Day 20, Elk Prairie to Arcata, 46 miles
A brisk morning heading out from the camp. I bid my fellow cycling friends farewell and ride into the fog. The sun is just breaking through the tall redwoods east of the meadow. I’ve got enough layers, save my hands. Fingers to be exact, feeling the chill. But I’m too lazy to stop and fish out my gloves from the bottom of my panniers. I’ll remember to pack them near the top next time.
Touring in the fall has many benefits, including fair weather, light traffic, a time I can break away from the restaurant as students return to wake up our sleepy college town of Corvallis. But the morning – and sometimes all day – chill is not one of the things I like about it. Add 20+ MPH wind chill, generated on the descents, you get the picture.
Seven miles from the camp, in enter the tiny town of Orick, and ride through to the Palm Cafe. I walk in the door and Jerry says, “I think I know this guy!” He’s the gregarious host Alice and I met last October. He also has a large collection of Queen Elizabeth memorabilia and kitzch, and I remind him how Alice was absolutely delighted to find another follower of Her Majesty deep in the California redwood country. (I’ve included the picture of Alice & Jerry from last year.) Jerry shows me the latest: a bedazzled hat with so many jewels it glitters in the sunlight. His laughter and general good mood are infectious.
I’m joined at breakfast by Lars, who I met at Elk Prairie. He’s got a huge rig, with a third wheel trailer, extra panniers, and a 1000 watt motor to climb hills. Those of us non-motorized cyclists (oxymoron?) usually scoff at such folks, but I give Lars the benefit of the doubt. Hey, it gets him down the road, and he gets to camp and meet other wonderful folks. Like me. Or Judith, who soon occupies the seat Lars has left. She’s a New Zealander who actually has spent a lot of time in Oregon, Eugene and Corvallis for that matter. Small world. She just hiked the PCT, decided to get a bike in Seattle and tour the coast. We exchange blogs, stories, more laughs with Jerry.
Time to ride, and now the day has warmed. The sun and clear skies boost my mood as I spin off down 101. The highway winds over rolling hills around several lagoons, and again I notice the chill. Climbing hills warms me, and I’m enjoying this ride so much. I turn at Patricks Point onto Trinidad Drive, and follow the winding scenic bypass over bluffs, past barking sea lions, ending up in the somewhat swank hamlet of Trinidad, California.
A stop at the Beachcomber Cafe, where three young folks sit at the community table with me, and comment on my bicycle. I tell them of my adventures, while enjoying coffee and a pastry. They seem amazed at the feat of touring via bicycle. They disappear into their conversation, I’m thoughtful as I finish my coffee break.
“You should do it,” I tell my new friends as I get up to go. “What?” they ask. “Bicycle touring is for everyone!” They smile, laugh and agree. Ha, now I am a bicycle touring evangelizer. In fact, I’m thinking this way, more and more. Hearing of people touring into their 70s and 80s, cycling isn’t just for the young. At 53, I’ve never felt more comfortable and ready for the challenges and adventures found on two wheels, pedal powered, crossing thousands of miles. And for the less able, add the electric assist. Why not?
Ah, sitting in the sun a bit more, a chat with Jennifer, she’s feeling better. Guess the woo woo and medicine are helping. I’m relieved and soon gushing again, in texts. She’s certainly captured a special place in my heart. I’m smiling, wondering, what may come next, when I return to Oregon. I ride on from Trinidad, an the very rustic scenic drive, washed out and gravel in many spots. I stop to capture a video to send to Jennifer. Sparkling sun on the gentle surf of Humboldt Bay. So gorgeous and peaceful, a powerful moment.
The last 10 miles to Arcata pass quickly, rounding the bay along the Hammond Trail. I am struck by a rusting, old railroad bridge, crossing the Mad River, patterns of metal and decay against the blue skies above. I roll through town, passing the square filled with hippies playing music and carrying on. My first palm trees, definitely in California now. I’m getting tired, and push on to climb the last hill before my Warm Showers host for the night. A shared meal, conversation, and of course, the warm shower, make for a good end to a brilliant day.