So, a week or so after our last post and almost 4 weeks into our trip and things are starting to look a little different! The constant, pleasant cycling weather has changed, the terrain has changed, the bikes are showing signs of carrying all the weight and the day after day of cycling is gradually wearing both of us down!
Our final stop in Oregon was at a beautiful Airbnb in a town called Brookings, just 3 miles north of the California State line. Our hosts were Richard and Patti and we stayed in our own little space on the ground floor. It was like an oasis. Comfy bed, powerful hot shower, truffle chocolates, homemade granola bars, a TV!!! and best of all a large hot tub on the terrace area looking out to the ocean. It felt like we had landed in paradise.
Unfortunately our two night stop was over far too quickly and in a flash we were back on the road. On entering California from Oregon you pass through an agricultural checking station, which is larger than some border crossings that we made in South America, then it was straight on South. Almost immediately the weather changed. The fog and mist closed in, the temperature dropped markedly, and it became cold and damp. Steve had been suffering from a minor cold for a week or so and this wasn’t helping much at all. A positive aspect was the campsites were still pretty good.
We spent our first night in California camping by a large river, a really great location made even better by the campfire Sarah got going. We were sitting at dusk by the fire when we saw a couple of people pointing to the other side of the river. We glanced over and after a double take realised we were watching a black bear ambling along the shoreline, probably looking for fish. It wandered up and down for five minutes or so before disappearing back into the woods. Apparently this is not a common sight and only the fourth time this year one had been seen there. It did make us think that all the warning signs we had seen at the various campsites were there for a reason!
That night the temperature plummeted and where we had been having relatively comfortable sleeping conditions we found ourselves awake in the night putting on all our clothes and still feeling quite chilly. We awoke the following morning both feeling quite rough, Steve’s cold had got worse and Sarah had come out in sympathy! We set off towards our next site but the pace was slow and the weather all over the place, one minute bright, hot sunshine, the next shrouded in fog and mist. Our jackets were on and off at least six times by lunch. Added to that it was a hilly day and we were pushing into a head wind, through small towns with populations of 50 and 60 people which really didn’t look very appealing at all. Eventually we had to stop in a town called Orick for supplies. Every business except the grocery store had closed down and being new in town makes you a bit of a magnet to the locals who obviously don’t get many visitors! We quickly bought enough food for lunch and to knock some dinner together and peddled out of town, a little faster than we had peddled in! A few miles further on we sat by the side of the road, both exhausted, cold and hungry and decided to stop at the next campsite and make up the miles the next day.
This was quite a low point of our trip so far. We knew this adventure was not going to be easy and we had anticipated days like this but when it’s happening it is still hard and we know we have to work as a team and support each other. If the plan needs to change, we change it. We have trained quite hard for this trip and we are both glad we did. Steve has cycled hundreds of thousands of miles in the past, up some of the highest climbs in Europe, but when you add weight to the bike things change. Carrying almost half your bodyweight, day in day out, starts to take it’s toll.
We arrived at a State Park campsite soon afterwards where a Park Ranger set us up with a great pitch, right next to the beach. Then the clouds cleared, the sun came out and with a pile of firewood ready to go, things started to look better!! We did have another cold night but this time we went to bed more prepared and fully clothed!!
The following day the weather was much better and with quite a flat route, our spirits were higher and we were rolling along nicely….. that is until we heard the hiss that every cyclist dreads. Steve had picked up a big old tack in his rear tyre, just as we had started on a busy section of the freeway. Off came the panniers, tent, beds, frying pan! and Steve set about sorting it out. After a couple of homeless people had wandered past we became aware of someone else standing watching us. “Oh no, I could do without this” thought Steve as he looked up expecting to see yet another homeless person wanting to talk about something nonsensical. However on looking up he was surprised to see standing there non other than Officer GRIFFIN of the California Highway Patrol (C.H.I.P’s). “Do you folks have everything you need?” “ Is there anything you need help with?”….. What a great guy. He stayed chatting to us for ages, we even had a photo session on the side of the road and he gave us a weather forecast for our route for the next couple of days (which to be fair didn’t lift our spirits that much as it was forecast to be over 100 degrees!).
The following day was very much of two halves. The morning was probably one of the most scenic rides we have done so far, as we made our way along ‘The Avenue of the Giants’. A road which twists its way through the redwood forest, passing some of the oldest and tallest trees on the planet. Trees growing to over 375 feet and living in excess of 2200 years is a remarkable sight, it makes you think of all the events in history these trees have lived through. Amazing. The canopy provides a really atmospheric environment to cycle through but it also provided shade from the building heat which at that point we were pretty unaware of. By the time we returned to the highway and out of the protection of the trees the temperature had rocketed and was heading towards 40 degrees centigrade. With tired legs and a series of long hills, the afternoon became a bit of a struggle. We had stocked up on drink but it didn’t last long and after a hard afternoon we arrived at our campsite exhausted with dry throats, but we had another day ticked off.
The next day was our shortest of the whole trip so far and although it was a very hilly 20 miles it seemed to be over very quickly and before the heat of the day really built up. We arrived at our basic campsite and were told about a trail down to a river which had a swimming area. Off we went and found the spot described. It had a bit of a shingle beach, a cool deep pool and was a fabulous setting so we spent the afternoon lazing around, still recovering from the previous day.
Our final day of this eventful stretch was to the town of Fort Bragg where our next Airbnb awaited us. Unfortunately we had to climb to the highest point on the Pacific Coast Highway, Leggitt Hill which is at 2000 feet, which provided a testing start to the day. This was immediately followed by another long climb which drained us even further so by the time we arrived back on the coast we really were ready for some time off. A 16 mile long roller coaster road then greeted us for the final run into town, with short ups and downs, twists and turns, and we seemed to be changing gears constantly. The road surface had also deteriorated and just 3 miles out of town Steve felt the air pressure slowly coming out of his tyre…..another puncture!! He tried to reinflate it in the hope of limping into town but it wouldn’t have it, so another stop, another repair and eventually we rolled into town, exhausted and ready for a shower, some food and a bed. Luckily the town had a good bike shop, so we restocked on supplies and Steve bought a new back tyre. The other one had worn out four times faster than normal with the weight and road surface really having an impact. Off we went towards our bed for the night when disaster struck, the endless gear changes finally took their toll and Steve’s gear cable snapped!!! We were so unbelievably lucky to be less than a mile from one of the best bike shops we had seen in nearly a thousand miles. It could have happened in the middle of nowhere, a hundred miles from a shop. We still can’t believe how lucky we were.
So we are now sitting in an Airbnb, rested (both still with a bit of a cold though), both bikes in good working order, the temperature back into the low 20’s and we feel ready to do the last couple of hundred miles into San Francisco…….We can’t wait to get there!!!