Soaring over the Sonoma Coastline, Again

Day 15, Kirk’s place to Bodega Dunes State Park, 53 miles

I’ve know Kirk, who also goes by Donkey, since my first workshop with the Cob Cottage Company in 2000. So much has changed over the 15 years since then, yet it’s reassuring to watch the evolution of our lives. He tells me he had no idea then he would become a cob teacher. Now he has his own company, the Sundog School of Natural Building, teaching three 9-day workshops this year. The skill of his craft is apparent in the many cob structures on the land here. Cottages, rockets stoves of various designs, ovens, benches, adobe bricks in a neat stack. An outdoor shower, bath house with fresco walls, and the requisite crew of apprentices every cob school needs. Kirk is renting out one of these cottages on Air Bnb, check it out!

We join the apprentices for morning coffee, and talk about their involvement with the school. Kirk appears, we reminisce and talk about future plans. Heidi is starting a birthing center in Ukiah, living over the hill full time with the girls, who are now 13 and 17. Time flies. Alice seems as fascinated as anyone who encounters this natural building movement, spawned from the work of the “cob-father” himself, Ianto Evans. We talk about how Harbin Hot Springs burned to the ground in the Lake County fire, yet the only thing left were the cob columns of the temple built by Sun Ray Kelly, another of Ianto’s students-become-teacher-builder. Kirk muses about building a cob campus, a college for natural building. Go big, very big.

The morning is rolling along, so we must also get rolling. Alice and I bid goodbye and push our bikes up the steep gravel drive to the main road. Getting warm already. On Old Stage Road, we head south, rolling along the ridge until a 10% decline into Gualala. Time for breakfast at Trink’s Cafe. Delicious! We work on the wifi for awhile, I’m doing accounting and writing, Alice is updating her emails. And charging the electronics, of course. After a quick stop at the Gualala Market, we head south again on Route 1. The narrow highway rolls over hills, passing through Sea Ranch, the Stewarts Point. I find my legs strong, the climb up the ridge yesterday must have been training for this ride. I fly along Route 1, graced by sunny skies and light traffic. I’m riding hard, ahead of Alice this time. I’m hoping to get to the top of the hills after Fort Ross before she passes me. She rides faster than me, but today the scenery is in my favor: I know she’ll have to stop for lots of pictures.

I pass Fort Ross and begin the big climb. The fog is coming, out on the ocean, but views down to the turquoise breakers are still clear. I am again struck by the spectacular views. I gradually climb the 500 foot hill, meeting two other cyclists heading to SF, Sarah and Jordon. The decent comes too fast, then another climb. Alice catches up with me as I’m taking a picture of a cattle guard. Up the final climb, then down through rapid switchbacks, up over another bluff, then a joyful descent into Jenner. Alice finds a room for the night, and we meet the other cyclists at Cafe Aquatica. Great coffee and a ridiculously good poached egg sandwich with local lox. Alice and I are going separate ways, she will head inland to Sonoma wine country tomorrow, and I’ll head south into SF. Our parting is bittersweet, as we have grown fond of our rides and conversations together. But we plan to meet up in Big Sur after my retreat and continue riding south together.

I jump on my big and ride the last miles to Bodega Dunes State Park. The fog is getting heavy now, I have all the blinky lights on. I pass Sonoma Coast beaches, the waves below softly lulling, disappointed surfers getting back into their cars. Just a few more miles. My legs are now feeling the big push, but my spirits are high. Ah, the camp for the night. I’m joined by Sarah and Jordon, who are cycling a national parks tour, an epic loop through most of the great parks of the west. We both plan to ride straight into SF tomorrow, so I head to bed early. Camped under huge pines, surf and foghorns in the distance. A beautiful night, to follow a beautiful day.

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