The End of the West Coast Ride

Yet another milestone along the way was the right turn at Leggett, leaving Highway 101, and taking Highway 1, the Shoreline Highway back to the coast. The infamous Leggett Hill really wasn’t that bad and I think it was the longest downhill ride ever. A second hill, a little steeper but much shorter was followed by an exhilarating  descent to the magnificent California coast where we were in and out of fog but it was very fitting.

We spent the night in Westport at their boutique Victorian era hotel then moved on to Fort Bragg for a day off. After stopping in the lovely town of Mendocino, we continued southbound and faced some pretty stiff climbs at times but the traffic wasn’t as heavy as it had been on parts of 101 and at the top of each climb we were greeted by stunning coastal scenery. After passing through a few more well kept Victorian towns such as Tomales and Point Reyes Station we left the main highway and began a climb on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, heading to our final night on the road at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, and still we had not had a single drop of rain while on the road in our seven weeks of travel. That record stayed intact but during the night it was torrential. However, we were more or less warm and dry in our tent and woke to clearing skies for our final dash.

We rode with Mitch on our last day, a guy who had cycled from Wisconsin and was heading for LA. After a few miles we entered the first northern suburb of San Francisco, Fairfax, and from here on in there were bike lanes or separate bike paths.

After a lunch stop in Sausalito, we tackled a short, steep climb and there it was, the Golden Gate Bridge. I got kind of emotional while crossing it. We’d made it. At the top of the bridge we stood in sunshine and watched a rain shower pass over the city. By the time we got downtown, though, the sun had returned there and we settled into our North Beach digs. To top it off, the San Francisco Giants won the National League title that night and moved on to the World Series.

And Into California

Oregon has come and gone and we are now well into California, at Leggett to be precise, soon to turn back toward the coast on Highway 1. While this has been a superb ride, and as anyone who has ever driven this route will know, it is one of the most scenic drives in the world. However, it is heavily promoted by both the states of California and Oregon as a bicycle route and it is a very popular one at that. Even this late in the season we are still running into many fellow cyclists. With all this popularity and promotion, the roads do NOT live up to the name Bicycle Route. At times you are riding on a freeway with a barely adequate shoulder and trucks whizzing by at 110 kph. This road will suddenly narrow into a two-laner with no shoulder. There are even places where the shoulder was at one time adequate but when the road was repaved, only half the shoulder was done so there is a small curb dividing the shoulder in half making it unusable. The tourism and highway departments should perhaps communicate with each other. There, there’s my rant out of the way.

We’ve slowed to a dawdle in recent days in order to avoid arriving in San Francisco too many days before our October 28 flight. There were days in the southern part of Oregon where the highway was perfectly adequate and the coastal views were classic Oregon, with the highway winding along the coast overlooking views of seastacks. Stunning.

We stopped in the little town of Port Orford for a break and it appeared that not much was going on. However, Paula’s Bar and Grill seemed like it’d be our kind of place so in we went. It turned out to be a gourmet French restaurant and for most of the time we were the only ones there. I mean, what would he have done with that delicious pork chop if I hadn’t come along to eat it? And there was even a musician performing.

Then came the California border. What a milestone. Jubilation. The first few miles were classic California with the route taking us off the main highway along the seaside initially and then amongst farms and tiny villages. Then came Crescent City. In a way, this was a tiny version of April 17, 1975 in Phnom Penh. In the morning the last of the American forces left and there was jubilation. In the afternoon the Khmer Rouge moved in and things got much much worse.

Crescent City seemed to have no downtown and was largely populated by homeless people on bicycles. Meth use was clearly at a high level. It was good to get out of there.

We moved on to Elk Prairie Campground and a good part of the ride was along the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway, a lovely road through the redwoods with almost no traffic. The hiker/biker sites were level and among the trees and sure enough, three other cyclists camped there that night.

Then came Arcata, a lovely old Victorian town but each autumn, there and in many other centres in Humboldt County there is an influx of young people to take part in the trimming of semi-legal, semi-illegal marijuana plants. A certain number of plants are legal according to state law but not federal law and organized crime is still very much involved. It’s  big mess. The flattering thing, though, was that the kids hanging around the main plaza in Arcata were listening to Led Zeppelin and using hoola hoops. Makes ya kinda proud to be of my generation.

Then came The Avenue of the Giants, another byway with very little traffic and the largest trees on earth on both sides. We camped among the redwoods that night then moved on to Garberville, another centre of the pot trade. We’ve now left Humboldt County and it’s famous Humboldt Gold harvest and have entered Mendocino County. That’s beginning to sound pretty close to San Francisco.