travelers. I know, I know!

 

Camping directly in the redwoods!

 

 

Late arrival aside, the last 15 miles were beautiful.I t was along the Avenue of the Giants, a scenic route paralleling 101 that winds about 30 miles through beautiful redwood forest. Except for the occasional car is wonderfully quiet and the area is so lush. Plus, there is something about these trees that seems so much more wild than the forest I’m use to. I think it is part the knowledge of their age – some of these trees were here well before Europeans came to America. They can live as long as about 2000 years! The other piece is their size. Sure, you’ve seen a lot of tall things. But until you’ve stood below a 350′ tall tree that could tell you what actually happened back in the time of the whole Jesus on a cross thing…well, let’s just say it’s a spiritual moment.

Tonight we shared space with Barry, Ryan, and Mary-Lynn. Barry and Ryan work at Huckleberry Bikes in San Francisco and just came up to Eureka to do a week-long trip back to San Fran. Mary-Lynn is another Canadian in for the long hall down to San Diego. When we arrived Lindsey and I were very set on food and setting up camp but we had time to chit-chat and hang out around the fire. They’re a pretty cool bunch.

P.S. At 70 miles, this is officially my longest day of loaded touring, ever. I’ve hit 111 without my gear but training for this ride I hit about 65 on my trip to Gig Harbor via Tacoma. Today set a new record!


 

Day 23 (2016-09-18): Rest Day at Burlington Campground in the Avenue of the Giants.

We woke this morning about the same time as usual and hung around eating breakfast and chatting with the folks from last night. I went over to the visitor’s center to grab my contacts and learned there was a nature hike happening in just a couple of minutes.I ran back to camp, got Lindsey, quickly cleaned up, and we made it just in time!

The walk was led by a young naturalist named Jake who told us all about redwood life. From burls to fire to the inner dead wood, we got a whole new appreciation for these giant wonders. We also got some suggestions for day hikes, so after the tour we returned to camp, ate lunch, and hit the road for a shirt ride to a day hike.

The walk-hike was about 9 miles in total, starting with an easy meandering walk through the Rockefeller Grove. These are old growth trees and they are absolutely huge! The average tree height is something like 340′ – only about 40 feet shy of the tallest trees accessible to the general public. What a grand sight!

The hike was a mixed bag. Unlike in the Cascades, there was very little elevation gain, no water, and not much variation in scenery. Absolutely no vistas to reward your climb. By the time we got about 3/4 of the way through I was pretty over it and it didn’t help that both of us had wanted to have our own time but were stuck together all day. Whoops! And the maps they gave us were terrible for navigation, which slowed us down as we tried to make sure we were going the right direction.

 

Redwood bark is highly resistant to fire and disease. When redwoods die and fall to the forest floor they slowly decompose from the inside out, leaving sweet hollows like this one.

 
Dinner tonight was a bit on the mediocre side, but after the hike I was hungry and it got the job done. Lindsey climbed into the tent to do her thing but I stayed up and chatted with Becca for an hour or two about all kinds of stuff. She’s got a front rack/frame bag setup and it really inspired me to think about changing my ride come San Fran/LA. I also told her about my gourmet bike kitchen website idea, which she liked. After I finally went to bed I lay awake for hours researching bike bags and thinking about Bikekitchen.com!

 

Very basic road tacos with blue corn tortilla chips for added crunch.

 
Super-Simple Tacos
Time: 10-15 minutes
Ingredients:

  • 1 pouch Uncle Ben’s microwaveable spanish rice
  • Several tortillas
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 tomato
  • Greens, peppers, or other toppings as available

Instructions: heat and serve. About as easy as it gets. The beans are heavy to carry, but everything else is pretty light.

The Split: Lindsey & I Agree to Part Ways

I won’t go into very much detail, since I believe personal matters should remain personal. However, for those who keep up with my blog you will notice that after San Francisco Lindsey will not be appearing in the blog. Why the change? We will not be continuing on the trip together.

Lindsey and I have been dating for a while but, like any couple, we had our share of troubles. Sadly, as much as we hoped for the best we knew before embarking on this trip that we may not make it through together. We were both ready to shake things up and so decided we would go through with the tour even if our relationship was rocky. We loved each other, so why not give it a shot, right? I think we both hoped that, when we removed some of the relationship difficulties we experienced relating to jobs & household stuff, we things would begin to heal. Unfortunately, they did not.

Lindsey and I decided on Day 21 in McKinleyville that we would no longer continue our relationship but that, at least until San Francisco, we would continue as travel companions. As I write this a week and a half later I am glad to say the days after the break went surprisingly well and, in many ways, better than those that came before. Still, we agree it is best to go our separate ways.

Lindsey, I know I will miss you in the days to come but I believe we’ve made the best decision for both of us. Thank you for being my riding partner all the way to San Francisco! We covered over a thousand miles through all kinds of crazy terrain – it might not be the whole coast but we can be proud of how far we’ve come!

Happy trails,

Kevin

 

Day 21: Warm Bed; Recovery

I apologize for the weird formatting in the last several posts – working off my phone I knew typos would be common but I had no idea there was some weird coding thing happening because I copy and paste a lot from Evernote, where I do my daily journal. I went back and fixed each post – here’s to hoping that was the last of the weird issues.

Day 21  (2016-09-16): ~40 miles from Elk Prairie Campground to McKinleyville, CA. Mostly Highway 101 with a nice trail coming into McKinleyville.

This morning I was still recovering from the sickness of the last two days, but I am feeling a little better. It’s kind of like being hungover, except with less headache and more lethargy and trouble regulating body temperate. Luckily, Orick was only a few miles away and we were able to stop at a small country market where I bought some DayQuil- style meds to help me get through the day.

We got to see a herd of elk this morning between camp and Orick. There were probably about 20 females and for a while we couldn’t see the bull. But some tourist idiot got too close and drew the Bull’s attention, so it herded all the females back to a safe place. We unfortunately bypassed the Ladybug Johnson Grove where the Redwood National Park was (created). It was only a couple of miles off 101 but had a very steep (15℅) grade and, with me feeling unwell, I didn’t think it was a good idea. A nice man a few miles later told us we absolutely must see it & the most beautiful place on Earth! Hyperbole aside (I’m becoming very jaded on hyperbole) I do want to visit it one day. I’d like to come back and visit this whole area again – maybe drive and camp/backpack – so I’ll be sure to add the grove to my return list.

A harem (yes, that is a real term used for elk) of elk. During the mating season one male has a large group of females he claims/defends. The bull is out of view in the woods.


Outside of Orick we found a nice local selling freshly picked organic strawberries and we bought a bunch, plus the last two chocolate covered strawberries for good measure. So good! He warned of us the winding road with small shoulders ahead, which we were grateful for. Luckily, the traffic was low and this area didn’t look too bad. We took a break at Patrick Point State Park to snack and such, plus discuss where to stay. It had only been about 20 miles but we could stay at Patrick Point – it’s the only hiker-biker site for the next 80 or so miles. But with the weather continuing to be cold and foggy most of the day, and me being sick, it seemed like a good idea to find a warm bed for the night.

Lindsey  was happy to spend $60+ on an AirBnB or motel stay while I was really hoping to find a Warm Showers host. We compromised by reaching out to WS hosts first then setting a deadline of after lunch to hear back with a confirmed stay or else book an AirBnB. Lindsey found the Beachcomber Cafe, a “must eat” location in Trinidad. We stopped and spent $40 for a grilled cheese, a panini, two cups of soup, and two 12oz drinks. The soup was pretty good, but our meals were not worth $40. Oh yeah, did I mention it was a bus-your-own-table place? I’m all into the organic, local, self-bus and stuff but not when you’re charging steakhouse prices for cafe food/experience.

From the lunch spot it was about 10 miles to the AirBnB we ended up reserving (another $78) and we zigzagged on a country road, jumped on 101, and used a bike path to make the ride as good as possible. The Hammond Coastal Trail is a great ride, starting north of McKinleyville and continuing all the way through town. It’s a bypass route though, so if you’re looking for services you’ll need to venture into town. Then again, Arcata and Eureka are both just south so unless it’s pressing you could just skip by on the trail. Did I mention it is a really nice trail? Just beware about 1/2 or so in there is a half mile gravel section with a short but fairly steep gravel climb that can be tough – Lindsey ended up walking some of it. The rest is paved though. Highly recommended.

Our hosts were Rick and Jess, a (mid thirties?) couple with two young boys. We got a nice room, a tiny but private bath with shower, and some entertainment that, although expensive, was certainly worth it. After several days of poor reception (when it comes to reception out here ATT&T is well behind Verizon) I went outside to find reception and call my mom, then joined the family at the backyard firepit. The older boy had left to go to his first dance (he’s 12) and the younger son, Jack, had a couple of friends over. I joined them for hot dogs over the fire and shortly after some of Jess’ friends showed up for a Harvest Moon party. Sadly, the cloud cover completely ruined that night sky.

The three friends, two hosts, us, and two other guests who returned a bit later relaxed outside chatting and enjoying food and a couple of beers. I learned a bit about the area and talked to a guy who built his own yurt, which he is currently living in (in his parents back yard) while he pays his school debts. Man, people do all kinds of weird stuff. And somehow I am still told I am crazy for doing this ride…

Unfortunately, throughout the day I really didn’t take any photos and I also failed to do so at our AirBnB host. I had other things on my mind. Sorry!

Days 19 & 20: Redwoods at Elk Prarie

Yesterday, September 26th I reached San Francisco! It was almost exactly a month for these 1,100 miles. I’ll be hanging around for a bit and getting caught up on the blog before I leave.

Day 19 (2016-09-14): ~ 30 hilly miles from Mill Creek Campground to Elk Prarie State Park, CA

This morning we woke up late after recovering from yesterday’s headwinds and climb. Surprising that we slept till 9:00 given that the person ran their generator ALL night long. Not that you’re allowed to do that. Someone left a note on their window and I added my own – come on people, show some respect. We’re not camping in the peacefully quiet redwoods to listen to your generator.

In the morning we packed up and did the same one mile hiking loop to warm up as we did to cool down last night. We knew we wanted to get warm and moving to open up the musckes before our long climb out of the park. I don’t know the elevation gain buy we climbed steadily for 2.25 miles, varying from near flat (like 1℅) up to at least 5-6℅ grade. Not terrible by any means (I love long climbs), but not how I like to start my mornings.

By this point I was getting really tired of being cold and damp and was thankful by the time we rolled into Klamath the sun was out and it was warm enough to shed my jacket. I blame California for making me feel sick though, because I woke up feeling a bit off on our first night in the state and by the time we rode the 15 miles to Klamath this morning I was feeling sluggish.

Klamath was a nice litttle town, with a small “Discovery Center” were we learned abiut the Yurok tribe, which calls the Klamath River and surrounding areas home. We also stopped for to share a burger and fries from the Country Club Bar & Grill. We got the Ortega Burger – this place looks like it hasn’t been renovated in several decades but the food hit the spot!

Klamath is small, but it is worth a stop whether driving, riding, or walking through.

Klamath is all about the river – it provided life for the Yurok’s ancestors and continues to be an important social, spiritual, and economic part if their life today.

The climb out of Klamath was not all that bad – a couple miles of mild grade on 101and about a half mile of steep climbing on the scenic route – but by this point I knew I was sick because everything felt slow and heavy. But once we reached the peak it was all downhill, about 10 miles to Elk Prarie campground, all downhill through the peaceful redwood forest. The only bad thing was the cold. As we descended into the fog-loving forest it got colder, darker, and harder to regulate my body temperature. We saw the Big Tree, ome of the largest in the park, as well as a ton of other massive redwoods. It was a unique experience and my first with such large old-growth trees, but as my cold sweat chilled my body I began to shiver and knew I needed to get to camp.

Me standing inside a massive redwood, which was still living despite this burn scar.

Cold, grumpy, and wanting none of it I hit the showers as soon as we got to camp and didn’t linger long after dinner before diving into the tent to cozy up and rest. Of course I would get sick when we get to the redwoods…

Day 20 (2016-09-15): Rest Day #3 at Elk Prairie Campground, Redwoods State Park.

Ah man, I feel bad! I’m not the worst off – no headache, stomach is fine, I’m not dizzy or anything.We planned to do a long but easy hike through the park and down to the coast including Fern Canyon (where you walk a streambed and the are ferns all over the canyon walls) that would have been 10 miles or so. About a half mile in and before we even hit our trail I was already huffing and puffing. There was no way I would make it.

Downed redwoods are easier to cut than to move off the trail.

I finished a short loop and read/napped in the sun at camp. I don’t remember much of the rest if the day except I know we started watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (original) that night. Oh, and sometime in the night I heard the resident black bear trying to get into the bear box, but I couldnt get a peek from where we were camped.

Day 18: California Bound

Day 18: ~ 35 miles from Brookings, OR to Mill Creek Campground in the Redwoods, CA

Long-ass morning. We did not leave camp until about 10:00, then went to the local library where I spent an hour and some preparing for California (maps, checking campgrounds, etc). By the time we finally hit the road it was noon…good thing we had a short day. Except not..

We hit a wicked headwind a few miles outside of Brookings and it followed us most of the way to our campsite. We crossed into California pretty uneventfully – the terrain had been getting steadily drier, so it wasn’t a huge change. We also got waved through the checkpoint (the check for produce and stuff), so not even that was exciting.

We finally made it to California! Now its just the biggest damn state for weeks.

 

Oh, and did I mention it felt like rolling into Pennsylvania? Look at all the fields, cows, and old farmhouses!

Northern California is a lot like Pennsylvania, except there is an ocean right there.

 

California welcomed us with a gigantic jail not far from the state line and Crescent City full of huge roads, poor cycling infrastructure, and a lot of traffic. We knew California would be a lot less helpful to cyclists but man, this first day really made that apparent more than I expected!

South of the city we climbed for a few miles up 101 with little to no shoulder and a pretty steep grade. Thankfully, construction had the road down to one lane at spots, giving us a few places to ride to the right of the cones and allowing us to wait for traffic to pass then ride freely on the road while traffic was going through the one-lane area behind us in the opposite direction. It’s a good thing too – Lindsey was dying (her words, not mine) on the climb. When we finally made it to the false-summit we turned into the entrance for the Mill Creek campground, only to descend for 2.5 miles and lose most of the altitude we just gained! The upside? All this was in a redwood forest. They’re huge!

101 was under a lot of construction here since the road is literally falling back into nature.

 

This downed redwood was way bigger than my bike, and it is not even one of the big ones!

Day 17: Sun & Speed

Day 17 (2016-09-12)  ~50 miles from Humbug Mountain State Park to Harris Beach State Park in Bookings, OR. Almost entirely on 101 with a lot of hills.

Not much exciting happened today during the ride, except I went really fast. Coming around this bend in a fairly steep descent I got a good gust of tailwind and pedaled hard then tucked down and flew. 44mph! No joke! The fastest I have ever gone before was 50mph on my Cannondale (road bike, bot loaded) coming off the Rainy Pass heading from eastern to western Washington. It felt gnarly pushing over 40mph fully loaded on this steel rig full of flex! Don’t try this at home, kids 🙈

 

So fast!

 

Otherwise, the say was pretty straightforward – rolling hills, highway, and beautiful cliffs. Also, nice and sunny and warm! We set up camp alongside Jeff & Pepper, my favorite little dog who we met the night before. She runs around camp greeting all the cyclists and being as cute as can be!

 

Pepper is the cutest little thing 🙂

 

After setting up camp we headed into Brookings to do some errands. We ate at Wild River Pizza, this kinda odd pizza place that cut our pizza up into the weirdest tiny squares. It was also a laundry day (good thing too, we were starting to stink) and we hit up the local Grocery Outlet. 😍

 

Grocery Outlet is my favorite store and it is so good for touring cyclists!

Days 15 & 16: Cranberries, Whales, & a Hike

Day 15 (2016-09-10): ~40 miles from Bullard Beach State Park to Humbug Mountain State Park. Mostly Highway 101 with mild traffic and a tailwind!

Note: I am publishing this blog on September 21st, Day 26. This post is from Day 15/16. I’m a bit behind – internet isn’t so good out here. Right now I am just a few days north of San Francisco, having already left the Redwoods and the beautiful Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt County, California. I’ll definitely catch up once I get to San Fran 🙂

I didn’t mention it yesterday but they guy next to us at camp is a trucker who also frequently bike tours. Listening to him was interesting, but man it did nothing to help after the tough day with the trucks yesterday. He talked to us about how truckers communicate via radio, so when one truck sees bikes on the road every other truck within a reasonable distance also knows. Then he told us about how some truckers like to “dust” cyclists, getting so close it knocks their caps off. Apparently, a few years ago a trucker reported he was going to dust someone and then hit and killed them – he went to prison because there was evidence her purposely did it.

We didn’t leave camp until close to 11:30 this morning and rolled into Bandon around noon. We found this small store called Wilson’s Market – it was just a small convenience store but it had a couple of bro’s working the shop and making pretty good tacos and burritos. The main bro sold us on a hurricane burrito, this massive thing that must have weighed at least 3 pounds! I think it was chicken mole. We destroyed that thing…

We were lucky enough to be in Bandon during the Cranberry Festival – an annual town fair type deal. It was also the 70th Anniversary so there was quite a crowd for such a small town. We found boy scouts and girl scouts selling baked goods (I’m a fool for this so I bought something), a classic car show, live music, farmer’s market, a dunk tank to raise money for a community pool – it was a lot of little fun in a small town. And the cranberry apple hard cider from the local cider place – so good!

Cranberry Festival in Bandon, OR

 

Art from recycled plastic trash washed up on shore.

 

Just outside of town we picked up a tailwind and cruised for quite a while. We met a few people doing the “Running to the Rogue” relay, an annual run where this native tribe (sorry, I forget your tribe’s name) runs a couple of eagle feathers from their reservation down the 101 to their ancestral homeland. We passed some support vans later in the day – damn, this group ran far. Good for them!

Coming into Port Orford we were only a few miles from camp and stopped at a roadside stand for some of the best peaches and nectarines I’ve had out here on the west coast. So juicy and bursting with flavor! After stocking up at the local market we headed south out of town and, upon clearing the cliffs protecting the town, were hit with a massive front of cold ocean air. Brrr! Good news though: just a couple of miles outside of town we stopped because I spotted some whale spouts while riding. We’ve seen a whole lot of whales on this trip 🐳

Roadside produce stand outside Port Orford. So good and so cheap!

 

Having left so late we got into Humbug campground quite late and it was dull. An older gentleman offered to share his camp with us. We graciously accepted, although I wish we would have realized our Canadian Friends were already set up and had room to spare (Sarah and Pete were hiking; Amalie was snoozing in the tent). Still, after dinner we hung out with them around the fire and learned some new vocab!

  • KD = Kraft Dinner. Also known as mac n’ cheese. (Canadian)
  • Longie = 22, as in a bottle of beer (Australian)
  • Schnitzie = Schnitzel (Australian)
  • Parmie = A schnitzie with parmesean melted on top (Australian)
  • OP = some kind of store, i forget (Canadian)

 

Day 16 (2016-09-11): Rest Day #2 @ Humbug Mountain State Park, OR.

It was a slow morning today with some reading and tea. I got my package from the ranger on duty – a new sleeping bag liner (great for keeping my bag clean from my sweaty body) and did some reorganizing. Then we set off for a 5 mile loop climb up Humbug Mountain. There’s not much to say about it, except we had to bushwhack a bit to get around a ground hornet’s nest right in the middle of the trail. Thankfully people had left a warning note and we had our eyes peeled!

While we were still warm we headed down to the beach for a quick dip – so far we haven’t done it because the water is freezing and the wind and clouds don’t exactly warm you up. Unfortunately, this time was no different. Although the sun was warm the wind in the cove was viscous and we stayed dry down to our knees. Plus the riptide was insane and I didn’t want to drown. I hear that it’s not so fun. I did use the gravel-like sand to exfoliate though, which felt surprisingly good. And under the shelter of a large rock we were able to escape the blistering wind and catch a few rays. I even stretched and did some knee exercises in the sand!

The evening was pretty chill – camp burrito dinner, some necessities taken care of, and trying to catch up on journaling. I failed at that  last one though, since we started watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (original) on Lindsey’s Chromebook instead.