Rocking a tailwind down the southern coast

Day 13, Humbug Mountain to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, 75 miles

I wake to hear the two oldest cyclists already heading out. I’m still sleeping. This is different than my recent tours, when I seemed to wake with the dawn. Am I more tired? Or more relaxed? In fact, today would have been a good day to start out early, as I’m planning to ride past Brookings straight over the border into California and on to Jedediah Smith Redwoods, near Crescent City.

I pack up and bid my companions farewell. I head out on the 101, which winds behind Humbug Mountain, along a rushing stream. Fiddleheads are just coming out along the bank, in response to the early rains. The highway climbs to cross the mountain, a good warmup for sleepy legs, then levels out an follows the beach. My mind wanders as I ride along the coast, the many times I’ve passed these miles. Gold Beach arrives before I know it, I coast down the hill and over the Rogue River bridge.

I stop at the post office and mail home some excess baggage: last years journals, brought along for research. I’ve kept a personal journal since high school, periodically reading it for insight and reflection. I’m often asked: don’t you burn them? I’ve never consider such an atrocity! To me, my journals are vital documents. Of course there are parts I’d rather not revisit. Even so, these are treasure troves of insight into my personal evolution. My struggles, my achievements, my love, my despair.  It’s all there.

Glad to mail them home, however. While in Bandon, I digitized some passages for reading later, camera photos. now I’m shipping home several pounds of paper. And also, it seems, the emotional load associated with carrying these documents. I ride back up the hill to the 101, follow it to my favorite bookstore coffeeshop. Time to write, but I shouldn’t linger, given the miles ahead, 50 still to go! But a strong tailwind has picked up. I jump on my bike and pedal on.

Soon I’m making the long climb up Cape Sebastian, then screaming down the other side. The descent bottoms out and follows a beach peppered with sea stacks offshore. The tailwind is blowing me along at 20 mph, a joy that feels like cheating. I’ll take it though. And wave to the sole northbound cyclist I pass, gritting his teeth into the wind. I cross the Pistol River then climb towards the Boardman Corridor. This ten mile long corridor climbs and dips, deeply forested and much cooler. Still, wind a my back. I’m flying.

Before I know it, Brookings appears. Today is a delightful ride. Yet, 25 miles to go, and it’s past 5pm. Two hours to sunset. I will be riding in the dark today. I stop for a bike cable, but the store doesn’t have any without a lock built in. I need my old school looped cable, to lock my bike to the picnic table. I text Angelina to send it along with my solar panel and socks to replace the pair I lost in Washington. The coffeeshop I usually visit is closed, so I push on. There’s a taqueria about 10 mile into California, dinner break there.

My tailwind takes me up to the California border, where I pause for selfies with Squiddie. He’s delighted to have traversed two states with me, and looking forward to a third. Two germans drive up in a used Jaguar convertible they just bought in Washington, ask me to take their picture at the border sign. We share some laughs and stories, then they roar off in their roadster. They’re having fun. I’m also having a blast, at a slower pace.

The sun is sinking as I make my way along the 101, now in California. Shoulders are wide, better than years past. I’m getting pretty hungry, how many more miles? Then Lolita’s appears, and I roll up. Fish tacos, chips and guacamole. The food takes a while, but I’m relaxing in the warm dining room. I eat too much, then wonder if this was a good idea. When I walk back outside and feel the chill air, I realize, no it was not a good idea. The sun has set, temperatures dropped 10 degrees, and not I’ve still got 12 miles to go to the camp.

Oh well! I don my warm clothes, light up my head lights and rear flashers, and head down the darkened highway. Traffic has dropped off too, but my momentum is lagging. I should have just pushed through. I’m slogging along, then I see the turnoff, Highway 197 towards the 199. Ah, just a few more miles. 197 follows the Smith River, a level winding road, very light traffic. With my 900 lumen headlight, the reflectors on the road jump at me. The night ride is surreal. Seems not as cold here too.

I finally arrive at camp at 930pm, take a mercifully hot shower, then wander around looking for the hiker/biker camp. Ah, there it is. One other person, motorcyclist. Maybe we’ll meet in the morning. I’m quick to set up the tent, exhausted and exhilarated from the epic ride. I ask myself, why do I do this marathon ride? Because I can? Or maybe because I enjoy seeing what I’m capable of. Soon, I’ll take a day off, in Arcata. A couple rides hence. I’m sure to sleep well tonight.


One thought on “Rocking a tailwind down the southern coast

  1. Enjoy reading your posts. It’s been fun to revisit through your trip, my own of many years ago. I live in San Luis Obispo and can share options around Big Sur. Contact me if you need information.

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