Bicycling days slideshow

Bonus post – a slideshow from the bicycle days.

 

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Day 123: Work??? and other thoughts

Day 123
Miles: 0
Portland

We wake up on Nick’s floor, next to Pacman, snoozing on the couch. Back in town. So many chores, decisions. The detritus of town-living.

Being in the city is still overwhelming, even after being on the highway for weeks. A city is funny place to transition back to the trail, but that’s the plan. I’ve been texting with 3D, and she’s in Portland too, which is crazy and amazing.

Wait a minute, you say. What DID happen with 3D? Last that Team Whiskers saw her, she was riding away, alone, to find her way back to the PCT. Short story is she pedaled north into the blistering Central California heat to the small town of Weed, fortuitously caught a bus to Ashland, OR, and found her way back to the PCT, then hiked Oregon. (The longer story can be found on her blog, HERE.) She sent us texts of hiker parties and rainbow kitty unicorn butterflies and Crater Lake. We sent her pictures of redwoods and the sea. She was the instigator of this crazy bicycle detour, and then left us to ride it out her own way, on a parallel journey, ending up here, now, same as us.

I have all these mixed, conflicting feelings about the PCT, and being a thru-hiker, and seeing other hikers. J and I have had an on-going discussion/argument about what, exactly, does it MEAN to be a thru-hiker, and we continue it. It’s a good question. I’ve been thinking about it since my very first day on the trail, when I had to decide if I was going to call myself a thru-hiker or not. Can you be a thru-hiker when you haven’t gone thru anything (or hiked a single step yet)? What if you only go part way thru? What if, just for example, you bicycle thru, just for a part of it?

The other question, for me at least, is just how much all of this internal questioning is motivated by what I think my peers will think about it, about me. So much of “cool” crowd in the PCT/long-distance hiking world seems centered around the glorification of those who hike faster, longer, farther than anyone else. Competition seems so firmly ground into our psyches that most of us have no idea how to deal with having dozens of other people around us having parallel experiences. It doesn’t make any sense to think this way – your first 25 mile day is not negated by your friend hiking their first 26. In fact, no one’s achievement is in any way affected by any other’s. The PCT is not a race. It’s a place, 2660 miles long, and one mile wide. Seeing all of it in one year, in one trip, in one go, to see it thru – that’s something special. But it doesn’t have a thing to do with your worth as a person.

Or so I tell myself. The things I know consciously, I am striving to learn to understand unconsciously. A lifetime of living in the ratrace is hard to shake. I know that getting off the trail and onto the bicycles has saved my PCT trip. My feet, after a month of not hiking, have finally stopped hurting. (The shooting heel pain struck as recently as last week.) My body is strong again. My spirits are high again. More importantly – most importantly – my soul-destroying, neurotic obsession with an “orthodox” thru-hike, at the exclusion of finding meaning, hope, or joy in my journey, has faded and left. I would not have relinquished it voluntarily, but the fires took it from me. Gave my heart back to me. A gift.

This is something I will have to think about some more.

Speaking of the ratrace, I’m going to go into the office today. (It weirds me out just to write this sentence.) I was lucky enough to get a leave of absence for this summer, and I didn’t have to quit my job like so many others. However, my work email password expired in… May… so I don’t actually know if I really still have a job. They could have laid me off two months ago for all I know. I can’t update my password unless I’m on the company network. I tried to update my password in Reno, as my friend Jule, who was hosting me, works for the same company, but the network was down that day. So, I’ll try again today, at the office in Portland.

I borrow Nick’s car, and navigate his standard through Portland traffic and a maze of freeway interchanges and through the suburbs – all terrifying. I’m out of practice at this sort of civilized thing. Wearing my hiking pants and the shirt without any holes, I walk in and convince the admins to let me borrow a computer, and I catch up on my email.

Can’t say I’ve missed it.

I still have a job, and I’m relieved/disappointed to have real life waiting for me, just around the corner. You have to pay for adventures somehow, I guess.

I haven’t managed to take care of any trail chores – resupply, etc, – but those can wait till tomorrow. J and I relocate from Nick’s place to J’s brother’s, and say goodbye to Pacman, who we leave to his own devices. Then, biking down the streets of Portland, we run into Chris and Sarah, fellow thru-hikers who were stranded by the fires in the town of Chester with us. The PCT! It’s almost here. PCT, PCT, PCT I chant to myself, pedaling across town. PCT. PCT.

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Day 120: the end of a road

Day 120
Miles: 20*
From Clay Myers state park to Cape Meares

Despite all the gray and the clouds and the gloom of the coast, it hasn’t actually rained on us – until last night. Nick must be our bad luck charm. Or perhaps he’s just his own bad luck charm, seeing as he forgot to pack his rain fly for what is turning out to be a very rainy weekend trip. Ol’ Big Blue, our trusty tarp, kept him dry last night, but it’s not going to be any help for any of us this morning.

We pack our things into plastic bags and get ready for a chilly morning. I zip my frogg toggs jacket on over my pack and the four of us ride out.

Riding uphills in pouring rain, downhills in pouring rain, and I think about how this bicycle trip is almost over. Nick is riding with us all the way back to Portland, and this will be over in the length of a long weekend. I feel like we’ve been riding bicycles forever. The Pacific Crest Trail seems like a long ways away, although technically, I’m closer to it than I’ve been in weeks. I’m glad to be getting off the bikes, but I’ve also sort of hit a stride. Maybe not today. This rain is cramping my style.

Nick is much faster than us, and he takes the front with J while they buddy it up. Pacman and I bring up the rear today, stopping first to fix Pacman’s flat tire, then to fix mine. Looks like we both ran over the metal staples in the road.

It’s lunchtime, I’m wet, I’m hungry, I’m cold, and we’re riding into the little town of Netarts. We find an espresso shop and set up camp at a table by the window to warm up. It’s a good thing the staff is friendly, because we stay there for hours. The evening is going to creep up on us quick, though, so we head back out to find a place for the night. The clouds have rolled back to let in the sun and the steep uphill to Cape Meares reminds us that we probably didn’t bring enough water. (Where’s the PCT water report when you need it.)

Cape Meares has a road that wraps up and around the headland before coming back down to run alongside Tillamook Bay. A series of landslides has destabilized the road, so it is closed to cars. But it is open to bicyclists. This sounds like a bicyclist booby trap, but’s it’s actually a bicyclist’s dream – a windy, scenic road that is totally closed to cars? We walk our bicycles in past the gate and start a dreamy ride down the winding road pasted with wet leaves, silent except for wind in the trees.
“This is pretty post-apocalyptic,” Nick observes. The black, nice pavement looks both new and abandoned. We look for a place to camp, but the trees are too thick. We keep riding with our eyes peeled for a temporary home and we finally find it where the road meets the landslide.

The landslide turns out to be below the road, not above it as I had imagined. Instead of sliding onto the road and covering it with debris, the slide is pulling the road out from under itself and the landmass slumps. The road itself is crevassed with tension cracks, all backfilled with gravel. On the downhill side we see the original curve of the road, with old pavement curving out until the pavement disappears in huge blocks slumping far down the cliff. The old road section is bermed off, but just on the other side of the berms are long stretches of pavement that used to connect. Plenty of room to pitch some tents! We just need to remember to stay away from the cliff side when we get up to pee in the middle of the night.

Like always, the free campsites are the best ones. Quiet, spacious, with a view – we watch the clouds turn gold, then pink, we make pot of soup to share, we watch the ocean go from blue to silver to gold to purple. “Well,” says Pacman, “looks like a good time to get a little squirrely.”

Last night by the sea.

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The end of the road

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Looking out over Tillamook Bay

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Day 118: Portlandia

Day 118
Miles: 42*
From Washburne State Park to Beverly Beach State Park

Along with indisputably better views, our stealth campsites also motivate us to break camp by the break of dawn. The ride out is chilly and foggy. We agree to take a break as soon as we hit a coffee shop (standard plan) which feels like foreeeever. The sun behind the thinning fog breaks over our shoulders in big, gold rays.

The Green Salmon coffee shop in Yachats (yah-HATZ, not yeah-chits) has our name all over it. We wait patiently in line behind a couple ordering espresso.
“So your lattes, what kind of milks do you have?” they ask.
“Well, we have cow milk, goat milk, soy milk, almond milk, oatmeal milk -”
“Is your oatmeal milk gluten free, do you know?”
“Yes, totally gluten free”
“And your espresso beans, they’re from Sumatra?”
“For this month’s special, yes, free-trade only.”

“Have you ever seen Portlandia?” Pacman whispers to me, interrupting my eavesdropping.
“No, why?”
“There’s an episode I’ll have to show you later.”

After getting our drinks and warming up a bit and charging our cellphones (No plug left unplugged, is our motto) it’s time to do some miles. We watch a photographer take pictures of our bicycles through the storefront window. I wonder if they’d be able to pick us out as the owners.

The highway keeps to the coast, classic Oregon: white sands, black headlands, blue water. We pass through Waldport, stop at the subway. (Pacman should probably be sponsored at this point.) I wander into a junk shop and buy a silver spoon to replace the titanium spork I lost. 25¢.

Another bridge – with a barking herald of harbor seals, sunning themselves below the span. Ride to Newport, another bridge. A bicycle shop in town is listed as a warmshowers stop, so we check it out. They let us upstairs to use their washing machine and shower, begrudgingly. Pacman needs some work on his bike and they help him out, but also squeeze him dry. They pressure us about not buying anything, so we get the bicycle lights we should have bought 500 miles ago (probably a good thing).

Getting through Newport is a flashback to more traumatic bicycling days, and I’m remembering why I don’t like sharing the road with cars. The wind, building all day, makes us earn those miles. No place to camp. We chat up a surfer about stealth camping but he doesn’t recommend it. You wouldn’t think a little patch of ground for the night could be so hard to come by.

We end the day at Beverly Beach Campground, in the hiker/biker section. Pasta sides go down easier when you eat them with a silver spoon…

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Waldport

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Hey Dirtnap, nice hi-vis.

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Thanks!

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Who needs a spork anyway.

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Day 117: into the wind

Day 117
Miles: 41*
From Umpqua Lighthouse State Park to the Washburne State Park

Plip, plop, plip. Plop plop. Plip.

It’s raining, or dripping, or at least plip-plopping. “Oh good,” I think. “What a good excuse to sleep in,” and I roll over. We all roll over. No one’s out of bed before 8:30 today. No good excuses either – turns out the tree over our tarp is only dripping with condensation, and it’s not raining anything more than the large green pinecones that the squirrels keep chucking at us this morning (I know they’re aiming, little varmints). Between the damp and the heavy fog, it’s still a good morning for sleeping in.

We check out the little lighthouse museum, then stop for lunch at the nearest diner (and for pie – really, really good pie), then it’s noon and we’ve only done two miles. It’s clearing and the breeze is already picking up: headwinds, here we come. Good thing I’m full of pie.

Despite the wind, the cycling feels good. I’m getting better at not noticing every close call with an RV, and I can even daydream these days. The terror/paranoia is easing into a practiced vigilance. It’s nice to have a little mental space back, to have some brain-RAM freed up from roads and white lines and gravel patches and trucks.

We’re riding through tree farms for a long time. There are patches of tall trees, patches of short trees, and patches of stumps, all quilted into the low but rugged hills. The coast is a funny place, with spruce trees springing out of white sand dunes. Where the highway curves inland the winds aren’t so rough, but it’s getting brisk out here. We keep pedaling. We agreed last night to put in real miles today – our late start didn’t really set us up for success, but on we go.

Late afternoon, and we come out onto the coast proper, where the road climbs the headlands leading up Heceta Head and the Sea Lion caves. The wind is really picking up now. We’re bathed in sunshine, but maybe 100 feet back from the beach a low bank of clouds covers the ocean, so that the silver breakers disappear into gray obscurity. The road is back to steep climbs and blind curves and no shoulder, and our adrenaline is competing with the exhaustion and deep burn of pedaling too fast uphill.

A tunnel ahead pulls us up short. Despite the clear wisdom of having bike lights, we are still riding with nothing more than our headlamps. We put them on red-blink mode, strap them onto our helmets backwards, and ride through the tunnel like the devil himself is after us. Another big hairpin and we come around the corner to Heceta Head itself. The wind is like a wall that we’ve just run into. Pulling into the scenic overlook, we all sort of crashland sideways from trying to lean against the wind while getting off our bikes. The view nearly takes us off our feet as well.

We lean forwards into the buffetings of air to marvel at the white sand beach lying in the crescent between the huge, black headlands. Heceta Lighthouse stands on the hill. Gray whales surface and spout, surface and spout out towards the horizon. The coastal cloud bank has pulled back here for a glittering blue expanse. “Wow! Wow!” I yell to J, the words ripped out of my mouth by the wind. Some places are worth bicycling to.

Our goal for the day had been to camp at the Heceta head area, but Pacman doesn’t want to pay for a campground tonight and the everything that isn’t the campground is a cliff. So we keep pedaling. Past Heceta Head the road backs off from the coast a bit, and the wind isn’t so impossible to ride against. We stop and look at a couple coastal trailheads, but I don’t want to camp somewhere that has big signs reading “NO CAMPING”. I am succesfully deterred, even though I’m exhausted and I’m starting to have rather severe knee pain. I had been under the impression that you couldn’t hurt your knees with bicycling, but I’ve been disabused of that idea. It’s been sort of twinging at me for at least a week now, but this afternoon it twinged and stayed. It doesn’t really hurt so much, except when I bend it. It’s making pedaling tricky. I put my seat up and back and take some Vitamin I and we keep going.

We finally get to the Washburne State Park and decide to stop. The campground is on our right, the day-use area is on our left. The day use area is right on the water, bordered with manzanita groves full of hidden secret places and sheltered green walls. That’ll do. We hide our bicycles and go out to the beach.

The wind is screaming south over the dunes and the water, the sun is burning across the golden sand. Our footprints disappear as quickly as we lift our feet up, and the three of us run across the dunes, across the wet sand, scaring the little seabirds, giddy with the wind and exhaustion and beauty. Sometimes in life you win.

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Heceta Head

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J, getting the shot

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Me and Pacman

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Beach dunes

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Day 116: working hard-ish

Day 116
Miles: 22
From Coos Bay to the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park

The hardworking young couple is at work and out of the house long before I get up. Pacman has been up’and’at too – I can tell by the smell of sizzling bacon that draws me into the kitchen. Pacman is flipping pancakes. “Mornin’,” he greets me. “I thought we needed some bacon and eggs.”
“Shucks, that smells awesome. Need some help?”

I get started cracking eggs. J is reading the morning paper. Man, the bicyclist’s life is the life.

We tidy up after ourselves (leave no trace still applies) then roll out. It’s noon.

Our first stop out of town is in the bicycle shop in North Bend, the little town just past Coos Bay. J is in the inner tube section while Pacman and I wander around looking at bicycle accessories that we would like, but won’t buy. “Hey, check this out,” Pacman calls over to me.
“What?” I ask, wandering over. He’s standing in front of a t-shirt display. Printed on the t-shirt is a picture of a logging truck on a bridge, about to run down a cyclist who is screaming in terror. The text says: “North Bend Bridge SURVIVOR”.
“Ha! Ha!” I crow. “Who knew a t-shirt could so perfectly capture what it’s like to be a road bicyclist?”
“Check out the tick-marks for cyclists run down on the logging truck bumper,” points out Pacman.
“Oh man, I want this shirt. Do you think it’s bad luck to buy the shirt before we’ve crossed the bridge?” (All the south-bounders hit Moe’s Bicycle shop after the ride of terror. We still have it coming up.)
“Good question,” says J, who has just joined us.
“Maybe it’s a show of good faith?” I ask again.

We decide to take our chances, and J and I pick out shirts. It comes in all sorts of colors, but we get it in neon yellow hi-vis. Pacman already has a hi-vis shirt so he forgoes the purchase. Bedecked in glowing yellow, we ride off to the bridge.

The moist coast of Oregon is watered by a ladder of rivers, running straight west from the coastal range to the sea. All the bridges seem like they were built at about the same time, in the same style, elegant, simple, with art-deco details. And every last one of them is barely wide enough for cars to pass each other. The spans are huge, crossing the river right where the river meets the ocean, swollen with tides and estuaries. There’s no shoulder to speak of, so we clump together and take the entire lane in the hopes that no one will try passing us (someone always does). It’s a study in adrenaline, pumping the pedals to get over the rise of the bridge, huge metal machines breathing down your neck. Logging trucks are scary, but they’re also driven by professionals, and they usually give us plenty of space. I can’t say the same about RVs, or trucks, or jerk-faces in compact cars.

The North Bend Bridge is just another span to cross, although maybe a bit longer than usual. We make it off the bridge in one-piece, only getting yelled at three times between the three of us. The headwind is back. We pedal for about an hour then take a three-hour break. Another forty-five minutes in the saddle and we’re at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. It’s embarrassing to write this blog post. Thru-hiking is going to be a terrific shock to my system… either that, or I’m going to be strong, muscled up, and well-rested, and I’m going to cruise through Washington. That’s what I keep telling myself. I am feeling much better these days. I’ve put some weight back on so I’m not looking so super-model scrawny these days, and you could bounce quarters off my thighs, which have put on muscle with bicycling in a way that hiking never did.

We’ve had three days of clear weather, but the fog rolls in right as we roll into the gray whale lookout point. “See any whales?” J deadpans, looking out into the featureless gray expanse.
“Oh, about twenty,” I snark back. By the time we ride up to the campground hosts to check in, there’s a fine drizzle. We’re drenched in sweat from fighting the headwind and all three of us are deeply chilled. We’re about to go to our campsite when Betty, the host who has been checking us in, asks if we need anything. “Some hot chocolate would be great!” J says.
“And a yurt,” adds Pacman.
“Haha, oh, well, I don’t think I can help with that,” replies Betty, in a lovely midwest lilt.

The campground is shrouded in fog, and filled with huckleberries, if you look around. We’re sitting around the picnic table boiling pasta when Betty walks up, carrying three styrofoam cups filled with hot chocolate, which she leaves for us. We sit and laugh at our journey, at the goodness of the people we’ve met, about the marshmallows that Betty put in our hot chocolate. Time for bed.

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Hi-vis for the win! My bicycle family.

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Nice view, dude.

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Day 112: going the wrong way

Day 112
Miles: 27*
From Harris Beach to the Rogue River

Bicyclists aren’t quite the same breed as hikers… 8:30 in the morning and every biker in the campground is still here. We’re the same as ever – last ones out of camp, even here. We haven’t really meshed with the bicyclists that we’ve met so far. It’s obvious that we don’t belong – I feel like we’re the biking equivalent of a wannabe thru-hiker that shows up on the trail with an external frame pack and blue jeans, heading southbound. The thing about the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route, see, is that everyone is SOBO. We’re the only northbounders we’ve met. The other cyclists all think we’re crazy. We know, because every single one of them tells us. “North! Ha ha don’t you know you’re going the wrong way?!” they tell us. I swear, the next person who tells me that… Our steadfast denial of the existence of the seasonal headwinds has so far served as a prophecy.

The plan for today is Port Orford, a fifty mile ride. We’ll see how it goes. It’s a beautiful day, mid-seventies, sunny. The ocean gleams like hammered metal to our left, with tucked away beaches and rocky shores. It’s downright spectacular really. My pictures all look beautiful, all look the same – ocean, cliff, ocean cliff, sunset ocean cliff.

There are couple good-sized climbs today, and my legs burn. I’m having to learn how to watch out for this. When hiking, I can hike through the burn into a steady cruise, but with biking my legs burn and burn. I think on a bicycle I can hang myself out there a little too far, stay geared up a little too high and get myself into a pace I can’t maintain.

We’ve only been going for an hour, but the wind that everyone keeps blabbing about has finally blown in. The headwinds aren’t a hoax after all, a myth of the road planning department in order to keep all the bicyclists on the same side of the road. Our uphills are uphills, but now our straightaways and downhills are uphills too. I feel a strong sense of moral outrage at having to pedal to go downhill. I guess this is what I get for going the wrong way.

At a pullout we stop and drape ourselves over our handlebars, spent. “So this is the headwind everyone kept talking about,” Pacman remarks dryly.
“No kidding,” says J.
“Yeah, this kind of sucks,” I add in. We’ve only done ten miles and we’re exhausted. “Maybe let’s not go all the way to Port Orford today?” I suggest. Everyone else is ok with that.

I’m looking forward to walking again.

The wind gets much worse, but we battle through it for another 16 miles to Gold Beach and a Subway restaurant. We eat our sandwiches and cookies while we try to figure out where to camp. There are day use areas, but no campgrounds nearby, and we don’t have another 10 miles in our aching legs. A chat with a local guy at the Subway diverts us to the south bank of the Rogue River, just north of town, to hopefully find a spot on the river bank to stash our bikes and stealth camp.

About a mile in we find our spot – a little parking area and paths to the river bank. It’s not even creepy. I’m ok with some mild concerns about getting washed away in the high tide or getting attacked by sea lions (why do they sound so close??) and whatever that noise is in the trees in the dark… as long as it’s not people I’m worried about. (So many friends have told me to be sure to be safe on the trail, but as far as I can see, it’s about the safest place around. The fewer people around, the safer you probably are. Just based on personal experience.)

We’re going to try an early start tomorrow to beat the wind, which appears to escalate throughout the afternoon. I hope we have a respite, at least for a little while.

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Watching the sea lions hunting salmon in the Rogue River.

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Day 111: back in the saddle

Day 111
Miles: 28*
From Crescent City, CA to Harris Beach State Park, OR

This morning is miraculously clear – like we carried the sunshine back with us. It’s our first sunny day since we left hwy 36 – a good day to restart the journey. I’m nervous but it’s time to go.

We meet Pacman at the Burger King, his bicycle leaned against a bench out front. There’s another bicycle there as well. It matches all of ours, but it’s a local itinerant, not a bicycle tourer. I can never decide if we have more in common with bicycled homeless or the lycra-clad vacationers with $2000 machines. We’re our own sub-category, I think.

“Damn son, so good to see you guys,” Pacman tells us. “I fell in love with a homeless girl, gonna come back and marry her.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Well, maybe not. You guys ready to ride?”

And we’re off, riding into the sunshine, happy to be together. It’s good to be reunited with Pacman, our last link to the PCT. This journey feels so derailed, directionless. We’ve left our path and our fellow pilgrims for beaches, redwoods, fog. Restaurants and hot showers. Cell phone service all the time. Fresh fruits and vegetables. Part of me doesn’t believe that this will ever loop back around, but the road is there, it goes north, and that is our cardinal direction of choice.

Roadside blackberries, a pleasant day, the Oregon Border. Oregon! Done with California at last! One hundred and eleven days in California. I wish we’d been able to walk the entire way, to be able to say we walked California one end to the other… Well, we’re still self-powered, and we’re here. Oregon!

As soon as we cross the border the highway shoulder gets wider. This is a good sign. (Almost as good as the Welcome to Oregon sign, ha.) We ride the wide shoulder to Brookings, stop in town. I go in a thrift store on the main drag to try and maybe find some bicycle shorts that aren’t size XL mens, but I buy a pair of gleaming white Nike hi-tops instead. Pacman and J go across the street and spot that says: Brewery. The arrows point down a set of stairs to the building’s basement, and they follow like it’s the Pied Piper. We go down a long hallway into a very small tasting room, with a few locals inside, drinking pints. We plant ourselves on the stools and pretty soon the tiny room is packed to the brim with a friendly crowd from town, pans of food and desserts filling the countertops: it’s their Thursday afternoon potluck. (What is this, Cheers?) They fill our plates and make us tell our stories, egging us on (as if I needed encouragement). One couple offers us a place to stay for the night, but I’m still not very good at taking advantage of hospitality and I somehow flub it, and after everything we end up back on our bicycles, looking for a place to stay. I don’t know if being so reflexively self-reliant is always a virtue. Maybe I should learn to accept help.

Luckily there is a state park just down the road, and we ride the two miles just before sunset, pay $5 each for our hiker/biker spots. J and I go down the cliffs to the beach, a wonderland of gleaming sand, cliff faces, water and light. Cormorants skim the waves. A family of sea otters runs down the beach. Sea otters are terrible runners. They look ridiculous.

The state parks here in Oregon come with free hot showers, but it takes me half an hour of wandering through a vast parking area of RVs to find the bathrooms. I see one family sleeping in a tent, and hundreds of RVs. When did “camping” turn into “RVing”? Why does one night at a camping spot cost $35? I though camping was supposed to be the cheap option, the way for families on a budget to get out and see the world, or at least a way to make your kids learn how to entertain themselves for at least one night without electricity. This place is so lit up you can hardly see the stars.

I’m not even grateful for my shower. The coast is fabulous, but this campground depresses me. I miss being able to sleep under a tree for free.

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Goodbye Crescent City

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WE MADE IT! WE MADE IT!

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Hi-tops

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Harris Beach State Park

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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…

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Smartphones are the worst for wildlife photography.

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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.

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Heading into Eureka

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The very scenic “warehouse” stretch.

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

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