Day 28: Blah! (Standish Hickey Campgrounds to Mackericher State Park)

Finally on Highway 1

Finally on Highway 1

This was probably one of our least favorite days so far in our trip down the Pacific Coast. Not only did we need to climb the highest hill for the entire trip, we had to endure several more up and down hills along the coast on PCH. The only saving grace was that we are reunited with some more familiar faces in camp.

Pests in Standish Hickey

Sang Hyun flying down the hill

Sang Hyun flying down the hill

We started the morning at 7AM when Sang Hyun’s alarm went off. We did our usual thing of packing up and was out of camp an hour and half later. Portlan had left about an hour before. He actually prefers riding on his own to power through the day with his own thoughts. The one thing I forgot to mention about the Standish Hickey Campgrounds was the posted warnings of tick infestation. I was definitely more conscious about it everytime I moved in and out of my tent. Luckily nobody was effected by it even though Portlan did see one while setting up his tent the day before. Getting out of the camp site brought a sense of ease to our minds as we crossed the street to the local market and grabbed a breakfast burrito and coffee for the ride.

Long Way Up Before Riding Through a Tree

Riding through the Chandlier tree

Riding through the Chandlier tree

We quickly reached the corner of the 101 and 1 highway where we were suppose to change our path towards the coast on the 1. We also saw a sign for the world-famous drive through Chandelier tree in Leggitt. We couldn’t pass up on this opportunity so we rode an extra mile to check it out. It was a great treat as we followed a group of 1930 cars. We then thought it was smooth sailing on the 1 highway until we hit the biggest hill yet. It was a steady climb for a good 6-8 miles up and great descent down. We practically rode about 20 miles before we got to the coast. There were 2 high climbs which the weather went from sunny to misty in a matter of 2 hours.

Misery on the Coast

Cresting the 2000ft climb

Cresting the 2000ft climb

As we made it to the coast, we thought the worse was over. Unfortunately, as we rode past Westport, the hills got steeper and frequently with no shoulders. Motorized vehicles were very cautious around us for the most part. There was a logging truck that nearly took us both off the road. Really scary moment but we survived. We finally got into the town of Cleone where we looked for the Mackericher State Park. Following the ACA map lead us to the back side of the campgrounds which was poorly signed so we missed the turn off. We would have been in better shape if we stayed on the 1 for a few more feet. I was thoroughly frustrated and just stopped at a open picnic table to snack while Sang Hyun continued the search. He finally found the campgrounds and we were reunited. We found Portlan at the hiker / biker site. He had been there since 12:15. We got into camp by 2:40PM.

Familiar Faces

What made this day difficult was the constant hills and the lack of services between Leggitt and Cleone. We didn’t grab lunch so we had to buy hotdogs to prepare. We were starved when we got into camp. We also noticed another tent in our hiker / biker site which we recognized. Believe it or not, it was the tent of Yves and Linda, the French-Canadian couple. They were out at Fort Bragg for lunch. Later in the evening another gentleman joined us. It was a guy Sang Hyun and I met on the day we rode into Florence, Oregon for our rest day. His name is Dave and he was pedaling down to San Francisco as well for his first bike tour. He was originally biking a loop around Washington and Oregon but was injured so he decided to ride down the Pacific Coast instead. He actually did the Lost Coast too! Not too bad for a first-time bicycle tourist. Roberto also showed up to provide some funny stories.

It just goes to show you that no matter how bad your day is on a bike tour, you’ll always have people who understands your pain and will spend time to talk to you about it. My night was so much better. Let’s see how we do tomorrow with more rolling hills into Manchester Beach State Park.

Day 27: Sadness (Burlington Campgrounds to Standish Hickey Campgrounds)

Sang Hyun through the Shrine Tree

Sang Hyun through the Shrine Tree

With only about 4 days left to get to San Francisco, I am a bit overwhelmed with a bit of sadness. Sadness not just because the trip is coming to an end but many of the places we visited today reminded me of a road trip I took with my sister and ex-girlfriend 7 years ago. Let me explain further.

Early Riser

Johnny's turn through the Shrine Tree

Johnny’s turn through the Shrine Tree

Portlan requested to leave early so that he can ride alone into camp for the day so we obliged. He had rolled out close to 7am while we followed behind at 8am. Most of the other bicycle tourists were still getting ready to leave when we left. We continued south past Myers Flat and found the first familiar reminder. We saw a sign that offered the opportunity to drive through a redwood tree. Being the tourist that we were, Sang Hyun and I paid the fee and biked through it. It was a very silly thing but was one of thing I wanted to do on this trip. On our road trip, we did the same thing with a car except we didn’t remember if we paid at that time or not.

Nostalgia

Redwood house

Redwood house

We continued to ride on the Avenue of the Giants for another 15 miles noticing the forest started to have fewer larger redwood trees. We eventually passed a section where the Eel River splits into a creek under the Avenue. I remembered that spot 7 years ago where we stopped and explored on foot that very creek. I kept on reminding Sang Hyun about it as well. I also remembered a section where we pulled over and took pictures next to the giant trees. Reminiscing and then rolling past these areas and knowing that I had to leave this location both from my memories and physically made me feel very sad. Sad because it was such a great memory but I digress.

Unfamiliar

 

Johnny + Bike in Tree

Johnny + Bike in Tree

We continued on our ride down through eclectic towns like Redway, Garberville, Benbow, and Piercy. We’ve seen enclave of various characters in each of these towns. Many folks looked like they have been on the road for many years. Others were definitely heavily medicated with marijuana. We veered on and off the 101 highway at places and kept things interesting. On our way through Piercy, we had to battle narrow roads with abundant traffic. Luckily we turned off the main road to give our nerves a break. We eventually left Piercy with just the 101 highway and plenty of uphills towards our camp site. Luckily the ascent was gradual so we had a good amount of riding to get to our elevation of close to 800 feet.

Reunited

At camp we were so glad to see Portlan and recalled stories of our ride. Portlan had similar harrowing experience on the 101 but he did not make some of the turn-offs and stayed on the highway. We continued our conversation before Sang Hyun went across the street to buy food for dinner. Standish Hickey is a pretty big campsite but luckily for us, he hiker biker is right next to the bathroom and showers with a direct access to an electrical outlet. That’s where I recharged my camera batteries as well as the iPad. Later in the night, an excited Roberto, who is this amazing 18 year old kid traveling by himself from Indiana who was fresh off of the Lost Coast trail. He’s done so much on this ride. We were all in awe and happy for this young man to do something on his own like this.

The next day is going to require us to climb about 1200 feet in 2 miles to get to Leggitt which is at 2000 feet before we descend down the Pacific Coast Highway for the first time on this trip. It’s going to be a short mileage day with tough hills in the beginning. Wish us luck!

Day 26: Check Point (Day Off)

 

Look up at giant redwoods

Look up at giant redwoods

This is our 4th and last rest day before we make it into San Francisco. We couldn’t have asked for anything better than what we’ve been given here at our campsite, being surrounded by groves of redwood trees. All of us did not do much, but just stayed put in our campsite for the entire day and napped. We fought off squirrels and bluejays from all the snacks that we consumed during the entire course of the afternoon. It was truly a deserving time off of the bikes.

Gear Failures

Thermarest pillow

I’m going to use this opportunity to report on some gears that have not worked very well for me on this trip. First, we will start with the Thermarest pillow that I brought. Very comfortable pillow, but it takes up half of one pannier (the other half is occupied by my sleeping bag) and with the cold weather, the bottom of the pillow is constantly damp and wet. After a week of riding, the pillow starts to smell really bad and needs a good wash. I’ll have to replace this soon with something more compact and not so sensitive to the weather.

image

I really wanted our Goal Zero solar panel to be more effective for this trip, but it hasn’t been all that had hoped for as the weather was constantly overcast with fog and very few days of sun. This resulted in devices drained of battery and needing to find electrical outlets to juice up the iPad. I have to say that on good days with sun, I do get full charge on both my battery packs to recharge my dead iPhone and other electronic devices, like the GoPro cameras and accessories. On our off day today, I tried my best to recharge using the solar panel, but the shade of these massive trees prevented me from having this panel out in one place for no more than 15 minutes at a time. Hopefully, we’ll have better luck in future trips with better weather. I may incorporate my trusty NewTrent battery pack instead next time. I’ll try to have a more extensive review after the trip, but for now, I’m not very excited about it.

In Victoria, British Columbia, my rear blinky light popped off and broke. It was a cheap imitation of the Planet Bike super flash. I’m going to need to pick up the real deal the next time I’m near a bike shop. Unfortunately, the places I’ve checked in Astoria and other smaller towns do not carry Planet Bike lights. The rear mount on my rack is compatible with the lights.

My iPhone 5 has been acting very wonky in terms of battery life. It would work a few hours at best between 100% charges. Sometimes it would drain from 100% to 30% and turn off in an hour. Other times, it would turn off at 70%. I couldn’t get anything consistent out of it. I’ll need to replace the batteries when I get back.

The worse thing that I realized on this trip was how bad T-Mobile service was throughout the Washington and Oregon states. I bought a 30 day 5 Gigabyte data plan only to use a small percentage of it when I was in California. The idea was to use it to post blogs, but connectivity in  4G or LTE speed was unheard of until we made it to some places in California. I even called to complain to T-Mobile, but their service representative and manager were not able to do anything other than give me a $5 credit. I could have just paid for a cheaper WiFi-only iPad if this was the case. Hopefully after a year, I can unlock it and use it for future overseas tour.

What Worked

I have to say that I am very happy with the other things I’ve brought. I am very fond of my Thermarest sleeping pad and REI Halo sleeping bag as they have provided a comfortable sleeping environment for me every time. I also enjoy all the light-weight clothing that I brought. They’ve done the job in keeping me dry and not smelly. My trusty Petzel headlamp has been working like a champ night in and night out. My iPad with the Amazon keyboard has been integral in helping me keep my blog updated. The Jetboil has been amazing in boiling and cooking our meals every night on the trip. These are the few notable ones, but I’m going to have a more complete post at the conclusion of the trip concerning what worked and what didn’t.

For now, we rest and make the last push into San Francisco this week! Can’t believe this adventure is almost ending!

Day 25: Best Day (Eureka KOA to Burlington Campgrounds)

Carson Mansion in Eureka

Carson Mansion in Eureka

The goal for today was to be on the Avenue of the Giants before sunset to give us extra time to explore for a bit. What we got for the day was the best riding day so far. We passed great little towns, ate really good food, was given great terrain, and the majority of the way was a good tailwind into Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Eureka! We Found Food

We all woke up close to 6:45 to pack up and get out of camp by 7:30 to ride into Eureka for a much deserved Dennys breakfast. We toured around town to see some Victorian inspired houses, like the Carson Mansion, which was an incredible sight to see. We followed the 101 highway out of town until it became a high-speed freeway. Luckily, the ACA maps had us exit out to some really quiet roads that took us past the College of the Redwoods. Several dairy farms were on our route, so we got to see (and smell) many different kinds of cows.

2 Lanes of Joy

Sang riding up hill

The 2 lane roads took us up and down through small towns, like Loleta and Ferndale. It felt like our bikes were time machines that took us a few decades back when times were simpler. Ferndale still had their old style downtown strip, complete with a saloon to quench your alcoholic thirst. We glanced at the direction down the road where the Lost Coast route began, didn’t bat an eye, and made our left turn on Ocean Avenue towards the Avenue of the Giants.

Portlan uphill

Ocean Avenue continued on through 13 miles of dairy farms on 2 lane roads. Towards the end, we were slowly pedaling up some steep ascents and really fun steep descents in which Sang Hyun clocked us at about 40 mph in a very short distance. We finally made it to the small town of Del Rio and Scotia. At Scotia, we stopped for lunch at a grocery / deli store called Hoby’s Market. We restocked on 2 nights worth of food for the ride into the Avenue of the Giants as this would be the last stop to do this before heading into camp.  There were no other nearby grocery options on the way, but there was a meet up of antique cars at the Scotia Inn. Old Fords and Buicks were on display with their spoke wheels and restored body.

Mission Accomplished

Portlan in a redwood tree

Portlan in a redwood tree

We got back on the 101 freeway and pretty much coasted into the Avenue of Giants within 6 miles. Entering the Avenue of the Giants was simply amazing. We were instantly shaded by the massive trees of the forest as we felt the temperature of the day rise. For the most part, the Avenue of the Giants was flat with some minor ascent and descent, but after about 15 or so more miles, we made it to the Burlington campgrounds.  It was 1 mile after the town of Weott, right next to the main visitor’s center.

 

Hanging out at the Eel River

Hanging out at the Eel River

We had enough time to even wander into the river for a quick 30 minute dip. The water was warm from the sun earlier in the day, so it was a real treat to waddle through it and end our day. We had a very late and satisfying dinner before turning in for the night. Tomorrow is our day-off and we’re going to spend it on doing absolutely nothing and enjoying our environment.

Day 24: Traveling by Three (Elk Prairie State Park to Eureka KOA)

Trinidad

We were joined by Portlan on today’s ride from Elk Prairie campgrounds down to the Eureka KOA. Portlan normally leaves earlier than any of us to get into camp first. He had been successful a few times this week and thought he was ready to ride with us into our next destination. He did a great job keeping pace and setting pace at times. This did not come without any problems. Read on to find out what happened.

Looking for Elks

Everyone woke up around the same time at 7:30 to get ready for the next part of our journey. Portlan had asked us the night before if he can join us. We welcomed him, as well as anyone else who wanted to do so. Rolling out of camp, we spotted 1 elk grazing on the side of the road. Nothing too special until we came up to a herd resting at someone’s property on the side of the road. We made a U-turn to take a closer look with our cameras. However, the pay-off was at a spot Portlan had told us about near a red school, where he had seen them years before with his dad. Luckily, we were able to witness the same massive group of elks grazing by the side of the road. As tourists watched them, we snacked on our beef jerky and took our occasional snapshots. We were there long enough to see the entire herd cross behind us!

Mechanical Issues

Fixing a bent chain

Fixing a bent chain

We then started the first ascent of the day. We were on roads that took us up and down, starting from Humbolt Lagoons State Park all the way through to Trinidad. The earlier half was tough – so tough that Portlan bent his chain. Luckily, he sent a motorist for me who drove down the road to tell me to wait for him. I had been riding lead for about half a mile ahead, but came back to meet up with both him and Sang Hyun to see what the problem was. I pulled out my spare chain links and multi-tool, and we replaced the links. All that took 45 minutes to do.

Rolling Through

Not to bad California Coast.

Not too bad California Coast.

Then, we all went into the town of Trinidad, which did not spare us from hills. The hills, however, gave us the most incredible views from atop, so we didn’t mind them as much. The downhill out of there was more memorable as we said good bye to this small gem of a town which showed us that the California coast was well-represented as a beautiful coast. We eventually got on the bike path that led us through McKinleyville and then finally through Arcata. Arcata, which is right outside of Humboldt State University, was an interesting little town.  It seemed to have a number of homeless folks lying around the town square. I felt like I was riding through a Universal Studios back lot. We finally high-tailed out of there and back on highway 101 towards Eureka.

We finally reached Eureka KOA and paid for 1 night’s stay on their last campsite. It was cheaper to do that than to pay for a hiker / biker at $12 per person. We settled down and did our laundry for the week, so that we didn’t have to worry about it on our day off tomorrow in the Avenue of the Giants. We then made dinner and got to bed close to 11PM. It was a long day, but we are glad that the next day will bring us to one of the most anticipated place of our trip, The Avenue of the Giants. We can’t wait!