Day 24, Standish-Hickey to MacKerricher State Park, 42 miles
So glad I found my legs yesterday! I’m climbing the notorious Leggett Hill, the northern beginning of California Route 1. This is the highest summit on the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route, and though not over steep, or even longer than the Crescent City hills, Leggett seems intimidating. Cyclists fear the climb and delight in the descent.
I left camp before Dan and Alex, hoping to get ahead a bit. I’m also looking forward to a phone call with my sweetheart at the end of the ride. An extra motivation, has my heart pounding in more ways than one. A few steady miles along the Eel River, then the turnoff, sign for Fort Bragg, the place of my birth.
I’m partway up the hill, Alex comes on past. He asks if it’s the summit, where I’ve stopped. Not even close I tell him, get back on and follow. Traffic is light, and very courteous on this narrow winding mountain road. A log truck even comes to a full stop when I stop, thinking he will pass. Instead, he waits until I ride to a wider shoulder, then passes and calls out a greeting to me. Those drivers are the best on the roads.
I finally reach the crest, and there is Alex, glad to find a cell signal, stopped to read up on last night’s US Presidential debate. He’s so interested in our politics. I’m frankly burned out and horrified. We laugh at the absurdity of the discourse, and the Republican buffoon running the show. The world seems to be hanging in the balance.
I set up my phone mount to get a video of the descent, and set off. The way down is fast and fun, hairpin turns, 2000 feet elevation lost. The air is cool, and with the sweat evaporating off, I’m getting a chill. Alex soon catches me and passes, so now my video includes another careening fool cyclist. Epic! We go through the curves together, then Alex slows and I pass him. On downward until the road levels off for a few miles.
Soon we are climbing Rockport Hill, an 700 foot summit before reaching the coast. This is the extra challenge after the long descent, and seems harder than the first climb. I muscle down and keep focused on the pedals, on my legs, powerful and aching. Just a few more bends, then I’m descending again. The final turn through a cove, then a climb around the first headland. I hear the surf and Highway 1 opens into a broad vista. Alas, foggy above, not the turquoise waters below I’ve enjoyed other tours. But an accomplishment, and now back to my beloved ocean.
The guardrail bears a host of graffiti, some inspiring, many bicyclists and lovers have inscribed the metal with pen and paint. Some arrows pointing to “free weed”. And this lovely quote:
“She said she cried at least once a day not because she was sad, but because the world is so beautiful and life is so short” Brian Andreas
My very thoughts. Especially with a heart that is opening again, so wide. I find tears at the beauty, at the fragility, and the precious nature of life. I pause a long while, taking in the misty vista, the foggy skies, the gentle pounding surf below. I long for Jennifer, think of how beautiful it would be to share this place with my new love. Next time!
I ride on, looking forward to our phone call, and to lunch at Westport Landing. I find Alex there, soon we are ordering sandwiches and complaining about the chill. Time to don caps and jackets. No sun to warm us this afternoon. Free wifi however, makes up for the lack of signal. I finish lunch and set off, feeling both tired and eager to complete the ride. The last 10 miles to MacKerricher are beautiful, even as the skies are gray. Rolling hills, pocket coves, steep headland climbs. Then the last crest, through the town of Cleone. I check in with the ranger, same gent I remember from last year. Ah, hot shower, tent and bed set.
I venture out to the beach, where I’ll phone Jennifer. Crimson tipped ice plants cover the dunes. Heavy surf pounds against the gray sands, washing piles of kelp back and forth at the water’s edge. Shore birds dodge the waves.
It’s only been a week since we left each other! Surprising. Feels longer, much longer. I hear her voice and feel a shiver run up my spine. It’s not just the cold of the beach. We talk on and on and on, sharing, laughing, wondering together. Over an hour passes before I know it. The beach is cold, but my heart is blazing with new warmth. We’ll talk again, and no doubt text for a long time more tonight.
I return to the hiker biker site to find a half dozen tents have joined me. Alex and Dan are there, we talk about the ride tomorrow, to visit Kirk and his Sundog School of Natural Building. Good to have these new friends, here on the road. And my new love back at home. I retire to my tent. A few more texts, my eyes are drooping, a drift off into a satisfied sleep.