Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Ride the West - Day Three
Garberville to Fort Bragg: At 8:00 a.m. sharp, I pulled out of the Best Western parking lot and began Day Three of the Ride the West. The sky was bright blue and the sun was shining yet it was still cool in the mid 60s. In less than a half mile, we were out of Garberville... and it's colorful, hippie-like population... and onto Hwy. 101. We followed the Eel River south fork for most of the morning, overlooking tree-lined canyons, rocky outcroppings, and slow-moving, clear water. In Piercy / Cooks Valley, we encountered more tourist traps based on redwood tree oddities. I visit the "Grandfather Tree," which was next to the "One Log House"--an actual home built into a single hollow log. A short ways down the road, we passed "Confusion Hill," loaded with oddities, chainsaw carvings, and general weirdness.
Our first SAG stop was across from Standish Hickey Recreation Area at a small store and gift shop. The sun was warm and it was an easy place to linger, but the challenge lay ahead. As soon as we turned off Hwy. 101 and got on Hwy. 1, the Coast Highway, we had a four mile climb up "Leggett Hill," so named for the nearby town of Leggett. As we gained 1800 ft. and counted the miles, sweat poured off my forehead. The trees lining the climb had already discarded many of their leaves and it reminded my how much I love autumn. The smell of the redwoods in the hot sun yesterday, and again for a portion of today, can't be described in photos or words. It's invigorating.
As we crested the hill and rolled along a flat section, and began to prepare for the descent. And descend we did! Over the next 15 miles, we dropped more than 1000 ft. But our elevation wasn't the only thing dropping. So was the temperature. On the climb, the temp was above 70 degrees. At the bottom of the descent, it was 54. I had to stop twice to add another layer of clothing. At the bottom, I hit the gas just to keep warm. The fog and low-lying clouds had returned. Actually, they never left. We were the ones that had returned. We were back to the Pacific coast.
A funny moment was when I saw a highway sign showing the distance to San Francisco. This morning, about 8 miles outside of Garberville, the sign said "San Francisco: 199." Noticeable because it was less than 200 miles now. However, after riding 41 more miles, a second highway sign read: "San Francisco: 199." It was as if we hadn't made any progress at all! I checked to see if I was on a stationary bike.
After another 3 mile climb, which warmed me back up, and a short descent, the Pacific Ocean was in view. The rocks, beach, and rolling surf was beautiful. But Mike, our ride leader, lamented that it wasn't sunny. The ocean, he said, is a brilliant blue when the sun is out.
Our second SAG stop was at a State Park overlooking the ocean. All of us rolled in shaking from the cold. We grabbed some snacks and then decided to try out a cafe about three miles down the road. What we found was a grocery store with a sandwich counter. A woman inside was the sole employee and we found that she lacked not only charm, but also any sense of customer service. At the end of the ride, we all compared notes of our visit to the store and our exchanges with her. Here's a sampling: Craig: "Hi! How are you today?" Lady: "Not good." Mike: "We're not from around here." Lady: "I'm painfully aware." About 7 of us stood inside thinking about ordering a sandwich. Lady: "Whatever you do, there's only one of me. So, plan on waiting for awhile." Us: "Uh, let's go somewhere else." One of our riders actually got a sandwich out of her. When he handed the slip of paper to her with his order, she replied, "I accept your application." Apparently, these small coastal towns don't need as much tourism dollars as we thought.
The remaining 17 miles to Fort Bragg were rollers along the coast through a few more small towns. Logging trucks, work trucks, and speeding passenger cars blasted past us and we plodded along under the increasingly gray sky. As I entered Fort Bragg, I was eager for a hot shower. After finding the hotel shortly after 3:00 p.m., grabbing my luggage, and getting said hot shower, I took a walk and found the highlight of my day... a Starbucks!
Total Ascent: 6309 ft.
Max Elev: 1848 ft.