Day 30: Hickey State Park to Burlington State Park

We returned to the Peg House for their famed breakfast burritos only to find out that they didn’t have any this morning, so we settled for bagels and cream cheese, and two huge cookies for the road.

Today was supposed to be an easy day – mostly continuing the descent we climbed up yesterday but at a very low grade. This was a very good thing since it seemed like my legs weren’t going to do any more work today. From early on, there was extreme headwinds coming down the river towards us. I had hoped by being inland we could avoid the winds, but it didn’t appear that way.

Along the way we met Danny, a southbound Pacific Coast tourer. He was also doing distances similar to ours and happy to hear not everyone does 100 miles per day. The only other tourer he had talked do was doing this type of distances and made him feel quite inadequate.

Along the way we saw many roadside stands and attractions, some seeming quite desperate for their portion of tourist money. We were on and off the 101 a few times today. With the 101 being quite busy we were usually happy to find our turn off. One turnoff into Redway didn’t seem to reduce the traffic at all, but we found our way into town and stopped for lunch.

Avenue of the Giants was coming up, so we continued on into the park area to find a campground for the night. We didn’t make any plans today for where to camp since there seemed to be many options.

Avenue of the Giants finally took us off busy roads and was a great ride through the huge trees. We made it to Burlington campground in the middle of the redwoods, setup camp and made dinner.

Day 29, Leggett Conquered: Fort Bragg to Standish Hickey Campground

We were ready for Leggett, at least as ready as it was possible to be. Our stay in Fort Bragg put us farther away from the hills than we had planned for today, but laundry and a shower was a priority yesterday so that gave us a 75km day today including many small climbs before we started ‘mini-Leggett’ and then finally climb the real Leggett hill.

Mini-Leggett is a 600ft climb which we then sail back down before starting 1800ft climb to the top. And because we’re north bound, we’re climbing from sea level to the peak, unlike those southbound who have a slow and gradual incline for a day or two before reaching the campground before they start their Leggett climb.

Even when we first got on the road at 7am there was a headwind. It pushed back at us all morning. We stopped at a scenic outlook where there were many people up and out early fishing for Abalore, since its their season. We heard about a few people who had drown in the pass day in the rough waters.

We decided to look for food in Westport, and when we arrived the general store was the only place we could get something, so we both got a bagel sandwich from there and sat in the warm sun hidden from the wind to enjoy it.

We knew the climbs were coming and were procrastinating, but eventually we had to get back and start climbing. So we went back to the road and continued along the windy coastline of rolling hills before turning inland and starting mini-Leggett. Although it was a steep climb on a narrow road without shoulders, there was very little traffic and plenty of turn-out areas, and by being on the outside of the road, not right next to the cliff, we felt more visible. And did I mention there was no wind? It was a peaceful climb and at a slow calm pace it wasn’t too difficult. Eventually we hit this peak and sailed back down to near sea level, getting a few more kilometers accomplished.

Then came time for the real climb of the day. We just went slow and steady, me slower than Jesse, however I had a bag of cherry gummies to snack on as I went. I kept looking at the kilometer reading on my bike computer.. counting down, and thinking ‘we have 6 more hours of sunlight…even if i can only go at 5km/hr it will be okay…’ and consistently adjusting this as the climb went on.

The roads were still narrow but the calm quiet of the forest meant we could hear most vehicles before they came close. At one point I was sure we were reaching the segment where the 101 and the 1 came together, and thus also then the peak, but soon I realized I was just able to hear the traffic from the 1 up ahead, since it was some loud logging trucks coming down the hill. We road for what seemed like a quite a while near the treeline, and continued climbing steadily. Eventually, with nothing to mark it, we reached the peak with only the warning sign to oncoming traffic about the grade of the descent to let us know.

We sailed down the hill quickly with only a couple cars passing as we went. Just before reaching Leggett there was a very minor climb, which felt a lot larger than it should have. The town was to our right, including the Chandelier drive through tree which we couldn’t miss. We went uphill a bit farther to get to the tree, and paid $3/each (a car is cheaper – $5 total) and we were able to ride through the tree a few times to try to get a decent picture. A worthwhile event given we had just finished Leggett, but if we were Southbound I’m not sure if I would have gone to the effort. There is a decent picnic are there but otherwise nothing of note beyond restrooms.

We continued on to the campground, and merging with the 101 we thought would mean more traffic but also decent shoulders. We were right about the traffic, wrong about the shoulders. Instantly we had large trucks passing us, but we were still on a descent so we were happy that our incline was on the quiet highway 1, not the busy 101 freeway.
Very quickly we reached the campground, setup camp and talked with another northbound tourer, then went across the street to another general store/restaurant for burgers, snacks, and then called it a night.

Day 28: Manchester State Park to Fort Bragg

With a successful early start this morning we were on the road just a bit past 7. Our goal was to beat as much of the traffic as we could. There was no hope of beating the wind today, even before emerging from the tent we could see it blowing. The rolling hills continued and I still wasn’t feeling like my legs wanted to take me to far, but we pushed forward with the image of hot showers, a warm bed and laundry in mind with our end point for the day being Fort Bragg.

For breakfast we stopped in Elk, at Queenie’s Roadhouse Cafe. As we pulled up it seemed as though everyone inside was just staring at us, but after getting in, sitting down and ordering we realized it was a really good stop. With really good coffee and free refills, as well as great food, we thoroughly enjoyed this stop.

Again there was a fair bit of traffic and no shoulders, however, luckily again, there seemed to be more traffic coming towards us than passing us.

Continuing onward into headwinds, we kept going until our second stop of the day in Mendochino. Finally we were getting into the areas with a population of more than 500. Mendochino seemed like a nice town and we stopped for a pastry each from the bakery. We were not pressed for time today so we were able to relax a bit more on the ride.

Fort Bragg was the final push of the day and not too far from Mendochino. We knew we were looking for a motel and while passing the Motel 6 it seemed to be a good enough place to stop. After circling around, we checked in, did laundry, then set out for dinner and a quick trip to Safeway for snacks for tomorrow. Tomorrow is our day to conquer Legett – the highest peak on the Pacific Coast route at over 1700 feet, plus a lot of other smaller hills along the way. We’d also like to reach Leggett early enough in the day to be able to get to the park with the Drive Through Tree. Needless to say it will be an early morning!

Day 27: Stillwater Cove at Fort Ross to Manchester State Park

Today seemed to be an especially challenging day for me, as we started another day with narrow roads winding roads through the forest with no shoulders. Our campsite wasn’t too far off the highway, so through most of the night and in the morning before we left we could hear the traffic awaiting us.

A telling sign – the only picture taken today. We saw this sign again 15 miles later…
A telling sign – the only picture taken today. We saw this sign again 15 miles later…
Once we got on the road we could see most of the traffic was coming towards us. We weren’t too sure what the draw was or where they were coming from, but I was hoping we would manage to be off the road by the time they returned. Bodega Bay did have a fisherman’s festival on during the weekend, which may have something to do with it.

In Gualala we stopped to get a couple things for dinner at the grocery store, and to sit for a bit and have lunch. We had fresh pizza and picked up some tomato soup to add to some pasta we had been given which we would for dinner. The grocery store was nice and large, however there didn’t seem to be much else in Gualala of interest. We were hoping for more in Point Arena, and maybe even a decent motel. I was especially hopeful for this since it didn’t seem like my legs wanted to pedal at all today.

In Point Arena the town looked very rundown, and when we arrived all we could hear was people yelling at each other. There seemed to be a road which turned off towards the waterfront which had better food and accommodation options, but without knowing where or what was there, we stayed on the main route. After seeing that the inn that was mentioned on our Adventure Cycling maps was shut down we quickly knew we wouldn’t be spending the night there. The town of Manchester wasn’t too far and there was a couple camping options, so we decided to move on.

On the way we did see a better looking cafe, so we stopped there to get off the road and for a couple milkshakes. From there we went to the campground, which was just past the grocery store in Manchester. Riding down to the campground, we passed right by a KOA campground. It seemed super crowded and busy, and generally not the type of camping we enjoy, but on this occasion we probably would have been better paying more and going there so we could make use of the hot showers and laundry. Something to remember for next time.

Day 26: Tomales to Fort Ross

Not wanting to leave our great room too early, we started today at 9am after a Cliff bar breakfast. We had a long goal of 100km and a shorter option of 70km, depending on how we felt and time.

The area was full of rolling hills, even though the initial area didn’t have any large grades, we still were climbing up and subsequently rolling down a few moments later. As we met up with another fair sized highway, traffic seemed to greatly increase and we lost the quiet road we enjoyed yesterday. Our plan was to stop in Bodega Bay for breakfast, but by the time we arrived it was after 11 and they had stopped serving breakfast. We did stop for lunch, enjoying some time indoors with a great view, even if it was a tourist priced restaurant.

Back on the road, we kept going until Jenner. Our double rest day in San Francisco didn’t seem to help us feel stronger, but seemed to have the opposite effect. When we saw Jenner we were happy to stop. The winds had picked up, bringing with them quite cool air. There is a great little cafe with a perfect patio area that we stopped at for hot drinks and pastries. Not eager to move to quickly, we stayed a while, sitting in the warm indoors.

Eventually it was time for the final push to the campground. We had already decided we wouldn’t try for 100km today since there was still a fairly large climb ahead. The roads seemed to get very busy as well, likely weekend traffic leaving the city to get away for the weekend, but with narrow roads, a steady incline and a headwind, it wasn’t pleasant riding. Eager to get off the road we pulled into the first campground after Fort Ross, even if we heard good things about the next one. Other than free hot showers, there isn’t much difference from one campground to the next, especially when its cold and we wouldn’t be able to spend much time on the beach anyways.

Dinner came together better than expected, which was a nice surprise. We had been carrying red lentils for a while and it was time to use them. Adding a lightly fried onion, a can of tomato best, chillies, curry powder and a stock cube, we were able to enjoy a curried red lentil tomato soup for dinner; which also did a good job to provide a bit of warmth on a cool night.

Day 25: San Francisco to Tomales

We started the day with a muffin and coffee from the hotel’s breakfast table, then got on the bikes around 8am. We rode along towards the Golden Gate Bridge, following pathways along the way. We saw Crissy Field, and then turned uphill to get to the bridge. As we neared the bridge, we saw many tourists taking their photos everywhere, which made riding a bit difficult on the bridge.

Once across, we talked to a highway patrol office and a construction worker. The officer was on a bike and seemed to be in charge of bike traffic, so we asked him about how to get to where we needed to be and found out that involved taking our bikes first down a big, steep set of stairs, and then back up on the other side of the bridge. Before we started doing this, we spent a while talking with them about our trip and about bears.

After our extended rest in San Francisco, we had an extensive day planned for ourselves. We will try to increase our distances to speed things up a bit, so today instead of stopping at 50km, we were planning to go to 110km and stop at Bodega Beach. Crossing the bridge and then getting through the next highly residential area took longer than we expected though and by the time we were getting hungry for lunch we hadn’t made it all too far. We stopped for another Mexican meal – though we can tell we’re getting farther from the Mexican border as the restaurants are reducing in their quality and value.

Pushing on, we had one decent hill to climb, which was a brutal long and slow incline which just made both of us feel like we had no power or energy since the road looked flat but yet we had a hard time going anywhere. Eventually we reached the top then were able to ride a slow decent. We passed up the Samuel P Taylor campground, even though it looked great, because it was still early and we feeling alright enough to keep going.

It was a nice ride through rolling hills with very little traffic. We passed one other tourer on the road around 6:30, he was also feeling pressed to figure out where he would stay the night.