Riding the Coast to Garberville

July 28, 2019 Garberville, CA; Odometer: 652.6 mi

Panorama at Arch Rock; Brookings, OR

The Pacific Coast is beautiful, and the people I’ve met are wonderful. Clearly I need to slow down and enjoy. Good thing, I’m well ahead of where I need to be. I plan to meet my Belgian guests in Lagunitas on August 3. I have only 210 miles left and a week to do it. Riding the open road on my new bike is pretty sweet.

The touring bent (recumbent) runs well. No mechanicals so far. Maintenance has been only chain lube. It took some getting used to at first. For me, the recumbent is not new, but the touring part presents some new things. It’s a 100lbs bike (including cargo). Though it is stable as a rock, even in high cross winds, it is not aero. On a sustained 6% downhill, I coast at 40mph without applying brakes. The uphills are slow but easy. Dana set it up with good climbing gears. Balance is not a issue even on short 12% grades. I have not had to get off and push yet.

Nes from Detroit

Nes and his bike. Notice how little this guy carries
My lunch with Nes in Crescent City, CA

Coming into Crescent City, I found a cyclist headed for San Diego, named ‘Nes’. I figure Nes to be in his late 60’s. He had a full beard and his hair was in a pony tail. He started out near Seattle. Nes is a retired high school English teacher, and occasional actor from Detroit. He does a big tour every decade. He is good at story telling, and plans to write a book about his travels. On the quiet roads, we rolled slowly and swapped stories.

I told him about being mugged by a goat. Nes told me about his first tour many decades ago. At that time, Nes was living in a tent while holding down a job in a rural town in the US. A bicycle traveller with home made panniers and a long grey beard approached Nes. He had been on the road for some time and was looking for a place to sleep that night. Nes was intrigued, and invited him to his tent and campfire where they told stories.

The traveller it turns out, was an NYU professor and colleague of Timothy Leary. He told Nes that while the LSD experience was full of enlightenment, it also had substantial fear. The traveller was keen on the idea of tuning-in and dropping-out, just not the turning-on part of the mantra. The traveller offered Nes the chance to join him. Nes immediately quit his job and folded his tent. The two went off by bicycle together for a considerable distance.

Nes and I rolled into Crescent City where we ate lunch at a burger joint. Nes, charming to the last, told me he would not be able to keep my pace for any distance, and we agreed to part ways. Nes did not carry a tent. He had to plan to stay at a motel every night. I had more flexibility, but carried more weight.

Gunner from Nevada

So far, my accommodations have all been set up on the fly. I stop when I feel I’ve ridden enough. There are so many campgrounds in Oregon and California, it is very easy to do this. So far I have not finessed the camping. I pull in and get a site designed for a car, pay full price ($22/night). Some campgrounds have hiker/biker sites which are much cheaper. I do not do enough research to find them. An ACA map, or better connectivity would help. In Orick, CA, I met a cycle tourist named ‘Gunner’. He has been on the road for months. I bought him an ice cream, and asked him about stealth camping. He said, he never pays for a campsite.

‘Stealth camping’, or ‘wild camping’ is setting up a tent in a desolate place and spending the night. It costs nothing, but you need to understand the unwritten rules. Gunner filled me in. 1) Set up camp at least 5 miles outside of a town, this will put you outside of homeless territory. 2) Set up your tent within sight of the road, but not some place where a car could park. The police or park rangers can ask you to leave, but they don’t, if you are not posing a risk. A well maintained bike is a signal that you are probably going to pack up and leave in the morning. This region gets a lot of international tourists on bikes. It is good for commerce, not a risk. 3) Be sure that your bicycle is visible. Attach it to your tent so that it cannot be moved without waking you up.

First Wild campsite overlooking freshwater lagoon on left and Pacific Ocean on right

I found my first wild camping spot south of Orick. My navigation app will frequently find quiet side roads. On one such quiet road, I found a beautiful spot overlooking the beach. As I was setting up my tent, I found a bald eagle circling nearby. There was only one car passing the whole time I was there. Now that I know how to spot good sites, I find them often. Redwood groves are perfect, as there is not much undergrowth.

Mary and friends from Arcata

Mary is shy about internet exposure. In deference, I am not using her full name, though in my circle, many of us know Mary, her guy Steve, her son Phil who is now the proud father of his first born daughter, Raven. Mary is just back from a cruise to Alaska. She was excited to tell us about zip lining there. As it happened, I arrived the day after her return. She invited me to a barbecue and game night. There I met Sandy, Bill and Wendy. Sandy and Bill were showing off their new toy. It was a replacement for the Red Pearl, a Chevy Astro Van which had been the crew vehicle of choice for many years.

I remember being on Jim Kern’s 508 crew, many years ago. The Red Pearl, among its many features, has a refrigerator/freezer. There it is possible to pull up next to your racer on a blistering hot summer race and hand off a frozen ice pop. Hopefully this is in full view of the competition. The results can be devastating.

The new Red Pearl is a Ford Transit which is nearly tall enough to stand up inside. Sandy and Bill got to try it out the new vehicle on Race Across Oregon (1000km bike race) last week. Though the new Red Pearl is not completely set up yet, they were able to support Michael Davies Hughes, who took first place in this race with a finishing time under 53 hours. He now has plans of doing RAAM (Race Across America 5000km). An event that he had DNF’d (did not finish) before.

My digital dominatrix

On my way to Arcata, I used my navigation app, Komoot. In earlier blogs, I’ve written about problems with blind faith in Komoot. I now have more experience and will carefully avoid dubious routes proposed by this app. None the less, interesting situations can still occur, which I find attractive.

Komoot will find quiet roads off the main drag, which is a real benefit coming down the Oregon and California coast following 101. For instance, I have followed instructions into a State Park campground, where it was clear that there was only one road going in and out. My goal was to go many miles further south. I had no interest in this campground. I was certain that Komoot was not going to get out of this without a needless circular loop. I was wrong.

She (it is a female voice in my earpiece) led me to the back corner of the campground then directed me down a sandy foot path toward the beach, and a successful exit. It left me laughing out load and wondering how it was possible that this foot path could possibly have been in any database of roads. I suspect it collects information from cyclists that use the app. Anyway, I have since found several ‘impossible exits’ from dead-end situations. Komoot has earned some trust.

So, for my way to Arcata, CA from Trinidad, CA; which should be a simple 20 miles straight south on 101, I fired up Komoot. It directed me to exit 101 at the first chance, then climb uphill into the town of Westhaven. In Westhaven, there is a rich network of gravel or dirt roads through a densely wooded area. These are not a challenge for my bike, and a welcomed distraction from 101. I rode further to find a padlocked gate across the route Komoot had selected for me.

Dirt roads in Westhaven, CA

From the looks of the weeds that had grown up through this gate, it had been shut tight for weeks or months. Out here in backwoods Westhaven the cell signal is week, yet I am able to text Mary that I am lost and will be delayed. However, Komoot will not calculate a new route. She says there is no internet. Liar!

Before I started, back in Trinidad, I had downloaded the route onto the phone, so I would have instructions even when connectivity was marginal. That much worked. I still had a route through a locked gate.

On close inspection, I find a path suitable for a mountain bike. I walk this path to see that it in fact does connect up with the route through the locked gate. I consider for a moment pushing my bike on to the mapped route and continuing.

Mountain Bike trail around locked gate

Komoot Screen showing aborted path. Blue dot is location of locked gate

In the back of my mind, I heard the voice of Alec Guinness saying, “Remember your failure in Santiago…“. I turned around and did my best to remember how to get back to 101. Though I did not take the same route back, it was easy enough to find 101 by simply going down hill. Whew.

Avenue of the Giants

The Avenue of the Giants is a road that follows the Southern Fork of the Eel River from Scotia, CA to almost Garberville. The road goes through dozens of Giant Sequoia Redwood groves, which is where it gets its name. Mixed in between the groves are small towns and glimpses of the Eel River. I have visited this place by bicycle many times, but this is the first time I have ridden it end to end. Mary recommended that I stop for lunch in Miranda. I did. It’s a good place with many options.

The groves are the main attraction for me. The tall Redwoods are packed close enough together that the forest floor is dark on a bright sunny day. There is also very little undergrowth. There are several campgrounds here, within the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. I think it would be a good place to camp, though mosquitos may be a problem for some.

North End of the Avenue, near Scotia, CA
A typical Redwood Grove
View of the Eel River from the Avenue
Picnicking on the shore of the Eel River

A drive through tree near Miranda. This is a hole cut into a living tree large enough to drive a car through.

There are also ‘tree houses’ which are carved into a tree.

Hoosier Home Remedy

One package per day to treat osteoarthritis.

Alisha Vanderkleed read my blog on arthritis and recommended gelatin. This is available, inexpensive, and low risk. Why not? The challenge is taking it. It should be possible to mix it into a liquid without it clumping up and sticking to the glass. I find it requires patience. I tried pouring the powder directly into my mouth, which provides 100% transfer. It also gives the tongue an interesting challenge to remove the clump of gum from the roof of the mouth. It only takes 30 minutes or so.

I have been taking this for the last 5 days. I do not notice any dramatic changes yet. I’m patient. I think the recommendation is to continue for two weeks. Wait and see.

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