Day 107: hold your line

Day 107
Miles: 22*
From Patricks Point State Park to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Another gray morning – I notice a trend,
Out here on the coast, I don’t think it ends –
Silver sea, silver sky, and imposing black rocks,
Sights to delight on our late morning walk.

The fog is now lifted, my spirits? Not really.
J and I fight again, over something quite silly
Or at least inconsequential, so we brush it away
And instead see the view of this silvery day,

Watch the whales as they spout, out on the horizon,
Sea anemones quiver in tidal pools rising,
Cormorants swoop back into their cliffs,
Sea lions bark, ocean otters are swift.

Pacman sends a text; let’s us know that he’s coming,
So we relax instead, laze away the gray morning,
And then reunited Team Whiskers moves on
Many long hours past an alpine-start dawn…

We ride past lagoons on highway 101,
Just one more day with no sight of the sun.
The vast, green, swaying sloughs with great elk herds transfix us,
The swooping of gleaming great white herons bewitch us.

But I think the RVs are out to destroy us,
These behemoths with blind, short, old men might deploy us,
On a transfer straight out of our mortal existence
And my bicycle shudders from the air resistance

Of trucks passing so close I get blown off the road –
With all this adrenaline my heart may explode.
And I surf through the day on a great tide of fear,
Each truck a death-spectre in my rear-view mirror.

I’m not surfing, I’m drowning – time for metaphor-switching,
I’m a sieve – fear goes through me… I’m in love with existing.
I don’t know if I’m really road-biking material,
I’m looking for something a bit more ethereal,

Something like walking alone on a trail,
“Oh man,” I think, “the PCT sure was swell”.
But on we go, on we go, down our chosen way,
Through forests of redwoods and mists of sea spray.

In the small town of Orick, Pacman again leaves,
For him cash isn’t meant to pay park campground fees,
So he throws in his lot with a tough-looking crowd,
“Not quite enough teeth here,” I observe aloud.

So it’s just me and Dirtnap pedaling on into sun,
Into sun! Into sun! And now our day’s end is a wonderful one.
We set up camp at the park campground just for bikers,
The crowd that’s replaced our old circle of hikers.

One old cyclist with scrawny old legs comes quite near,
We wouldn’t happen to have any aspirin here?
No aspirin, but we’ve got Vitamin I,
And we’ve got him fixed up in the blink of an eye.

“How do you do it?” I curiously wonder,
“Without constantly thinking about being six feet under?”
“‘Hold your line!’ is the old man’s solid advice,
‘Hold your line’ says it all, it’s very concise,

“Don’t look back or get worried, there’s nothing to do
If a truck’s going to swerve and run over you,
All you can do is pedal straight on, without wobbling
Hold your line, keep your balance, don’t go about toppling.”

‘Hold your line’, I think, as I fall into my bed,
Maybe that’s a thing to put in my head,
I can’t let the fear once again overtake me,
I’ll hold my line, let the impassive universe save me.

So I sleep next to Dirtnap amongst the great trees,
And sink into the night with a soft, gentle breeze.
Tomorrow will come, and again I will ride,
Tomorrow I’ll take all those RV’s in stride…




Smartphones are the worst for wildlife photography.


Day 106: Moving on

Day 106
Miles: 55*
From Ferndale to Patricks Point State Park

After a late night, Blake got up at 4 am to make some beet deliveries. We slept in. We played at farmer for a couple days, and we’re exhausted – so we sleep in, wake up on the margins of the beet field, next to blackberry hedges and beehives. Pacman is at work already, trying to squeeze just a little more cash out of this work break.

Time to part ways – Blake promises to mail us some home-grown quinoa, and Pacman, who is staying on the farm for another day or two, promises to catch up with us in Crescent City. We ride out into the gray, dim day, leaving behind the dairy farms and country roads and the wide Eel River, and get on the freeway and officially onto the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route.

The road is still a scary place for me, my tender, woodland soul shocked by the roar of giant steel machines barreling past me, but the shoulder is reassuringly wide: at least two feet! My laser-like hyperfocus on the road doesn’t leave much brain-space for rumination, but I have to wonder how many people would take up biking if they didn’t have to share space with cars. Probably a lot.

As we roll into Eureka, I wonder if the cars aren’t the problem so much as the people… In the vast store of unsolicited advice and opinions that we’ve gathered in the past week, it’s seemed like every single person has told us that Eureka sucks. It turns out that “Eureka sucks” means “Eureka is full of meth-head tweakers and flophouses”. The day has gotten even grayer, if possible, the sky dirty and low, and the boarded up (but obviously still occupied) motels ringing the town echo the greasy grayness and it’s a rough-looking crowd wandering the streets. This ain’t the PCT.

A quick side trip to the downtown area blows our mind – it’s beautiful! The drab skies suddenly seem like they fit for the old victorian seaside vibes this place has going on. Lovely white, red, green buildings, old bookstores, brick streets. A little jewel in a circle of trash. We stop for lunch and park our bicycles directly in front of the picture window, suddenly acutely aware that we never bothered investing in a bicycle lock. “I’m going to buckle my helmet around my tire. How much time do you think that’ll get me if someone jacks my bicycle?” I ask J.
“I don’t know. What about putting it in lowest gear? Isn’t that what Pacman does? So the thief has to pedal like mad?”
“Either that or the highest gear, so they can’t get cranking?”

We spend our entire lunch with both of us staring fixedly at our bicycles. Makes for bad conversation. We buy a bike lock in Aracata. (I also buy a rear-view mirror for my helmet, so if I’m about to smushed into a Gizmo-road-pancake, I’ll get to see it happen.)

On the way out of Arcata, the official Pacific Coast Bicycle Route routes us off the 101 and through farmland, where we waver in the margin of cloud and sun, the line where the permanently installed coastal clouds melt into the California summer. The outrageous pink lilies are back, in front of little farmhouses. And then the bike lane turns into gravel, and the blue skies turn gray, and my butt hurts, and my legs are exhausted, and you know what? I’m not having a great time at the moment, I’m just whining and being miserable. (Misery is for sharing? Right?)

The fog begins to roll in, the afternoon is slipping away from us, but we are not there yet. We push through the darkening day to Patricks Point State Park, exhausted as if we’d been hiking the PCT. We pay our five bucks apiece for the hiker-biker campsite and finally dismount from our mechanical steeds. I sit at the picnic table and stare at nothing while J goes to explore a bit. “Hey Gizmo, come out and check out the view,” J says as he walks back into camp. “It’s really great.”

I follow him out to the lookout, where the fog has just rolled in, and I can see absolutely nothing. It must be time for bed.

Heading into Eureka

The very scenic “warehouse” stretch.



A lane of our own! At least for a little while…