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.

Day 24: San Francisco, again!

With our room upgrade, it was even more inviting to add a second day off in San Francisco. We really liked the city and wanted to have time to explore and see more of it, while also being able to do the things we need to do on days off.

Today we took our unloaded bikes and biked around the city, seeing the Fisherman’s Warf area and riding along to the Financial district. Jesse found a shop online which specializes in memory upgrades, which was something we were looking for for my laptop. So on our ride we stopped in to get the RAM in my laptop doubled, which should help with all the work with photos I’m doing.

The next destination of the morning tour was the Giants stadium, where everyone was congregating to for a game. Just after passing, we remembered that we had forgotten about Liguria bakery – a bakery which is supposed to have the best focaccia in San Francisco, in California, in the USA… we passed by yesterday but it had already closed, but someone passing by told us how great it was and what was his favourite type. So today we got there earlier and were prepared for wonderful focaccia and terrible service. I ordered one garlic/rosemary bread and one raisin. The service wasn’t exactly friendly but certainly adequate, and we took our breads across the street to the park to eat. And they were wonderful.

After a brief break at the hotel, we set off again to visit a nearby outdoor shop, then spent the rest of the afternoon in a cafe before getting take away from the highly rated Afghan restaurant nearby. We ate back at the hotel while watching the movie Pacific Heights, to mark our time at the Pacific Heights Inn.

A note on the wind… we’re not crazy, it is that bad!

The below is taken from “THE BOOK” – Bicycling The Pacific Coast – it is the preface in it, and the section that we’ve been asked many times if we’ve read, and which yesterday Ryan told me I do not want to read, because I’ll then want to jump on the train and follow them north to be able to ride south. So naturally, when I found it online I immediately wanted to read it.

Why North to South?

If, in 1981, tom had decided to ride the Pacific Coast south from Canada to Mexico, he would have had a great time, and this book would never have been written. However, in 1982 Tom decided to ride from Mexico to Canada, and the results are as follows.
I rode with him from Mexico to Santa Barbara, ending the short trip with a sunburn and a great enthusiasm for bicycle touring. As he continued to pedal on, I drove north heading to a summer job, certain that I was missing a great ride.

Something happened as Tom rode on by himself. North of Santa Barbara, he encountered stiff headwinds that blew the fun right out of his adventure. Scenery and the thrill of exploring became secondary to his daily battle with the wind. The wind created an invisible, never-ending hill that had to be constantly climbed. the wind beat dirt into his face, produced an annoying whistling sound through his helmet, and attempted to push him back to Mexico. By San Francisco, riding became a chore. In Oregon, 80-mile-per-hour winds blew him to a stop while going down a steep hill. In Washington, he had 3 hours of peace when a very wet storm blew through from the south, giving him a much appreciated tailwind.
When describing that trip, tom will pull out his trip journal. The beginning journal is full of his thoughts and impressions; in the second half he wrote only of the wind. His journal describes how he got up early in the morning to avoid the winds that blew the strongest in the afternoon.

The following summer, Tom and I rode back down the coast to prove it can be fun. It was an incredible trip. Oh yes, the wind was still blowing, but this time, it was pushing us south. near the Sea Lion Caves in Oregon, I had to apply my breaks to stop at a viewpoint on a steep uphill grade. The miles flew by, and we had plenty of extra time and energy to stop and explore the forests and beaches.

To help other bicyclists avoid the disappointment of nourthbound travel, we spent the following year organizing this guide.

When you plan your first tour down the coast, take advantage of the tail winds, head south, and leave yourself plenty of time to explore and enjoy the coast.

Vicky Springs, Seattle 2004

However I must also add, at the time of publishing this, the forecast for San Francisco for tomorrow and the following day are both showing South Eastern winds… and thus, a tailwind!