Cycling Day 32 – Weott to Leggett
Wow, what an eventful day. Given that we didn’t have time yesterday, I opted to get up early so that I could go and see the old trees area in Rockefeller forest. This meant going back along Avenue of the Giants and then taking a turnoff to the west. I made a brief enquiry to Andy but he opted for the relaxation of a couple more hours of sleep. I left just before 8 and there were barely any cars around at all – it really added to the solemn feeling of the forest. While the trees were only a little bigger than the ones we had seen the previous night, there were a lot more of them and the forest was a lot deeper as well. It’s hard to describe the feeling of going through a place like this on your own (especially on a bicycle instead of a car) – you feel quite insignificant surrounded by so many ancient trees. There was absolutely no human noise at all – you could hear so much of the rich forest life. I found myself muttering “How’s the serenity?” quite a few times 🙂 Apparently the biggest tree in the forest was somewhere nearby but I didn’t manage to find it – after about 12.5km I decided to turn around because of the big day we had in store. I did record the whole experience with the camera (the video is way too big to upload) and took a few shots trying to show how massive the trees are. Overall it was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had so far on the trip.
With no weight on the bike (all my stuff was still back at the campsite), I was able to make pretty good progress back home and arrived well before 10am. We made a small breakfast, packed up and then eventually started on what we expected to be a somewhat tough day, about 75 km generally uphill towards Leggett. By the time we left we were already thinking we would be up against the clock in terms of making it to our destination before dark. We continued on the Avenue of the Giants towards the southern end. We did come across an attraction called the Drive Through Tree – there was a seven foot gap in the roots of one tree that you could drive your car through. We paid a few dollars to ride our bikes through but it was a little lame – the tree wasn’t that huge and I’d like to see any American car that could fit through the gap! We continued on and found a place for brunch in Miranda. While the food was pretty good, it took ages to come out and put us even further behind schedule.
We came away and headed down towards the end of the Avenue of the Giants. About 4km out of Miranda, just as the legs were starting to warm up again Andy heard a hissing sound and looked back to see his rear tyre quickly deflating. Our first puncture of the trip! Luckily we came prepared for such eventualities and he was carrying a spare inner tube. The temperature was about 35 degrees so we sought some respite in the shade to replace it and then made our way off again. On closer inspection we realised that Andy’s rear tyre was pretty worn – there were a few places with minor holes in it. The offending hole was quite large – a few millimetres across. We resolved to make a short detour through Garberville which was marked as having a bike shop on the map so he could pick up a couple of new tyres. Somewhat annoyingly for him, Andy had looked at getting a spare tyre in Portland but the shop we went to didn’t have the brand he was looking for and so he was planning to get them in San Francisco instead.
With the inner tube replaced but no reparatory work on the tyre taken out, we headed off to Garberville, with Andy spending most of his time trying to avoid any sharp objects lying on the freeway shoulder. After a big hill or two, we found the exit and made our way into town to All Sports. Unfortunately they didn’t have any 26″ road tyres, so we left with only an extra inner tube and some “slime tape” which you can put on the inside of your tyre wall to help provide puncture resistance. Feeling a bit better but still worried about the time, we continued out of town and onto the freeway. There was a minor road through Benbow that we could take, so we took the exit and looked forward to an easier ride with no traffic alongside the main 101. Just as we were coming off, Andy heard the telltale hiss again and rolled to another stop. At least this time we had some shade and a nice log to sit on while changing the tyre. This time around, Andy accepted my offer of a tyre boot which I had in my bag of spare parts and also wrapped the tyre with duct tape which he’d picked up in Garberville. The fix looks a bit dodgy but it seems to work ok, hopefully until we can get to Fort Bragg which is the next marked cycle shop on our route.
By this time we were pretty sure we weren’t going to make it before sunset, but we pressed on as fast as we could regardless. The headwind was particularly nasty today – at points I was cycling as fast as I could down a slight hill and only registering about 15 km/h. This combined with the searing heat just made the ride much more difficult than we were expecting. There was one state park near Benbow that we considered stopping at, but we’d heard good things about our destination and wanted to stay there so we could get up early and tackle the massive hill with fresh legs. We did have some guys tell us about a shortcut over a gravel road with an amazing view but we decided not to risk it given the state of Andy’s tyre. I was expecting the park to be halfway up the hill, but thankfully we’d misread the map and it was closer to the bottom.
One of the good features of the park is that is has a shop and a BBQ van opposite, so as we finally arrived with the setting sun we were faced with the option of setting our tent up in the light or getting some food before the van shut. We opted for food and washed it down with a beer that tasted absolutely awesome after such a long day of riding. We bought a few more to take with us and set up our tents in the dark before enjoying a late night chat with Josh who was planning to leave early in the morning with Johnnie as he needed to be in San Francisco soon. Incidentally we managed to set up our tents in the wrong place so we’re hoping that the ranger lets us away with it tomorrow rather than forcing us to move into the actual hiker/biker camp.
Today was simply brutal. We knew it was going to be tough but didn’t expect the triple threat of strong headwinds, ridiculous heat and mechanical failures. Just over 100km for me including the pre-breakfast ride in what turned out to be very difficult conditions. This was the first day since the hills around Whistler that I have felt more like I’m out doing exercise and pushing as hard as I can for seven hours instead of just casually cycling around seeing things all day. Now that it’s over I’m retrospectively quite glad that I got up early to do the extra trip before breakfast, but there were definitely times during the day when I was cursing the decision. We’re now at Standish Hickey State Park which is at the foot of the notorious Leggett climb and descent at the northern end of the US1 route – we’ve been told several times by people about how this is the most dangerous part of the cycling route, with no shoulder, a steep drop off the cliff, several blind corners, heavy traffic and a 1800′ mountain to top it off. We’re going to have a day off tomorrow and get up early on Thursday morning, put on all our high visibility gear and try to get up and over the hill before the morning traffic starts.
One more milestone hit today – we passed 2000km. We’re going to spend some of our day off tomorrow planning the Napa trip so we should have an idea of how much this will affect the remaining km, but if we were to stay to the route then we’d only have about 1400km remaining to the Mexican border.
My morning detour: