Friday, September 6, 2013

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.

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