Day 17, Arcata to Burlington Campground, 52 miles
I wake rested, enough to change my mind about a second day in Arcata. On to the Avenue of the Giants! I’d been nursing a somewhat upset intestine, but after sleep feel ready for the ride into the Humboldt redwoods. I’m packing up and a fellow camper stops to chat about cycling. She used to tour, remembers Myers Flat in the 80s. “No food there!” Hasn’t changed much since either. Except that great espresso shop. And the restaurant in Miranda.
I ride the few miles to Eureka, the busy 101 following Humboldt Bay. The first stretch of Eucalyptus trees display their multicolored bark in the morning sun. It hasn’t rained in awhile, so I’m missing the pungent aroma the leaves release when wet. Soon enough. I roll through Eureka, staying on the busy 101 until I reach the North Coast coop. Ah, feels like home. I buy fresh veggies, more Dr. Bronner’s, new squeeze bottle lids, ones that don’t pop open accidentally. And yogurt to ease my queasy belly. Nice to find Nancy’s here in California, at taste of home! I down some of this and feel better already.
Back on the road, I pick up a strong tailwind off the Humboldt Bay which follows me as I pedal, past the bay, then on up the Eel River valley. Freeway travel is fast, but noisy. Between booming mufflers, excessive acceleration, whining wheels, the sound is deafening. I decide to put in the ear buds, half to protect my hearing, half to put on music to carry me over the boring freeway miles. I stop in Rio Dell, grabbing lunch at a local cafe. Here my exhaustion hits, suddenly I feel so sleepy I don’t know how I can finish the ride. Instead of a nap, I order some coffee.
The rest of the ride is mercifully flat, as I head into the Avenue of the Giants. I skip the Pepperwood exit, along with a couple miles, and head on at Redcrest. The road is noticeably cooler in the shade of the giant redwoods. Sequoia Sempervirens, or Coast Redwoods, many of these trees are hundreds, if not thousands of years old. The scale of size and time help quiet my wandering mind, immediately. I’m awestruck, every time I find myself in the presence of these ancient ones. How brief and precious my life seems, in the context of this forest. The last miles of the ride are smooth and too brief. The canopy opens as the highway follows the banks of the Eel River, so beautiful reflecting crystal blue skies.
I roll into Burlington Campground, just past the town of Weott. I find five other cyclists sharing the Hiker/Biker site. Richie, Chas, Josh, Joe and Jenna. I’m shy, briefly, then quickly meet my new companions. The route ahead dictates that we’ll stop at least the next three nights together. I set up my tent, enjoy a hot shower, and make some dinner by headlamp. Salad with cherry tomatos, roasted almonds, shoyu-cider vinaigrette, and discover I can perfect boiled eggs on my camp stove (Method: place eggs in pot with cold water, bring to a boil, cook 2 minutes, remove from heat and leave in hot water 8 minutes, then flush with cold water. Yoke still soft, translucent, yum!)
I talk with the cyclists, about the road ahead, raving about the great burger at the Peg House, wondering with others how we’ll get past the Mud Creek slide in Big Sur. Richie shares stories of riding across the country, starting in Boston. Joe started in Alaska. Turns out Jenn met Swann too, though neither of us have seen him in awhile. I’m feeling refreshed, so much more alert that I was at my lunch stop. I’m enjoying the camaraderie of having found other cyclists, each on their own journeys, yet sharing a common love of cycling and the adventure of touring.