Giant Trees and Horny Birds

Our first full day in California started with what I have grown to love and Alex is starting to detest: coffee and oatmeal. (Alex’s sister Kat told us that we mention coffee and oatmeal in every post, so our devoted readers are probably sick of it too.) Then it was off on 101 South again. Unfortunately, we didn’t get more than 5 miles until we were presented with a problem: Alex had a flat again. This one was a bit tricky to fix, as we were on a very narrow shoulder on a busy highway. Luckily, applying the patch was pretty simple and fast. Soon enough, those worries were forgotten as we entered Avenue of the Giants, a 30-mile stretch of road through amazing redwood forest. Alex of course had us stop at every second tree stump to take pictures and, just as on the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, I was glad she did.

Welcome to Avenue of the Giants…

…where your average tree stump looks something like this…

…and is big enough…

…to climb like a tree!

Suddenly, bark is fascinating.

During our lunch break we had another encounter with strangers who were really interested in the solar panel strapped to the rear rack of Alex’s bike. The solar charger, by far, is our most popular conversation starter. It seems to blow people’s minds that that thing is working so well and everybody is always baffled when they hear what you can charge with it. Solar power, baby! Later in the day we passed a marathon that wound through the park. The pained faces of the finishers were a wretched reminder of the past marathons I’d done myself. After finishing that beautiful ride our day ended just out of Redway, where we saw two vultures making sweet, sweet love (what a sight!) and then we set up camp at the local RV resort. By far the sketchiest RV resort of our trip thus far – nothing to make you afraid for your life like old men in wifebeaters, roaming pit bulls, and brown tap water. Mmmmmm.

Lunch break on a log!

From this angle, our bikes don’t look so big anymore.

Along the way, we had to stop in Weott for Scott…

…and yes, we paid $3 to do this.

The next day happened to be Cinco de Mayo. Viva Mexico! Too bad that there was not a Mexican restaurant anywhere in the vicinity. Instead, 30 miles of climbing through the woods made for some rather drab cycling. Even worse, the rain started up again. What’s up with that California? I planned to wear flip flops and a thick coat of sunscreen! Instead we had to pull out our rain jackets again while hoping not to get hit on the narrow shoulder by drivers who behave like total douchebags. That’s probably the most unnerving thing we have encountered so far: the further south we go, the more careless the drivers become. Logging trucks are probably the most conscientious of the enormous vehicles that pass us, but buses and Winnebagos are uniformly out for blood. Better to hop right off the road than expect mercy from one of these beasts!

We were glad to end our day early at Standish Hickey State Park. It just so happened that we met a Canadian couple who were leaving the park as we arrived. They were on their way home to Canada, after biking the world for 10 years and seeing 77 countries. That is insane and incredibly impressive! You can check out their story on their website: http://www.culturequest.ca.

We knew that the next day would be quite a challenge as we merged onto Highway 1 and traversed the highest point on our route, a giant hill just past Leggett. We arranged it so that that monster (more than 1700 feet) would be right at the beginning of our day. As it turns out, the climb was gentler than we had anticipated. Even better, the downhill ride was more than 10 miles long, which was unbelievably satisfying. We had our lunch break right at the bottom where we were again joined by mating birds, this time enormous ravens. I don’t know what’s up with that, birds must get turned on by our presence I guess. Then we had to face a nasty little climb of 500 feet before we finally reemerged out of the woods at the Pacific Ocean. Which was nothing short of glorious.

Nervous before the big climb…

…but we made it up alive!

The wind was blowing hard from northwest – our first real tailwinds of the whole trip! We were more or less pushed south for the rest of the day, which also helped us exceed our goal. We initially were eyeing MacKerricher State Park for the night, but thanks to lucky winds (and a delicious burrito and margarita dinner in Fort Bragg) we could push on another 15 miles to Russian Gulch State Park.

Good to see the Pacific again…

…which provided another scenic backdrop for lunch…

…and continued to be a showstopper all the way…

…to our grande margaritas in Fort Bragg.

After a windy night at Russian Gulch, we packed up our gear and got to pushing our heavy ass bikes up the hill back to Highway 1. We’ve gotten into the habit of being a little bit creative with our camping at state parks, which at this time of year are mostly deserted. Rather than stay in the hiker-biker camps – which tend to be close to the bathrooms but not particularly scenic – we pay the hiker-biker fee and then take our pick from the dozens of empty standard campsites around the park. Well this morning, we encountered our first park ranger in weeks and, you know it, BUSTED! Luckily, Alex sweet talked us out of having to pay $35 for a tiny patch of grass that no one else would have used, but we might be a bit more careful from here on out.

Anyways, after dodging the park ranger, Mendocino was calling. The plan was to roll into town for what Alex calls a “real breakfast” (with eggs), and spend the morning exploring the area. After that, we would continue on for about 30 miles to Manchester State Park. Unfortunately on the breakfast front, Mendocinans (?) only serve $16 eggs out off fancy hotels which, despite the gorgeous views, were not factored into our camper’s budget. Instead, we found an eggless coffee shop and managed to get by on croissants and quiche. That was sad. Then we wandered out to the headlands, which turned from a 10 minute stroll into a multi-hour detour. Alex was smitten and wanted to stay in Mendocino for the rest of the day, chill out, get caught up on postcards, and visit the bookstore – and I said yes. (Note from Alex: Tom was mad at me for the rest of the day for disrupting his mileage plan, and we ended up writing postcards and soaking up the view from separate benches 20 feet apart. It was romantic.)

Wandering around Mendocino led to this…

…and then this…

…and then a whole lot of beautiful blue this.

But are we happy campers yet?

Maybe not so much…

…but we’re good at faking it!

After getting our day’s fill of charming Mendocino, and talking to every other person in town who had questions about our huge bikes, we rolled out of town and down the road to Van Damme State Park. We had the pleasure of sharing the hiker-biker site with a nice Swiss kid named Manuel, who was biking from San Francisco to Alaska. Finally I could pull my native tongue out of my so-called hat and speak my beloved German! Jawohl! You can check out his progress at http://www.northwards.ch. But, the day wouldn’t be complete without a bit of drama: after setting up our tent and unloading our panniers, we couldn’t find the iPad we’ve been using to write our ingenious blog posts. It seemed to be lost or worse, stolen. There had been a surprising number of vagabond-ish kids loitering around Mendocino, and we feared that one of them might have snatched the iPad from its pannier while we were grocery shopping. Like the wind I rode back into town to check the coffee shop where we’d been using it last. Luckily they still had it, and you can imagine how relieved we were. In the hassle of drinking our coffee, enjoying our croissants and quiche and staring at the ocean, Alex made me forget that darn thing! Oh little Alex, don’t you use your distracting witch powers on me no more!

Hot damn, Van Damme!

Freundschaft zwischen Deutschland und der Schweiz, wunderbar!

 

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10 thoughts on “Giant Trees and Horny Birds

    • We miss you to bits! July is just around the corner. Will call you tonight if I have any energy left in my old body.

  1. Myers Flat drive-thru tree, yeeeee haw! The Lamping clan hit that hotspot in 1993! I love all of this information, scenery, observations…also you guys are just too stinkin cute.

      • No VW van. We were driving the Caprice Classic and Dave was learning to drive! He couldn’t drive in Cali but when we took that road Tom was driving and Kate and I were in the back seat with pillows over our heads – couldn’t watch!
        Sounds like you are mostly having a great time! What kind of camera are you using? The photos are wonderful!

  2. Darn, Kate beat me to it! I was going to comment on that friggin drive from Leggett! It was a bitch – in a CAR! But we also loved the scenery. Thanks for letting us feel like we are there! So fun reading these! Miss you guys.

    • Thanks Penny! That hill was brutal, and no view at the top. We’re just about to head to Big Sur and have a couple more nasty ones ahead of us. Views in abundance, though. Missing the ‘hood, hugs all around!

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