“I’m on a quest!”

Day 4: Harris Beach to Prairie Creek Redwoods, 63 miles

I’m up with the dawn. I know today’s ride will be grueling. Challenging enough are the Crescent City hills, followed by more climbing into the redwoods. But I’ve also got a pretty good case of saddle sore.

I grit my teeth and ride. Transitions are the worst, getting on and off the bike, starting and stopping. But once in motion, bodies tend to stay in motion, right?

I head out to a beautiful sunrise over Brookings and stop at Ray’s for some food. I’m accosted, no, greeted by a local named Caroline. She’s carrying a birthday cake for her husband, who’s 64 today. He’s also the Brookings City Manager. I joke she should sing him the Beatles song. Then she reaches into her purse and gives me a $20. Not wanting to be rude, I graciously accept. We then start a 20 minute conversation which leads to my discover she lived in Fort Bragg for 22 years.

Normally I would bow out but we keep talking. She tells me she intends to ride Spaceship One to the Space Station in 2030.I believe she will. She also tells me she helped save the Skunk Train in Fort Bragg when it was going to be mothballed. Then she asks me, “Why are you riding?”

Without a hitch I respond “I’m on a quest!” She nods in recognition, though at that moment I’m not sure exactly what I’m seeking. More conversation, then she hands me another $20. Mad money? Could she be the same woman who gave me $5 in 2012, in front of the same store?

Eventually she’s off to deliver the cake, and I’m off down the road to ponder my quest. The ride to Crescent City is a breeze, literally, with 20mph tailwinds pushing me along. Then the hills. I meet them at the same time some of my cycling friends arrive. They take the ascent much faster. My head down, I crawl up and over, up and over. Level terrain at Klamath, then more climbing.

Then the wonderful descent into Prairie Creek Redwoods. Tino and Theresa are stopping, as I suggested, to see the massive trees. For the first time. I feel an emissary, taking their picture for them. Sharing my trees with these foreign guests. Recalling the sequoias we planted on the land, after the logging. Zach’s forest.

Exhausted and ecstatic, I arrive at the campground which is swarming with cyclists! The groups from before are there, and more. I meet David and Uschi, who are headed to Argentina. “I have a sitar and mandolin,” he tells me, and invites me to come to the fire later.

Now last tours, I was a recluse and would have just gone to bed. But tonight, I shower, set up camp, eat some oats (all I have at this point!) And then head over.

A dozen touring cyclists are sharing stories around a blazing fire. Much laughter, stories from their travels, many started in Alaska or the Yukon. When they talk of their Oregon miles, I feel a sense of pride, yet also cringe as they notice the decimated economy of the small towns.

I break off at last and head to sleep. I’m not as sore as I’d feared after this day of riding. I feel refreshed, connected. Maybe a bit closer to understanding what my quest is all about. Stars are out again. What a good sign.

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