September 1-4, Mendocino Shoreline Highway 1, Westport Landing to Gualala
I remember nothing from the first two years of my life, which began in the small town of Fort Bragg, on the Mendocino Coast of California. I recall family lore, stories my parents told of the time here. My father a preacher at the Baptist Church, my mother his doting helpmate, playing organ and directing choir. How she loved it here. But small church politics forced a relocation, a cross country exodus to New England. Details of this, I also know few. Save my father wasn’t meeting the expectations of a certain influential parishioner who took it upon himself to give my father notice.
My return to the town, and this coast, over the past several years has created a new sense of belonging. The Baptist Church celebrated a 75th anniversary, which I attended and heard stories even then of how the church remembered the presence and works of my father and mother. I’ve taken a great liking to now familiar landmarks, Ten Mile Creek, Pudding Creek Trestle (now part of a bicycle path connecting MacKerricher Beach to downtown Fort Bragg), Mendocino Headlands. I’ve yet to befriend any of the locals, though I have a strong sense I could, if I decided to stay awhile longer.
Still, I’m a mere traveler on this trip through, riding the rolling highway of this coastline. Countless headlands with steep grades descending into chilly coves then climbing the next headland and back into the sun. I’m making great progress on the third day, a fine tailwind blowing me south toward Point Area. Enjoying a blazing decent, bicycle computer nearing 40 mph, I notice a sharp pain on my right shin. Was that a rock? I stop and scratch at the spot, fingernail bringing up the stinger and venom sac – bee sting! I curse and catch my breath, riding on the the town. I know I should get ice on it.
I’ve been stung twice before, in my face. The swelling was impressive and somewhat disconcerting. Though I’ve never had a dangerous reaction, I always wonder – will this be the one that does? I opt for a second rest day in Gualala, keeping ice on the leg. My shin and calf are noticeably swollen, and I realize I shouldn’t ride the huge climbs ahead. I will need to take more than a day off until the reaction calms. So the next morning I hop a bus in Gualala, bicycle secured on the front rack, then I’m careening over the hills at Fort Ross and up the Russian River to Santa Rosa. A few days off with the boys in Berkeley and I’ll be right as rain to get back on the road.