Monday, September 15, 2008

Ride the West - Day Two

Today... I'm sold! Many of you know that my rationale for riding the America by Bicycle "Ride the West" was to conduct sort of a "shakedown" ride in advance of next summer's Cross Country Challenge (52 days from San Francisco, CA to Portsmouth, NH). I wanted to see what this organization is like, what a ride of this magnitude is like, what to expect, what to plan for. Today's route from Eureka, CA to Garberville, CA sold me. We rode the bulk of our day through the Avenue of the Giants... a scenic bypass parallel to Route 101 that takes you through the most amazing forest I've ever visited: The Redwoods of Northern California.

Our day began under cold and cloudy skies as we departed Eureka. I remembered that it was a Monday as I saw kids on their way to school and school buses passing by as we rode through neighborhoods and past shopping malls. We were on Hwy. 101 for a brief 5 miles when we began following side roads that run along the Eel River. Little towns like Loleta, Ferndale, Rio Dell, and Scotia gave us a good indication of the industry in southern Humboldt County: farming, dairy, and timber.

Our first rest stop was in Ferndale which is unique in that the main street through town is replete with Victorian buildings and homes. Ferndale has been dubbed "the best preserved Victorian village in California." It reminds me of Leavenworth, WA... a small, hidden hamlet making a name for itself by theming an entire village.

Leaving Ferndale, we were soon in dairy country. Farm after farm has dairy cows with as many as 100-200 head of cattle. I wonder what cows think of cyclists... They kinda just stare at us. Don't say much. But, I know they're thinking something... Probably something like "Mmmm... salty." (Cuz we really are. Quite salty in fact.)

After riding some country roads, we entered Rio Dell and then it's neighboring Scotia. Scotia has an attractive main street and a short few blocks further, I saw the largest operating sawmill I've ever seen. We returned to Hwy 101 for a few miles and then entered the "Avenue of the Giants." The next 30-plus miles was some of the most amazing scenery I've experienced. Majestic redwood trees towered overhead while sunlight dappled the forest floor and roadway ahead. I took time to drop by each and every tourist stop. I was treated to the "Immortal Tree," followed by the "Eternal Tree House," and then the "Drive Through Tree," which were not to be outdone by the "Chimney Tree." Most of these trees are hollowed out trunks which are possible because the Redwood doesn't have a taproot. It's roots reach down 6 or 8 feet around the perimeter of the tree, leaving the center of the tree able to become hollow over time.

In addition to experiencing beautiful scenery, we also got to experience something new for this ride... HEAT. As we moved inland, away from the coast, the temperature climbed. It was barely 60 degrees when we left Eureka, but it was easily in the mid 80s in the forest and would be 100 degrees when we reached Garberville.

The little town of Miranda was a great place to stop for lunch or a snack for several riders. As I pulled in to the Avenue Cafe, about nine other cyclists were already there. I wasn't up for a big lunch, but I saw something on the menu that hit the spot... a rootbeer float. After enjoying it's creamy goodness, I hit the road for the last 13 miles. These were the hottest miles of the day. And we had one more long climb up to Garberville to finish things off. We climbed and climbed until we finally pulled into the Best Western in Garberville. As I mentioned, the temp was 100 degrees. I was cooked. It was time for a shower and then something cold and refreshing.

Tomorrow, we return to the coast as we ride a "short" day of just 68 miles to Fort Bragg, where it will probably be cooler again. Everyone complained about the cold and fog. Now they're complaining about the heat. I'm just grateful to be riding!

(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.)

Time: 6:01:30
Dist: 80.83 miles
Avg: 13.3
Max: 36.7
Total Ascent: 4276 ft.
Max Elev: 533 ft.
Temp: 60 degrees in Eureka, 100 degrees in Garberville
Weather: cold and cloudy in Eureka, clear and sunny inland

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