Field Guide Bike Tour-Days 19-22/Mendocino County to San Francisco

July 1st, 2010 by

Highway 1 in Humboldt County


‘BLESSED be Allah the all-powerful!’ says Hamet Benengeli on beginning this nineteenth chapter; ‘blessed be Allah !’ he repeats three times; and he says he utters these thanksgivings at seeing that he has now got Nick and Mary fairly afield, and that the readers of his delightful history may reckon that the achievements and humours of the two are now about to begin; and he urges them to forget the former chivalries of the ingenious pair and to fix their eyes on — the MASSIVE HILL THEY ARE ABOUT TO ASCEND.’

Okay, the hill isn’t really that bad. Since we’ve already climbed the first 800 or so feet, the remaining 1200 is actually somewhat pleasant as it is on a winding road (forcing motorists to slow) shaded by trees. Yes it’s relentless, but the descent is FUN. First though we ate breakfast at this awesome market after heading out of camp at Standish-Hickey State Rec Area:

Places likes this are a rarity in some of the smaller towns along the coastal highway(s). It was an odd agglomeration of health/junk food, Spencer’s Gifts and community center (some sort of acoustic performance was setting up next door). The variety was very welcome…

The turnoff to Legget

Like I said, the climb is a lot of work, but after bombing down it and getting onto Highway 1, the real work starts: The rest of the trip more or less follows the treacherous coastal line, making for very difficult but worthwhile scenic riding.

The views on HWY1 are spectacular

About 25 miles into our day (19) we stop in Westport at a tiny market and fully realize how difficult touring as ‘pescitarians’ will be. During a brief rest on the market’s porch, we encounter (motor)bikers, bros rolling 4 deep talking about their skindives that morning and lots of dogs.

I refsue to listen to signs behind me!

Continuing on 1...

Irony spotted in Fort Brag (18 miles south of Westport)

The end of day 19 put us at Russian Gulch state park; a place with a roomy Hiker/Biker site where we would meet fellow south bound travelers, many of which were headed to San Fransisco. It’s here we learned more about our Pirate friend Lee who we spotting earlier at Humbug Mountain. Lee was interesting for more than one reason: he had built his own three-wheeled bike and trailer system, smoked like a sailor, and apparently drank like one too. Several people we shared camp with had stories about his plans to bike across the coast itself, off road, fording rivers with hand-made rafts along the way. Apparently he had been on the road for some time, staying several days per camp. One nite in a drunken rage, he began pointing out ‘flaws’ on bikes around him: “That leather seat will bust and give you hernia! That trailer will break in two and kill you on a downhill! All these new bikes are shit!” You see, Lee’s philosophy is that all the road vibrations sustained on a long bicycle tour cause your internal organs to jostle, leading to severe body damage. The only way to tour properly, he says, is on a custom bike like his which is made to absorb the impact of the road. No way it could be all that red wine and cigarettes… God speed, Lee. God speed.

The next day (20) was a short one, around 50 miles to Gualala Point State Park.

It's true. The first two words, that is.

Not to far into our day we found a gorgeous little peninsula and took a hike out to explore it:

Crazy wildflowers out here!

Upon leaving the trailhead, we witnessed a couple of Harley dudes smoke weed with a couple of Volkswagen yups. Mendocino county is pretty rad.

Near the small town of Elk, we spotted...

...this graveyard that overlooks the ocean. I'd love to be burried in such a idyllic setting.

Steepest grade on the whole trip: we actually had to walk part of it.

After Manchester, HWY 1 goes inland to change things up a bit...

We hit camp just as the sun was setting.

The next day (21) I started to get a little cranky since the coffee pot I had been carrying broke:

Near Stewards Point -- Alright coast, stop all this beautiful right this minute!

We stopped in Ocean Cove for lunch at a tiny store that presented another ‘what will we eat that won’t kill us?’ adventure. That day the heat had been getting to me, and I really wanted a beer. As I exited the shop, Pacifcio in hand, a man entering took one look and thought out loud: “Now that’s a good idea.” A few seconds later he came and joined Mary and I. We realized that since there are no bars around these parts, this was the closest thing to kicking one back with the locals. Our new friend proceeded to talk our ear off about skindiving, his belief in humanity and expressed a great desire to make sure we had everything we needed for our journey. At one point he earnestly offered us tools and a cooked meal. “Thanks, but we gotta keep on the road” we told him. Then, something surprising happened: our questions led him to a heart wrenching story where one of his buddys had died while out skindiving in his group. He teared up retelling what it was like seeing the expression on the face of his wife and kids as they heard the news. It was a tragic yet strangely life affirming story — in a tiny town of 200 people from a complete stranger who had just met a couple of spandex-clad bikers, no-less. Before leaving, he wanted to grab our picture for us and we were happy to oblige:

A few more miles up we ran into a couple of bikers walking. Oh no! It’s our Canadian friends:

Assessing the damage

Several spokes broke; enough to make riding with a rear load impossible. They had replacements, but unfortunately, they needed a freewheel remover to get them in. The nearest bike shop miles away, they were content either secret camping somewhere or hitching a ride. We told them we’d spread the word for help as we continued on and wished them well.

We reached camp, Bodega Dunes in time for a bitchin sunset...

The next morning (day 22) we rolled out of camp and stopped at a cute little combination coffee/bike shop on the edge of town, Roadhouse Coffee/Bodega Bay Cycles:

Open everyday! (except for those days when we gotta get a few miles in)

It’s here that we learn from our charasmastic barista, James, that our Canadian friends had already passed us! Apparently they hitched a ride to the shop, fixed their rear wheel and were already back on the road.

James at Roadhouse Coffee

James was a wealth of information on all subjects pertaining to coffee, bike touring, and life in general. He even helped us modify our route so that we’d make it to San Fransico that evening. Although we had an extra day to reach Oakland for our screening (on day 24), we determined we could continue on 1 until Olema, then head east on Sir Francis Drake Blvd all the way to San Rafael where a ferry would shuttle us into San Francisco that nite.

Along Tomales Bay

Ice cream break!

The rolling hills as we headed east to Lagunitas

As we approached San Rafael, these weird markings called "bike lanes" appeared...

Waiting for the ferry...

Nothing says San Fran ferry ride like incarceration facilities!

As we departed the ferry and biked our way to the Embarcadero BART station (we were staying in Oakland), we hit 1,000 miles!

Yay team sampo!

We were thrilled to finally be in the Bay Area: with all its modern luxuries, friends and BEDS. Hooray! Hooray for BEDS!