Soaring over the Sonoma Coast

Day 10: Anchor Bay to Bodega Dunes State Park, 54 miles

I wake to a beautiful sunlit morning,warm air, clothes dry on the line, first time this trip there is no dew on the tent fly. Dryer climate here in the hills of southern Mendocino County.

I share coffee with Kirk. He recalls how logging has changed the ecosystem and the Gualala River. Clearcutting removed the heavy forest floor, which used to hold the sparse rains and release water slowly. The river used to be 40 feet deep at the mouth; now you can wade across. Our visit is too short as I jump on my bike and head down the hill. I give back all the altitude in exchange for velocity. 10% grades make for a rapid descent.

Just south of the Gualala I enter Sonoma County and The Sea Ranch, a posh resort with estates for the 1%. A stunning change from the crazy towns of Mendocino, fueled by black market cash from the semi-legal marijuana industry, estimated as a $4 billion cash crop. But the black market aspect has severe consequences; a local paper has a headline of a triple homicide over a drug deal gone bad. I recall the Kettenpom murders two years back which cost three young lives, connected to my own town.

I continue south, past Fort Ross and up over the huge bluffs. Soaring over the Sonoma Coast, on a brilliant sunny day, sparkling clear waters hundreds of feet below. There are two thrilling descents on the Shoreline Highway, one being Leggett Hill, and the other the Fort Ross bluffs. The road winds down a series of switchbacks, and the joy of cycling can be no greater that this: sharply banking the corners, wind whistling through my helmet, spinning freewheel, warm sun. I don’t have an action descent video this time, but took these clips to show what words simply cannot convey:

After the descent, a quick stop at the bakery in Jenner, excellent coffee and one of the best chocolate chip cookies ever. I meet Nick from Mexico who is heading south. He tells me of an island off Baja that I should not miss, botanical diversity like no other place. Then another 10 miles to the camp. There I meet Elisabeth and Marcus from Germany, touring on a recumbent tandem which gives the front-seated stoker a hair-raising view on those descents! We talk a lot about the tour, health care in America vs Germany.

Elisabeth and Marcus need a bike shop for repairs to their spokes. The camp host offers to drive them to Santa Rosa. Generosity turns out to be commonplace on a bicycle tour. I am in touch with Lulu, who has offered couch space in SF. I am glad to have made new friends in the Bay Area.

I retire for the night, weary and satisfied. Sea lions bark in the distance. I savor the scent of pine and beach grass. The full moon illuminates my tent. A restful night.

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