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Bike Tour Part 5

December 7, 2010

Days six, and seven felt like a montage of fatigue and delirium, so that’s how I’ll attempt to write them.  I’d figured out by Harris Beach that I was not going fast enough to make it to Samuel P. Taylor State Park on Friday night to meet Brandon.  And days six, seven, and eight were the days I intended to take up the slack.  They were the longest three days of the trip, all in a row at the end.  Crunch-time, suckers!

Day 6: Patrick’s Point-Richardson’s Grove, 108 mi

Man, I could feel those last few days in my legs on day six.  I’d forgotten to buy oatmeal, so I decided to not make coffee or anything and just start riding to Arcata, where breakfast hopefully awaited.

Toby had somehow already woken up and left before I got up, so I rode out with Yeonjoo. Riding with Yeonjoo was great because even though I felt worked-over, I was still a little bit faster than him.  It’s hard to complain too much about your legs when you’re distancing the dude behind you, so I rode strong, occasionally slowing enough to wave encouragement to Yeonjoo who maintained visual contact for a long time.

The 101 becomes a freeway at Trinidad, so I rode on the freeway all morning.  There’s always a good shoulder, and it’s legal to ride a bike, but it’s not exactly the kind of road anyone would choose first for their road ride.  It was windy as hell, too, directly from the ocean.  Sometimes it was a bitchin’ cross-tail wind, sometimes an enraging cross-head.

It took me an hour or two, but I finally made it to Arcata, home of Humboldt State University, a bunch of white dudes with dreadlocks, and – importantly – the type of white liberal culture that produces excellent breakfast eateries!

I found just such a restaurant on the Arcata Plaza: Big Blue Cafe!

SO good!

Eating a gigantic breakfast at a restaurant was definitely a good idea.  Most days I was eating candy and trail mix by 10:30am, but after going to Big Blue, I didn’t have to crack open the Starburst until noon!

It was sort of blustery getting into Eureka, but afterward I turned South and got a great tail-wind.  Things were looking up.   Shortly afterward, the temperature was going up too, as was the elevation.  By early afternoon, I was being blown up the Eel River valley by a hot, direct blow dryer tailwind.  The temperature rose to over 100 degrees by the time I reached the Avenue of the Giants and its giganatic tree-shaded respite.

Here’s a sideways video to illustrate my experience:

The heat had me at a near-delusional state, as confirmed by my poor attempt at a “your dad joke.”

I stopped in Myers Flat – a town that surpasses even Crescent City in shit-hole-itude.

I got ice cream , Gatorade, water, Coke, and beef jerkey.  I talked to some bikers about my tour.  Then left I got the fuck outta there.

I found out about seven miles later that I wasn’t wearing my Camelback.

Shit!

Avenue of the Giants is a tourist road, so I figured that rather than riding fourteen miles out of my way, I’d just flag down a tourist to give me a ride.  It took me awhile, but I found a very clean-cut family from Seattle and propositioned them.  They accepted, reluctantly.

“Did you guys see Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox today?” I asked the children.

“Oh, they don’t get to hear about those kind of stories,” Grandma told me.  “Those are make-believe stories,” Grams said to the kiddies in the back seat.  “They’re not true.”

Ok, time to change the subject.

I was getting pretty uncomfortable sweating all over these Christians’ Camry, but whatever, I needed my Camelback.

We got the water bag, drove back, and I was once again underway.

After the Avenue of the Giants, the highway climbs some big-ass hills rather than just follow the river.  I’d already been riding for like ten hours by the time I got to Garberville.  The clerk told me I should have just followed the old highway and stayed on the river.  Oh well, next time…

Just ten more miles uphill to Richardson’s Grove, and I was finally done.

I rode 108 miles in almost twelve hours (including probably two hours of breaks throughout the day).  Also, I was now almost 1,000 feet above sea level, after starting on the coast.  Damn, that’s a long day.

I barely got the tent set up before dark.  For the first time of the tour I was the lone cyclist at the hiker/biker site.  In fact, I was one of the only people there.  California’s budget crisis has cut funding for many of the state parks, so Richardson’s Grive had no staff either.

Oh well.  I ate a box of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies, Idahoan mashed potatoes with green beans, a bag of chips, a “kippered beef steak,” and even a cup of coffee before I hit the showers.

It was incredibly dark that night, and I felt awful lonesome out there now that Toby and Yeonjoo were gone.  Oh well, I had another huge-ass day tomorrow, so I went to bed.

Day 7: Richardson’s Grove-Manchester Beach, 99 mi

I forgot oatmeal again, so I ate some berries and the remaining Milano cookies and packed up.

I was trying to get info about Manchester Beach State Park, but there was no one at the ranger’s station, except another camper.  Richardson’s Grove couldn’t afford staff, but apparently could affort wi-fi, so the dude got out his laptop and found me a phone number to call.

I hit the road, crested the first hill, and saw a familiar biker up ahead.

“Yeanjoo!”

He’d stayed at Benbow Lake, maybe six miles back.  He hadn’t seen Toby.  But he told me he thought he could make it to Manchester Beach tonight too.  I needed breakfast, so I went ahead to get to the store at Standish-Hickey, fifteen miles up the valley.

All of the psychic energy that morning was focused on one thing: Highway One.

“It’s just a mile further,” I told Yeonjoo at the Standish-Hickey store.  “Highway One.  Finally!

After a day of riding on a freeway, Highway One sounded like Shangri-La, even if it the first thing it did was climb to 2,000 feet above sea level, to get back to the Pacific. Strangely, I felt like a million bucks as soon as we hit the climb, quickly dropping Yeonjoo, and raging it standing up like some kinda Pantani With Paniers.  I started theorizing that there must be a point at which a human body gets used to riding all day, every day, and that I must have reached that point.  I’d been totally wiped out the day before, but I was totally fresh again that morning.

You could see from the pass that the Pacific was covered in fog.  When I rode down into it, the temperature dropped 20 degrees.  Eighteen hours before, it was 105 degrees.  When I hit the ocean, it was 55.  All you have to do in Northern California is go over the first range of hills from the ocean and it’s summer.  Come back to the ocean, and it’s apparently 60 degree year-round.

I passed some hot Canadian girls on a little hump before the final descent.  One was singing something that I can’t remember anymore, but I definitely recognized (I want to say it was the Arcade Fire, but maybe I’m just thinking that because they’re Canadian).

“I heard you,” I said as I passed.

“Hey!” she yelled from behind me.  “I’m not embarrassed!”

I got a flat shortly afterward (Karma?) on my very worn Panaracer skidding tire from my Purple Bike.

The Canadians passed me as I was changing my tire and tube, and I got to talk to my songstress briefly.  Yeonjoo caught me just as I was finishing, and we rode in to the next town together.  Now that we were on Highway 1, all the stores had good food, and I got an excellent sandwich.  Yeonjoo ate pizza and a can of cold chili.  The Canadians got the same thing as me, and we hung out for awhile.  Oh man, talking to people from a culture vaguely similar to your own in the middle of nowhere is really refreshing.  I sure wish I could have shared a campsite with them!  Oh well, Yeonjoo and I had like 60 more miles to ride that day or some shit and these girls were riding 45 total.

We learned immediately after lunch that Highway One is hard.  All of that freeway bullshit on the 101 was aesthetically displeasing, sure.  But at least it was relatively flat.

Highway One is never flat.  It’s a never-ending series of hundred-foot climbs and descents.  And the climbs are way steeper than on the 101.  Without a front derailleur, I tried to fight the hills in the big ring, but I capitulated after a time and rode the next two days in the little ring.  Also, there’s no shoulder.

Oh well, at least it was beautiful.

Yeonjoo and I were both getting pretty worn out by Fort Bragg, where he caught up to me when I bought a tube.  And we still had a hell of a long way to go.

The stretch before and after Mendocino was getting pretty psychologically brutal.  Highway One has mileage markers that provide remarkable detail.

151.435

OK, just 32.565 miles to go

151.567

32.433 to go.

151.747

32.253

I wondered what Yeonjoo was thinking, back behind me, riding through this foreign land.  Was he pride-hurt that he was slower than me, as I would be if I were in his shoes?  Was he fascinated by every strange sight he saw, as I would be in his country?  He always managed to stay within sight for a really long time – barely moving back.  Then he’d finally disappear.  Maybe I’d see him again in the next town.  Maybe never.  The riding relationship between bike tourists is like that.  Toby and Yeonjoo had ridden together this way for a week or two.  Then one day they just lost each other.  I wondered if the same would happen with Yeonjoo and I.

By the time I got past Mendocino, it was 5pm.  I had been averaging 10 mph on Highway One, and I still had 30 more miles to go.  It was disheartening to think about these statistics.  The road was truly a force to be reckoned with that day.  I’d never “conquer” Highway One, but if I just kept accepting its great reality – that I must still pedal – it would allow me out alive.

I eventually made it to Elk, the last town before Manchester Beach.  It was yet another snooty, adorable Northern California hamlet where the only grocer was all-organic, and every business had already closed at 5pm.

“Fucking bastards!’

I hoped they heard me.

It’s hard to die of starvation in America, I figured.  Especially if you have money.

This meant I’d have to ride past my campground into the town of Manchester to get dinner.  Twelve more miles…

The final miles into Manchester were more of the same – a greuling series of hills and turns with no shoulder.  You’d think that its beauty would push any hunger or pain out of my mind, but it wasn’t so.  After riding for eleven hours, there was only one voice in my head: “let it stop!”

The sun set as I coasted down the final long hill before the campground.  I saw a down-on-his-luck guy trying to hitch a ride.  He smiled and sort of thumbs-upped his already-up thumb a little higher to tell me “right on, man.”

Shit, man, I though, this isn’t so bad.  I’m still having fun, man.  Shit.

Having no food, I was forced to ride a mile or so past the camp ground to the town of Manchestert.  When I saw the grocery store, I pretty much already knew it was closed before I got there, but I rode up to confirm:

“CLOSED”

“Great, I’m gonna fucking DIE!  Fucking assholes!”

I got a coke from the Coke machine and sat there for a minute, hoping for someone to show up so I could complain about my situation.  But no one came.

I was really worried about Yeonjoo.  If he made it to Manchester Beach, he’d get there well after dark, and he’d be about as likely to have food as me.

I rode to the campground, holding out hope for my last option: the KOA campground next-door to the state park.

And like a beautiful vision of low-brow perfection, there it was!  And it was jam-packed with people and amenities!

I felt like I had escaped from a sinking ship.  I had swam ashore, landed in some suburb where no one had heard about me, and then just sort of kept it all to myself.

I bought hot dogs!  Hot Tamales!  Doritos!  Bananas!  Gatorade!  Spicy snack mix!  Beef jerkey!  Peanut butter M&Ms!  Oatmeal!

“So, I’m staying at Manchester Beach State Park, down the road.  I heard that perhaps it might be possible to take a shower here?  For some sort of fee, maybe?”

“No.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard of us doing that.  Sorry.”

fuckers…

“Well.  I guess I’ll just take this food then.”

By the time I got to Manchester Beach, it was dark and cold.  And wet.  Miserable, frankly.  It was enough to make me consider going back to KOA and paying 50 bucks or whatever for a cabin.  If I remember correctly, they were full anyway.

Manchester Beach, half a mile down the road, was practically deserted.

It was by far the worst campground of the trip.  There was no electricity.  No showers. Cold.  Windy.  And no other bikers.

I went to the campground host to buy some firewood, but they weren’t there.

When I got back to the campground, I saw one of the most beautiful sights of the day: a biker’s light pulling in to the hiker/biker area.

Yeonjoo!

I’d rather avoid another seemingly racist depiction of Yeonjoo’s speech, so suffice it to say Yeonjoo was also bummed about the campground being so miserable. Both our tents were soaking wet from dew immediately after we set them up.

When we finally got fire wood, it was wet and impossible to burn.  We chopped up the wood to kindling with the axe the campground host lent us.  We burned trash underneath different kindling structures with no luck.  We dug out damp newspaper, dried it with our lighters, and burned it underneath logs that would start to catch, then go out with the newspaper.  Yeonjoo raided the camp entrance for every pamphlet and map they had.  We constructed a teepee that spared no amount of effort.  We packed it full of the toxic leaflets and set the whole tower ablaze.

“Prease!  Prease!  Preeeaase!”  Yeanjoo pleaded to the Bike Gods.

It lasted for minutes, looking like it would work.  But it burned out just the same.

We’d given up.  But just for the hell of it, I tried stacking up the kindling one more time into a classic Boy Scout teepee with some of the half-burned grass underneath it for kindling.  I lit it one time with a lighter and the whole fire started up perfectly, just like it does back in my semi-arid home!

We got all the logs burning!  Everything!  We were so mad at the campground that we halfway hoped we could burn the place down.  But of course there was no chance of such an occurance.

Yeonjoo and I ate four hot dogs each, all of his noodles, and practically everything else I’d bought at the KOA.

Finally, at 11pm, after eating ourselves from starving to full, and after warming ourselves from freezing to hot, we were content to end our day.

Riding with Yeonjoo, even if I barely saw him on the road, was one of my favorite experiences on this tour.  We’d be parting ways tomorrow.

108 more miles.  Then, at last, Brandon!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Sloan in Denver permalink
    December 7, 2010 7:36 pm

    I’m glad to see a new post. I’ve been following your posts of the ride and have really enjoyed reading. Sounds like a great experience!

  2. Tom R. permalink
    December 8, 2010 7:13 am

    Wow, awesome. Good for you man. I was hoping to take a trip like this this year but I broke some vertebrae while mountain biking(yikes) and spent most of this year just getting back into shape again. I’ve been enjoying reading each of these installments, especially when they remind me to plan my rides to pass through centers of “white liberal culture that produces excellent breakfast eateries!”

  3. December 10, 2010 8:00 am

    Nice post, what a great ride. I’ve been a flat lander for the past 14 years I think just one of those hills would end my ride.
    Great photos. I can never be bothered stopping to take them.
    Man I wish there was food like that breakfast where I live!

  4. Kansas Sam permalink
    December 12, 2010 1:44 pm

    I love coming back every hour of every day hoping and praying for a new installment in your harrowing journey on the left coast. Will the Bike Fag remain ironic when faced with the daily perils of a cyclotourist?

    • bikefag permalink*
      December 15, 2010 12:32 am

      Did you put my website as your address on the Kansas Sandbagger site?! Sunuvabitch!

      • bikefag permalink*
        December 15, 2010 12:33 am

        Oh man, that website is AWESOME, btw!

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