Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 14: Crescent City, CA to Eureka, CA

64 miles

There was a huge thunderstorm and downpour last night. The morning is clear and cool. We definitely dodged a bullet.

Beautiful scenery and grueling riding seem to go hand in hand frequently on this trip. Today's route took us through two redwood forests, Del Norte Coast Redwoods and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks. Half of the riders, including me, bumped the first 18 miles to shorten the day to 64 miles from 82. A byproduct of so many people bumping is a fairly late start. It is quite a production to load 15 bikes to the top of the van and to unload them at the drop point. It is also a bit of a challenge to stuff 15 people inside the van with assorted gear. We passed quite a bit of road construction which I was all too pleased to miss. Despite the shorter ride, there was still 4200 feet of elevation gain, a very challenging ride.

The North Coast redwood forests impressed as advertised, home to the tallest living trees on the planet. From the Adventure Cycling Field Notes: "The redwood cannot survive without moist, heavy loam and sufficient water for its roots, and cannot live well without a summertime mantle of fog, which provides vital shade when the sun beats down directly...Luxuriant ferns and thick undergrowth often cover the ground...The wood of the redwood is so durable that a century may elapse before a fallen tree decays...In 1820, when California logging began, there were two million acres of redwoods in a strip extending from northern California to Big Sur. Today, less than 270,000 acres of virgin redwoods remain." There was little vehicle traffic on the road passing through this special place, all the more to enjoy on a bike.

I went up the 6 % grade as well.

PB & J after a few climbs.
This lovely specimen was wandering about near some roadside cabins. Other riders saw him with a bevy of female admirers.

At around mile 40 we arrived in Trinidad, a community of 3,000 during the gold rush years, now a sleepy coastal town and home to the Beachcomber Cafe where I enjoyed a lunch of curried lentil soup. We departed town at 3 PM with 24 miles still to go.  Even if the remaining terrain was entirely flat, and that was not to be, we would arrive late,. Instead, we were rewarded with hilly, rough and narrow lanes and bike paths, some gravel, along the coast with spectacular views.

Sea Lions
Harbor Seals

The last 15 FLAT miles were through coastal farmland. The road surface in many places had recently been repaved, a very important and welcome detail to a cyclist.

More tsunami reminders.
The last challenge was three bridges over Humboldt Bay on the final approach to Eureka. There were no steep inclines but I was at the breaking point physically and mentally. It is hard, and rather unattractive, to describe the utterances coming from my mouth on the third incline. I thought I had downshifted from my large chain ring and that I was having such an incredibly hard time because I was tired. NO. I just hadn't downshifted properly. This is what happens at the end of a difficult day. The mind is just foggy.

I was so fortunate to have a wonderful traveling companion today, Patti from Wisconsin. We've cycled quite a bit together these first two weeks. We both agreed that today's ride would have been very difficult were it not for each of us picking the other up mentally when it would have been all too easy to call for the  SAG wagon. She was behind me when I grunted up that last incline and thought nothing of it as she was doing her version of the same. Something wonderful happened when we arrived at the hotel at 5:45 PM after 6 1/2 hours of riding time and almost 9 hours after I started. There was a welcoming party--well, actually, people were hanging about the van drinking wine--of the riders who arrived earlier, the faster bunch. Peg and Mary each grabbed a piece of my luggage, against my protestations, and I my bike as we made our way to my room (a single for two days--yeah). Dinner was held off as the last riders continued to drift in.

Tonight was the last cooking night for our wonderful chef, Patty. When the ride resumes, Michelle will chef and a new trip leader, Cy, takes over logistics and bike repair duties. In celebration, Kirby's company in Chicago sent in carrot and chocolate cakes for dessert and Sheila, our UK rider representative , read a poem to honor Patty's talents:

We are woman tours
Feisty strong and true
We bike the world in unison
With our trusty crew

Up hills and down hills
Nothing phases us
No one says ' I've had enough
I'd rather get the bus'

Hillside, forest, coast and town
We are of some renown
'It's woman tours!' People cheer
'Declare a holiday. Have a beer.
Have you ever seen the like
All those women on their bikes.

Now listen close while I do tell
Of how we all do so well
Pedaling hard down the land
From Canadian border to Ventura sand

We do not have to search for grub
Or make a dash to the pub
For Patty's here . Hurray! Hurray!
Mixing and stirring all the way
Making us delicious meals
So we can triumph on those wheels.

What a chef! What a cook!
Dutch oven champion in everyone's book
Pasta, salad, meat and rice.
Brownies too! Oh how nice!

Coleslaw, cobbler, crisps and cream
Patty the woman tours' culinary dream.
How we love to taste your wares
Which banish all those weary cares.

So Patty. Fare the well. Adieu.
We will miss you. Boo hoo! Boo hoo!
Thank you for your talents rare
Your smiling face and all your care.
We'll think of you along the way.
All our love is what we say.

Lin followed to deliver one of her singing tributes. We were doing all of this in the ambiance of a covered parking garage with a lovely fake potted plant to augment the atmosphere.

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