Category Archives: Portland to San Francisco

Day 14 – Gallaway to Doran Regional Park

It was a cold night. I woke up several times because  I was so cold. It wasn’t until I took all the clothes out of my bag and laid them out under me and my sleeping bag before I slept well. It was just that the sand on the beach was so cold, I needed a barrier between me and the sand. After finally getting a few hours of rest I woke up to the sound of waves, and seagulls and something splashing around in the creek outside of my tent. A lot of things went through my head, but I finally thought that it might be a deer or elk. As I gained the courage to look out, I unzipped the tent and startled a man that was throwing a stick for his dog to catch. It was his dog jumping around in the water and he said that my tent blended in so well with the scenery that he didn’t even see me! I guess I picked a good spot.

Somebody had a good breakfast...

Somebody had a good breakfast…

I packed up camp and ate some breakfast on a big piece of driftwood and then walked my bike back up the trail to the road. As soon as I started riding I went past a gutted rockfish. I wasn’t sure if it was a good omen or a bad one, but either way it never surprises me what you’ll see.

I figured I had about 12 miles until the town of Gualala and I would try to get some coffee and warm breakfast there. The morning was foggy and cold, but the ride warmed me up and was quite pleasant. My phone was dead though, so I had to wait until Gualala until I could see what the day had in store for me. I found a nice little market that I remembered from 2 years before and got some yogurt, fruit, pastries and coffee and found a place to plug in my electronic devices. I still didn’t have service and couldn’t get good WiFi so I found a crossword to do while I waited for everything to charge.

While I was stuck trying to figure out a 7 letter word for converse I saw another cyclist park his bike outside. His name was Nate and was working his way down the entire coast, from just over the border in Canada all the way to the border of Mexico. He had actually started the trip back in August, but had to fly home when he got to Portland, and had recently just returned to finish his journey. It was his first bicycle tour and planned to be traveling for the next year. He said he had sold his house and spent the last year in Africa and didn’t know where he would end up after this trip. It always nice meeting likeminded fellow travelers.

As Sarah knows, this is a common scene for me...

As Sarah knows, this is a common scene for me…

It seemed like it took forever to get my computer and phone charged, and I finally got back on the road a little after noon. As soon as I started on my way, I heard some noise from my rear wheel. I couldn’t deal with it any longer, and stopped about 2 miles up the road to fix it. It was a loose spoke in the rear wheel. I think I had this problem before when I was traveling on a newly built wheel. I tightened it up and while I was at it realigned my brakes, cleaned my rear cassette and readjusted my fenders. This should definitely fix any noise (I hate little noises!).

I finally got back on the road around 1:30pm. I wasn’t off to a good start today, but the sun had finally come out and I was enjoying the ride. I saw a bunch of hawks and falcons along the road. Some with black and white striped tails, and some with long red feathered tails. Then maybe about 10 miles down the road I crossed a pack of wild turkeys. Sometimes I wish I was more of birder so I could identify all the cool birds I see.

Stillwater Cove

Stillwater Cove

The coast was beautiful, but the 180 degree turns and ups and downs didn’t stop with yesterday’s ride. I found myself climbing quite a bit, but it was definitely a lot more pleasant with all the weight I left behind. My phone didn’t have service for most of the day and the towns were few and far between. I eventually stopped for lunch at a place called Stillwater Trail around 3:00pm. I had also just crossed over the 700 mile mark for the whole trip, which made it about 33 for the day. I ate some fruit and pistachios and an energy bar and figured I had another 15 miles or so until I could get a good meal in Jenner.

Sonoma county along the coast is absolutely breathtaking. It was such an awesome day today. The 15 miles to Jenner took a little longer than I expected because I had a ton of climbing to do along the way. The climbing though, also added to the scenery and I found myself high above the clouds and the ocean with nothing but sunshine surrounding me. I got so warm in fact that I decided to take my shirt off and work on my tan as I climbed higher and higher.

High up on a mountain

High up on a mountain

In Jenner a lot of the restaurants looked kind of fancy so I found a gas station with a deli. I got a spinach and feta calzone and some iced coffee and took a nice long break to eat.  It was starting to get late and I had about another 11 miles to get to Bodega Bay. I could see the road ahead of me was foggy too, which meant it was going to be a little cooler than the last part of my ride. A few miles up the road the fog got so thick that you could just make out the faint disc of a sun, and if I didn’t know better I would have mistaken it for the moon.

As I past the Bodega Bay Campgrounds, the sign on the outside said it was full. I stopped to check my phone to see if there was anything else available and was greeted by a man named Silas (sp?), who I had been leap frogging with all day long. He was traveling with an RV and some bicycles and a few other people. He was super friendly and had met Eli (who helped me camp the night before) and had heard a little about my travels. He seemed like a super happy guy and had travelled up and down the coast a lot over the years. It sounds like they were from Seattle but head south every fall to get warmer weather. He didn’t know if I’d find anything in Bodega Bay, but encouraged me to go on since I still had some daylight.

Locked 3 times, just in case...

Locked 3 times, just in case…

I couldn’t find a place to stay in Bodega Bay and it was super foggy. I had my two rear lights flashing and my two front headlights on, as well as my reflective vest and yellow jacket in order to be seen. I decided to continue on and wasn’t looking forward to sleeping in the cold again. Just a mile or two up the road I came across the Doran Regional Park. The park was apparently closed, but I needed to get off the road. I found a super sweet spot to camp in the sand next to a picnic bench and could even hear sea lions in the distance. It was quiet and warmer than the previous night. I was happy with the spot, and decided to wake up early just to avoid any confrontation that may occur with workers or security or people. I wasn’t sure why the park was closed, but I wasn’t bothered by anybody and it made for a serene night of sleep.

Total miles for the day: 61 mi

Total elevation: 5161 ft

Tracking our ride from Portland to San Francisco

That’s a link to the map that Dallas has been using to keep track of our ride.  He doesn’t have wifi tonight so cannot post a blog entry, but hopefully this will set your mind at ease in the meantime.  He is almost to San Francisco! If I can figure out how, I will embed the map into this site…

Day 13 – Navarro River Junction to Gallaway

Sarah and family dropped me off at the Navarro River Junction, where highway 1 meets 128. They were all heading inland to drive through wine country and some redwoods, and I was continuing on down the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco by bike on my own. Lucky for me I was able to leave some weight with Sarah which minimized my load to just some essentials on my rear rack. My bike was still not light, but it would definitely make the 180+/- trek to SF a lot easier, especially with all the coastal climbs and descents. So, with that said, what better way to start the ride with an ascent!

My plan was to make it to the Manchester KOA which our fellow cyclist Adam told us about earlier that morning. It should only be about 20 miles up the road, but since it was already 4pm I figured it should be just about the right amount of time. The ride was nice, but it had a bunch of ups and downs. In fact, it started to feel a little like a reoccurring nightmare. The road would veer left, go down hill into a little river gulch, make a 180 degree U-turn to the right and head back up. This happened dozens of times throughout my ride. Down to the left, up and to the right, down, up, down, up…


Some of the 180 degree turns continue going uphill

I tried not to stop too much, and was feeling so free with how light my bike was. I was a little worried about feeling unstable since I had all the weight moved to the back and nothing up front, but I got used to the new balance quickly and was moving pretty fast. I think I was averaging about 15mph instead of the usual 10-12mph. On the steep hills I was used to going about 4mph, but now was easily maintaining about 6-7mph. The big difference was that I was able to keep a higher cadence. With how my bike is geared (not having a lower gear on a third chainring), the hills would quickly kill my cadence which kills momentum and is less efficient overall. With my drop of weigh I was able to keep my cadence closer to what is most efficient. I also noticed that I was building up speed quicker on the flat sections, and able to keep it up near 20mph without the effort I was putting in before. All this made for a very pleasant ride to Manchester, and I passed the KOA a little after 5:30. Having still another hour of daylight I continued on and figured I’d find something in the next town up, Point Arena.

The blue sky to my left taunted me all ride...

The blue sky to my left taunted me all ride…

I arrived in Point Arena around 6:30pm and stopped at the natural foods co-op market. They were closing at 7pm, so I didn’t have much time. My phone was dead and I was hungry so my plan was to just get a snack and some tea and charge my phone so I could hopefully find a place to stay. As I searched google for hotels and campgrounds, I was sad to see that nothing was close. I decided to charge my phone until they closed and then I took my hot tea to go and headed across the street to a restaurant/bar to get a proper meal.

I ate at a place called the Pacific Plate. It was tasty but a little pricey. The black bean soup and salad with homemade pesto ranch hit the spot. It was about 8pm when I hit the road again and it was dark and starting to fog up. I found a place just outside of town on my phone that looked like it would be a good spot. As I turned off onto the dirt road I started having second thoughts, and eventually when I made it 1/2 a mile up the road to a private residence, I knew it was a bad decision. I turned around, made it back on highway 1 and continued south. I eventually crossed a gulch and saw a beach down below. I pulled off the road to take a closer look and was greeted by another cyclist. His name was Eli and he had been camping down on the beach for the past few nights. He assured me it was the best place around and told me how to get down to the beach. I had to backtrack to the other side of the gulch again and headed to find a place to set up.

I dismounted my bike to walk it down the trail to the beach since it was so dark. I’m glad I did too because I saw something moving up ahead. At first I thought it was just the shadows from my light bouncing down the path, but then I saw it…a big bushy tailed skunk heading up the trail right toward me. I stopped in my tracks and made some noise. The last thing I wanted was to be sprayed by a skunk. The little guy looked up at me and then took his time getting off the trail and into the bushes. Skunks always seem to have a swagger to them, and I haven’t ever seen them move too fast. It’s like they know that you’ll wait for them because if you don’t they have not fear in spraying you.


My sweet little campsite

When I got to the beach I found the perfect spot tucked away behind some driftwood. It was cold and misty but I was so happy to find a good spot. I set up camp and put on my long wool clothing to try and stay warm.


Total miles for the day: 64 mi (28 for this section)

Total amount of climbing: 7,067 ft (2542 for this section)

Day 13 – Leggett to Fort Bragg (and Mendecino)


Early morning sun shines through the trees

Dallas and I found that we had made a wise decision to stop where we did the night before.  We packed up and were out of the campground before the sun came up, and started climbing a mountain just as the sun was rising.  This climb was not as treacherous as I had feared – the guy we talked to yesterday said it took an hour and a half to ascend – but it was still grueling.  We rode for maybe 4 miles up a steep, narrow, and winding road before we had any break at all.  There would have been no place to camp again for the next 27 miles, and it would have taken us forever to get there yesterday evening.


We're still climbing

The worst part about climbing is temperature control.  Since the sun hadn’t warmed up the road yet, it started off pretty cold, and I kept having to stop to peel off layers as I worked up a pretty good sweat.  The road had warm and cold patches depending on which side of the mountain we were on, but it really felt cold as we started to coast down.  With no need to pedal and our clothes drenched in sweat, the apparent wind created by our downhill speed chilled us to the bone.  I put my gloves back on midway through the descent, but they were sweaty and useless.  By the time we had to pedal again, my hands and feet were numb.  We had another great climb closer to the coast, about 10 miles before we hit Westport.


Fog on the coast

When we finally reached the coast, it was foggy and much cooler than it had been on the other side of the mountains.  We pulled into the general store in Westport around 11, having gone just under 30 miles – and it was earlier than we can usually wake up for the day!  This is where we met Adam, a bicycle tourist from Nashville who had also started his tour in Portland.  We talked for a few minutes before Adam continued south and we bought coffee and shared some snacks.


I struggle to steer Dallas's bike

I was anxious to get moving and be in Fort Bragg by noon to meet my dad and step-mom, Paulette, who were visiting from Rhode Island.  We still had 16 miles to go, and it was after 11:30 when we left the store, so it wasn’t going to happen.  To slow things down a bit more, Dallas and I switched bikes for a few miles.  This confirmed our suspicions that my bike is much easier to pedal up hills, with its touring chain rings.  I am impressed with Dallas’s strength and ability to grind up hills in ill-suited gears.  We did make it about halfway to Fort Bragg from Westport before we saw my dad and Paulette drive by in their rental car. 


My dad, Paulette, me, and Dallas before Dallas departs on his bicycle

This is where I ended my day of riding to spend the next few days sightseeing San Francisco with them.  Dallas and I loaded our belongings and ourselves into the minivan and enjoyed the ride to Fort Bragg, where we ate lunch.  We stopped in Mendecino for ice-cream and drove a few more miles down the coast before letting Dallas out to ride the rest of the way to San Francisco on his own.  Dallas will hopefully update all of us on his solo journey from here.  I certainly look forward to seeing him when he arrives in the city!

Day 12 – Weott to Leggett, CA


It was too cold to sit and eat breakfast in the forest, so after breaking down our tent, Dallas and I rode about 3.5 miles before we found a space where the sun penetrated through the trees.  We sat in the warm sun and shared an apple, banana, pear, and an energy bar.  We only had to ride another mile before coming to a coffee shop in the town of Myers Flat.  Three shots of espresso and two cookies later, we were back on the road.


This was one of those rare days where I was ahead of Dallas for most of the day.  I was able to keep a fairly good pace once I got going, but would stop and wait for Dallas every few miles.  The stopping and going was draining though, and overall we progressed at a slow pace.  We stopped again outside of Garberville to eat our tuna and crackers with some pistachios, a grapefruit and dark chocolate.  Even though we were on the road before 10am, we had only gone just over 20 miles by 2pm.  As the day went on, the terrain grew hillier, and the second half of our ride involved a LOT of climbing.  Dallas was feeling undernourished and sluggish, and I was feeling frustrated for having to stop and wait.


As we crested a hill just a mile or two before Leggett, I saw signs for food across the street.  I suggested we fuel up over there (The Peg Room) while deciding our next move.  The burgers we ordered there were incredible, and they had outdoor picnic tables where we could sit with our bikes.  It was starting to get dark, and we had completed just under 50 miles since morning.  A couple that showed up while we were eating told us they had biked the coast two years ago and that there is a pretty tough hill coming up to Leggett.  It didn’t look like there were any other campground options for another 27 miles, so we ultimately ended up camping across the street from the Peg Room.  Maybe we can get breakfast there too!

Day 11 – Eureka to Weott, CA


Just off the 101, tons and tons of lumber stretch for a while to the right and tons of logs to the left

Getting started this morning was a struggle.  Dallas and I didn’t roll out until almost 11am, then stopped less than a mile down the road at the grocery store for another 20-30 minutes before we really hit the road.  I think the long days and miles without much rest in between has been wearing on us, and it has been tough to motivate ourselves out and onto our bikes for another long ride.  Personally, I have been dealing with some knee pain and saddle sores, while Dallas has struggled with an ingrown toenail and mental challenges.  Miles have been going by painstakingly slowly lately.


This place is wonderful

Fortunately, it was another beautiful day, and it’s hard not to be happy out in the sunshine.  The traffic and hills were not too bad today, and after lunch we got to experience riding down the Avenue of Giants, through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  We stopped about halfway through our ride in the quaint town of Rio Dell, where we had amazing Mexican food at Tonetta’s.  The Avenue of the Giants took us off the highway and into the forest, where it grew darker and cooler under the super tall redwood trees. 


Riding down the Avenue of the Giants

The Avenue also took us through a small town called Redcrest, where we made one last stop for hydration and a bathroom break.  The lady working at the shop where I bought some lemonade asked in a hoarse voice if I thought it would be a good idea for people who use bicycles for transportation to be required to have registration and insurance.  I’m curious to know what other people think of this, but I like that bicycling is accessible to people of all ages and income levels, and I’m afraid requiring registration and insurance would only be an obstacle to discourage cycling.  I do think that it’s a good idea to teach cycling to kids in schools like they do in other countries, such as the Netherlands and Denmark.  Maybe having them pass a course in school so they can earn a license to ride will make cycling more popular as a transportation method.  As for insurance, I all insurance is generally a rip-off.


In the forest it's dark in the daytime

We continued through the forest until Burlington Campground, after having gone just about 50 miles.  Dallas and I had just enough time to pitch our tent before needing our headlamps to see.  Now, under these giant trees, it is really quite dark.  Our campsite is pretty close to the road, but hopefully traffic will be light enough for us to get a good sleep.  I think we’re both so tired that it probably wouldn’t matter anyway.

Day 10 – Rest in Arcata, Ride to Eureka


Dallas, Felix and Mike in Arcata

After such a long day of riding, Dallas and I slept in at his cousin’s house and enjoyed a relaxing home-cooked breakfast while playing with Mike and Toni’s son, Felix.  Mike brought us on a walk through the Redwood Park and Arcata Community Forest, and then we went out for lunch and ice-cream in town.  It was a much needed day of rest, since our limbs were still aching when we finally did hop onto our bikes again.  It was after 5pm when we left Arcata, so we didn’t make it too far today.  We’re spending the night in Eureka and hoping to cover more distance tomorrow.

Day 9 – Crescent City to Arcata, CA


Dallas and I started our morning off by breaking our bags before even getting onto the road.  Dallas broke the zipper on one of his panniers, and I forgot to tie down the straps for my Seal Line backpack, so one strap got caught in my rear wheel and wrapped around the hub several times before being wrenched off of the bag with a loud snap.  This was going to be a very long day.


Snack time at the bottom of our first huge hill

We were planning to get to Arcata to stay with Dallas’s cousin, Mike, and his family.  Arcata is 80 miles from Crescent City, and the bike directions provided by google maps showed that we would encounter three major hills along the way.  The first hill began not even 2 miles after our departure, and rose to 1200 feet over the next 3 miles.  As we approached what looked like the top of the hill, we saw another cyclist mounting her bike and getting ready to descend.  We eventually caught up, and it was then that we learned there were three summits to this hill.  A bit past the bottom of the hill, after stopping for a snack, we caught up with two other cyclists from Amsterdam.  The woman we had passed on the hill was riding with another man to raise money for cancer research, and all three pairs of us ended up coming together on the same road at one point.


Other bike tourists!

After talking with them for a bit, we took off first since we were trying to make it another 65 miles.  The next major hill came after a town called Klamath and only climbed to about 800 feet.  The descent on this hill was my favorite part of the ride, since we were riding down a winding road amongst enormous redwoods.  We stopped several times just to appreciate these trees and read some of the information signs at various trailheads. 


We could live inside a redwood tree...with our bikes

By the time we had reached the next town (Orick) it was already 2pm, and we were still less than halfway to Arcata.  We ate burgers and milkshakes at the Palm Cafe and inspected the map on our phones.  We decided to stay on highway 101 a bit longer and take a more coastal road instead of take a detour to the east suggested by google bike directions.  This meant we would be on a higher speed road for a few extra miles, but we ended up avoiding the last monster hill we had seen on the elevation chart.  It still wasn’t an easy ride.


Riding down Scenic Drive along the coast by Trinidad

In between all of the giant hills were more hills, too small to register as anything on the elevation chart, but definitely registered as tough hills in my legs.  The coastal roads we took were scenic, with beautiful views (we got to see elk by a lagoon and seals by the ocean), but they were narrow, winding, and not flat.  My legs would have been happy to quit riding after lunch.  We made one last snack stop in Trinidad before tackling the last 20 miles to Arcata.  Dallas is a wonderful cycling partner, and has been very encouraging and supportive for all the times I have doubted my ability to carry on.  I’m very lucky to have him here with me. 


Last glimpse of the sun for the day and still about 10 miles to go

We watched the sun dip into the Pacific Ocean before cycling away from the coast on a bike path that grew darker by the minute.  When we finally reached Arcata, I felt energized knowing that we were almost to our destination.  The last few miles uphill to Mike and Toni’s house in the dark were no longer painful.  Mike greeted us and helped us unload our bikes.  He had dinner ready, which was salmon caught from the Klamath River, chantrelle mushrooms he harvested locally, and baked winter squash.  Not only is Dallas an excellent partner, but he has amazing and supportive family!  It has been wonderful getting to meet some of them.

Day 8 – Gold Beach, OR to Crescent City, CA


This was such a beautiful day.  Dallas and I enjoyed sunshine and comfortable temperatures all day, with gorgeous views of Oregon’s coastline along much of the ride.  The first half, from Gold Beach to Brookings, was awfully hilly and included some of the longest climbs of our tour so far.  The descents were rewarding but were over too quickly.  I felt like much of the first 30 miles was spent climbing hills at a pace of around 5 miles per hour.


Arch Rock

Brookings is the southernmost town in Oregon, and Dallas and I spent a little too much time there.  Since all the hills slowed us down, we got there a bit later than anticipated and didn’t actually get our daily dose of espresso until after 2pm.  This coffee shop we found was nestled by a harbour, with several docks and a cluster of little food places right off the road.  In between coffee and pizza, we spoke with Jeremy, who was staying with his girlfriend on their sailboat.  Like us, he had quit his job for a more adventurous and fulfilling life of seasonal jobs with plenty of vacationing in between seasons.  Hopefully we will run into him and his girlfriend again down the road.


We ordered a pizza with salad on it from the nearby pizza place, and then moved on to the place next door for ice-cream cones before hitting the road again.  It was after 4pm when we finally left Brookings, and it was another 30 miles to Crescent City.  We finally made it to California!  So far, I think Oregon is more beautiful, but our route took us inland a bit once we crossed the state border.  More coastline and redwood forests await us tomorrow, so I’m sure California will redeem itself.


Finally in California!

Dallas and I had hoped to make it a few miles past Crescent City and into Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park to set up camp, but the sun was setting as we stopped at the grocery store, and Dallas had remembered climbing a steep hill with no shoulder to get out of Crescent City.  We didn’t want to deal with that in the dark, so we’re staying in town tonight and will try to get an early start in the morning to make up for it.

Day 7 – Langlois to Gold Beach, OR


Dallas, listening to Mike at the campground, just as it starts to rain

Today marks the end of a week since when we left, and in total, we’ve gone 350 miles.  Both of us woke up bright and early, with high expectations for the day, which we failed to meet.  Dallas started tuning his bike derailleurs and tightening spokes, and a man in the campground named Mike struck up conversation with us, delaying our packing.  This guy had ridden up and down the coast 13 times before, and also around Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii.  He stuck around for a while, and went on about bicycles, his dogs (at one point he had 12 of them living in his RV with him), and the felony he got after 13 years of selling marijuana in Michigan.  We were hoping to get to Port Orford and into a cafe before the predicted rain began, but it started misting just before we were ready to leave.  When we did venture out from the safety of the tree cover, it started to rain steadily.


The first 14 miles to Port Orford were pretty miserable, but it actually stopped raining just before we got there.  Paradise Cafe is a small diner on Route 101 that boasts free WiFi.  We sat down in a booth next to a couple, and the man immediately started talking to us.  He told us that they were also camping around there, and they were impressed with our riding.  He also told us about their pug (named Pugsly) that only has three teeth and needs to eat special food.  Then he must have thought we were bowing our heads in prayer when we were actually trying to steal glances at our menus, because he told us how nice it is to see young people pray before a meal.  We politely engaged the couple in conversation, but then moved to a different table after ordering so we could sit by the one outlet we could find and charge our phones.  Before leaving, the woman gave us $20 for our breakfast!  We are always so blown away by the generosity and kindness of strangers, and this was no exception.  It definitely pays to be nice to strangers.


Bridge to Gold Beach

We had perfect weather for the rest of the day, but we were way behind our hopeful schedule, and our legs were just too tired to maintain a fast enough pace.  Much of the ride after Port Orford was within view of the ocean, and it really was beautiful riding.  We were still 28 miles away from Brookings (our goal) when we stopped in Gold Beach.  We found a really cheap motel, although we ended up spending more on dinner at the Port Hole Cafe (we were really hungry!).