Day 4: Harris Beach to Elk Prairie Campground, 62 miles
I stop in Crescent City to mail home the solar panel, which weighs a couple pounds. I have realized I there are more than enough opportunities to plug in and charge my tech and backup battery, and I don’t want to carry any unnecessary weight over the looming hills. An old timer stops and warns me to lock my bike, a couple summers ago three cyclists lost their entire touring bikes, at the Post Office. I always lock up.
The ride to Crescent City was mercilessly level, a good tailwind. Crossing the California border was a bittersweet. I’ve found an affinity to the South Coast, wishing I had more time to spend exploring the beaches and hiking the headlands. After mailing myself a package marked “stuff I didn’t need”, I stop for fish tacos and some great guacamole. Then, the first of the climbs: the Crescent City Hills. The climb starts with a long straightaway, which seems more arduous than ascending through curves. I gear down and climb. Stroke after stroke, crawling up the hill at a pace a bit faster than walking, 3-4 mph. Cars and trucks pass, giving me room on the triple lane highway.
Then I’m into the redwoods! Always catch my breath when I see the first of these ancient tree. How wonderful that our fore bearers thought to preserve some of the thousand year old trees, save them from the greed and ignorance of the capitalistic timber barons. I’m baffled by the fact that old growth redwoods are still being logged, on private lands nearby. The air chills, but no sight of rain. Climbing steadily, for miles. At the crest there is a brief descent, then two more smaller climbs. I can do this. Then, the long thrill of descending, the highway winding through trees and along cliffs with views of the vast Pacific. No time now to gawk, for I must keep my eyes ahead and on the road as my speed tops 35 mph.
The last curve drops me down on a beautiful stretch of beach, where motorists pull over, snap a couple pictures, then jump back in their cars. How little these other travelers see, less even experience, driving this same highway powered by petroleum, numbed by speed. Here the bicycle tour rules. I stop for second lunch at the beach, enjoying the sun for the first time today. Then onward, through Klamath, and up the last two hills before camp.
I arrive to find my cycling companions, already here, with tents set up and a fire going. After I set up, I join the campfire, where conversation is light and humorous. Three Americans now join the circle, Susan, Lucia and Blake, all from San Francisco. The meeting of cultures is both jovial and awkward. “Are all Brits as humorous?” Stephen sings a few songs in German, asks others for a song.
The fire fades as do the cyclists, retiring to tent and slumber. We will all sleep well tonight.