Day 10, Eureka KOA to Burlington Campground, 61 miles
Alice and I took a “pastry day” yesterday, resting and wandering around Arcata. The actual pastry was had at Cafe Brio, a lovely spot shown to me by Josephine a couple tours back. Sticky bun with drip brewed coffee. Mmmm! Spent the morning writing, catching up on accounting, and feeling relaxation melt over me. Then a visit to the Finnish Tub & Sauna, my favorite layover spot after cycling the rigorous hills of Northern California. If you haven’t been there, don’t miss it! Private tubs, $9.75, what a deal. And a coffeeshop too, great place to hang out and recharge, the batteries and the soul.
On the road this morning, looking forward to the ride with renewed spirits. We set out from the Kampground (miss-spelling intentional, by the KOA) off to Los Bagels in Eureka. Great smoked salmon and schmear. Alice wants to see the Carson Mansion, so we backtrack several blocks north. The sun is in the wrong spot, so we cycle up the drive, which ominously says “PRIVATE”. I’m not really trying to get Alice deported. She asks if we will get shot. I tell her to just begin speaking French if someone questions our being on the path, taking pictures.
Back on 101, we leave town and are blown south across wide coastal plains and pasture land. Strong tailwinds are a joy, an extra push for most of the day. We take a side route at Loleta, as per the book (“Bicycling the Pacific Coast”), joking and singing as much of “Lola” as we can remember. It’s nice to leave the busy freeway, watch the wind blowing across the grasses, cattle grazing, sun and clear skies. An excellent day for cycling. At the next intersection I tell Alice that week could turn left to Ferndale, but it’s extra miles. “What are miles?” she asks. We divert to the Ferndale loop, something Roberta and the book both recommend. Winds are now crossing our path, blowing fiercely as we ride over a long narrow bridge. Both hands on the bars! At 5 miles we enter the quaint historic Victorian town of Ferndale. I spot the shop Alice has been waiting for and call out “Pie!” Second coffee time. I have a modest brownie (huge) and the owner talks to us about our trip, then directs us to some of the best sights in Ferndale. The Parish, the gingerbread house, and the historic cemetery, with a grand view of the town and beyond.
After many pictures, we head out of town on Grizzly Bluff Road, more farmland, winds, cattle, and a few steep hills. At last we reach Rio Dell we stop briefly for iced tea, tacos and guacamole at Cafe 101. A picturesque bridge leads us across the Eel River, then back onto the freeway and on the redwoods. Again, miles fly with the extra push of the winds. At 39 miles, we still have 22 to go before camp. The afternoon is getting on, and I calculate we’ll have an hour of sunlight after reaching Burlington. This spurns me on to ride as fast as I can. But I’m able, and enjoying the rigor of today. I’ve found my legs again, strong and steady, pumping mile after mile. The pastry day has worked its magic, renewing my energy and enthusiasm. I’m getting a bit silly too. Calling out to cattle, dogs, singing Lola with Alice. Ah, Pepperwood! The entry into the Avenue of the Giants. Almost home, to our home for the night. We turn on the flashers as we enter the darkened corridor, relishing the quiet and easy grades. The Avenue winds along the Eel River, lined with ancient redwoods, as well as broken down vehicles and empty storefronts, symbols of the heydays past.
It’s 6pm when we arrive at Burlington Campground, in the heart of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. We check in and join two other cyclists and two hikers at the site. Set up, showers, then cooking by candlelight (and headlamp) at a shared table. Cous cous with sautéed onion, dehydrated veggies, raisins and walnuts. Delicious! Alice brings out the salad and corn tortillas. The Arcata coop has done us well. We enjoy the conversation at the table with our new friends, ranging from politics to the latest shooting in Roseburg, to shared stories of the road. I’m shivering, but want to stay on, listening and learning. This is how friendships are forged, through shared experience, common dreams, a simple meal, a candle. We head off to bed, sheltered by the giant trees overhead, dark and quiet. With the brilliant light of friendship shining in my heart.