We left Bayside on Friday morning for what would probably be our last cycling day in excess of 90km (and actually probably 80km) of this tour! As seems to have become the norm, we set off in grey and cold cloud and this was how we spent the rest of the morning. As we had been hosted in Bayside we were already on the Old Arcata Road which we continued to follow all the way to Eureka. This was a good, quiet road with a mostly large shoulder and avoided some of Highway 101.
Once through Eureka we picked up Highway 101, which was now a two-lane motorway pretty much, but we had a large shoulder and had got used to this type of riding in Australia, so it didn’t really bother us. Yes, it was noisy with cars and trucks, but we were fine in our shoulder, occasionally getting whoops, waves, and friendly beeps from passing traffic (these did genuinely feel like friendly beeps, in a “toot toot toot” kind of way, rather than a “hooooooooooooooooonk”). After about 12km we turned off towards Loleta, so that we could follow quieter roads for a bit. We then picked up 101 again, but not for too long (about 15km) as we turned off for Rio Dell where we would pick up food for that and the next day.
From Rio Dell it wasn’t long until we picked up the famous “Avenue of the Giants”, a 50km road that takes you through the heart of Redwood country. And what a road it was. You are surrounded by immense trees and despite being a massive tourist attraction, the road is not that busy and you get periods to yourself to soak in the peace and quiet of these impressive giants. I found them to be very calming and tranquil and these effects seem to spread to car drivers as everyone ambled along the road slowly, giving us plenty of room on our bicycles. Despite a large blanket of trees, shafts of sunlight poke through in places, often putting one tree in a spotlight, highlighting the red wood. Just beautiful.
We had already decided we were going to take a rest day at the Burlington Campground right in the heart of the redwoods, so that we could go exploring a bit on Saturday. And now being far more inland the weather was a lot warmer and for the first night in ages I didn’t need socks on for sleeping. Hooray!
During our rest day I did not very much, whilst Adam decided to cycle to Founders Grove, only 6 kilometres away, but that was 6 kilometres too many for me. Whilst we were sat around after a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, mushrooms and avocado we spotted a cyclist on the road and it was Jo who we had met at Elk Prairie and is a fellow Brit who now lives in NYC. Jo is a singer and is singing her way down the coast cycling from gig to gig. She stopped to talk for a bit and Adam decided to accompany her 6½ kilometres in the other direction down the road to Myers Flat; this was fortuitous for two reasons: (1) Jo’s ukulele made a bid for freedom, dislodging a bungee cord that wrapped itself around her hub, and Adam helped to remove said bungee; (2) there was a liquor store in Myers Flat so we got to have wine with dinner (we had to make the painful decision on Friday between carrying enough food for two days, or having less food and some wine; the food won).
Later that day Jo emailed us to say it was scorchio down the road and advised us to set off early on Sunday and so we were on the road by 7:30am to cover the 75km to Rock Creek campground in the Stanley-Hickey State Park. It was cold in the morning and Adam regretted his decision to wear shorts instead of three-quarters for the first time since we hit the USA, and I didn’t start warming up until half way through the ride, at which point I overheated and got so hot I had to take my helmet off for the first time this tour as I thought I was going to pass out. Little did I know that less than 24 hours later I would be so cold I would need all my clothes again…
There was a small surprise for us in store along Highway 101 as Greta, our Warm Showers host from Arcata knew our vague itinerary and as she happened to be heading the same way as us on Sunday she had figured she might spot us, and she did and so pulled into a lay-by to wait for us with fresh raspberries – thanks Greta!
With only 8km to go to our campground we couldn’t refuse the sign post advertising ice-cream as we were both baking hot so we sat by the side of the road cooling down and thanking Jo for her tip of an early start as this had worked well for us. We got to our campground by 1:30pm and found there was a place opposite that had beer, so all was well with the world. Other cyclists who left Burlington later than us turned up very hot and sweaty a few hours later and told us we’d made the right decision to drag ourselves out of bed in the morning.
Early on Monday morning saw us once again on the road by 7:30am so that we could climb the Leggett Pass, the highest point on the coast. Stories of this being the hardest climb were grossly exaggerated; it was a nice climb and at that time in the morning the road was empty. Once at the top we began the 20km descent and got colder and colder with each bend. My fingers were numb and I could barely use the brakes so I put on my full fingered clothes and all my layers to try and warm up again.
There was a “free organic veg” table at the side of the road so we stopped to pick up what was on offer; we didn’t recognise it but later found out it was a yellow crooked neck squash (and very tasty it was griddled up on the campfire later that evening). We stopped in Westport to have some tea/coffee and a warm cinnamon bun to defrost slightly before pushing on to MacKerricher State Park, our stop for that evening.
Tuesday we knew we would only have a short day on the bikes to our WarmShower host near Elk so we had a slow morning and had already decided to stop at Café 1 in Fort Bragg for a delicious veggie breakfast (there were a few meat options, but the veggies sounded, and tasted, really good). We then decided that breakfast pudding was a thing and so had some of that too. We meandered down to Mendocino and killed some time walking around this pretty village before arriving near Elk for a well needed night out of the tent.