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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
This morning I woke up before Dallas’s alarm sounded. I had actually fallen asleep and slept fairly well all night! So I guess its not impossible to get a decent sleep in the tent, but I definitely appreciate a good bed. Both of us were in high spirits this morning after having had some good rest, and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of apple, cheese, and turkey jerky before packing up the tent and getting on the road.
This is when I discovered that the lighthouse, which we had climbed so steeply to reach the previous night, was not even halfway up the hill. We started our morning off by finishing the ascent before rejoining with highway 101. From there, it was about twenty miles to the next town of North Bend, and another 3 miles to get to Kaffe 101 in Coos Bay, where we remained for a good hour or two. This place was adjoined to a Christian bookstore, and was much larger inside than it appeared from the street. We snagged the table just on the other side of the window where our bikes awaited us and then ordered two cups of soup, a panini, a carrot cake muffin, marionberry scone, chocolate peanut butter cupcake, chocolate covered espresso beans, and two triple-shot lattes. AND we took advantage of their WiFi. So yeah, we were probably there for two hours.
Our goal for the night was a campground by Lake Floras, about 46 miles away. The Pacific Coast Highway is much different from the country roads and forest roads we were on before. This road sees a LOT of traffic – large, heavy, loud, fast-moving traffic. For the most part there is a shoulder or a bike lane to ride on, but the traffic was still far too close for comfort in many spots. In spite of this traffic (or maybe motivated by it) Dallas and I made great time after leaving the cafe…until we reached East Beaver Hill Road. I despise any road with the word “hill” in its name. This was the steepest climb we’ve encountered by far, and it continued for far too long (over a mile…maybe two miles). It was so steep that I tried to stop and walk, but had more trouble pushing my bike up the hill than riding up it.
We stopped again for groceries in a town called Bandon. It was my turn to go in and buy food, and I came out with half of a roasted chicken. I normally don’t like chicken, but it was strangely appealing to me in the market. We sat on the ground just outside the entrance and ate the warm, delicious chicken before hopping back on our bikes for the last 17 miles or so of rolling hills.
Aside from Beaver Hill, our ride went pretty smoothly and quickly. We had a tail wind and managed to cover 66.66 miles of rolling hills for the day. It was, however, dark when we arrived at the campground, and once again we had to set up the tent in the dark. Hopefully we chose a decent spot!