Day 108: another day of terror

Day 108
Miles: 34*
From Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to Crescent City

Can’t say I’m excited to get back on the road this morning, but we’ve only got 26 miles to get to Crescent City, which is where we’re meeting up with J’s parents for a few days. I hope I don’t die before I get there, and I also hope that a couple days off of riding will let my nerves calm down a bit. The riding hasn’t been as physically tough as hiking was, but hiking also didn’t involve a second-to-second contemplation of the fragility of my mortal existence and a day-long struggle to embrace the final moments of my life before there weren’t any moments left. Well, it’s a new day, maybe today is a good day to die. It’s been great, it really has – I’ll be ending on a high note.

The sun is back behind the low, gray clouds, and we start the day with a gnarly, big uphill. We’re riding the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway out of the park though, and it’s nearly car-less and lined with redwood giants rising up into the mist. The exertion and damp drenches us in sweat during the climb, and the downhill is exhilarating but hypothermic.

Then we’re back on the highway. Oh man. I’m still so rattled from the ride yesterday – I can barely stand this. I didn’t know you could be this terrified for so long – I pedal in a blind wash of fear – hold my line, hold my line, hold my line – the road turns into climbing hairpins, the shoulder is gone, the fog sinks down on us so the drivers can’t even see us – I pedal faster, faster, breath ragged, sweat-drenched.

We crest the last big uphill and stop at the Damnation Creek trailhead, an enchanting misty forest of redwoods and ferns. “I’m going to walk up the trail a bit,” J says. “Do you want to come?”
“You know, I’m just gonna lay right here,” I tell him, and I lay on the side of the trail. My body sinks into the unmoving soil, relaxing into its contours. I look up at the green lace of the maple understory, and a beam of sun comes through it all, through the mist, through the trees, and warms my face.

But the ride ain’t over yet.

We start the downhill. The pavement has been ground down for resurfacing, and my bicycle and I vibrate wildly, getting the speed wobbles, careening around the hairpins. I’m not slowing down, I’m going to ride this downhill all the way to Crescent City. I ride in the middle of the lane so cars won’t pass me on a blind turn in the fog, but they do anyways. I can feel my nerve cells exploding from adrenaline.

We pedal into Crescent City on jelly-legs. J’s parents are waiting in the motel parking lot. They just drove that same section of road, and are horrified about how dangerous it looked. I confirm all their fears.

I’m so glad I don’t have to ride tomorrow.