Soaring over the Sonoma Coast, again

Day 11: Manchester Beach to Bodega Dunes Campground, 68 miles

Up at dawn, somehow without any clock. “Bike-touring-time” is so different than normal life. I’m on the road at 730am, trying to get a head start on what will be the longest ride yet of this tour. I pedal off into the misty hills, a chill and fine drizzle waking me further.

I stop in Point Arena at the natural food store for coffee and a breakfast croissant. And to connect with wifi, do the accounting back home (via remote connection!). Steven rolls up and joins me for awhile. The benches in the seating area of this little store feel homey, and the few times I’ve visited have also coincided with meeting my friend Kirk, who runs a cob building school up in the hills above Anchor Bay. I won’t see him this trip, as he’s off teaching a workshop to the north.

I get back on the road, and soon cross into Sonoma County and the swank Sea Ranch community. The Shoreline Highway is challenging, sweeping over headlands and dropping into “pocket” coves. To top this off, the traffic steadily increases, on this, Memorial Day. People are already heading home after the holiday weekend. The road has no shoulder for much of the day, and packed with pickups dragging trailers and boats, it is a stressful experience to cycle. Probably for the drivers too.

At mile 47, the road passes Fort Ross and climbs to soaring heights, and into the fog. I’m in my lowest gear, noes down, steadily climbing. The views are stunning, even with the overcast of fog. I’m taking in the wild flowers as well, so many colors, such diversity. I knew this trip would be a joy, California in the spring! Even with the gray skies, the water far below is a dark turquoise. I cross no less than four cattleguards across the highway. Cattle graze near the road.

Then the crest and a delightful descent around switchbacks. Another short climb, then the Russian River appears. Still ten miles to go. My legs are able, but my mind is complaining, wishing the chilly day was over. At last the campground appears, and I roll in, glad to find my riding companions already here.

Tonight is bittersweet, as the five will be separating off from my itinerary, to rent a car and drive to Yosemite. We exchange emails, and I show Tim and Lawrence a riding schedule so they can get to LA in enough time to catch their flight back to the UK. We’ll see each other on the road again tomorrow, but tonight will be the last fire shared. Steven says he will miss us all, and invites us to Germany to visit, as do Sebastian and Stephanie.

Friends from the road, so easy to meet and become acquainted, when barriers and facades are dropped. Sharing the common joy of cycling, exploring, adventure, community. Lessons for me, the senior member of the group: don’t let this go. Make more friends, however possible.

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