Back home in Scotland, I bought two bottles of sun screen on a two for one deal. That was almost four years ago and I am yet to finish the first bottle. Summers in Scotland are a challenging affair when it comes to climate. Most years there are headlines in our papers about festivals, fetes and Highland games being ruined and crops being lost.
It is raining here in California in a way that is familiar to us but quite shocking for those that live here. A radio commercial for patio furniture that we listened to must have been the hardest brief. Buy now at half price, it must stop raining eventually was the pitch.
We biked out of St Helena on the Silverado Trail, past mile after glorious mile of vineyards lined rather surprisingly with trees dripping lichen and moss. These are perfect cycling roads with a French feel and very nearly French road manners towards cyclist. We loved it. What we loved very much less was the gathering storm clouds that finally broke as we were finishing second breakfast in Calistoga. We watched the streets run with water to overflowing from the window of Sarafornia Cafe, where we were having our third breakfast.
Sprinting along roads with storm clouds banked in the hills on either side, we made a quick twenty miles to our camp spot in Alexander Valley. The RV campground is nice enough and we were surprised to be the only users for that night.
Our time high in the mountains has left me with the physique of a Schleck brother. It was very difficult to buy good food in the remote stores and we have lost too much weight. There are now more cooking options and we feasted and dived into our down bags early. It was a good job we did as at one o’clock in the morning there were loud bangs and crashing from the campstore and office 40 ft away. Someone was there and breaking in to the unattended store. More sounds of forced entry and I got my phone out and turned it on inside my sleeping bag.
Verizon, our mobile supplier have a very loud and annoying startup jingle and we have the phone set to maximum volume, a combination that was going to get us killed here. It came on and I dialed 911 (fulfilling a lifetime dream in the process). I whispered directions to the nice lady. More banging and some movement. Thank goodness we had charged the phone at the last motel as I directed the officer and the dog handler to our tent. Our hearts were pounding as search lights fell across the front of the store.
Five horribly long minutes later and the officer came down to our tent. “raccoons sir, one of the little farts ran off and they have left a trail of trash”. “Sorry for wasting your time officer”. He could see we had been scared out of our wits and he cheered us up “You guys did awesome”. I am not sure we did but I did get to phone 911 and he did assure us they were looking for stuff to do that night.
Healdsburg has a wonderful bakery and we took full advantage of its comfortable ambiance early the next morning before we pedaled out along the Russian River’s quiet West bank. Again this is cycling perfection. Tree lined quiet roads and vineyards in every direction out to Guerneville on the 116. We crossed the bridge onto a quiet back road, Moscow, to the Casini Ranch Campground.
” That will be $40 please”. “What ?, $40 for a tent, that makes you the most expensive campground in the USA”. “I would not dispute that sir, but it is $40″. We were in a hopeless situation with little to bargain with, so I have no idea why she said ” Well you can camp in the overflow site for $17″. “If that does not have all the snakes then that is a deal”.
We were 1 mile short of 1,000 miles and have done 68,000 ft of climbing here, so we bought a bottle of wine. The overflow site was just far enough away from the $40 pitches to be able to just about hear a chorus of middle aged fishermen’s guttural Bud Light snores. We had got a good deal.
An easy morning with a ride down to Highway 1 and the Pacific coast and turn right for Jenner. A week ago the maps for the Pacific Route had been ordered and sent ‘general delivery’ to the Post Office there. Amazingly, they were there waiting for us. “Hurrah, the system works”. We have quite a few weeks ahead of us now of undulating, and in and out riding north. It started as it means to go on and we had Sea Lions for company on the beaches bellow the road.
Gualala, pronounced wa-La-la I think, and news of record overnight rainfall for here and south of us. Another weekend where garden patio furniture is going to be a slow item and we will have a rest day and wait for drier days ahead.