Monday, September 30, 2013

A Gentleman's 400K

Did I ever tell you about the first brevet that I ever rode?

It was 2005. We had just moved up to Nashville, and I had ridden a whole bunch during that summer. There was an email or something that mentioned this thing called "Ride the RAT," where the cyclists would cross the state. I thought it was some kind of big club ride with a t-shirt and rest stops, and it sounded like fun.

After making some calls, I was told to be at the home of Bill and Sametta Glass about 5 am so I could get a ride to the start. Two vehicles went up from there, and I squeezed into a truck with Barb Joffe and her boyfriend to get up to Clarksville. We parked at a convenience store and unloaded our bikes while I looked around for other riders or a table with folks signing people up and handing out t-shirts, and the next thing I know there's just the six of us rolling across the Kentucky state line in front of Fort Campbell, heading south.

The wind was out of the north that day ... not strongly, but hard enough to give us a little push. Someone said that we usually choose which way to run the route -- north or south -- based on the wind forecast. The temperature was pretty good for mid-September in Tennessee, and we moved along briskly on mostly quiet roads for the remainder of the day. I was tired when we got to the Alabama state line just before dark, but had enough fun that I wanted to do more rides like this.

Of course, it took eight years for me to do that ride again. And we did it very differently this time.

Since both RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter were out of town for the weekend, I had two days to do whatever kind of ride that I wanted. Unfortunately, with them out of town there was nobody to drive me to Clarksville to start the ride, nor anybody that could drive down to where the Natchez Trace crosses into Alabama to pick me up.

Barry Meade came up with the solution. He lives near Clarksville, and suggested renting a room in Collinwood, about 15 miles north of the state line end. All we needed to do, then, was get up to the start in Clarksville, do the 250K brevet, then backtrack to Collinwood to sleep. We would then get up Sunday and ride the 80 miles back up to my house, from which Jeff Bauer would drive Barry back home.

It was just under 260 miles of cycling ... or what Jeff called "a gentleman's 400K."

Dave Harris very kindly offered to drive Jeff and I to the start. We found Barry there, and soon the three of us were on our way down US 41 -- fighting a headwind.

Now, this wasn't a strong headwind. It was probably about 10 mph, more or less. But a 10 mph headwind for 150 miles, when you're used to a tailwind and trying to finish a ride in daylight, is a nasty thing.

Fortunately, it's not a hilly route, and the roads are pretty good. Jeff and Barry are strong riders, and they slowed down enough to keep me close. We had a couple of issues with a nagging back wheel on Jeff's bike, which wanted to go flat for no apparent reason, but between the three of us had enough tubes to fix things.

We were tired and ready to eat when we finally got to Hohenwald, 106 miles in. We all had foot-long Subways, chips, and cookies, before we headed out to the Trace.

The wind was starting to ease up when we got to Collinwood. We quickly refueled, and then headed down to the state line. It was dark when we got there, finally finishing the official 250K portion of our day, and we were a little slower going back up the 15-mile gentle climb to town. There, we got to our room (the "hotel" only has two rooms, but each has three beds, a full-size refrigerator, microwave, sofa, and dining table), changed, and went to the restaurant next door. Although they were about to close, they opened back up for us and cooked us hot food.

We were three happy but sore cyclists when we got into our respective beds about 10 pm. I slept fitfully due to some aching legs, but felt better when we got up about 5 am. We went down the street for breakfast, then got dressed and packed and hit the road by 7 am.

The wind was still out of the south, thank goodness, but clouds had rolled in. We made good time throughout the morning, leaving the Trace for a brief break at the store in Fly, TN. There, we ran into Vida and Lynn Greer, who were out marking the route for the Gran Fondo. After a quick snack, we took Leiper's Creek Road up to my house.

I would have thought that my tour would make me ready to easily do a ride like this, but I guess that the slower pace and shorter days were not enough. Nonetheless, it was fun to ride with Jeff and Barry, and good to see that I've got the legs for a 250-mile trip this late in the season.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Finishing at the Fred-Fest

Pictures from today are here.

So let's cut to the chase: I made it. 1,118 miles. 90:45 saddle time. 55,800 feet of climbing.

Memories, impressions, experiences, friendships ... priceless.

The campground last night was full of cyclists, which made it kind of fun. It was also really sandy, and drizzled most of the night, which made things messy this morning when I had to break everything down and pack it all up. Somehow, I still managed to warm up a couple of muffins, fix some coffee, stay half-way clean, and get out of there by 9 am.

I had carefully packed things so that I could just zip into Bodega Bay and drop the rear panniers and my tent at the shipping store. It was 33 pounds of stuff that I had sent back home, since I wouldn't need it again. It was also 33 pounds and a little less windage for me to bother with today.


You wouldn't think that it would make that much difference, but it did. All day, the bike climbed just a little better. Plus, I was able to ride hands-free whenever I wanted for as long as I wanted, unlike the "just take hands off the bars for a second and then -- uh-oh, grab 'em quick" stuff I had to do for the last three weeks.

As I was heading down California 1 I saw a yellow arrow suggesting that I turn left and go to Bodega. So I did. It was less than a mile, and it's where the church that they used in the Alfred Hitchcock classic, "The Birds" is. There's also a store there with a bunch of memorabilia from the movie. They make a good cinnamon roll, too.

I then had a long climb up towards Valley Ford, where I intercepted Val and Jude. They were the only riders who had left the campground before me, and had stopped in that town for a big breakfast. Weighted down by all of the food, I was able to attack and drop them on the hills past town ... bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

I quickly cruised through Tomales down to the bay, on through Marshall and Point Reyes Station before stopping on Point Reyes Petaluma Road to eat a candy bar, put on some sunscreen, and get the last of the sand from the campground out of my socks and sandals. The route then turned on to a multi-use trail that went along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard before getting on that road to pass through Lagunitas, Forest Knolls, and Woodacre.

There was one last long climb, and then a sweet descent into Fairfax. It was 2 pm, so when I saw a burger joint in that town I turned and had a big lunch. Back on the route, I took a series of quieter roads and multi-use trails through the suburbs north of Sauslito before finally getting on the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was kind of cool riding over this bridge into the city, except for the mixture of speedy commuters trying to get in their training rides and/or take the Strava segment, and a bunch of folks riding rented "Blazing Saddles" hybrids who didn't look like they'd been on anything with two wheels since fourth grade. I just tried to stay out of everybody's way and get it done.

The route had been good in the GPS until this point, and then it flaked out. I knew which way that I needed to go, however, and was able to get far enough that way until the GPS chirped "Course Found" and directed me the rest of the way to Big Swingin' Cycles near the Pacific Heights neighborhood.

The shop knew I was coming, and soon had everything sorted out with Sparkletini. The shop owner even called a small locally-owned hotel a few blocks away and got me the "friend rate" for tonight and tomorrow.

It was a great trip, and everything really went surprisingly well. There were a few things that I might have done differently, and I sure wish that the wind that supposedly normally blows out of the north had been blowing out of the north for the past three weeks, but all in all it was a blast.

But I can't wait to get home to RandoGirl, the RandoDaughter, all of my friends, and the same old roads that I've ridden dozens of times. I've had enough novel experiences for a while.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Pictures from today are here.

I spent a lot of time today thinking about trees.

They're interesting on this coast. I mean, they're interesting anywhere if you're into trees, but as someone who has spent a lot of time with trees in the southeastern United States I can definitely say that these trees are far more interesting than the ones that I so frequently cut down in my youth.

For one thing, they smell different. There are bunches of eucalyptus, and they smell like some kind of salve ... maybe the kind that you would need if your flesh had been flayed the way that the eucalyptus trees here seem to have been. This smell mixes with the sage that grows wild here to assault the olfactory almost as badly as pear trees back home when they bloom in the spring. It is a vibrant and promising kind of stink -- a promise of good times just around the corner.

The trees here have also been twisted with torture. They want to grow towards the light that is so often abundant above the ocean, but the wind rebuffs them, turning them back, bowing them in obeisance towards the mountains to the east, and eventually knocking them over when it tires of their stunted grotesque growth.

And, by the time I came to this thought, I was feeling kind of pushed around by that bitch wind myself.

I was up early this morning, and had eaten a little breakfast and broken down my tent by just after 8 am. Soon, I was back on California 1 heading towards Sea Ranch.

This part of the coast is a little more desolate, so I didn't stop for "second breakfast" until I hit the little store at Stewart's Point. By then, I had figured out that the statistical improbability was against me again, and that the wind was blowing strong once more out of the south.

The terrain did not help, with steep little descents and climbs for every cove along the way.  I passed through Fort Ross, then trudged up the long climb towards Myers's Grade on the way in to Jenner. I considered stopping for lunch there near the Russian River, but decided to push on to my overnight stop at Bodega Bay.

The fog came and went, but mostly just came It would sometimes turning into a light drizzle that would mostly just moisten me and my sunglasses. I kept turning my lights on and off, although at least cars did the right thing today and usually passed with appropriate aplomb. Me? I stpent most of the day keeping my head down and trying to stay under the wind ... or at least trying to keep it from knocking me over.

I finally got to Bodega Bay a little after 2 pm, stopping at a little restaurant on the edge of town. There, I found Jude and Val again. We caught up, and they told me that they were camping where I had planned to camp that night, at Bodega Dune State Beach. After they left, I ate a hot cheeseburger with fries, poked around town a bit to find a place from which I could ship some things home tomorrow, published my previous blog post and pictures, and did some grocery shopping before backtracking to the campground.

There, I also discovered Chris. He was looking for Will and Joel to show up soon. There was also a nice British cyclist named Matt, a fellow named Rob, and two young tourists named Sara and ... well, I can't remember what her boyfriend's name was. Sorry.

After I pitched my tent and grabbed a much-needed shower, I talked a bit with everyone and then turned in for bed. Tomorrow is the last day of my tour, and I should finish the day in San Francisco. The wind is supposed to behave ...

Learning to Chill

Pictures form today are here.

Yesterday felt weird.

Part of it was just being in a hotel room in a strange town full of strange people, but most of it was just because I didn't have anything to do. I mean, I had things that i could do to stay busy -- I cleaned the bike, went out to breakfast, walked around, saw the movie "The Butler," and stuck my toes in the ocean -- but I wasn't doing it all on a bicycle. I didn't have some other place that I needed to be that night ... some place further south on my journey.

I was, basically, without a purpose ... or, more accurately, a goal. And apparently I need goals.

That's something I'm going to have to work on if I want to do more touring. A lot of the folks that I've met on this trip who do this regularly seem to have no problem taking a day off and doing something other than traveling when the opportunity -- or the right place -- presents itself. One lady that I met said that she spent a couple of days in one town just because she met someone and they hit it off, and her friend let her just stay on the sofa and hang out at her house while she was at work. She said that she worked some, and then baked bread.

Maybe when I learn to chill out more I can also learn how to bake bread.

Anyway, this morning I forced myself to sleep until almost 7, and then headed back south into downtown Ft. Bragg for a leisurely breakfast and then a stop at the bike shop to put air in my tires. I had eaten an excellent breakfast Sunday at this place -- Nit's -- but when I got there today they were packed. Then I found that the bike shop didn't open until 9:30. So, I topped off my tires with my little handpump instead and headed north for a quick cup of coffee and sausage biscuit from McDonald's.

See what I mean? No chill-ability.

California 1 was a little busy for the first few miles, then quieted a bit just before Mendocino. I saw yellow arrows pointing into that town so, although the Adventure Cycling route didn't indicate it, I went in. It was worth a couple of extra miles, as the route went around the wild coast there, plus the town itself was just cuter than anything. It made me wish that I'd popped for a room at one of the Bed and Breakfasts there for the last two nights instead of the discount motel in Ft. Bragg. It also made me proud that I was able to chill out enough to detour into Mendocino in the first place.

I started looking for someplace for "second breakfast" as I went south through Little River and Albion, but nothing clicked until I hit Elk. There, I saw a nice diner with three bicycles out front. When I went in, I found my three companions from Leggett: Chris, Will, and Joel.

Over breakfast, they told me how they had been plagued with a series of flats near the top of that first climb leaving Leggett, and then more of them for the remainder of the day. They had ended up staying at a state park hat night, and then were at Van Damme Beach while they explored Mendocino and Ft. Bragg.

After eating and filling bottles, the four of us rolled out together; however, the terrain on this part of the coast is very rolling and we were all soon separated. I regrouped with them a couple of times on climbs and at scenic viewpoints, but lost track of them by mid-afternoon.

I stopped in Point Arena for a soft drink and waited, but when the guys didn't come in after half an hour I moved on to Anchor Bay. There, I got a sandwich and waited some more before giving up and doing the last few miles to my campsite at Gualala Regional Park. The guys said that they planned to camp here, too, but never showed up.

Maybe they're having another series of flats, or they may have gone to another campground. Or maybe this is why I keep moving on -- I'm not the kind of person who gets invited to couch surf and bake people bread.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Go Down to the Sea Again

Pictures from today are here.

Ah! Finally, a couple of decent descents.

The day started with climbing, of course. Some of it was on Hwy 101 when it was a busy pseudo-interstate, and some of it was on Hwy 101 when it had become a more calm road wending through the redwoods, but a lot of it was on quiet roads with good pavement that somehow just ran along next to Hwy 101 so that cars stayed off of it. And that was cool.

The day was cool, too. I got an early start because the weather forecast for Leggett got into the mid-80s in the afternoon, but ended up wearing arm- and knee-warmers all the way up there. When I stopped at the diner across from Standish-Hickey to eat a cookie and chocolate milk about 10 am, I was still cold.

Just past this point, the route finally left Hwy 101 for the last time, turning towards the coast on California 1. Right after this turn was the road that went to the Drive-Thru Tree, which I had planned to go see; however, three other touring cyclists were just rolling out as I pulled up. We chatted a bit, and I decided to skip the tree so that I could climb towards the coast with them.

We all hung together for about half a mile, and then two of them fell off and a fellow named Chris and I climbed together. He told me that the three of them lived in San Francisco, and had gotten a ride with their bikes up to Arcata so they could take the week to ride home. At one point, I stopped to take off my arm- and knee-warmers and see if the other two guys would come up, but they didn't. I then caught up with Chris just before he stopped to "take a natural," and I soft-pedalled the rest of the way to the top ... but neither he nor his friends ever came back up. I even stopped and ate a banana that I had grabbed at the hotel, before finally deciding to start down.

And that was the first great descent, complete with smooth pavement and easy swooping curves. After this came easy spinning through more redwoods for a few miles, still soft-pedalling to see if the three guys would catch up. Then there was a steeper climb for a couple of miles, followed by another excellent descent, and suddenly I was back on the coast.

I stopped a bunch here to take pictures of the beautiful scenery on this virtually empty shore. Somehow, there were almost no cars for the first 10 miles -- it was like the Lost Coast, but without the suffering to get there. Of course, there was still work, since the road regularly curved around and had short steep descents and climbs. By the end of the day I had gained almost 5000 feet of elevation.

When I got to Westport, I stopped at the little store for lunch and found my old friends Jude and Val, along with a cycling tourist from Minnesota named Nate. They were all just finishing their sandwiches, and Jude told me about the places they had been since we last talked before Eureka. They headed out while I ate my lunch and chatted some with Nate, and then Nate left. I paused to put on sunscreen and see if the three riders from San Francisco might show up. They didn't, but another two tourists -- Rich and Sissy Byrd from Spartanburg, South Carolina -- came in on their tandem. We talked a bit, and I discovered that they knew my friends Bill and Sametta Glass, having done "warm showers" with them in Nashville.

Rich and Sissy were getting sandwiches, too, but I had been hanging around Westport too long and wanted to try and catch up to either Nate or Jude and Val. I wasn't fast enough, however, and was soon turning off on the multi-use trail in Cleone and riding back roads into Fort Bragg. I got to the hotel where I had originally planned to stay ... albeit two days from now. And then I checked in for two nights.

Yeah ... I'm going to take a day off. I may not even ride on Sunday, or take any pictures, or write a blog. Don't worry about me, though. By Monday I will be back on the road towards Gualala, where I should be camping.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Back to the Real World

Pictures from today are here.

I slept pretty well last night, although it was a little chilly. About 2 am, I stepped outside the tent for a bit and looked up at the sky to admire the stars. You just don't get a night sky like that unless you are way out in the middle of nowhere. The Milky Way was a solid river of light, as you sometimes see it closer to a city, but that river was not as stark since there were all these other more distant stars, galaxies, nebulae, and what-not all bumping up against it and muddling up behind it.

When the sun began to come up I got up, started some coffee, and began packing. Just before my water was boiling, my little stove sputtered and stalled -- the fuel cannister was empty -- so all I got for breakfast was warm coffee and a cold English muffin.

Just after 8 am, I was on the way to Honeydew. The road continued its ups-and-downs to that little town, where I walked my bike across the treacherous one-lane bridge over the river and began climbing.

And didn't stop for over six miles and 2000 feet of elevation.

I had been worried that this climb would be like yesterday's, where things just got painfully steep. It was six miles (like yesterday's) but with another 500 feet of elevation gained. A basic calculation of this slope would infer that it would be steeper. Fortunately, however, yesterday's six-mile climb had included a few ups-and-downs, while today's was just up. It got steep once or twice, and my knees and quadriceps were pretty sore by the end of it, but at least I never had to get off and push the bike.

Like most cyclists, one of my favorite things about climbing mountains is that you then get to go down the other side. That's why I really felt cheated when I started down the other side just to find that it was rutted, pot-holed, gravelly, and steep. The holes hid in the shady spots, so I was forced to ride my brakes all the way down, weaving and dodging what I could, bracing myself for what I couldn't, and worried throughout that I was going to either break a spoke or a wheel or at least get a pinch-flat. Towards the bottom, my brakes were a lot looser than they had been, making me wonder just how badly the pads and rotors were now worn.

The road stayed bumpy as I entered another redwood forest, so although the scenery was nicer it was difficult to enjoy it. I stopped a few times to get some pictures, but was basically glad when I finally crossed Hwy 101 and turned on to the Avenue of the Giants.

I now had a tailwind and a gradual climb. Soon, I was in Myers Flat, where I had originally planned to stay the night. However, the only restaurant in town had gone out of business, the grocery store had a sign telling bicyclists not to park there, and the whole place just felt mean. Besides, it was barely 1 pm and I still had a good tailwind. I would have liked to have eaten lunch there, but decided that it just didn't deserve my money.

Pressing on, I passed through more towns, finally stopping in Phillipsville for a snack. From there I had to get on Hwy 101 for a bit, and found that the road was just as busy as ever, but the shoulder was thinner. After a couple of miles of this, the route turned onto a quieter road going in to Redway.

In Redway I stopped at a bike shop that the guys at Henderson's in Eureka had told me about. The Redway guys checked my brakes, ruled them functional for another few hundred miles, adjusted them so they were tight again, and then refused to take any money for their work. I left a twenty on the counter anyway, telling them to buy a post-work six-pack on me.

From there it was just a couple of miles to Garberville, where the Best Western hotel beckoned. I checked in, got cleaned up, and finally had my first real meal of the day at a pizza joint next door. Then it was call RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter, do some laundry, and write this blog.

My plan for tomorrow is to press on up to Leggett, which makes for a long day with a lot of climbing. If I get there early enough, I may go ahead and roll down the coast to Fort Bragg. That will officially put me two days ahead of schedule, so if Fort Bragg is nice I may take a day off there and just hang out.

The Lost Coast

I don't think the "Lost Coast" is lost so much as it is hidden. And guarded.

Today sort of put me back on course, since I ended up at one of my planned evening destinations ... just a day earlier than I was supposed to be here. I like that, however, since it gives me some flexibility. If it rains now, I can take a day off. If I get sick of riding, I can take a day off. If I come to a town that says, "Hey! Hang out here for another day," then I can do that.

The flexibility is nice. I just hope I can let myself take advantage of it.

After grabbing an apple fritter and coffee in Eureka, I got back on the route and headed south. The back roads hit Hwy 101 at a WalMart, so I stopped there and bought some more minutes for my back-up phone (which is now my only phone, since my iPhone crapped out). Now I can call RandoGirl at night and talk all I want.

The route stayed on Hwy 101 for a while, and that road totally sucks this far south. It really resembles the Hwy 101 that I remember taking to get to Mt. View in Silicon Valley when I would fly in from San Francisco, instead of the quiet two-lane that it often was in Oregon.

Fortunately, this didn't last as I got on more quiet roads, eventually climbing Eel River Drive through Loleta, then turning onto CR 211 to Ferndale. There, I briefly admired the scenery (it looks kind of like an Old West movie set, but with a paved road and trucks instead of horses) and bought some groceries for tonight's dinner.

Then, I turned on Mattole Road and suffered.

It took less than a mile for me to begin thinking that this was a mistake. The surface was very rough, and the pitches were horribly steep. I was still turning the cranks over, but just barely. Then, I had to stop to take off my arm- and knee-warmers, and was forced to walk until I got to a part that was level enough to get back on the bike. This break actually felt good ... slow, but good.

The slope backed off a bit, so I pedalled a few more miles. Then the slope got horrible again and I walked some. Finally, it turned acceptable for the last time and I got to the top.

The way down, however, also sucked. Remember that surface and the pitch? It was just as bad, so you had to ride your brakes or destroy your wheels. For my Nashville friends, think Old Natchez with a 15% downward slope and you'll get an idea of what the next six miles were like.

I passed another couple of touring cyclists near the top and tried to talk to them, but they didn't seem interested in chatting. Maybe they were tired from the climb, or focusing on the descent. Maybe it's me. (I found out the next day that they're from Germany, and do not speak English well. So at least it wasn't me ...)

When you finally get to the bottom, you cross the Bear River and -- you guessed it -- start climbing again! Only this hill starts off steeper! I stayed on the bike for as long as I could, then got off and started pushing. One section was so steep that I almost couldn't push the bike up it. If there is a touring cyclist with a fully loaded (100 pounds or more) bike that has ever done this route without walking his or her bike, I want to meet that person. Just not in a dark alley.

After the nasty part, the climb eases and you can get pedal okay. Then you have another cruddy descent to -- finally -- the payoff. This is where you ride along a halfway descent road that goes along an empty coast. I mean EMPTY. Like there is one house at the very start, a couple of farm buildings, and lots of cattle. If you ever wondered what coastal California may have looked like 1000 years ago, this is it ... with the exception of the cattle, fences, powerlines, bridges, and roads, of course. And I wasn't there 1000 years ago ... I just look that old.

Really, go to the pictures. I'll wait.

See what I meant? Dang.

The coast road eventually ends by turning west, where there is (of course) a tough climb. This one didn't need walking, however, and I was soon over the other side and headed into Petrolia. There's a new diner on the edge of town that Adventure Cycling apparently doesn't know about, and I got a great cheeseburger with extra pickles from them. I credit the pickles for staving off muscle cramps for the day.

I stopped at the market in Petrolia for fluids, then did another harsh climb to get to my campground at A. W. Way County Park. It's a nice campground, with showers and good sites. I rinsed out my biking clothes and fixed some macaroni and cheese with tuna for dinner, and am now writing this blog and swatting mosquitoes.

Tomorrow I will post this blog and the pictures, after I finish the Lost Coast Alternate. There's a climb up to above 2500' between me and there, however. I anticipate a few more nice walks.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Today's pictures start here.

I slept better than I had thought that I would last night. It was kind of cold, and most of the other campers were not there for cycling but for the coho run; thus, they came in late to clean fish, and got up early to go catch more.

The Log Cabin Restaurant had just opened when I pulled up on my bike, so I got a short stack and bacon and was back on the road by 8:30 am. There was another long climb a couple of miles down Hwy 101, then a short descent, and then I turned off on the Newton B. Drury Parkway and climbed some more.

It was worth it.

The road was quiet and lovely, with huge redwood trees all around me. The grade up was pretty mild, and the way down was even more mild -- I think that I just coasted along at 15 mph for about five miles. As I rode happily past cathedrals (or "cateederdoodles," if you're Irish) of young and old redwoods, the few cars that passed did so with respect and calm, obviously enjoying the reverence of this beautiful place as much as I was.

I returned to Hwy 101 for a bit, passing thru Orick. This town has a little more going for it than Klamath, and I stopped at the grocery for a drink and some candy bars. On the way out, I noticed bicycles in front of the town diner, and saw some of the riders from yesterday. I considered stopping again, but they looked as if they had just sat down to eat and I needed to press on.

At this point, Hwy 101 rolls along the edges of the Humboldt Lagoons. It would have been very nice, but traffic was getting a little hectic. At one point, I came across a semi truck that had taken a curve too fast and rolled over. Police were directing traffic around it, and this gave me a series of decent openings going south. I hate to take advantage of anyone else's misery but ...

Past the lagoons I started another climb, Hwy 101 remaining four lanes all the way now. Most of the cars moved over, and since the shoulder was sometimes "iffy" I stayed in the right lane for most of the way up. Near the top, I passed a ghost bike dedicated to a cyclist who died this year. It makes you think ...

My next stop was Trinidad, after a long easy descent past Patrick's Point. Stopping at a cafe there, I got a sandwich and coffee, then used their wifi to upload pictures and yesterday's blog. There were two young men also hanging out there with two puppies, and they were trying to get somebody to help them fix the flat tire on their car. A couple of the locals lent a hand and got the tire repaired, but the guys seemed to be trying to also find somebody to let them couch surf there for an indeterminate length of time. I could understand the desire -- it was a lovely town -- but eavesdropping on their conversations when nobody else was around let me see that their motives and methods were kind of sleazy.

I went out via the harbor to see more of this pretty town, and on the way back to the route saw a couple of the cyclists who I had spotted in Orick. Turning around, we chatted and then headed out on Trinidad Scenic Road -- a lumpy, iffy lane that was quiet and had gorgeous views.

The riders -- Jude and Val from Iowa City -- were strong, and we cruised along this road and back to Hwy 101 briefly, then took a series of multi-use trails by McKinleyville and Arcata. Parts of the path were not paved and steep, making for a bit of a challenge, but eventually the route turned onto all-paved sections that joined with quiet roads and a great pedestrian bridge to get over the Mad River.

Jude and Val were also going to Eureka, but staying at the KOA campground before town. Thus, when I lost track of them on the road out of Arcata, I didn't worry too much -- I'll probably see them tomorrow, after all. Instead, I headed into downtown Eureka to check out the hotels and find a bike shop.

The shop I picked was Henderson Center Bicycles, which ended up being a good ways east of Hwy 101. The guys there were worth the trip, however, as they immediately put Sparkletini on a stand, lubed everything, and tweaked the brakes and a few other items. They admired the setup, of course, and we talked titanium, tires, and spoke-lacing patterns. I always love a good bike shop.

After a quick stop at the bakery next door, I headed to the nearby Quality Inn to do laundry and grab a fast-food dinner. Tomorrow, I'm probably going to get back to my real route, but with a little extra. If it all works out, don't expect a blog as I'm going to be spending the night in the middle of nowhere.


Pictures from today are here.

You can tell a lot about someone from the way that they handle setbacks. Some people get flustered and confused, some start flailing about, and others just stop dead. Many folks try to fix the issue, while others just give up and step away in hopes that the problem will fix itself ... or someone more able will take over.

I've always had the most respect for people who take a moment to analyze the problem, gather information, get ideas from others, and then choose a direction that effectuates a solution. This usual works out well, and I wish that I was the kind of person who could do this.< br />
You can also tell a lot about someone from the way that they handle windfalls -- you know, those gifts that just kind of fall into your lap at little or no cost. Some hide them away, while others make the most of them immediately.

I guess that today I was in the second camp of that, since I had a literal windfall and used it to do an extra 20 miles with a nasty climb that I wasn't supposed to do until tomorrow.

Since I had stayed in a hotel last night, it was easy to get an early start this morning. I grabbed breakfast at a restaurant down Jerry's Flat Road, and was heading out of Gold Beach by 8 am. Within half an hour, I was on the two-mile climb up Cape Sebastian.

As climbs go around here, this one was long and a little steep, with pitches averaging about eight percent. Worse, the shoulder kind of comes and goes, so you just have to take the lane and make the cars go around you. That's about as easy as you would think ... except when it comes to some pig-headed semi trucks and one or two RVs.

The wind was out of the south again, but lighter today. I made good time going through a series of state parks for the next 30 miles, stopping at most of them to take a picture. At one of these, I met a young lady who was heading back to Seattle with her mother, having just completed the same trip that I am currently doing. At a park before Brookings, I chatted with a local who had questions about my ride, and he also recommended a good place for lunch.

The burger place in Brookings was super, thanks to fresh-baked bread and perfectly done french fries. I was back on the road just after noon, and made a quick stop for water and candy bars after turning on Lower Harbor Road. While I was in the shop, three touring cyclists went by, so I jumped on my bike and ran them down.

The three guys were college students headed for Virginia. We talked a bit, but they were stopping at a store just before the California line. I gave them one of my RandoBoy cards and told them to look me up if their trip ended up including Nashville or the Natchez Trace.

After stopping for a picture at the "Welcome to California" sign, I jumped back on my bike. The wind was now mostly a cross-wind, occasionally getting behind me, so that I flew along on some of the next flat sections at over 16 mph -- not much normally, but huge for what I've been touring at lately. A series of quiet country roads brought me to the beach and Crescent City just before 3 pm.

So, here's my windfall: I'm early enough that I could check in to my hotel, but I did laundry last night and didn't want to just goof off for half of the afternoon. Also, my legs weren't really all that tired, and I liked the idea of getting a jump start on the next day's route.

Which is why I ended up pushing on. Within a couple of miles, I was beginning a climb that would take -- more or less -- six miles of work on another road where the shoulder was often nonexistent, with semi trucks and RVs giving me no quarter. I gained 1200 feet of elevation, finding myself riding amongst giant redwood trees in the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.

The descent out was pretty good, thanks to some construction near the top that took the road to one lane. I waited until all of the other downhill traffic had gotten by, and then pulled into a real lane (just like I was a car or something) so that I didn't have to get on the shoulder or even hug the line.

I was soon climbing again as I headed into Klamath, where I planned to stay the night. Originally, I was going to get a hotel in Crescent City, but the only hotel in Klamath was full so I went down the road to an RV park. The only restaurant nearby was also closed, and there are no real grocery stores here, so I bought a couple of tacos from the convenience store.

Thanks to getting in some extra miles, I'm going to change some things around for the next few days. Tomorrow I will probably grab a hotel in Eureka, and then either start the Lost Coast Alternate the next day (which would make that one day earlier than planned) or head straight to Myers Flat. In effect, this will either gain me one or two extra days. I'm just not sure how I'll spend them.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Lost Weekend

Sorry I've been out of touch. Pictures from the three days since last we met begin here.

First, why I've been missing: Saturday night, I thought that I didn't have cellular signal at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. Sunday, I found that I did have signal after all, it was just my iPhone that was on the fritz. Unfortunately, my signal at the state park (Bullard's Beach, just north of Bandon) was so bad that I couldn't post. Tonight, I'm at a Motel 6 in Gold Beach, and the wifi is excellent!

So, you ask, how's it going? Pretty good, really. Saturday was a rough day for cycling, with a nasty headwind that made my 77 miles with 2500 feet of climbing a bit of a chore. I left the hotel in Newport about 7:30 so that I could quickly get across the bridge over Yaquina Bay.

The first few miles were dreary and foggy, as you can tell from the pictures ... such as they are. There's only so much you can say about a picture of fog. "Oh, look -- fog." And, "Supposedly, there's something cool there ... behind the fog."

Past Yachats there was a series of climbs, starting with Cape Perpetua and on to Haceta Head. I stopped for lunch in Florence, and then moved inland from the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The wind continued to strengthen as I went over climbs to Dunes City and beyond Reedsport, then picked up groceries in Winchester Bay before entering Umpqua Lighthouse State Park.

The park had a few nasty climbs of its own, but soon I was at my campsite and set up for the night. It was still foggy and chilly, but I felt better after a hot shower and changing into non-cycling clothes. Another rider came in then, a fellow from Norway named Bjorn, and then Matt and Julie and their dog, Jet. We had met on the road a few days back heading into Tillamook -- for more on them, see their blog at A Pink Frame of Mind.

Four more young tourists from Vancouver came in then, setting up in the next site up, and another young lady cyclist named Kerri. We all ended up talking until after dark, when I finally trudged off to my tent for sleep.

The morning looked better, but I dawdled through breakfast and packing up. Bjorn had a long day planned, and he left early. Everyone else was still there when I finally rolled out at 9 am.

The breeze was still out of the south, and I had a few good climbs early on. It was almost noon when I got to the bridge to North Bend, and traffic was nuts so I walked the bicycle up the narrow sidewalk running along the side of this very long high bridge. Another touring cyclist came riding up halfway to the top, and I apologized for holding him up. When we got to the top, there was an opening in the traffic so I quickly put my bike back on the road to coast down.

A few miles on, I stopped for a quick lunch at Taco Bell and tried my phone again. This was when I discovered that the phone wasn't working right. As I walked back to my bike, however, I looked over towards the mall next to the restaurant and saw that there was an AT&T store. I went in, and they tried to fix my phone. When they couldn't, they called Apple and tried to work through the problem. When Apple got to the "Tell him to plug the phone into his computer and resynch it with iTunes step," we were at a stalemate.

Leaving the mall, I found that the wind had stiffened while I was wasting time with Apple. I fought it out to Cape Arago Hwy and on into Charleston, then turned on Seven Devils Road. This road is apparently popular with the local cyclists, but is extraordinarily tough in a headwind. It pitches up into the teens at a number of places, and I was very glad to finally be off it and back on Hwy 101 about 5 pm.

It wasn't much further to my evening's destination, Bullard's Beach State Park. There, I found Matt and Julie (and Jet) had just arrived and were setting up camp. Also there were Tim and Kim McAllister from Leftbridge, in Canada (just south of Calgary, they said).

I set up my tent as quickly as I could, having to pause regularly to swat mosquitoes until I finally doused myself with Deet. After stowing my gear, I quickly rode into Bandon and bought groceries (as well as some Off wipes for me and Julie), then rode back to fix dinner. Only after eating did I allow myself to grab a shower and then jump into my tent (where the mosquitoes couldn't find me).

It rained during the night, but I slept fairly well regardless and awoke at dawn. After the previous day, I had decided that the key to dealing with the wind was to ride as early as I could, since it seemed to get fierce the later the day got. I packed up, put on more Deet, broke down my tent, loaded up, got dressed, and was rolling out at 7:30 am.

Kim and Tim had the same idea, and we stopped in Bandon to eat breakfast together. They were very nice, and had done a number of interesting tours. I really enjoyed talking with them.

The three of us headed out of town on the Beach Loop Road, including a harsh little climb up a 100-yard multi-use trail. The day was gorgeous, with just a bit of offshore fog but plenty of sunshine as we rolled along back to Hwy 101. The three of us would separate and then regroup, but ended up together again at Port Orford when we stopped for lunch at a fish and chips place.

Along the way, I ran into another touring cyclist pulling a trailer. He was touring full-time, having recently retrired, and was living out of his trailer. I also ran into Matt and Leslie, who I had last seen on the road in to Tillamook last week. They are due to fly out of San Francisco the same day as I am.

I left Tim and Kim just past Port Orford, getting back into my "git 'er done" mode. There was a climb around Humbug Mountain, and then a return to the coast for more miles of great views and harsh headwinds. At Ophir, the route turned inland on to Cedar Valley Road, which was gently rolling and fairly calm. At the Rogue River, the wind returned as I headed back towards the ocean, and I was spent when I finally saw the bridge over the river at Wedderburn.

Although I could see my hotel from there, there was a deli that looked inviting. I went inside and got a pint of chocolate milk and a slice of cheesecake that brought me back to life. Half an hour later, I was checked into my hotel and doing laundry.

Tomorrow is my last day in Oregon. I'll ride over 60 miles with (supposedly) 4000 feet of climbing. Since I'm in a hotel tonight, I should be able to get an early start. The weather forecast is for a little less wind, but still out of the south. Oh, well ...