Day 27: Samuel Taylor State Park to San Francisco (50km)

Today, August 6, 2011, we biked to San Francisco.

I got up. I Took time to smell all my clothing, finding the least stinkiest shirt to wear. Luckily it was the red one, which I knew would look stunning in the pictures of me on the Golden Gate Bridge. I told Christopher to wear his orange one, since it would match so well with the orange tones of the bridge… But sadly, he said the orange one was the stinkiest. He surprised me, and said he’s going to wear his clean shirt… The one he hadn’t worn yet… I can’t believe he has a clean shirt! I’m so jealous. Although, it’s grey… And I wasn’t sure how that would turn out in the photos. I put on my clean socks, deodorant and my hand washed shorts, all in preparation for the big day. This was the outfit that Christopher would wine and dine me in as a celebration of our arrival to San Francisco.

Unfortunately, after all that prep, it was a cold, misty morning, so we both just wore our rain jackets. Luckily mine is orange!

About ten miles into the day, we had coffee at a local roaster in a cute town called Fairfax. We listened to live music and watch all the road cyclists fly by as a large race was happening on our route today.

Only 17 miles to go…

We road on quiet roads with dedicated bike lanes and bike paths all morning. We climbed a couple of unexpected hills. And before we knew it, we rounded a bend to see the Golden Gate Bridge standing in all it’s glory, covered in thick fog. The Weather didn’t matter in the slightest! We had bike to the Golden Gate Bridge! I was overwhelmed by a sense of accomplishment.

Soon I’d be overwhelmed by crazy tourists on bikes trying to cross the bridge. Crossing the bridge was it’s own adventure. There were moments where I would of preferred to be back on roads with logging trucks to these tourists on rented bikes, holding their breath as they cycled as fasts as they could past people.

After that we cycled along the bay into town and celebrated our accomplishment with a big burger at an Irish pub.

Over 1250miles…
Over 2000 km

That was a long bike ride.

Over the past three summers, We’ve now officially biked the entire pacific coast. What a great feeling!

What’s next…?

Suzanne

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Day 26: Bodega Bay to Samuel Taylor State Park (70km)

Since we were camping in Bodega Bay, we were looking forward to a nice coffee first thing in a coffee shop in town. However, Dwayne, a fellow cyclist, said that there was the best breakfast spot eight easy miles up the road. Figuring that was close enough, I wanted to get going nice and early with dreams of bacon and eggs dancing merrily in my head. The alarm went, and for the first morning of the trip, I popped up to get ready, only to hear moaning next to me. “I’m not getting up” Christopher announced. I thought, you’ve got to be kidding me! Bacon and eggs is worth getting up for. But he just repeated himself over and over again. I thought it was my role to be grumpy in the mornings. So I just stared packing, hoping that might intice him, and eventually he got up an unenthusiastically prepared himself for the day.

Eight easy miles turned into ten hilly, windy, misty miles of caffeine free bike riding. By the time we rode into Valley Ford, I had joined Christopher in his grumpiness campaign. But Cafe Estera had fantastic coffee with the best breakfast of our entire trip! An hour and a half latter, as I sipped my fifth cup of coffee, the tables turned. Christopher was up and ready to go. I sipped even slower… my rule is, there will be no getting back on the bikes until my cup of coffee is empty, no matter what refill I’m on. By now he had his gloves on and helmut. He said that an hour and a half was plenty of time to drink my coffee. So off we went.

The rest of the day did justice to highway #1 that we have grown so tired of. It was well paved with no traffic and only small rolling hills that even I didn’t complain about. We rode along Tomales Bay for much of the day in the sunshine. At times we even had a shoulder to bike on.

We arrived in Point Reyes early, had lunch and found the library to catch up on some blogging. Then we got to leave Highway #1 for good. Now we’re on side roads and bike paths all the way to San Francisco.

Tomorrow we will bike to San Francisco.

That’s a rewarding feeling.

I wish I had something clean to wear.

27miles to go…

Suzanne

Day 25: Gualala County Park to Bodega Dunes State Park, CA (80km)

Felt great this morning after the raccoons came rampaging through camp in the early hours. This time, they targeted a group of four female riders from Vancouver, BC instead. Those raccoons took no prisoners!

Physically, I felt strong from the first pedal stroke to the last. As we pedaled through Sea Ranch, Stewarts Point, and Fort Ross along Hwy 1 we encountered flat sections punctuated by small hills. Physics, and my weight, played a hand in my fine morning riding because as I descended into the base of the hills, I gathered just above enough momentum to take my very close to the top. I repeated this time and time again, like a never ending roller-coaster ride. I only needed a few pedal strokes to take me over the summit. I love those types of hills. They’re very satisfying. Suzanne, on the other hand, didn’t have quite the same experience riding the hills.

We saw quite a few deer this morning. In fact, a large doe almost hit Suzanne as it tried to avoid traffic. Suzanne encountered a lot of wildlife this morning. As I was using the hills like a roller-coaster ride, Suzanne spotted a small fox like creature of unknown origin. It had a fluffy tail that scooped down to the ground and pointy dog-like ears. It was brown in colour, stealthy and agile in nature.

The stretch of Hwy 1 from Fort Ross to Jenner can only be described treacherous. The narrow windy road with absolutely no shoulder ascends high above the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. On occasions there is a guard rail protecting cyclists from potentially careering off into the abyss below, but for the most part, one wrong twist of the wheel, or an unexpected cross wind could result in catastrophe. It was, in my opinion, the most nerve-racking stretch of cycle touring I have ever done. I certainly wouldn’t want to ride that road in a vehicle.

We stopped in Jenner for lunch at a wonderful little cafe, and met up with some other cycle tourists we’ve encountered along the way. We rode with one of them, Andy, for the next 10 miles to camp, where we enjoyed socializing with fellow cyclists. We have a short day tomorrow, approximate 40 miles, followed by an even shorter day on Saturday as we ride into San Francisco.

Thank for reading, and if you ever intend to drive the coast on Hwy 1 between Fort Ross and Jenner, don’t. Find another way. It’s utter madness!

Christopher.

Day 24: Albion to Gualala (73km)

The rest day paid off. We both woke up rested and ready for the last leg of this trip. We pack up, said goodbye to our hospitable neighbors, walked up the 14% incline of a hill from our campsite to the Albion Bridge 150ft above where we had slept, and set out on our way.

The sun was already up. This was one of the first mornings on the coast that we haven’t encountered thick fog or mist. It made for a beautiful ride through the rolling hills of Northern California, with the ocean at our side. The views were breathtaking, and our minds were at rest… It was a fabulous morning.

About 25 miles into the day, about the time of day for me to cram two cliff bars into myself, we came across a tiny town called Manchester. I’m sure you can figure which one of the two of us was ecstatic about this little gem of a town. Good thing for my hungry stomach, Christopher jumped off his bike and began working hard, writing something down on a piece of paper. His pen was a bit dry, so this took some time. I crammed down my two cliff bars, and then waited patiently until he looked up, satisfied with a job well done, and asked me to take a picture.

One of my favorite parts of the day was cycling up a hill into Anchor Bay and we could hear the sea lions singing at us. We couldn’t see them as we were at a hundred feet elevation from the ocean, but their song just echoed up the cliffs. Oh the things people miss in their cars.

We had a delicious lunch at Point Arena in an Organic Cafe/market. I was so excited to have boiled eggs, yogurt, chocolate milk and this delicious quinoa salad. All things that aren’t easily found at just the right time and place in the touring life style.

I’m really happy that these last three days ended up a bit shorter mileage than our normal average day length. Its allowing for a relaxing end to pur trip with plenty time to enjoy camp. Tonight we staying at a bike/hiker site about one mile South of Gualala. It is busy, as usual. Over 17 people on bikes camping here tonight, including one guy named Jason from Vancouver. He left Vancouver eleven days ago. How embarrassing is that?! We left 24 days ago! He cycles well over 100 miles a day with all his camping gear. That’s over 160km a day! I think he’s crazy. He didn’t even seem tired. I’m thinking about asking him to carry some of my gear for me tomorrow.

Well, it’s been a glorious day of riding, a restful evening at camp, and now for a good nights sleep.

Suzanne

Day 23: Third and Final Rest Day – Albion River Campground, Albion CA (0km)

Rest days are similar to major holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. They offer a time to relax and reflect on recent events and accomplishments, and they offer an opportunity to work on tasks you never seem to find the time to do. Tasks such as working on a way to get home, reading blog comments, checking your Facebook wall, reading, and online shopping…

Anyway, I slept in this morning as I’ve grown accustomed to on our break days, and I found intense satisfaction, knowing that I didn’t have to ride my bike today. Rest days don’t permit any real resting or healing of fatigued muscles, but they do offer a well-deserved mental break from concentrating on the road and the surroundings.

The campsite we are staying in is incredibly expensive and lacks some of the amenities we try to shoot for on rest days like laundry, but on the whole I can’t complain too much. It’s located in a beautiful cove, and suspended high above us is a unique looking bridge which connects to the town of Albion. The bridge also paves the way to San Francisco. Since it’s located in a cove which boasts some of the best abalone fishing (if that’s the right word to use) in California, it’s full of fishermen and fisherwomen. This seems to be a theme of ours this tour!

Last night Jim, our neighbour, introduced himself and his friends, they are from a town approximately 60 miles north of LA, and offered us abalone. At first, I was excited because I love tuna, but after professing my keen knowledge of sea life, I was told, in the politest possible way, that abalone was actually a shellfish or mollusk. Albacore and abalone sound the same, don’t they? We someone offers you abalone, is there any other response than, yes? So, being my usual brave self, I asked Suzanne to try it first, and then there was no adverse reaction, I decided to try some myself. Before I took a bite I smelled it,and tried to examine it but it was breaded so that was difficult to do. When I took my first bite I thought it tasted like breaded chicken, so took another bite. My first thoughts were confirmed by my third bite. Abalone tastes like chicken! The shells don’t look like much on the outside but on the inside they sparkle like the inside has been painted with a thin film of shimmering green, silver, and pink coloured pearl paint. They are incredibly beautiful to look at, and sometimes mesmerizing.

For most of the morning we tried desperately to book the Amtrak to Vancouver on Saturday, but they were only able to take one more bike, not too. We are now renting a car in Oakland and driving to Bellingham, so we’ll be home on Sunday.

When we get back on out bikes tomorrow we’ll have three and a bit riding days left. I’m really excited to pass through the town of Manchester and I’m busily working on a plan to make my own sign with the word United on it: A match made in heaven.

Thanks for reading

Christopher

Day 22: Standish-Hickey State Park to Ablion (104km)

Today we had a mountain to climb.

I, along with all the other bikers in camp, had anxiously been anticipating this climb. I had studied the elevation map in detail. I went to bed dreaming of every curve, distance, and steepness of the hill. We woke up extra early to ride it in the coolness of the morning, and by 8am, we were standing on the top feeling fabulous! Everything looked easy after this… Or so we thought.

The problem was, after 2 long days of climbing in the inland heat and this gigantic climb, we had forgotten to mentally prepare ourselves for the next 70km. Our bodies were absolutely exhausted… And as many of you who have been to California know… There’s no such thing as easy riding on this coast. What followed was 70km of steep hills that just about finished both of us. It was a LONG day. It turned out to be joyride toughest day yet. So I’m going to keep this simple and just inform you of our four highlights:)

4 highlights:
1. The top of the hill
2. A peaceful path we found from Cloene to Fort Bragg

3. Anticipation of a MUCH DESERVED rest day in Ablion
4. The man who served us fresh Abalone when we arrived at camp. I had never heard of Abalone! It’s this gigantic shell fish that is very meaty. The men here dive down 25ft to find them, just holding their breath.

It’s great to be back on the coast. We’re looking forward to our last 3 and a half days on the road.

Suzanne

Day 21: Burlington Campground to Standish-Hickey State Park, CA (78km)

I didn’t take many pictures today because I was tired, hot, and slightly grumpy. We left Burlington Campground just before 7am and continued to ride through the Avenue Of The Giants. I hoped to find a drive-through tree close enough to our route but sadly we didn’t see one. Even when I lived in England I remember seeing iconic pictures of cars parked at the base of huge redwoods.

I didn’t realize this, but redwoods get most of their water through moisture collected in their canopies rather than through their root system. The resin the trees release combined with its damp spongy bark protect it from fire and insects that might damage or destroy other trees. Another reason why they grow so large. The only concern for these mammoth trees are loggers. Their used to be two million acres of redwoods in northern California, now there are only 270 000 acres left. When you get close to them you can see why they are sort after. They are huge in circumference and are as straight as arrows.

After we left the Avenue Of The Giants we joined up with the Eel River and followed it the rest of the day. The Eel River comes but its name honestly. It’s long and windy! Today we cruised through the towns of Myers Flat, Miranda, Phillipsville, Redway, and Garberville. In the afternoon we struggled, mainly due to the heat, through Benbow and Piercy before we reached our destination. Just opposite our campground we stopped at a grocery store and feasted on ice cream before setting up camp.

Sometimes it feels like we climb all day, but today we literally did. We have another big climb tomorrow morning which will take us to our highest point of elevation on the entire trip, 1800 feet. As you can probably imagine we’re looking forward to a well-deserved third and final rest day on Tuesday.

Finally we had the chance to chat with a couple we have been running into at campsites recently. Alex and Claire attend university in Oregon, and are on their first bike tour. Check out their blog: Http://tourdecoast.tumblr.com

Thanks for reading

Christopher

Day 20: Eureka, CA to The Ave of the Giants – Burlington Campground (98km)

Today we woke up in our five star campground in Eureka and considered moving there permanently. Seriously! KOA campgrounds don’t get enough credit for their ability to turn camping into an ‘all your needs are met in every way’ experience. We packed up and headed into Eureka for coffee.

The first half of the day was fairly flat and easy riding. We had gotten up very early to ride on Highway 101 as early as possible. After 15 miles on the 101, we headed off on the side roads for the rest of the day, snaking through a small town called Ferndale, and all it’s surrounding farmland.

My favorite part of the ride was when we came to the Ave of the Giants. With all the hype and build up for it in the rest areas and gas stations, I already knew it would be great. A shop in a tree, a one log home, a drive through tree, and much more. I had built this road up to be absolutely stunning, with a golden archway welcoming us and giant redwood trees towering over us, almost with personalities, beckoning us to join them in their splendor. Oh, the things you have time to imagine when on a bike everyday.

Well I wasn’t let down, for the most part. I’m not sure where I came up with the golden archway, but I waited and waited for it, and it didn’t appear. But other than that, the 30mile road was everything it was made out to be. Beautiful, quiet riding among stunning redwood giants. I got to go into the shop in a tree and took a photo of Christopher in a tree. Although he wasn’t happy that it took so long as he could hear all the bats above him warning him of their wrath. We were lucky enough to be able to camp at Burlington Campground, right in the middle of the giants. What a beautiful and peaceful place. What an honor to bike amongst and sleep under these giants.

Suzanne

Day 19: Kamp Klamath RV Park, Klamath, CA to KOA Kampground, Eureka, CA (97km)

Just before we left camp this morning we caught our last glimpses of the stranded Grey Whale. We could just about see the beauty, pushing air out of its blow-hole above the morning mist. The mist makes our tent as wet as if it had rained all night. It was like Washington all over again when we had to pack our wet gear.

Temperature wise, the day was really varied. As I sit on a picnic table, after our days ride, in the KOA Kampground looking west at the barmy Pacific Ocean, the sun is still high in the sky and the temperature is hot. A far cry from this morning. The morning started very misty/foggy indeed, so much so that we were wishing we had more florescent clothing. The fog did’t really clear all day which made the temperature in the shade very very cold and the unshaded temperature sort of bearable. I had my long sleeve shirt over my base layer the entire day. At times, I wish I had my rain pants and booties on just for warmth.

The day’s riding conditions were equally varied, although I wouldn’t have thought so based on the first few hours of riding. All we seemed to do in the morning was climb. We knew there was going to be a climb before we reached a forest full of huge redwood trees, but neither of us expected to climb so long. The climb was worth it because our decent through the remaining forest lasted for an eternity. It was so long that at one point I thought I was on an amusement ride through the trees. Besides looking at the incredibly large and super straight trees, I also had my elk goggles on, but sadly I didn’t see any. At least not yet…

The stretch after the forest and before lunch was tiring, cold, and covered under a cold of fog. The only bright spot was riding into a meadow and out of the corner of my eye, spying what looked like a whole herd of elk. Sure enough, as we crossed the road and got closer to the field, we were incredibly close to a herd of Roosevelt Elk. Most of them were lying down, and most appeared to be female. In the background we thought we spied a couple of males and possibly some babies. It was a wonderful site. Perfect respite from the road.

After lunch the scenery changed drastically. Approximately, 8 miles from McKinnleyville, we dropped out of the hillsides overlooking the ocean, and road into a valley which looked just like Chilliwack. We enjoyed riding the flats all the way into McKinnleyville and onto Arcata. After stopping in the university town of Arcata, we stocked up on groceries and headed to the KOA located a couple of miles south of town, to enjoy some well deserved rest.

Christopher

Day 18: Harris Beach State Park, OR to Klamath, CA (84km)

Today we biked to California!

What an exciting day:). To be able to say “I biked to California.”. It might have also been a sad day as it was our last day to Crescent City, CA, which was our initial goal. As much as I hate the rain, and dread the long climbs up hills, bicycle touring really does become addictive. It’s the entire life style that I love. Being self contained, meeting fellow tourers, being outside all day long, camping in a new beautiful location each night, finding beauty in the really small things that you pass by, chasing after coffee every morning, the leather saddles, the time to read in the evening… It all becomes addictive, and I was sad it was coming to an end.That’s why I’m pumped to tell you, it’s not over! We made it our new goal to reach San Francisco! This will complete our journey of the Pacific Coast… Chilliwack to Alaska, last summer, San Fran to San Diego two summers ago.

After an easy 60km of flat riding (kind of like biking in Chilliwack)’ we were in Crescent City where we stocked up, bought grease and flashing lights for our bikes, and pick up some groceries. I downed two cliff bars and drank some water, gearing up for what was in front of us. An evil monster of a road, with no shoulder, poorly paved, bright sun, no wind, and a climb from 0 to 1200ft. I got to the top, ready to fall over from exhaustion. But so proud to be on top our our largest climb of the trip.

When we rode into Klamath, our final destination, we were shock by the number of cars that lined the rode. I assumed they were all tourists for the ‘drive through tree’, but as I started over the bridge, I noticed all the people were on the bridge taking photos. I thought, it’s a beautiful river, but not that great… They must see something I don’t. As we shoved our way through tourists on the bridge, crossing from side to side on Highway 101, I just wanted to get past when I over heard someone say, “there’s the whale!” I thought, what kind of lamb tourist attraction is this, a fake whale?

Well it turns out there was a grey whale in e river. It had been there for a week and swam back and forth. I was glued to watching it! And now we sit in a riverside campground where I can see it breaching from my tent door. It was amazing! But at the same time disturbing to see the locals in boats harassing it over and over. I found myself wishing that the whale would just use his strength to topple their boat.

I hope the marine biologists in California are coming up with a plan for this poor whale.

I hope you all continue to follow our tip down California to San Francisco.

Suzanne

I forgot to mention! Last night at seven pm, I heard some bells ringing, and it turned out to be an ice-cream truck driving up to our hiker biker camp site! That was a dream come true!

Link to the whale story http://www.northcoastjournal.com/news/2011/07/28/whales-in-a-river/