Cycling Day 33 – Leggett to Mendocino
I managed to convince Andy to get out of bed early this morning for an intended 7am start so we could avoid the traffic on CA1 – the main coastal route in Northern California. The first climb and descent out of Leggett are notorious on the Pacific Coast cycling route for being difficult, having no shoulder and therefore forcing you to ride in the same (and only) lane for cars, having a steep drop off the side and having heavy traffic, making for a sometimes unpleasant experience. The state park where we had been staying was located on the US101 – even at 5:30am I could hear the heavy logging trucks going past quite regularly and was a bit worried. It all turned out to be no problem however, as they all continued on the 101 from Leggett and we had the CA1 pretty much all to ourselves – we were only passed by about 5 cars for the first three hours of the morning. The climb itself wasn’t as bad as we were expecting – the peak is at around 1800′ but as we were already camped at about 700′ it wasn’t too painful. Both Andy and I have found our climbing rhythm and pace where we can just keep going making days like today much less of a chore.
Once we got halfway up the mist and fog came in preventing any spectacular views but the descent was great fun as we went all the way back down to sea level – continual sweeping corners on a road with no traffic had us both feeling like we were taking part in MotoGP. Once we hit the bottom we had another hill which we weren’t expecting before we came back out to the coast, which we haven’t really seen since the day we rode to Eureka almost a week ago. Once on the coast the sun was just starting to come out in full, affording us stunning views as the CA1 rolled up and down across the headlands. We stopped for a snack at Westport where they had an old school petrol pump, amusing us as some Canadians drove up and were completely bewildered by its operation. By this time it was only 11am and we’d basically completed almost a full normal day’s riding (by our lowly standards at least).
As we came into Cleone, there was a recommended turnoff to take the Ten Mile Beach trail to Fort Bragg – while this sounded like a good idea it turned out to be covered in heavy sand and there were quite a few horses and pedestrians blocking the route. Given that Andy still had a dodgy rear tyre we decided to get off as soon as we could, return to the CA1 and follow it into Fort Bragg.
Fort Bragg had a cycling shop which (like the store in Garberville) had no folding 26″ road tyres – he was able to get a non folding tyre which he has picked up until we get to San Francisco where he’s going to try and replace both front and rear with another set of Schwalbe Marathons. These have held out pretty well for him over about 5 years and the larger versions on my bike are very solid as well. Preferring to change the tyre at the campsite rather than on the roadside, we strapped it to the back of his bike, stopped for a pizza and a beer before heading out for the last lazy 20km to the campsite. We had one stop at Mendocino to pick up some dinner but got into the campsite at about 6pm. Andy had a bit of trouble with the tyre but got it on eventually.
All in all it was a good day – quite long but satisfying as well and we’re happy to have the Leggett climb behind us after all the warnings we’d had. For anyone else doing the same route – it’s not really that bad at all, but we were definitely helped by getting up early. The traffic on CA1 kept increasing throughout the day. Another day of nearly 100km has us feeling like we are really getting some rhythm going now. We now have an intended Napa route as well which looks like it will only add about 130km, although I suspect we may end up having some rest days when we get there 🙂 We considered a lot of options, including driving there, getting a ferry etc but in the end we felt that riding there just felt a lot better. For now, however, we’ve got a few more days of coastal riding through some remote towns on the Northern Californian coast – the largest we’ll see until Santa Rosa near Napa only has about 500 people.