Day 15, MacKerricher to Van Damme State Park, 18 miles
A slow morning rising, I’m planning to spend a leisurely day, wandering through Fort Bragg, then continue on to camp just south of Mendocino. Frank is up and heading out, Kurt too, likely our group of cycling friends will disband from this point. Erin, Nate and Rick already left the group yesterday, riding to Russian Gulch. Such is the temporal nature of velogypsies, meeting and greeting each other, then offering each other farewell and travel safely.
I pack up, ride the haul road back into Fort Bragg. The morning is brisk, clear blue skies reflect turquoise in the ocean off MacKerricher beach. I cross the Pudding Creek trestle, then head over to coffee and internet at the Mendocino Cookie Company. I catch up the accounting with Robert, get my back bicycle wheel trued at the nearby bike shop, spend hours pondering and surfing social media.
At last, I roll down the road, through the busy downtown of my hometown, Fort Bragg. This place is where I was born, yet mostly remains a mystery, as we moved across the country to New Hampshire while I was still an infant. The only images I have are from family photos and stories. Yet, each time I ride this coastline, I seem to be getting a stronger connection, a longing to return again and again.
I ride the short miles south to Mendocino, the quaint village perched on the Mendocino Headlands peninsula. I stop at Goodlife Bakery, but don’t see the bold ravens from a couple years ago. I set out to camp, feeling a chilly breeze. I want to get out of the wind. I cross the Big River, cycling over hills for a couple miles, then descend sharply into the cove to Van Damme State Park.
The state park is in a deep cove on the Little River, where I’d seen abalone divers in past years. I set up my tent, then head back to the beach for the sunset. I’m shivering in the strong northerly winds, but stay to watch the descending star as long as I can. Such magic, to see the skies light up in gold and orange, reflected in the gentle surf.
I return to camp, cook up a quick dinner. I meet three other cyclists, Gary, Eric and Rick. We share a few words, but I must retreat to my warm sleeping bag. Darkness is falling earlier each night, and I’m glad to follow the direction of the light. Long hours of sleep bring dreams and healing to my weary soul and body. More mystery and magic in the night.