Day 10, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods to Elk Prairie Campground, 44 miles
Chaotic dreams, nightmares of the restaurant. Mirroring what would seem to be a nightmare in the real world, back home at the restaurant, right now. Save the care and devotion of my friend stepping in to manage. Thank you Robert!
I think back on the 16 years I’ve owned, operated, managed, worked, despised, celebrated, kept afloat our labor of love and dogged determination. FireWorks. Pub and Pizza. I still say to anyone, anywhere, who thinks it would be fun, romantic, easily profitable to start their own restaurant. Think again.
This tour is like the others, I’ve worked hard, all year, then left. In the hands of employees, with their own level of motivation and commitment, disfunction and skills. Not the first tour I’ve had to orchestrate a change of kitchen leadership. But this time, totally from afar. From California.
I ponder this process as I ride today. What feels different? Trust in my surrogate manager, Robert, who knows what and how to make the change. Thus, I’m freed to enjoy the ride. To ride, muscle up the long hills, enjoy the stunning vistas, delve deep into the redwoods, deeper still into the heart.
I pack up my gear, turns out I’m the only camper in the hiker/biker at Jedidiah. I feel the aloneness, yet experience it differently, surrounded by these towering giants, trees hundreds of years old. How can I feel lonely in such a place of wonder, of beauty, of reverence. I’m so grateful our forebears saw fit to preserve this land, these redwoods, even though just a fraction of what was here before Europeans arrived to log Northern California.
I ride on 199, crossing the Smith River, climb a long hill through groves of giants, then descend to 101, now a broad freeway. Sunlight! Warms me immediately, and I pedal more quickly. On to Crescent City, stopping at Starbucks for the coffee and wifi. Always ends up being a couple hours, writing, social media, wandering the internet. I’ll admit I’m avoiding the hills too.
The Crescent City hills, feared by touring cyclists. They really aren’t that steep. Just long. 1100 feet of climbing, straight up from sea level. I gear down and begin the long pedal. It’s nice to see much of the construction finished, from past years of flagging and delays. Save a few spots, where collapsing roadbed remains detoured.
Climbing, climbing. Pedaling steadily, breathing in rhythm with each stroke. I drink in the deep forest air, cool temperatures for the towering trees, golden needles and green wood sorrel blanketing the ground. Wary of poison oak, just beginning to show. I want to avoid contact with that again this year.
At last, the sign indicating a Brake Check area. Descent looms! The thrill now of flying down the curves, the highway banking west back to the ocean. Blue waters and clear skies glinting now between the trees. A long construction site remains in the middle of the descent, seems for years they’ve been working on this. I wait to follow a long stream of vehicles, pedaling through the site full speed. The road opens to stunning views, but I only stop once before arriving at the Klamath beach.
Surf pounds against shore, sea stacks pepper the coast. I catch my breath, perch my bike on a rock, marvel at the brilliant sky, breathe in the salt air. I’ve been watching my odometer, right at this moment turning 28,000. That’s my miles ridden since I resumed touring in 2010. Not really that many miles, compared to some riders. How many more will I ride on my future tours?
I wait awhile, but need to continue. Another couple long hills before camp this afternoon. I pause at Pem-Mey rest stop, a gas station and convenience store in Klamath. Expensive provisions, clean restroom, more water for the bottles. Onward, stopping at the Golden Bear bridge. Welcome to California. Cyclists experience the Redwood Highway as a freeway here, save a few miles of bypass on the Newtown Drury corridor. I turn and climb the long hill to Prairie Creek Redwoods and tonight’s camp.
The long straightaway banks back into the deep trees, climbs further and then begins a rapid descent. Hairpin curves open to a glorious five miles through grove after grove of ancient trees. Still takes my breath away, seeing, feeling, experiencing the quiet of this forest. A few more miles, so many more trees. The road then breaks into the wide clearing and the Elk Prairie campground. The sun washes over me, a bask in the warmth.
Into camp, one of the first to arrive of many. Setting up my tent, then a hot shower, then communing with other cyclists. Night falls quickly, Frank and I join the others who are cooking by fire. The heat comforts my cold toes, the conversation warms my heart. A traveling community of cyclists, sharing stories and laughs, fears and victories from the road. I retire to my tent, listening to the stories turn into song as John brings out his guitar.