The Crescent City hills

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.

4 thoughts on “The Crescent City hills

  1. I did a long bike ride on Saturday and then rode to work yesterday and today…
    I am tired tonight from riding my bike and thinking I might take a break and swim tomorrow.

    You have inspired me
    and plan to keep doing more of this.

    It is great to see your progression and your pictures. You have an artistic eye. The flowers are so vibrantly colorful.

    I am enclosing a poem by Mary Oliver.

    Sleeping in the Forest

    I thought the earth remembered me,
    she took me back so tenderly,
    arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
    full of lichens and seeds.
    I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
    nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
    but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
    among the branches of the perfect trees.
    All night I heard the small kingdoms
    breathing around me, the insects,
    and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
    All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
    grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
    I had vanished at least a dozen times
    into something better.

    from Sleeping In The Forest by Mary Oliver
    © Mary Oliver

  2. How wonderful to share another great day of riding with you!

    I love how each of your photos speaks just as many words as your entire blog entry. I particularly like the photo reminding folks that May is bike month — right next to the McDonald’s billboard. Funny how drivers will “slow down” for french fries, but not necessarily for cyclists (though sounds like you’ve mostly experienced respectful drivers). The most ridiculous billboards, IMHO, are those that say “Mouth watering ice cream — 5 minutes ahead.” Sure, it might be a mere 5 minute drive for motorists, but that ice cream may easily be a 30 minute ride for cyclists.

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