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.