We had taken an early break from an unequal battle with head winds, in a motel in Ferndale. Every time the sun comes out along the coast here, the wind picks up. I am a little unsure what to wish for, as the cold on the descents drains so much energy but so does the wind. Plants love it though, that is for sure.
We pedaled along Tompkins Hill Road, inland of the 101 before it gave up and merged into the 101 for the last busy miles into Eureka. As ever, the shoulder had more discarded bolts than you would imagine to be safe. Far more here than in Europe, things that should be done up tight, and often quite important looking bits are strewn across the shoulder. It is a bit of a worry.
In Eureka we got chatting with a couple of guys who were sat astride two very under maintained bikes. Both were musicians, part of a band that travels the country on bikes. They pedal mostly single speed and often fixed gear bikes 1,000 of miles. If they have to, they jump trains, and have covered thousands of miles over the last ten or more years. They were both bright, nice guys. “You would be a bitter disappointment if any daughter of mine bought either one of you home”. Anyone who could put together a bike and maintain it over the years from bits found in dumpsters would take some thoughtful introduction.
We camped just outside Eureka and set off along the 101 for Arcata at a record breaking 9.06 am the next morning. Signs along our route are very rare and we were pleased to follow them in a complicated twisting path to avoid the 101. “Every municipal building must have one set of doors that opens in the opposite direction to the way in which you expect them to”, to quote once again Douglas Adams. Every signed bike route shall have one important sign missing. We regained our route cursing the competence of all concerned.
A mental picture inspired by the word California, would never include the flat, dairy landscape around Arcata. Big Northern European styled barns, cud chewing cows and a strong acrid smell of silage carried by the breeze feel out of place. It is a nice change though.
Outside of Trinidad we met James and his bike and trailer and his two dogs. I am not sure of the order in which they had arrived in his life, but he had found these and had pulled his life around from drug dependency. He had now found God and wanted to start a cycling church. I think he has every possibility of doing just that. He had spirit and energy to spare and we wished him well and donated a Clif bar.
For a while our route avoided the 101 before geology and geography bought us back together at Patrick’s Point State Park. The wetland areas of the Humboldt Lagoons State Park were our first sighting of Elk and we camped beyond Orick at Elk Prairie Creek. The hiker/biker area had about eight other cyclists, all going south. Every day now we were passing more touring bikes going down the coast. Just a little more than half are European, as touring is a bit of a minority sport here which is a bit of a shame.
The trees in Redwood State Park enjoy the damper climate here than the Redwoods further south. Moss and ferns cover every surface, and the whole effect gives a calming green tint to the world along the Del Norte Coast. We started to climb up into the mist. At the side of the road an abandoned old car with NO BRAKES, NO TOOLS written in a vivid red lipstick. “The rather shockingly dressed occupant opened the door “It is easy to work on but I forgot to pack the wrench”. It was just 5 miles down the hill to a garage we told her. ” That’s great, I pack roller blades for when this happens”.
We passed through Crescent City and on to Smith River. Nothing much but a bar and a junk store. We have passed a number of these stores recently. They are always in odd places and it is difficult to tell if they are open, closed or abandoned. We talked with one of the owners about his shop ” Well it is just about 7/8th museum and 1/8th store I guess”. I get the feeling they just grow out of an urge to horde.
We camped overlooking the sea, enjoying some rare warmth from a sun that had managed to burn off the coastal mist for once that day. Passing into Oregon the next morning came as a relief after 1,400 miles in California. You can tell a lot about places in a border region. A massive dentist surgery a clue to cheaper prices here. The sign for littering now showing $6,500 rather than the $1,000 fines in California.
We had the excitement of the highest bridge in Oregon and then pedaled into Gold Beach. We are totally worn out by the road and need a day off. The temperature is cold enough to be difficult. You overheat going up and freeze going down and the damp enters your body and drains it of energy when you stand still. As luck would have it, motel prices are so much lower this side of the border, so a rest day of luxury, snoozing and channel surfing and writing this.