Coos Bay to San Francisco: Miles 4500, 13th October
After a very murky misty day we camped in a hiker/biker site called Sunset Bay. We couldn't see the water let alone the sunset! Next morning we awoke to bright sunshine and rode to Bandon on quiet back road with views for miles. Met another two Swiss cyclists who knew Leo and Nadine. The camp that night was crowded with about a dozen cyclists most of which we knew from our travels. Even those we hadn't met had heard about us and our trip. David, unable to resist a bargain, bought a sale pack of 24 Ramen noodles just before the campsite as these worked out at less than 10 cents each. We had paid up to a dollar each previously. We put them on sale at the campsite for 10 cents and they were snapped up.
Approaching the California Border, the scenery reminds us of coastal Cornwall, but the roads are wider! At intervals along the Hwy 101 there are signs saying "Oregon coast Scenic Route". David has tried to find a nice scenic part of the route to get in the same photograph as a sign but they all seem to be in non scenic areas.We thought of pulling a sign up and carrying it to a scenic spot but Joan refused to carry it!
Stayed two nights at Brookings, 4,000 miles, just before the Californian border. Contrary to popular belief, the weather did not suddenly change to hot and sunny when we entered California, but most of the coastal sea mist was much reduced. Since we reached the coast we have had only one night of rain. Northern California is home to giant Redwoods and Sequoia trees. Redwoods grow to 370ft and up to 2,000 years old and Sequoia to 310ft and over 3,000 years old. The base of Sequoia can be 40ft diameter and Redwoods 22ft.
After paying $15 for a private campground in a lovely spot by a river, because it had a lounge with TV and billiard table, we were invited into a RV for the evening by a Canadian couple who were selling their home to buy the RV - a common story.
After more terrific cycling through forests of enormous Redwoods we found a campsite on a wooded cliff top with access to the sea, where we were the only campers. The beaches are strewn with sun bleached fallen trees and driftwood with weird and distorted and shapes.
Joan found a wallet by the roadside. It contained about $50, credit cards and a drivers licence.
We handed it in at the Sheriff’s office in Eureka and gave our E-mail address. We will see if he thanks us.
On a last minute whim, we decided to stay in a motel in Eureka. This is our first motel and we don't feel guilty at all and it is not even raining. Had a real deep bath with Jacuzzi. We soaked until we got wrinkly. The room had an enormous 7ft bed. And all this for $35. David had a T-bone steak and Joan had shrimps at a local Denny's restaurant.
The cyclist hospitality list showed an address in Ferndale. A call to the number in the list gave us an answering machine, which is not a lot of use when we use public pay phones. But, we left a message saying that we would call back in the morning. When we did, there was a recorded message to us giving instructions where to meet. Very useful! We met Trevor Christiansen, a gym teacher at Ferndale High school and he gave us directions to his house a couple of miles away. Ferndale is a quaint small town with Victorian style houses and buildings. Well worth a visit, but, if you can’t make it, try http://www.victorianferndale.org/chamber
Trevor, and his wife Kristie and their two black Labradors gave us a warm welcome, a room, and a pizza supper. We relaxed in the evening while Trevor and Kristie went to a show where performers used all sorts of household objects as musical instruments. They played everything from dustbin lids and saucepans to vacuum cleaners.
In the morning we left Ferndale to ride a detour to the remote coastal region via Petrolia and Honeydew. Little did we know what we were taking on. We were later to find out that this route is the ‘dreaded loop’. We climbed 2,500 feet in 5 miles and then descended to 500 feet before a further 2000ft up and down to the coast.
The coast was like a scene from a Disney film. There was a sea mist with rocks showing above the mist giving the area a sort of King Arthur lady-of-the-lake scene. Petrolia is so called because it was the first place where oil was discovered in the US or so the six inhabitants say.
Tragedy - just as we got to the bottom of one of the largest steepest hills, Joan noticed that her Cateye Altimeter was missing. It had probably fallen off during the descent. David struggled up to the first bend, about half a mile, to look for it but in vain. David has another one the same on his bike and sot it was not that bad a loss, but we e-mailed home for our spare to be put in the parcel sent to San Francisco.
The way back to the Hwy 101 was just as bad with a 3000ft climb out. The descent took us back through some wonderful giant redwoods and past the biggest in the world at 350ft high. We had our picture taken next to the tree but couldn’t get it all in.
The evening campsite was amongst the giant redwoods and we again met most of the cycling crowd that we left behind several days ago. Dave, from Switzerland had to have a new rear wheel built as his Mavic rim split after only 2000 miles. The spoke nipples pulled out of the rim. It was evening with a cloudless sky, but it poured down with rain during the night and caught several campers out as they left some belongings uncovered. It was still raining in the morning and we decided on a short run to Leggett about 20 miles away, and possibly a Motel if the rain did not stop. We struggled on up a 1000ft climb before we realised we should have turned off at the bottom for Leggett. Never mind we were on the right road for the coast road Hwy.1 and would stop at the next café. Forty miles later and several large climbs and still no café or store. We plugged on, but the café ‘just around the corner’ never came. So, we stopped in the rain in a lay-by and brewed-up anyway.
At the coast, the rain finally stopped and we had some burritos at the first café.
Camped just before Fort Bragg in the company of David and Ursula and Peter, an American cyclist we had met on the road several days before. It rained again and we had to set up an awning from a plastic tarpaulin to cook under. Next day was dry, but the next campsite was a wind trap. The Swiss couple's tent blew away and we nearly lost our sleeping bag that Joan had laid on the grass to air.
More Raccoon trouble. The four of us stayed at a lovely site by a lake and soon as the sun went down we hear the familiar rustles in the undergrowth. A torch beam showed up several pairs of shining eyes. The Raccoons were back and after our food. We immediately waged war by throwing sticks, stones and anything handy, but they were not deterred. David, the Swiss cyclist, chased one up a tree and climbed up after it shaking the tree violently in an attempt to scare the life out of it. Several branches crashed to the ground before they were followed by a falling raccoon which bounced off David before hitting the ground with a thud and dashing away to tell its friends. The others still came. A makeshift catapult was made from a forked stick, elastic and a bit of a bicycle tyre. The next half-hour was spent Raccoon hunting with Swiss David spotting the eyes with a torch and English David firing stones at them. It worked! We won! A peaceful night was had by all.
In order to make San Francisco by Friday (i.e.2 days) we opted to cycle about 60 miles to the next site. After about 40 very hilly miles on the most scenic coast yet, we turned in land for the final 20 to the campsite. Suddenly, we came across a "Road Closed" sign with "No Cyclist" added. The diversion turned out to be another very hilly 15 miles before we were back a few hundred yards the other side. By now it was getting late and doubtful whether we could make the intended site by dark. Joan was very tired and we attempted to find an earlier site. Suddenly we came across a small local council beach without a "No Camping" sign and decided to stay. Within half an hour David and Ursula joined us just as it was getting dark. It turned out to be a nice evening with the tents overlooking the bay.
Although there was no fire pit, David found a discarded portable barbecue in the bushes and soon had the usual fire going. All the cyclists we have met along the route know that wherever we camp there is sure to be a welcome campfire supplied by David.
The push towards San Francisco. The weather is now very warm and sunny and the scenery spectacular with high coastal cliffs and sandy bays. The cycling is very strenuous with 1000ft ups and downs.
We saw many sea lions sunbathing on the beaches in the bays. As we approached the built-up areas before San Francisco we stopped at a local beach and beauty spot for lunch. Joan posed for a photograph beside a sign, which said that someone was attacked by a shark at the beach in 1998 in 5ft of water. We didn’t go in for a paddle.
Approaching the Golden Gate Bridge from the north we had a spectacular view of the bridge and of San Francisco. We crossed the bridge to look for a campsite that some American cyclists had told us was just on the other side. We couldn’t find the campsite and the local Tourist Office informed us that there were no camp sites in the area and our only hope was a hostel which was full or a hotel/motel at no less than $100 per night. They directed us to a cheap area of the town to look for a motel. As we arrived at a street with dozens of hotels we decided to try a likely looking one and ask their rates. Just as we were standing outside preparing to go into the office, there was a shout of "Hi David and Joan". It was John, and American cyclist who we met several weeks earlier and had teamed up with Andy from Switzerland. They had left us up in Oregon weeks ago to speed to the Californian border for warmth. John and Andy were staying at this very hotel and had seen us outside. The rate was $65 per day but had just gone up to $120 per day for the weekend. We all agreed to share the room and split the cost four ways. Joan paid the hotel another $10 each for us. Still in a spending mood, we ate at a Mexican Restaurant that night. A lovely meal and a large bottle of Corona beer for about $15 each.
Gallant Andy volunteered his bed to us for the night and said that he would sleep on the floor. As we were older and he was the youngest, we accepted and looked forward to seeing San Francisco in the morning.