Thursday, October 1, 2009

Northern California

Well, it's been much more difficult to find libraries on the California coast then I had envisioned. I've made it to San Fransisco and am having a wonderful time taking a few days off to rest up, explore with Breanna, and just enjoy this crazy city.

Northern California has been as wonderful as the rest of the trip. Of course, I started in Oregon on a cold, foggy morning and as soon as I crossed into CA the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day. The Redwoods were just incredible. On a friends suggestion, I took a small detour to Jedediah Smith State Park (just south of the boarder) and rode Howland Hill Road. It's a small, one-lane dirt road that goes right through a gorgeous section of redwoods for 8 miles. The road was in great shape, traffic was very light and I was able to cruise at 6 mph just in awe of my surroundings. This was definitely the best road I've been on this trip! I stopped to go on a couple of short walks then a longer hike here and camped out in the woods.

One of the giants on Howland Hill Rd.

Once back out on Hwy 101, I met a few new cyclists and stopped with Scott for lunch. I love hearing about other people's trips and the adventures they've been having and though I wouldn't have chosen to eat at a cafe, I couldn't pass up the chance to talk to Scott. He started his journey seven or eight months ago in Florida, rode up to Alaska, is now on his way to the tip of Argentina, then is planning on getting on a plane and biking around other parts of the world. it amazes me what some others have planned and reminds me that my trip (though a perfect choice for me right now) is not that grand or adventurous in comparison, keeps me humble.

Riding through the rest of the redwoods State and National Parks continued to inspire. I camped at Elk Prairie, went for a late afternoon hike trying to get in a seven mile loop before the sun set and enjoyed seeing a few riders that caught back up to me. Though I'd planed on taking a day off in the Redwoods, it just didn't turn out that way for whatever reason. I rode a few shorter days 40-50 miles, and went on hikes instead.

Next I made to to Arcata, a small Hippie town, where I stayed with Nora. I had fun exploring the town which has a great Co-op, lots of little shops, and a center plaza with excellent people watching. It was great to see Nora, shower, go out to eat, and relax to watch movies. Though it was a short visit, it was a good break. Before riding off in the morning, we went to the farmers market and I picked up a bunch of yummy fresh veggies and apples. There was live music, tons of vendors and people and just a great environment.

Arcata Farmer's Market

Nora and me before hitting the road.

Next it was through the Avenue of the Giants, another amazing road with a nice quiet camp in the trees. Then came the day that everyone had been talking about for the past week: the Leggett climb. While guidebook recommended and most other rider were planning on taking two days, I decided to see if I could just get it all over with in one. This section climbs a lot, there are a bunch of big hills the ten or so miles leading up to Leggett, then a long continuous climb up to 2,000 ft before you start winding back down to the coast. This was definitely my hardest day so far but managed to make it all the way back to the ocean.

Back out on the ocean at the best campsite yet, on a bluff just above the ocean. I also had some friendly neighbors camping nearby who brought me a costco bag of dried apricots (I'd better learn to like them!) and a woman who brought fresh grapes in the morning!

Now on Hwy 1. I heard many warnings about this road, how there's lots of traffic, windy roads and no shoulder. While, it was all going fine until the day I rode from Manchester to Bodega Bay. The winds were horrible this day and it was the first time I've been scared biking on this trip. A fifteen mile section before reaching Jenner was particularly bad with high winds, sharp turns, traffic, steep drop-offs, no guard rails in most places, and no shoulder. Luckily it was mainly a tail wind, but with all the turns became a crosswind and headwind at times making me work extremely hard to just stay in my lane. At one point after coming down a steep hill, I turned the corner only to me stopped dead by the wind. I had to get off and walk up the hill a little before I could think about getting back on. The wind was taxing and nerve racking, I ended up stopping a few miles sooner then hoped as I took advantage of camping by the first trees I'd seen in miles.

Along Hwy 1

Next day was the long ride into San Francisco. My legs had been ready to stop riding for a few days now, but I was hoping the excitement of seeing Bre would get me through. The scenery was beautiful as usual, morning didn't have any huge climbs and went well. Around 15 miles north of the Golden Gae Bridge is when the climbing started. One long windy uphill after another continued to present itself as I struggled up. For the fist time on the trip day riders were all over, flying by me and reminding me how slow I'm actually going even though I'd thought I'd been doing pretty well. It was exciting to finally make it to the bridge and see the city, though strange to ride though heavy traffic, lights, and people again.

Golden Gate Bridge

After my highest mileage and longest time day to date (84 miles and 7 hours 45 mins of riding) I found my way through the city to Breanna's. We've been having fun exploring and relaxing and it's a great time to be in San Fran! The weather is perfect, we went to a bar to hear cellists one night, enjoyed Golden Gate Park yesterday and went to "Nightlife" at the Academy of Science last night. Today is catch up and movies, then there's a free three-day bluegrass festival this weekend with tons of great performers! It feels good to take a break from biking, my body was in dire need (18 straight days and 1080 miles is too much I've learned). Hopefully my muscles can mend here and be ready to move again in a few days.

Bre showing off a display in the four-story rainforest exhibit at the Academy of Science.

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