With Portland behind us and the sun shining we made our way towards the coast where we would join the famous Pacific highway which would take us along the west coast of America. Camping in a park the first night we made friends with a local family who bought us homemade biscuits and some food for the road, thank you!
After two days of cycling we got our first glimpse of the sea and camped in a state park which had a policy of providing cheap prices for hikers and bikers, with the promise that there would always be space for us. With temperatures dropping as we got to the coast, our decision to send our sleeping bags home fueled by the heatwave in Portland started to seem a bit premature.
Cycling along the pacific highway for the first time was incredible, epic views of the sea meeting the land with loads of wild life thrown in for good measure, seals, sea lions, and crazy birds that we pretended we knew the names of. The road itself was pretty busy because of the approaching july 4th celebrations, the slow moving traffic brought back fond memories of London. Another thing to mention is that most traffic is made up of RV’s (Recreational Vehicles) a caravan on steroids, enormous bus sized monstrosities far too colossal to drive around on there own when you arrive at your holiday destination, so require another more ‘reasonable’ car to be towed behind. Honestly its insane, we’ve even seen RV’s towing cars towing a motorbike towing bicycles. Not to keep talking about it but on the whole the people driving these RV’s are of a certain age, its like being over taken by your grandparents in a London bus.
The first stretch of the Pacific highway was great, the road was quite flat and we had an incredible tail wind which gave us the impression the last two months of cycling had paid off and we were now pro cyclists who could do 50 miles without breaking a sweat. We setup camp in another state park right on beach and decided to take the 4th off and join in the national celebrations for independence day. We purchased fireworks for the first time in our lives, bought beers and got a fire going on the beach.
With a deadline to meet Joe and Peggy in 8 days we hit the road, and slowly started to meet other cyclists heading the same way as us. We met a Swiss gentleman named Tony and a family riding tandems, Richard, April, Travis (age 10) and Hailey (age 7) who were making their way down from Portland all the way to San Francisco. It was great meeting other cyclists after such along time alone on the road, to share experiences and to also learn about the road ahead from people who had actually researched their trip instead of just leaving with no clue like some people.
As we made our way down the coast the roads got a tougher with bigger climbs and less tail wind which helped us remember how tough cycling can be. The nights also became a lot colder and would regularly wake up in the middle of a cloud which made everything lovely and damp.
Lunch time is always a treat…
Great views of the coast before the afternoon fog sets in.
As we crossed into California the landscape changed suddenly, the trees were much much bigger and the campsites much much more expensive. We rode along a road called Wonder Stump which was aptly named, massive trunks of long dead trees lined the road. That night we found a campsite among the Redwoods and were kindly offered a place to camp with Alex and Sam a couple traveling by car down the west coast. We spent the night chatting and sharing stories underneath some massive trees.
We stopped off at a local tourist information and found some enormous pine cones!
Heading down the coast the trees got even bigger and the beaches more impressive. After spending the afternoon on a beach in Trindad we made our way into Eureka and straight to the local brewery that had been recommended to us by a few different people.
Some police action outside the local McDonalds..
Tired from cycling all day we decided at about 8 pm that it was time to find somewhere to camp. Its those times when we assume there is somewhere to camp that we end up cycling around and around and then pitching our tent in the dark in the middle of nowhere.
Heading out of town to a state park marked on the map the sun was setting and the amount of nuts looking people lurking around was increasing every minute. The state park we found was little more than a inner city park/drug hangout and fearing round two of Kelso we headed out of Eureka on the 101 as the sun was getting low. Riding faster than we had all day we managed to get out into the country side. Thinking we had spotted a camp spot just off the road we made our way down the steep over grown embankment, reaching the bottom we began to cut a path through the overgrowth that was considerably taller than us.
With the sun almost gone and mosquitos eating us alive we kept going, wondering why these plants were so insanely huge, a couple of steps further and we had our answer, we were on marsh land. Shoes covered in smelly water, totally exhausted and really not in the mood for this shit we dragged our 60 kg bikes up the verge which now felt vertical and carried on down the road. Reaching a sign saying Redwood University we took our chances and turned off, made our way in the University campus and camped behind a pile of dirt, you all must be so jealous.
Outside a McDonalds the day after..
With another night of luxury camping under our belt and desperate for a shower we travelled into the Avenue of the Giants, a 30 miles stretch of road that cuts right through the heart of Humboldt Redwoods State Park which has some of the largest trees on earth within its boundaries. We spent the entire day traveling slowly down through the most impressive forest ever, stopping every couple of minutes to take photos and wonder around. By evening we had made it to the campsite where we met Peggy and Joe. With a fire going and dinner on the stove we relaxed for the first time in ages.
With San Francisco in spitting distance we did some calculations and made a rough plan to arrive there on the 16th July, my birthday! A steady 65 miles a day would ensure that we made it there on time.
Leaving late in the day we made it to a small town called Leggett where the road divides, either take the 101 inland on a quicker flatter route, or take highway 1 over a mountain and out to the coast which would mean more climbing and winding roads. The other cyclists we had met along the way had stopped to camp in Leggett before making their way up the mountain the following day. After some food we decided that we would take on the mountain that night and get it out of the way while it was cool. Leaving at around 8:30pm the sun was already setting as we made our way up the first ascent, after 6 miles of steady climbing we reached the top with the sun just setting in an orange explosion.
The road down the other side was pitch black so we got our lights on and slowly(ish) made our way down. As we got further and further the air became alot colder, to the point we had to fish out our gloves which we hadn't worn since Alaska. The road was bordered by thick forest on all sides which only made things darker, if we turned our lights off we couldn't see our hands in front of our face. 20 minutes in Martins bike light cut out, fishing around in our bags we found some old batteries which provided a candles worth of light and carried on ever slower this time. We came across a section of road that had a street lights to illuminate a road turn off and decided that this was a good point to stop and setup camp in what little light the lamp provided.
With our camp setup we noticed the sky was full of stars, making our way away from the street lamp and into total darkness we experienced some incredible views that totally blew us away, the milky way was clear and stars jumped out at us with some much clarity.
We woke up in a cloud once more with everything soaked and got going, the fog persisted all day. We cycled all day and into the night along unlit roads drenched in dense fog because we once again misread the map and its shit camping symbols (if in doubt blame the map).
Other crazy cyclists
After three days of hard cycling we woke up at 6 am on the 16th and made our way along the last 80 miles to San Francisco, somewhere we had both been thinking about since those cold and lonely roads in Alaska.
We arrived at 3 pm, riding over the Golden Gate Bridge felt incredible if slightly surreal, such distance and time separated us from the start of our adventure, from frozen empty roads to here we couldn't help but feel a little pleased.
San Francisco, California USADate
16th July, 2013Tweet