It Goes, Boys: Flats and Trees (Days 29-32)

This first section of California has been rimmed by mighty coastal redwoods – the tallest trees in the world. Our lives pale in comparison to their grandeur and old age – to them, we must be like ants are to baby christmas trees.

Day 29: Rest Day in Crescent City

Herbie, Laura, Jackie, and Dave are leaving this morning. Taylor and I are on the fence about it. The weather is pretty gloomy and cold; it looks like it could start raining anytime – potentially for the entire day. Our friends did take two rest days at the church’s community centre; there is no shame in us doing the same thing. Plus, we’re on the last leg of our adventure – only another 670km to San Francisco.

Thus, we decide to hang out for another day.

We hug our friends goodbye and watch them leave. We might run into Herbie, Laura, and Jackie in San Francisco since they want to spend a few days in the city. However, this is likely the last time we see Dave. He needs to send it to San Diego to make it in time for his sister’s wedding.

Laurence and Florence make French toast with baked apples and maple syrup – the real stuff, of course, since they’re Québécoises – for everyone who’s left. Well, our staying another day is already worth it.

I hang out inside all morning and get to skype with my parents. It’s the first time I see their faces since embarking on this trip!

After lunch, we have a spontaneous yoga session with Laurence, Florence, Dan, Martin, and Will, where we take turns being the instructor. I guide my friends through some floor poses.

The French Canadian duo makes French onion soup for dinner – easy, delicious, heart-warming comfort food. Then arrives a newcomer to the church in the shape of Rudolph – or Rudi –, middle-aged, lanky cyclist with leathery tanned skin from Vienna, Austria! He has been on the road for 9 months already; he cycled New Zealand, the Fiji Islands, Hawaii, and has been coming down the Pacific Coast all the way from Alaska. What a guy. We talk (in German) about mountains, national parks, and backcountry skiing.

Day 30: Crescent City to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, 54km

Today, we leave – no matter the weather. It seems that this most upper-left corner of California is always pretty wet. So, the most practical solution to see blue skies and sun is to head south and slowly make our way out of the magnificent redwoods (which love moist climates – so, yeah, it’s not too dry of a place, overall), and up and over the Coast Range.

It is, unsurprisingly, gloomy when we leave – and it drizzles ever so slightly. Leg warmers are a must today. The fact that a big, big hill is on the menu first thing today makes me wear my safety vest – the highway goes up in the middle of giant trees and there’s little to no shoulder. I want to be seen.

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We are ready to rumble.

The climb up is fairly long, with road work thrown in here and there. It is stressful to bike uphill through tight one-way sections managed by automated construction traffic lights – who knows how long they keep oncoming traffic at bay? We are slow, after all. But everything works out fine. We do see one tractor-semi skidding to a stop over several hundred feet, though. The doorknob of a driver really wants to make that one green light, but it turns orange when he is super close to it – we all know semis don’t come to a stop that easy.

I get excited as I reach the top of the hill – time to send! Except that I suddenly hear a weird, squishy sound – one per tire revolution. Oh, no.

A flat.

This isn’t the best place for roadside bike maintenance. It’s a bit of an uphill blind corner for southbound traffic – our side of the road –, and every car, truck, semi or RV comes flying around it. Taylor positions her bike at an angle to the road to make herself more visible to traffic (and thus give me more room to fix the bike).

 

It’s the back tire, again. It is wearing thin, especially compared to the front tire, which seems brand new in comparison. I quickly check the inside of the tire for any debris that could have caused the puncture – negative. Not wanting to spend much time in this precarious spot, I simply throw one of my spare tubes in. What follows is the very worst part of the day: pumping it up with a little hand-held bike pump. It is atrociously difficult. Getting the air pressure up to only 30psi already takes about 15min. After what feels like an eternity, I manage to get it up to 65psi (which is enough for the Specialized Trigger – my tire – since it needs between 50 and 100) and call it a day – this is ridiculous.

After this less-than-ideal break, we finally get to bike down the hill! The highway meanders above and below relatively steep, mostly man-made, rock faces. It curves around a beach before heading inland, towards Klamath, where we stop for lunch.

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10/10 not a good beach to surf at.

Unfortunately, there is another hill to climb to get into Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Albeit smaller than the one after Crescent City, it still packs a punch. At least, its last section is already on the Newton B. Drury Parkway (it’s the old Hwy 101 and cuts straight through the park) and in the redwoods.

Like in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, the trees are incredible. They stand strong as far the eye can see; so tall they seem to touch the sky. I feel at peace, at ease, and insignificant as I bike far below the canopy.

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Biking among the giants – peaceful ride, pre-puncture #2.

My ease only lasts for so long, though, as I notice that my back tire is losing air – again. And, this time, it is going flat fast. We are really close to the campground, though, so I give it all I have to make it there before I ride on my rim. I make it to the park’s visitor centre, then the tire is totally flat. Luckily, it’s only a few hundred metres to the campground – metres that have to be pushed. Two flats in a day – I have all the reason to be disgruntled.

My bad mood and slight despair mostly comes from the fact that I only have this very unpractical pump. The thought of having to use it again fills me with dread.

I check my back tire more thoroughly this time. As it turns out, both punctures are in the exact same spot. There’s a 1.5mm-long hole in the tire. At first, I can’t see anything in it, but once I dig around in it with the tip of my knife, I extract the tiniest shard of glass. So that’s the cause of my bad luck! For good measure, I check every hole in my tire – because there’s a few – and cover them up with a double layer of duct tape from the inside. I patch both my tubes and, luckily, get to use Rudolph’s portable floor pump to get it all going again – he had arrived to the campround while I was fixing things. It works so much better. I need a better pump.

Everyone else who was at St. Paul’s ends up arriving at the campground, too – the French Canadian girls, Will, Dan, Martin, and Judith.

Day 31: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to Bayside, 75km

It is October 5! We’ve left Vernon exactly a month ago. Time has flown by incredibly fast, and I am amazed at how many experiences we were able to have in what seems like such a short amount of time. Really, every single day is jam-packed with exciting, new, or simply memorable stuff – which is why my blog posts are so long.

It is raining this morning. We haven’t had one of those since Quinault (except that it is not raining as heavily). I’ve got my plan all figured out: pack up the sleeping equipment, throw on rain jackets and pants, run to the bathroom with everything I need to get dressed and ready (biking kit and all the rain gear), have breakfast in the rain under a big tree, all the while making sure my panniers are properly closed to keep water out.

It is still raining as we leave, and the fly of the tent feels about twice as heavy from how soaked it is. However, water soon stops coming from the sky, and we gradually get rid of our rain attire (that stuff is way too warm). As we roll into Trinidad for lunch, the sun actually starts poking through the clouds! At this point, my picnic-table-spotting skills are absolutely on point, and we end up in a little patch of green next to the library and museum. Seriously, though – I am really good at spotting tables when rolling through towns. My eyes have attuned to it. It is a necessary skill to have as a touring cyclist! I call our Warmshowers host for the night, Michael and Wendy; they give me detailed directions on how to best get to their house.

We get to Arcata and the bike route takes us along the Humboldt State University. It is nestled right into the coastal forest and looks like a great place to learn. I suddenly find myself wanting to go to a lecture.

From Arcata, Bayside is only a short ride away. We get to ride by golf courses and pretty houses before we reach our hosts’ house. It is tucked away in the trees and has a really homey feel to it. Both Mike and Wendy love having projects. Mike is fixing some wheelbarrows. There’s two chicken, Bracken and Priscilla, running around the yard. Two giant papier-maché sea turtles are hanging from the ceiling in the living room. There’s also Weasel, the dog, and Bob, the house bunny who hops around wherever he wishes.

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I love their house – a little cluttered, but mostly full of love.

Wendy is a general practicioner who now focuses her time and energy on combatting climate change – or at least on getting people more aware of it and how they can contribute. Mike is retired, but also passionate. This summer, they toured through the San Joaquin Valley and along the Mississippi and presented their puppet show about climate change and solutions to many communities. I think this is an amazing project, and I am certain they have reached many people doing this. That’s the thing – caring for and trying to protect our environment is nothing that can simply be enacted by a government and imposed on the people from the top down (altough it is very, very good that countries are trying to step up as best they can). Nothing will work in a sustainable manner if the people aren’t ready to do anything more for it than what they are legally obliged to do. This must also come from the bottom up.

We have dinner – barley soup, with chanterelles and chard – and then fall to bed, exhausted. I get to sleep on the pull-out couch. Taylor wants to sleep on the window seat.

PS: we broke the 2,000km-mark today!

Day 32: Bayside to Burlington Campground (Humboldt Redwoods State Park), 104.5km

We have pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast. What a great way to start the day, especially after having slept like a rock. Outside, it is foggy – but the forecast shows nothing but sun for the next six days. We realize that it is not summer anymore – autumnal mornings tend to be grey!

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Our host Mike and I.

We leave at 10am and, with tailwinds pushing us, get to Eureka in no time. We check out Adventure’s Edge, a local outdoor store. It has everything I could wish for – except skis. I am on the hunt for a good, portable floor pump. The store carries Specialized and Pivot, and I talk mountain bikes with the bike mechanic for a while. They have the sickest-looking, brand-new Pivot Firebird, with a whopping 46-tooth chainring in the back. I’ve never seen one this massive on a bike! And I thought my Cannondale’s One Up 42-tooth was big… That bike can probably bike up walls with those gears.

After about half an hour, I leave the store with a nice pump, a patch kit, and a new spork (I broke mine about a week back trying to handle stiff peanut butter). We get back on the 101 and out of Eureka. Since it is the biggest town on the North Coast, this takes a while, and the ride is not nice. The highway is busy. Luckily, the shoulder is really wide, and we truck along at high speed, the wind at our backs.

We almost fly by the turn-off to Ferndale, but change our minds at the last second. Signs are advertising its Victorian-style downtown. We are not disappointed when we finally make it there. It is super pretty! I am starving at this point. It is past lunchtime and we’ve biked almost 50km. We sit down in the city park to eat, and then go back into town to have a coffee and write postcards. We figure that getting an hour earlier or later to the campground doesn’t really matter, especially when having the opportunity to hang out in a funky town like that. We sit down at Mind’s Eye Manufactory & Coffee Lounge, which is a combo between a high-class coffee shop where the barista wears a white shirt and vest and a ‘creative workspace where artists and craftspeople share tools, expertise, and creative energy.’ It basically has a co-op workshop in the back, and the coffee lounge serves as space to get the creative juices flowing. Pretty neat.

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From Ferndale, we take the back road to Rio Dell, through organic-dairy farmland where young cows are grazing peacefully. Everything goes well, the wind is still helping us out.

Until I notice yet another flat in my back tire. But this time, the road is quiet, the sun is shining, and I have a brand-new pump. I make sure to check everything from the get-go this time, unlike when I was on the side of the highway in the redwoods. I find some more little rocks and pieces of glass in the holes of my tire. I re-inforce it with some more double-layers of duct tape, and throw in a spare tube. This time, pumping the tire up to a whopping 90psi feels like a breeze! But, I feel like my back tire is sending me a message that it is getting close to its end. After all, three flats in three days is no joke. I decide to swap front and back out – the front tire is getting little wear compared to the back. Thus, putting the back tire on the front wheel will hopefully extend its life until San Francisco! And, having a tire with almost 100% thread in the back will prevent further flats – at least that what I think.

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At least the weather is nice?

 

We eventually make it to Scotia and get groceries. No Amy’s Organic Chili, so we settle for a double portion of garlic Idahoan Instant Mashed Potatoes and some veggies.

After that, we leave the 101 once more and go onto the Avenue of the Giants – the old highway which goes through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It is getting darker amidst the tall redwoods. The road is incredibly pretty, though. My day is made when I get to talk to two super cute brown pigs by a farm on the side of the road. They are super adorable, but unfortunately too far away for me to pet them, though. But we talk – they make little happy pig noises at me.

It turns out that the pig is my second favourite animal – after the elephant.

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Look how cute they are!

It is almost 7pm when we reach Burlington Campground – in the middle of the forest! It is super pretty. Plus, our friends Laurence, Florence, Martin, Dan and Will are there, too. After dinner (we are ravenous after all those kilometres), it’s time for some bike maintenance. I swap out the tires in almost no time – I’m basically a pro at this point. And I pump them back up just as fast – I am very glad I bought this new pump today. Female intuition? I think so.

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From left to right: Martin, Will, Florence, Laurence, and Dan.

What an incredibly jam-packed day!

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