You would think that a 194-mile day leads to a long and very deep sleep. Wrong. How do you sleep after riding for that long with adrenaline shooting around your body for hours? I am lucky I didn't get a heart attack! So how do you sleep? You don't. You drift in and out of sleep, you toss and turn, your legs still warm and ready for more paddling, your whole body is still scrambling for the bike and your mind races likes a formula one car, that's what happens. After a 12-hour period of action, the cool-down must be at least a few hours long. So I sleep very little and after five greasy slices of banana bread, so greasy that the butter is dripping off my fingers, I am ready for more battle. I don the gear and I check out when the sun has just appeared behind the houses.
I have to admit that even though I did not sleep well or enough I feel rested, I feel more at ease, my mind is telling my body that the toughest days are behind. Even if you don't get a shut eye, peace of mind is a wonderful tranquilizer and energizer. I have a week left and I can just relax and enjoy the scenery from now on. I would love to get to LA but if my ride ended in San Francisco with over 4000 miles reached, I would be extremely comfortable with that.
I leave the Inn at 7.30 and before heading south on Highway 101 I have a very important date that I have been waiting for for a veeeery long time. I ride west on main st all the way to the end. No roads, no hills, no buildings, no mountains to climb or fields to ride through. The horizon is empty, it contains a perfectly blue sky and I know what's coming. I can smell the sea salt, the air is cool but not as sharp as in the mountains. It is funny how you can tell when you are close to the sea. The elements contain a fragrance and a tinge that are peculiar and unmistakable. What's coming into view is the Pacific Ocean. What a moment! I have done it, across, alone, on my bike, in 30 days, it is all mine.
Sea gulls cry out as I stop my bike and the metallic sound of the cleats alert them of my arrival. I hear weak waves crushing on the craggy rocky shore and as the water retreats I see the seaweed line on the rocks. The rippled blue water twinkles in the sunshine which is as clear as a high definition picture; no, way way better. The cool morning air is given a soft fragrance and a distinctive color that can only belong to this part of the world. The California coast, misty and romantic. A soft and thin mist hovers on the beach but it is just a faint mist which only contributes to the magic of this moment. Pictures are taken, a quick ride along the seafront of Crescent City is customary and after processing the happiness of the achievement I have to process another impending date: big trees coming up. No time to rest or gaze for too long, I want to get on with the ride and take on the next jewel. The next jewel is gift-wrapped in a unique paper which makes me go crazy with joy.
I am back on Redwood Hwy which just past CC veers up and makes me work for it but when you are happy no effort is a real effort. The climb is long but not steep. I have a smile on my face for at least two hours and I have so much wind to waste that I keep singing even as I climb. Redwoods is all around the highway, I stop to take photos, I stop to watch these monster trees, to smell the charged air and to absorb the silence of this incredible forest. At one point I exit off 101 and take a detour through the most exciting part of this area. I ride in total shade as the thickness of it all does not allow any glimpse of the sky. Daylight cannot penetrate the foliage. I am biking under a dense canopy of trees, so unique and powerful that I have never imaged it could exist. As I ride through the trees I realize that my eyes could never get used to beauty. I have seen so many unforgettable sights over the past few weeks and yet any new sight, any new encounter pierces my virgin eye like a sharp arrow. I ride and I feel I am child who has never seen anything. I need a hand to close my mouth as it keeps opening and my jaw keeps dropping. I have seen the world and yet I am not used to its beauty. This means I am in love. I'm in love with my ride, and I am deeply fascinated by this incredibly thick and huge forest.
Impossibly tall and silently foreboding, this is the most spectral piece of road I can think of, it is enthralling, moody, scary at times even. The forest broods, the fog clinches the sides of the trees in a vain attempt to move them, the potent weed encroach itself upon the earth staking a clear claim of total undisputed ownership. The sunlight does not have a chance here, the forest is not only tall but it is intractably impenetrable. I have never seen anything like this, ever before in my life. I am so glad I am alive to see this. I wonder if spirits inhabit these woods, they must be, if I were a spirit I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. The road assuredly snakes through the chunky bases of the trees, like a drop of sweat finds its way down a hairy arm. I cycle through a faint fog which must be a constant fixture here, just like the tree. I inhale as much as I can to let the tree fragrance in. It is inebriating, it is a joy ride, I wish it never ended. By the way, they say the best marijuana in the world is grown here, near Eureka.
The trees, Coast Redwoods, are the tallest trees in the world. They live 2000 years and there are three surviving species of Redwoods: the Dawn Redwood native to China; the Giant Sequoia located in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California; and the Coast Redwoods of Northern California. This what Steinbeck wrote about them: "The redwoods once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always, from them come silence and awe. The most irreverent of men, in the presence of redwoods, goes under a spell of wonder and respect".
After a uniquely wonderful morning, I leave the forest and ride through some small group of houses. I enter Arcata where the well equipped bike shop offers me a quick check up of the bike. The town seems very nice, hip and happening, with lots of coffee shops and nice funky stores with colorful signs. Lots of hippies around, lots of young people smoking and just walking around. I enjoy the vibe and after a quick ride around I continue on to Eureka which is a larger town with a unwelcoming industrial area all around its elegant but boring historic downtown. The outskirts are really depressing, as well as industrial lots and fast food restaurants, pawn shops and homeless people that sit on street corners and stare at me when I pass. I am riding on 101 to enter and exit and it feels I am riding on a freeway out of Los Angeles. Traffic is heavy and has very little consideration for me. The shoulder is full of branches and crap that I am literally swerving and dodging like a skier on a slope. My idea was to stop at Eureka but I find the place not inviting at all so I decide to ride another 15 miles south to the appropriately named town of Fortuna. The highway goes east and then south, it kind of leaves the sea shore considerably, I don't see the ocean for the rest of the day and by the look of it the road will be even farther from the sea tomorrow. I ride a few more miles and I am suddenly in Ohio or Wisconsin. It blows my mind. Dairy farms owned by what appeared to be actual farmers. And sows everywhere. Leaves starting to fall and big farming machinery all around, I pass a dairy and it is such a strange sight. California is just one big agribusiness company.
I ride fast to Fortuna and between three hotels at the west end of town I choose the most inviting one. Tonight I want to pamper myself. It is just 5 pm but with the progress that I am making I can call it a day without feeling any kind of guilt. I will rest my body and mind for a few more hours without worrying about mileage. I am incredibly happy with today's ride. Like yesterday, like the past few weeks, the scenery has been unique and riding through it a priceless privilege. The ocean and Redwoods. What a double treat. Speaking of treats, plan for the next two days: oh, nothing special, tomorrow I have more Redwoods and then Highway 1 to Fort Bragg. The following day I am hoping to arrive to a town called San Francisco and ride on a tiny bridge they have there, you might have heard it: Golden Gate.