Two days on 1

Tuesday, Day 19. Because we knew today would be a short one, just under 50 miles, we enjoyed a relatively leisurely morning. Slept in a bit, then walked to the nearby Cafe One for breakfast. A very NorCal menu, organic, heavy on veggies; the so-called “hippie (loaded) potatoes” and the “hippie scramble” were solid. Lingered there working on the blog for the day before and writing postcards and Father’s Day cards.  Catching up a bit.

Walked back to our motel, the Oceanside Inn. Econo and basic but clean and decent and run by a very friendly South Asian man and his bad-cop wife, who evicted us from the room at 11am, checkout time, with a loud knocking and a curtly shouted “eleven o’clock!” Fortunately we were already packed up and rolled out into the cool, foggy morning on Ft. Bragg’s Main Street.

About three-tenths of a mile in, we passed the North Coast Brewery gift shop, which had a rack of clothes—including bike jerseys—out front. Ashley spied a sign on the rack, unreadable at a distance but likely indicating a sale, so we turned around. The bike jerseys were indeed being peddled at a deep discount, so Ashley couldn’t resist. Ain’t no swag better than beer-bike swag.

We rode south over gentle hills a few miles, detouring slightly to see (precious) Mendocino, then rejoined Highway 1. The ride was uneventful but spectacular: the coastal views are breathtakingly gorgeous.

We stopped in Elk for lunch at an overpriced but adorable local market, which included a loo with a view.

Right after lunch, rather unexpectedly, we hit the fiercest climb of the day, 10-12% at its steepest, looping northwest at one point into the 14-20 mph headwind. It wasn’t long, but it was a few intense switchbacks and it definitely raised our heart rates. Highway 1 is like that: relentless, punishing short climbs, followed by some smooth easy pedaling along a grassy oak-dotted bluff, followed again by exhilarating winding descents into coves, creek bottoms and river mouths that make you want to climb again, just for more of that thrill. And climb you will.

Note fog bank looming on the right.

Pulled into Point Arena around 5:30 PM. As the little town of bars, restaurants, art galleries, New Age healing supplies, and vacation rental agents unrolled along a steep descent, we paused to map our lodging’s location and to our horror discovered that we’d accidentally booked a room in Gualala, 14 miles and a few climbs further south. Fortunately came to the rescue, via a very helpful agent who sounded as if he was in India but despite the distance managed to cancel our non-cancelable reservation and book us a room in the actual town we were in, which turned out to be a mile off route down to a little cove and then a hideously (and heartbreakingly) steep but very short ride up to the lobby check-in.

Room was very comfy for a slightly inflated price but featured a jacuzzi and a restaurant/tap room a few minutes’ walk away with a lovely evening coveside view, a great beer list, acceptable food, and indifferent service, which however we tolerated in our happy post-ride mellow mood.

Stats for today: 47.7 miles, 3440′ in 3:53.

Wednesday, Day 20. After downing a couple of buttery, syrupy waffles in the Wharf Master’s Inn breakfast room and pocketing some peanut butter packets for riding snacks, we carted our bikes and gear down the two flights of stairs and took off around 9:30. Rode the mile or so back into town, where we caught Highway 1 again—and we were on that spectacular road all day long.

First stop was Gualala, a dozen miles into the ride. Already peckish again, we had a makeshift lunch from the friendly Surf Market—V8, nuts, cheese, deviled eggs, hummus. A local firefighter visited for a few minutes to compliment us on our hi-viz bike jerseys, flourescent knee warmers and flashing tail lights. We saw some backpackers headed north, one with a cat on a leash(!).

Another dozen miles in we stopped again, at the Stewart’s Point market, ostensibly to pee and get water, but naturally we were tempted by treats: a raspberry pie brownie (David) and a chocolate milkshake (Ashley). We sat outside on sunny benches talking to another pair of tourists, a Seattle couple riding from home to Palo Alto to watch their son graduate from Stanford. Turns out that Cliff and Nelda had camped one night near Mike and Christina, the father-daughter duo we met in Rio Dell, and last night with our German friend Kristof, for whom they had made dinner. There’s something very heartwarming about these connections: bike tourists who share a highway for a few days or a couple of weeks form a kind of temporary family, or at least a little network of temporary friends. After lunch, Kristof pedaled by us once more, hastening to catch the Seattle couple to give them his email address.

Getting passed, once again, by Kristof in his tennis shoes.

We also met a few other travelers while sitting outside the market. One was a gruff-looking but sweet-natured older motorcyclist wearing tattered Carharts and opining about those who drive too fast on the road: “on any California rode you have to expect to come across bicyclists,” he said, and he was clearly mystified by those too impatient or too reckless to slow down and enjoy this beautiful place.

Then we met a retired man and his grandson, whom we’d seen leaving Gualala. They were riding a motorcycle and carrying a little trailer, meandering with deliberate slowness from Idaho to Texas, where the boy—thirteen years old—would return home to his parents, having spent a month seeing 11 states with his granddad. The kid was surprisingly into the trip, seemingly aware of the incredible opportunity he was being given. His granddad, a cheerful and enthusiastic talker, explained that from Texas he’d carry on until September; he unrolled a map of the US with his route laid out with great precision.

He’d cover all 48 states in the continental US, taking his time, seeing memorials and historically significant sites, chatting with locals, and fraternizing with fellow passersby on the patios of little markets in small not-quite-even-towns all across the country. This chap, whose name we never got, was a delight and an inspiration. We all left at the same time; he waved a big wave as he disappeared over a hill we were climbing a little more slowly.

Fort Ross, early 19th-century Imperial Russian outpost north of Jenner.

The other highlight of the day was the road itself, the endlessly interesting and dynamic Highway 1. There’s a reason this is widely regarded as one of the great road trips in the world, a bucket list journey, 655 miles of mostly splendor. It’s even better, we think, on a bike. There are no huge climbs, just one after another, each a little different. The engineers who designed and built this epic expressway created a thing of beauty, and even when one is humping a heavy bike up a steeper stretch it’s hard not to be a little amazed.

The thrilling winding dips, the sharp turns that become new climbs, the long knuckle-whitening descents are spectacular. And all the while you’re playing peek-a-boo with the Pacific. Southern California gets a lot of love, but the north coast is a marvel. The coastline is indescribable; we hope our pictures will do it some justice.

You have to imagine the shadows of circling hawks, the calling of doves, the crashing surf, and the accompanying smells of the sea, of spicy eucalyptus trees, and that winelike tang of dry yellow grassy California , all swirling in the roar of the coastal breeze.

It was another beautiful day, blue skies forever, the Pacific fog bank keeping well offshore, a perfect temperature. It was windy, though, and the wind picked up as the day went on. A tailwind blew us along, and as the road twisted a headwind more than a few times all but stopped us in our tracks (always, of course, while climbing), and occasionally a sidewind rocked us and our bikes back and forth on the road.

After countless ups and downs, we finally arrived in Bodega Bay (where Hitchcock’s The Birds was set), our stop for the night.

Checked into the very beautiful Bodega Bay Inn and set out walking the shoulder of Hwy 1 into the town of Bodega Bay, once again in search of seafood and ale.

Stats for today: 63.1 miles, 4,549’ of climbing, four hours and 56 minutes.

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