Day 17: Leggett to Fort Bragg, 45 miles

I arise to a misty morning.  Night rain upon the tent fly. Muesli for breakfast, espresso at the Peg House across 101 from the campground.  Then off, rolling a mile down to Leggett, where I pick up Highway 1.

I begin the epic climb over the 2000 foot Leggett Hill, highest point on the Pacific Coast Bike Route.  The sun breaks through the morning clouds as I pump up the 5 mile climb, up, up, up.  Log trucks pass me descending, but very little traffic from the north.  Finally, the crest.

Then, the big descent, 2000 feet of winding mountain road.  No better way to experience this than on a bicycle, trusting the brakes, the good pavement, the light traffic.  I fly!  Curves at 30 mph, when they are signed at 15.  I used to fear descents.  But now, I really enjoy the feeling of speed, banking into curves, wind rushing by.  This descent is nearly 10 miles.

Then another 600 foot climb over Rockport Hill.  I don’t mind, because I know what awaits at the end of this second descent: a panoramic view of the north Mendocino coast, with scattered clouds, turquoise waters, a flock of brown pelicans hunting and dive fishing in the waves.

But no time to pause here, I still have 20 miles to go to reach the open house at my dad’s church in Fort Bragg.  So I ride over the curving highway, which climbs over headlands, ducking into coves, past Westport Beach, past pastured cattle, past old graveyards, past 10 Mile Creek, then Cleone, then Pudding Creek.

I enter Fort Bragg and hear a shrill whistle.  I am just in time to see the steam engine Skunk Train setting out on its scenic tour into the redwoods.  I roll up the the Baptist Church, and enter to meet the current pastor and a small gathering at the open house.  The main event will be tomorrow’s service, where I will read a letter from my father.

Somehow, I feel more landed this time in Fort Bragg.  I was born here, 49 years ago, only lived here just over a year.  But it feels like home.  As I’ve written before, this is where I first learned to love the sea.  The sand, the wave, the fog horn, the brackish smells of brine and seaweed, the cool breezes which can chill the body, but not the soul.

Fort Bragg, California, Mendocino Coast.  Homeland.


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