California!

Day 18, Humbug Mountain to Crescent City, 77 miles

Deeper into the wilderness I venture. I’m up before the sun, packing my wet tent. I’ve decided on a ridiculous ride for today, to blast through Brookings and on to Crescent City, nearly 80 miles. Weather looks wet in Brookings, but clearer once in California, even though Crescent City is just 20 miles further south. Rain looming, I contact the Warm Showers host at the St Paul’s Episcopal church, which has numerous good comments. An email back confirms my hosting for the night.

Full lights as I head out, accompanied only by cattle trucks as I follow 101 around the east side of Humbug Mountain. I marvel again at the near perfect dome of the mountain, clearly volcanic, what, some 40 million years ago. All the coastal headlands were just islands then, submerged in an ocean one cannot begin to imagine the depths and shorelines of.

A large climb, early in the day, then a quick descent. I also have on my full rain gear, anticipating the wet weather predicted by NOAA’s point forecasts. But save some morning fog, the day turns out to be dry, no drizzle or rain. The weatherman was wrong! I ride on, crossing the marvelous bridge over the Rogue River, then up on into Gold Beach. Headwinds make for a slow ride, but the clear skies have buoyed my mood.

I stop at Rachel’s Coffeehouse, part of Gold Beach Books, enjoy a good dark roast and a fabulous lemon poppyseed scone. Dan arrives and joins me at the table. He got to Humbug Mountain even later than I did last night. We swap stories and I tell him of my crazy plan to head on to Crescent City. I head out, realizing the afternoon will be short and the riding distance long.

I climb Cape Sebastian right out of Gold Beach, noticing the chalk “Hills Are Fun!” still inscribed on the pavement (I first noticed this in May of 2015). Chalk on asphalt has an enduring quality. Up and over, with a descent I can say most definitively to be fun. Highway 101 rounds the Pistol River, the shore there peppered with sea stacks. The dark forms loom in the surf, huge windblown swells crashing into the lava formations.

On southward, the highway climbs into the Samuel Boardman Corridor. The sky is clearer, but trees shade the highway making the ride chilly. I’m cycling faster, feeling an urgency to reach Brookings. Several rolling climbs, then a full descent into town. I push on through planning only one stop at the Downtown Coffee Lounge, arriving only to find it just closed!

The friendly proprietor lets me in nevertheless, and makes me an espresso. Much needed for the final push to Crescent City. I remind her that I’ve stopped at her establishment every tour thus far, and send all my cycling friends there as well. There are a few local men in the shop, talking about shooting grizzly bears, hard to tell what is actual and what is exaggeration.

I finish my coffee and begin the final leg of the ride, 26 more miles to Crescent City, graciously flat. Five miles from Brookings Highway 101 crosses to the California state line. I stop for the obligatory selfie with the iconic sign, recalling all the other times I posed here. Four years ago stands out in my mind, when Zach died so suddenly. Life is so brief, and precious. Something to remember.

The last miles go quickly, passing through the first redwoods of the ride scattered along the busy highway. I fly into Crescent City and across town, where I meet Katie at the church. She shows me around, orients me to the exceptional offerings for the itinerant bicyclist. A shower, towels included, large commercial kitchen, even foods left from other cyclists. Looks like I’m the only guest tonight, though they have hosted a dozen at a time recently. Then she leaves. Such hospitality!

Rains begin outside as I go through my evening rituals, and I’m glad I have a roof over my head. I prepare for sleep, and now the pining gets to me. I long to see Jennifer again, and realize it will be weeks. But I know the aching in my heart is just a reminder of the closeness we shared. I’ll dream of her tonight, I’m sure of this.

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