Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ride the West - Day Four

Fort Bragg to Cloverdale: As we left the hotel this morning, the gray skies had added a light mist to the weather. Our route out of town was on Highway 1 for about 18 miles. We passed the towns of Mendocino, Little River, and Albion with a few views of the cold Pacific Ocean. As we crossed the long bridge into Albion, the roadway was narrow. Paul, a 70-something rider, took caution and rode a bit further into the roadway than one driver and his girlfriend liked. After shouting at him as they passed, they pulled over to shout further. After Paul rode quietly by, they drove past him again, this time throwing garbage at him. Welcome to Albion, where we throw trash at 70-year-old cyclists... The funniest part is that the time they were slowed down waiting for him on the bridge was eclipsed by the amount of time they took to stop, shout, and throw trash! I guess for them, it's the principle of the matter.

We then stopped for a road construction crew where I noted that the stop sign guy looked an awful lot like a Nathan Adams, a former pastor at Eastside Foursquare Church. I wondered where he had gone. Soon, we were rolling along Hwy. 128 which was much flatter. We were leaving the coast again and entering the Navarro River Redwoods. The temp here was far cooler than our last visit to the Redwoods. It was about 51. But, the scenery made up for the cool weather.

Our first rest stop of the day was at Paul Dimmick campground in the redwoods. Nobody camping there today. I was grateful for the restroom and then restored some of my energy with lots of cookies. The rain had let up by now but we were still in the shadows of the trees. Soon, however, things warmed up a bit. We exited the redwoods and entered wine country.

I was surprised by how vivid the leaves of the grapevines appeared. It was as if they had been painted by a watercolor brush. Clusters of grapes were heavy on the vines. If there hadn't been a fence protecting them, I might have reached over for another snack. The other striking difference was the change in terrain. Rolling hills, eucalyptus trees, and golden grasses surrounded the vineyards. The clouds were lessening and the temp was rising ever so slightly.

One of the points marked out for us on today's route was a fruit and vegetable stand known for amazing apple cider. This was also the halfway point for riders undertaking the full three week trip. Several riders were already there, so I pulled over to join them. The cider was super. I mentioned that I love fall. I love apple cider in the fall. Now, I can say that I love apple cider in the fall while on a six-day bike ride. A glimpse of heaven... 

A bit further was our second SAG stop in Boonville, a tiny but cute town along Hwy. 128. The cafe where we stopped was a good place for a burger and soda as well as a chance to shed the remaining cold weather clothing I had with me. The sun was now out in full force and a bright blue sky was overhead. We climbed for several miles up winding road flanked by orange leaves on the ground. The traffic along here was a little too fast for my comfort, with more logging trucks and passenger cars. 

After climbing for several miles, punctuated by some short descents, I found another highway sign. This time we had made some serious progress toward San Francisco. The distance now: 98 miles! I could ride that in a day. But, I won't have to. We've got two more days ahead of us.

Our final, long descent into Cloverdale was very winding, very rough, and at times heavily travelled. The views were amazing, but too often I had to keep a firm grip on the handlebars and my eyes on the road or in my rear view mirror.

As we rolled into Cloverdale, which has a long tree-lined main street, I spotted another rider to my right. Rachel, a professor from the U.K., had stopped at a mom-and-pop ice cream shop. Another great ending to a great ride. I joined her and soon two other riders did as well. The ice cream was good. It's the little treats at the end of the ride that sometime become the highlight of the day. That and, of course, a shower.

(If you'd like to read the blog by our route leader, Mike Munk, visit this link and see more photos of the route and meet the other riders.)

Dist: 76.81
Time: 5:59:51
Avg: 12.7
Max: 31.7
Total Ascent: 4647 ft.
Max Elev: 1313 ft.
Temp: 51 in Fort Bragg, Low 70s in Cloverdale
Weather: cloudy and mist in Fort Bragg, clear and sunny in Cloverdale

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