We dove into California running from the damp chill of the southern Oregon fog to find redwoods, epic shores, noncommittal ups and downs and a host of wonderful and open hearted people – along with some meandering questions about the next free spot to pitch a tent and rivers of sweat left in our path.
Upon nearing San Francisco, we got a chance to put in a few begging requests on Couchsurfing.org (a community of hosts and surfers treating each other with a place to stay and good company and WarmShowers.org (a community of cyclists hosting and lodging with each other). Jeffery and Yoko (along with their son Isaac) took us into their beautiful home, essentially fed us every meal and hung a towel for each of us for hot showers in heaven.
Even before hitting San Francisco we ran into two wonderful woman (and later their other halves) who within 15 mins or so told us to truck into Fairfax (20 miles north of San Francisco) to have dinner and stay for a night before navigating the streets into the big city.
Lorraine and Chris put us up for the night while Marlene and Bert hosted us for an amazing meal of salmon and a mega load of greens and niblets we never get to buy/have on the road. We cannot say enough rainbow colored words of thanks to the whole crowed of folks who took us in with big smiles and mushy hearts.
We’ve spent over a week now in and around the San Francisco area enjoying company, playing tourists and drinking good beer while Augustine has soaked up kids’ museums, a trunk full of toys, the company of people other than her parents and a smattering of ethic sweet treats this huge city has to offer.
Ance suggested I change up the blog a bit and post most recent to oldest for a more clear timeline – she’s so brilliant. I hope you enjoy the billions of pictures of Augustine and my own small commentary on the places and people we’ve come across on our slow peddle to bliss-o-potamia.
San Francisco (October 3rd — 9th)
We arrived into San Francisco on the 3rd of Oct. via a meandering route from Fairfax that crossed through Sausalito. Incredibly hot day. We said a fond farewell with hopes to meet-up with Lorraine possibly further south for a leg of our journey – Lorraine we are waiting for you!
Slow morning of cleaning up and greasing the bikes. By the time we left the heat was in full force with little breeze to take things down a notch. We had printed out some google maps directions that were incredibly difficult to follow until we actually got onto the city streets of San Francisco. Meandered along the east cost of SF and cut in a bit towards Valencia and Guerrero Streets. Got to cycle gaze at SF shore, downtown, and rolling hills of suburbia towards the southern side of the city.
Stopped just outside of Sausalito to make pancakes on the sidewalk in the semi-shade and magnificent sun. Passer-byes either stared or gave us a thumbs up.
We arrived around 7pm (an hour later than we’d anticipated) with Jeff, Yoko, Isaac and Jet (an exchange student from Thailand) greeting us with warm, simple and unhindered hospitality. Ended up skipping out on a quick shower for a dinner pre-made for us and the family and then heading out to a local ice cream shop (Mitchell’s) where they make their own stuff – it was delicious. A nearby neighbor of Jeff and Yoko bought our ice cream for us – without really even knowing any of us. Pablo seems to be a stand-up guy.
Slept in a real bed with a real roof and real walls without the lingering feelings of a possible animal getting into our food and pestering our dreams.
The 3rd to the 9th (today) has been made up of great touristic days of cycling throughout the city, hitting up the free museums and sites, as well as kicking back with Jeff, Yoko and Isaac for an evening meal. Its truly a tough life.
Jeff took us out for a car ride to get our bearings on the city (Augustine was ecstatic to be in a car again, before she got car sick of course). We hit all the hill tops for vistas of San Fran with all its houses and buildings crammed unbelievably into a community of humans that somehow find themselves living together. While passing through the Castro district a middling aged man literally hung out the stereotypes of the LGBT neighborhood while crossing the street in the near nude – it seemed he had a small sock covering his family inheritance.
Other excursions throughout the city have been by our trusty two wheeled steeds (unloaded!). We’ve hit all the SF hills known to locals (I think), dined for lunch in the cheapest places we could find that didn’t look like prisons and stole some local information from Yoko and Jeff on ways to get into places for free. Augustine loved the Academy of Science’s Museum with its tropical rainforest and aquarium exhibits.
For our wedding anniversary (Oct. 8th) Yoko and Jeff volunteered for an all nighter with Augustine while we went and hit up a few of the fine beer houses – the Monk’s Cellar has 27 beers on tap with another 40 or so in a bottle!
We’ll be leaving October 10th (tomorrow) otherwise we’d never leave. A hundred alms of thanks to Jeff, Yoko and Isaac (and Jet) for putting up with the gypsies for a whole week!
October 2nd (Tomales State Park, Millerton Pt. Trailhead to Fairfax)
Running a bit low on supplies we had a breakfast of rice fried with beaten eggs and soy sauce – pretty good actually. Our little hide-a-way spot out a bit on the trail turned out to be a hot spot for retired dog walkers and couples seeking peace and solitude. We greeted them with innocent smiles while sitting on the shore cooking and eating our camping delicacy.
One retiring looking couple stopped for chat and filled us in on the fact that we’d be passing through Point Reyes station where tons of cyclists from the bay area stopped in at the Bovine Bakery for some treats before their 30+ miles back into town.
Headed out for some short rollies into Point Reyes Station. After chatting with some, we’ll call them, gentlemen cyclist, we opted to try for a fresh loaf of bread from the Bovine Bakery. While going in the gentle-spandex wearing men hinted at our adventure to two women entering the bakery. Turns out, Lorraine was originally from Canada and after a bit of conversation Lorraine’s cyclist friend/buddy Marlene had recently been to Latvia – let’s just say everyone hit it off on two right feet on the correct side of the bed.
After a bit of wandering conversation we found ourselves being invited to Lorraine’s house to stay and to Marlene’s house for dinner that night (a mere 20 miles away in/around Fairfax). We took them up on the offer and said we’d meet them later.
Got excellent directions from Lorraine on heading into Fairfax that brought us off onto a multi-use path far away from the grumbling engines of cars and trucks. California, thus far, has been super good to us with these side-off-the-road paths. A fairly good climb just before Fairfax sent us flying through town to Lorraine and Chris’ house.
After glorious showers headed off to Marlene and Burt’s’ house (by car, Augustine could barley contain herself) for great meal and quite possibly the most random conversation topics you can think of – parks and open spaces, stars, moon and constellations, cycle touring, Jewish history, Native American history, family and a slew of other random thoughts dropping like pebbles from everyones’ mouth.
Headed back to Lorraine’s house for a night of sleep that could be classified as a coma.
October 1st (Kortum Trailhead to Tomales State Park, Millerton Point Trailhead)
Tons of supported riders today that all seemed to be on happy pills or smoking the happy plant. Everyone with a bright hello, smile and random comments. “You should have come my way, you’re way sucks,” one guy yelled while rolling down a hill we were climbing.
The dinner/camping/breakfast spot we’d found ourselves at last night was absolutely beautiful. Right by Shell Beach trail, it overlooked a rocky outcropping being pounded and sprayed with that rhythmic racking of the giant Pacific churning pot of Ocean life.
Quick ups and down into Bodega Bay and Harbor. Then a surprisingly slow and freaking hot climb(s) with breakneck drops through what looks like (but certainly are not) high land desert hills. Stopped in at Valley For market. Stores continue to be ridiculously expensive for budget travelers like ourselves. Old man behind counter gave me a dismal no-shake after buying a 39 cent juice packet and 35 cent sucker and asking if we could fill up our water bottles nearby – “no water here.” A sink sat behind him – everyone is against tap water here it seems.
Ance and Augustine headed to a nearby Auto repair shop to fill water bottles. 1st Mechanic: “You mean to drink? We only have tap here.” Ance: “No that is totally fine, we live off tap water.” 2nd Mechanic: “No, no. Give them the bottles! We’ve only got well water here.” After some coaxing, Ance was able to fill the water bottles with tap water that didn’t seem to taste bad and caused no symptoms of dysentery.
Trucked into Tomales in the blistering heat where we stopped at a community park with water, play ground and a picnic table in the shade – as near a heavenly resort that a cycling tourist can get on a hot day. Trucked into Marshall (Resorty/super private looking place) and rolled into Millerton Point Trailhead where we decided to hid-a-way from the California Rangers by pushing out bikes down the trail. Found great grassy spot right next to the water.
Local walking his dog wearing carheartts and an Audubon ball cap: “You guys planning on camping here?” Me: “We were thinking about poaching a spot, yeah.” Local: “Yeah, as far as I know the guy that locks the gate just closes it without coming down this way, you should be fine right here. Beautiful spot, have a great night!”
We ate dinner in the moon light wearing all our clothes due to the cool breeze rolling through the bay.
September 30th (THE SEA RANCH to Kortum Trailhead)
The Sea Ranch turned out to be a swath of 7-8 miles of sea shore owned by some kind of private realty/resort company where apparently richy-rich folks come and rent/own houses that look nearly identical. Its a creepy empty place that should be alive and beautiful, it it wasn’t for the obscene amount of money dumped into a town of houses only lived in on weekends, holidays and summer vacations.
First half of day (20 miles +) super fast. Stopped at Stillwater Regional park for a $1.50 shower. Met some nice old women serving as the park hosts who told us to avoid being seen by the park Ranger so we wouldn’t be caught and charged for taking a shower without being actual paying campers at the park.
After chit-chatting with the ladies a bit I mentioned how dry some of the rivers we’d seen seem to have been: “I’m 82 years old and lived around hear my whole life. Never seen California so dry. And this is the north. It will only get worse as you go south.”
After heading out of the Ocean Shores area, put in for a good climb to Fort Ross (old Russian Settlement) and beyond. Steep climbs reaching nearly sheer cliffs of 1000ft+ before a big drop into Jenner. Pulled into gas station where I was chastised by a woman with yellow eye liner and pink lips for trying to fill up my 750ml canister for fuel without pre-paying the 60 cents first. “Here in California, we always require pre-payment before fueling.” Oh, California, you’ re so tired of being ripped off it is sad.
After crossing Russian River out of Jenner set in for a pretty good climb until pulling of by chance onto the Kortum Trailhead area where we were able to poach a spot for free. We seem to be entering an area here in N. Cali where it is a bitt difficult and sketchy to find an open space to throw up a tent.
Random side note: also meeting both male and female cyclists traveling alone. Ance and I find this relatively sad. One woman we met on the road, we met up with again in Jenner. She was sitting on the curb with another cyclists nearby not talking with each other but both staring and scrolling unendingly upon their smart phones.
September 29th (Manchester Viewpoint to THE SEA RANCH)
Had slow morning out of deserted and super chill view point area. Road into Point Arena fairly early. Filled up gas for cooking stove and slipped into local public library. Have had the Mammas and the Papas’ song “California Dreaming,” repeating over and over again in our heads. Made some phone calls to good friends back in Juneau and then rolled out to Moat Creek for lunch on a beautiful secluded beach.
Ended up trucking into an area called The Sea Ranch. Very strange place. We think it is a rich person paradise, as all the houses nearby appear to be absolutely empty – like 20 houses nearby, no lights, no cars, no people, no dogs, just Elk eating the shrubs. As it was late, we pulled down a trail that hid us among the nearby houses for the night. Beautiful and strange.
September 28th (Navarro Beach to Manchester Viewpoint)
Had a run in with park Ranger this morning for not paying for the site that we legitimately poached. Guilt set in and we decided to toss in a good $10 for our sins. We ended up having to back track 10 miles back to Mendocino because we’d forgotten Augustine’s backpack at a cafe we stopped at the day before.
Stopped in a bit at Frankie’ s again where we met nice couple from Fort Bragg with a 3 year old boy – Augustine was in love. We then trekked back over the 10 miles we’d already covered and dropped into Elk. Had nice late lunch on the cliffs there and met an awesome couple that just bought the local store in town that were originally from Eugene, OR and knew the owner of the bike shop we’d stopped at there – small world.
We were warned of a steep climb a couple of miles outside of Elk but were a bit un-prepared for the 15-18% grade that slaps you in the face. Demoralized I pushed my bike with Augustine in tow around a corner that just stopped me dead in my tracks. I’ll find my dignity again someday.
Randomly came upon a nice pullout/viewpoint area where no-one seems to stop and had a nice quite evening without any worries of fines or California Rangers.
September 27th (Fort Bragg Trail to Navarro River Beach)
Stopped in Mendocino, a cutsy tourist trap of a town and Ance called family members to guarantee we are not dead. Took Augustine to locally owned public/private library where we read a sad book among others – The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. The sad part was lost on Augustine, which in retrospect is probably a good thing.
Stopped into a great place with good food and beer – Frankie’s. Augustine loved all the toys and the rotating pod of children the milled through. Met a soccer dad and two dudes with three kids in tow. Biked out of Mendocino a bit late to Navarro Beach thinking it was just a beach access point with no facilities. Turned out to be a full fledged fee camping area.
“Nobody is going to care. If Ranger bob does show up, he is going to be some hippy-dippy dude from Mendocino who isn’t gonna care at all.” With group cohesion, we ended up for the first time illegally poaching a legitimate campsite. Hung out with Nick and Jen for the evening – really great and welcoming couple from Sacramento.
September 26th (Chadbourn Gulch to Fort Bragg Trail)
Woke to chilly morning with steady breeze. Beautiful beach with jutting rocks being pounded slowly to sand by crashing surf. Pancakes for breakfast – getting super low on food again. A traveling band of Japanese hippies with two 1990s vans with enough gear and beer to slow down Lewis and Clark next door. Also happened to be a woman, with her boyfriend/husband/significant other/brother (no idea) doing extraordinary balancing yoga on the beach. No one spoke to each other.
Went for short beach walk where Augustine found out about the glories of Bull Kelp walking – a.k.a. walking a bull kelp dog. Climbed up onto small rocky outcropping to find a giant orange winged psychedelic looking bong at the top.
Big climb out of gulch (more steep than big, I guess). Stopped in at Mac Kerricher State Park for coin shower. Met overly serious and mean looking German woman cyclist along with a dude that didn’t understand the merits of traveling on a budget. Ance, though, struck up a conversation with middling age couple traveling by bike who seemed pretty open and generally happy about sunshine and good company.
Pulled into Fort Bragg hungry and looking to restock. Slogged into a Safeway to expensively restock. Prices more expensive than Juneau – cheapest cheese, for example, was $10.00, locals apparently call this the Coast Tax, I suggest they move to Southeast Alaska.
Ate a banana hot dog wrapped in a pancake in the parking lot before heading to Mexican restaurant to eat everything visible that wouldn’t draw police attention. Laundromat next door to wash stained clothes to mitigate homeless style we’ve been kicking for awhile.
Started heading out of Fort Bragg a bit later than expected. Pulled off onto a road that indicated coastal access. Turned out to be a rich neighborhood with a public access trail to a steep embankment. Stowed off the side of the trail a few hundred yards from someone’ s lawn sprinklers.
September 25th (Smithe Redwood Reserve to Chadbourne Gulch)
After day of rain resting, set off for a day largely made up of multi-mile 7%+ grade climbs. Beautiful winding roads, felt deep and moist, alive and sexy, in its own totally natural, non-offensive seductive and absolutely P.C. way.
Stopped into Leggett, one of those dead and dying places meant for a Faulkner novel. Why is it everyone has moved to San Francisco, Sacramento, LA, Santa Barbara, etc., when there is so much space and beauty in Northern California? Locals say that its the lack of jobs, but Ance and I are under the opinion that its people along with places that create jobs, not the other way around. We are probably wrong.
Stopped just before Rockport to dry out tent and sleeping bags and have lunch. Set off for another 1hour and 30 mins or so to a beach that locals in Westport directed us to: “So, are you looking for a campsite, or looking for something more freeish?”
Steep drop into Gulch with extraordinary views and the softest sand for sleeping in generations.
September 24th (Smithe Redwood Reserve Rain Day!)
As we woke and began packing our gear inside the tent, a rhythmic rain turned into a blustery angry sounding pummeling which thoroughly doushed any ambitions to actually get on the road. While eating breakfast opted to stick around for the day or for a clearing if one presented itself. One didn’t.
Played cards, drank tea, and took a semi nude walk down to the river with our rain jackets for a chilly rain river washing. Had couscous for dinner. Early bed for everyone.
September 23rd (Franklin Lane Grove to Smithe Redwoods Reserve)
Woke early, took down tent, made pancakes and had the earliest departure of the whole trip – 9:10AM! Strange man keeping to himself in the woods continued to sit smoking some kind of herby smelling plant and hacking his lungs out – again, not marijuana. Apparently not an ax murderer.
Had to get back on the freeway with its fast exits and bone headed massive RV drivers. Climb into Garberville of 680ft and then 750ft after a drop into Benbow. Hot. Hot. Hot.
Stopped in at Benbow lake for a swim. No lake, just a shallow algae rich slow moving creek. Did the job, but wasn’t all that pleasant. Around the creek we say the two older gentleman we’d later see just down the road – one got hit/or crashed on the road right by the souther terminus of Benbow Road.
After seeing cyclist hurt, the tight, winding and busy section through Richardson Grove State Park was pretty nerve wracking. Steep and sweaty climb in and out of Piercy. Stopped at overgrown CA park road for shade, rest and lunch. Took (against wiser judgement) road that looked like (on the map) it would eventually loop back onto the 101. A sign clearly stated “Not a Through Road.” Turned out to be a nice 45 min circular detour for us.
Pulled into Smithe RW grove for the evening. While setting up camp and prepping for dinner, Danielle and Monica were walking through to see the red woods. Augustine ended up really pushing her three year old charm and scoring some rice cakes, a potato chip and a strawberry. The mother and daughter pair ended up offering up a place to stay as well just some 100 miles down the coast.
September 24th (Sufford Road, Eel River to Franklin Lane Grove)
Wonderfully Leisurely day cycling through the red woods. Started off a bit late from our money spot on the Eel River. 1hr 30mins in, took lunch at High Rock river access near some enormous redwoods. Have been leapfrogging some nice cyclists all day high on shady views of ancient trees.
Around 80 degrees in Miranda towards 5:30PM. Bought a couple classic giant cans of Pabst to cool off while taking a jaunt through the woods. Ate popcorn and a small yellow watermelon that Ance had gotten as a free treat outside the Myers Flat store. Also met trio of cyclists there who’d taken the trail from Santa Barbara to Portland were cycling back home – they’re all apparently farmers.
Interesting man burning incense/smoking something (doesn’t smell like wacky tobaccy) just beyond where we’ve thrown up the tent. His closed and stoic demeanor along with the coughing hacking he is doing back in the woods has made Ance and I paranoid out of our minds. Probably just some nature seeker looking for transcendence – our minds make him out to be an ax murderer.
September 21st (Stafford Road, Eel River Rest Day!)
Took a break day to dry stuff and thoroughly clean ourselves. Found out that we could have dropped a bit further on the road we stowed in the redwoods on to find wide open space on the Eel River.
Took short river/creek walk. Augustine jumping in the water with spurts of giggles and bucketfuls of smiles. Hot, wonderful, lazy day. Had the third campfire of the entire trip in the evening.
September 20th (Trinidad State Park to Stafford Road redwoods)
Pulled a long day. Woke in the fog and made pancakes on a relatively flat table – ah, the comforts of life! Biked out on Scenic Drive out of Trinidad. Beautiful small upsie/downsie road overlooking the beach.
Unfortunately got back on Freeway until Clam Beach county park, where we had hoped to steal a shower – didn’t happen. Took a great multi-use path into Arcata and then dove back onto the ridiculous freeway into Eureka. Before dropping on the busy thoroughfare, had a standing snack lunch on an overpass while Augustine slept in her trailer lasting for approximately 6 mins.
Hit up insanely cheap grocery store (Winco). I stayed outside with the bikes and met an assortment of interesting characters. A woman with short hair, black Harley Davidson t-shirt, carheartts, red wing boots and a southern accent thicker than mud chatted/yelled with me. “Hit by a car years back. They gotta pay a thousand a month and in a year a big hunk of $10,000!”
While finishing this introductory sentence, she ran out into the parking lot and helped direct people to parking spots opening up. She also helped a woman with a walker out of her car and commented to just about everyone that passed by about their nice pants, or shirt, or earrings or whatever seemed to catch her eye.
A rusty old security guard came by and struck up a conversation with me while he looked over the bikes. Provided some local information on where we might be able to camp for the night. Late departure out of Eureka. Crossed over Van Duzen bridge, river completely dry. Tire blew out in Scotia and by the time we reloaded, questions about where to camp and twilight began to set in.
Found road off Stafford that bumped down into the redwoods. Had late sup and slept a million years on a bed of fallen redwood alms.
September 19th (Coastal Drive wayside to Trinidad Beach)
Hard beautiful day. Got rolling down awesome grassy trail around 10AM after granola breakfast. Hards slog towards end of trail and then big climb getting back onto road.
Great green damp and cool drop into Elk Creek. Stopped for lunch and dried off stuff with a pair from Whistler – didn’t mention I wasn’t a fan of their home town. Took trail to Elk Prairie and then jumped back onto 101 to Orick. Bought some grown veggies from a sometimes train hopper traveler – super nice guy.
Proceeded out of Orick to to this series of steep climbs that dropped down onto the rims of lagoons. Wonderfully beautiful to look at in-between huffing and sweating up the hills. Patrick Point Road turned out not to have any spots to throw up a tent. Rolled into Trinidad and stopped for chocolate bar and ran into nice woman who gave us directions to the local day use park: “People camp there all the time. That’s what I’d do if I were you.”
September 18th (Nickel Creek to Coastal Drive Wayside)
Sun back out. Bit slow to get rolling. Filtered water and washed up dishes. Took down tarp and tried to get a bit dried out from last nights down pour. Good warm up out of trail – 1/2 mile climb. Hit hill outside of Crescent city, good 45 min climb with little to no breaks. Winding highway through red woods.
Trucked into Klamath in hopes to buy a decent California map – didn’t really happen. Ended up taking this Coastal Drive road that turns essentially into a trail that hugs the coast with incredible cliffs that do a sheer drop right down to the deep blue sea.
Stopped at 6PM on what use to be a road wayside but is now a deserted trail wayside – super cool spot. Early to bed, the day of climbing and falling has beaten me up.
September 17th (Nickel Creek, Failed attempt to take Last Chance Coastal route back to 101)
Actually woke early and set off by 9:45AM. Pushed bikes for 1 hour of so up rocky 10%+ grade trail. Dropped bikes and walked trail to see if things flattened out to get the bikes up. I apparently went this route back in 2007 with a borrowed bike and bags. Turned out to be too steep and to long for us with all our gear to really make it worth our while.
Turned around and opted to stay at Nickel creek for another night after hard workout and the fact the weather turning to rain again. Took a quick trip into town for stove fuel.
September 16th (Harris Beach to Nickel Creek)
Sun came back out, not nearly as cold any more. Stopped on the way through Brookings to upload photos and update website. Didn’t head out of Brookings until 2pm. Flat easy riding into California and pretty much all the way to Crescent City.
Stopped in at Earl Lake for late lunch. Group with car parked facing opposite the lake smoking pot, staring at the shuffling grass in the breeze. They provide friendly and vague advice and directions on how far away Crescent City was and a possible free campsite for us.