Day 22: May 30th; Mendocino- Gualala; 53 miles

Today we slept in a little after being assaulted by wind and raccoons all night. We shared coffee and conversation with Jesse for a decent while, he has some pretty interesting stories. We departed Mendocino, but not before stopping by the most expensive gas station in America! Jesse says he’s witnessed a lot of people fill up, not realizing the absurd cost until paying – there’s no refunding or returning gasoline!

We stopped for coffee number two (I seriously have some work ahead of me if I want to ween myself off of it before John Muir!) in Elk. We had a few conversations with some locals all of whom said we had an extremely steep but short hill coming our way. They were not exaggerating… it’s the first time I had to use the granniest gear the entire ride. What a great leg workout! When we made it to the top, a man offered to take a picture of us to mark our accomplishment!

The entire ride was mostly along the coast, with gorgeous views of the ocean displaying the entire spectrum of blues. Together with a cloudless sky, it was hard to tell when the ocean ended and the sky began! It was a lovely distraction from the rolling hills. We even passed a ton of farms full of cows. I wonder if those cows realize they have one of the most beautiful views in the world?

Despite having rolling hills all day, it wasn’t too bad. We had a very decent tail wind (22 MPH!!) that pushed us along the entire ride. In fact, at some points it was just downright violent. After having an extended lunch in Point Arena, we set off to Gualala (pronounced much like “Ooh-la-la) and got blown quite a few times into the opposite lane of traffic. No matter how hard we tried to combat it, the crosswinds coming from the west were too aggressive. Luckily there wasn’t any traffic coming our way. But let me tell you, when you’re going 40 mph down a hill and a crosswind tries to take you out, you see your life flash right before your eyes. We saw a few unfortunate souls going northbound combatting the fierce winds. I could not feel more sorry for them. Apparently the magnitude of this wind is out of the ordinary according to the locals and is likely to subdue tomorrow. Although it pushed us today, it did a great amount of tiring us out as well, so I am definitely looking forward to being whipped around the road a little less in the upcoming days.

With the wind’s help, we made it the 16 miles to Gualala pretty quickly. We are once again back in the redwoods in Gualala River Redwood Park. It’s a gorgeous campground tucked away in the woods, but the trip to the bathroom is a hike. I got lost for a good 20 minutes coming back from it, but along the way discovered a cute little swimming hole. Luckily it’s super quiet here and the wind is nonexistent, so just as long as the raccoons stay at bay, we should be in good shape for a good night’s sleep!

Day 21: May 29th; Leggett – Mendocino CA; 56 miles

We’re back on the coast! But not before traveling miles through the forest. We also conquered the tallest climb of the ride and we didn’t even require a Sherpa to summit! After getting coffee first thing in the morning, we hot tailed it up the climb with relative ease – it really and truly wasn’t that bad. The second (much shorter) climb proved to be a bear. It was steeper than the first and felt excessively longer. But we pushed through and the descent was worth it.

Ever since having an unfortunate run in with gravel in Kentucky on the Transam and wiping out twice in one descent, I have not had a very good relationship with downhills. Particularly steep ones with hair pin turns with RVs likely to be waiting around the corner. I take them even slower now that I’ve had LASIK performed. Ever since the operation, seeing in shadows is near impossible. I cannot tell the road surface in shadows, so I either have to slow down excessively or risk going over a huge pothole or gravel. So needless to say, I got very well acquainted with my brakes and my hands and forearms got a great workout.

The last hill dropped us off into the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. We were welcomed back to it with all five senses fully engrossed. It was breathtaking and such a stark contrast from the lush greenery we’ve been accustomed to the last few days.

We hit a bunch of rollers before taking an extended break in Westport at 11:30am. We originally thought we’d be pooped by this point based on the elevation maps, but we both felt great! We decided to trudge on and looked at warm showers hosts in the area. We found one 26 miles away in Mendocino and he responded promptly with a yes! So we were on our way.

We had a beautiful ride into Fort Bragg and the wind was to our backs. With the exception of a few honks, impatient drivers, and some single fighter salutes, traffic was very courteous and gave us plenty of room on the no shoulder roads. To get away from traffic, we rode on a rather rocky bike trail that could’ve used a little love, but we liked it anyway.

We arrived in Mendocino around 4:30pm to our host Jesse’s house. This town is tiny but really stinking cute with gorgeous views. He lives in a rehabbed water tower built in 1850 and has been on a few tours – the latest was the Baja Divide in January. We talked with him a bit and showered/ate dinner. We promptly had second dinner after grocery shopping. Our appetites are increasing exponentially.

Not really sure of our plans for tomorrow, but we’ll be one day closer to San Francisco!

Day 20: May 28th; Redcrest- Leggett CA; 53 miles

We started the day just as we ended yesterday – riding amongst the redwoods. And we had a pretty early wake up call… between the someone doing home repairs until 12am, roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing at 3am and dogs barking all throughout the night, we did not get a very good night’s sleep.

But the first 25 miles made up for that, because we got to ride the rest of the length of The Avenue of Giants. We basically had the entire road to ourselves, which was perfect because the trees really do command respect and silent reverence. We stopped for coffee in Weott and left right as the sun began to shine and the heat started to encroach.

We got in a few good miles before stopping at a roadside tourist trap, something having to do with Bigfoot. We were just about to get off our bikes when the owner started to yell at us to move and get out of the way. He clearly didn’t give us any time to walk our bikes off the parking area, so we didn’t give him any of our business, hmph! Sheena affectionately nicknamed him Hillbilly Joe, mainly because she was not thrilled with his customer service skills and, well, the nickname speaks for itself.

We parked ourselves out of the way in the shade and were thoroughly entertained by the chaos that ensued by tourists stopping trying to park right off the busy freeway. While watching the spectacular show (we could’ve used some popcorn), a man in a hummer asked us a few questions about our trip. He offered us water, banana bread (yum!), and a great joke:

Why can’t a bike stand without training wheels? Because it is “too tired” – HA!

We trudged on in the heat, and boy was it hot. Because we’re pretty far East of the coast, the temperature is a lot hotter than it would be further west. The sun was relentless but we took it in stride. We found the ever rare shadey spots and sought refuge under them for short rests. Much like how we crossed the Snake River endlessly in Idaho, We also crossed the South Eel River about a thousand times, each bridge bearing a “So and So Memorial Bridge”. Unsure if the person the bridge was Memorializing was killed on the highway (there was one bicyclist memorial bridge) or what, but to quote Sheena, “well that’s reassuring”.

We shockingly made it to Leggett (well, 2 miles north of Leggett) in pretty record time. We were not expecting to get in until 5pm or so with the heat, hills, and breaks. But lo and behold we rolled into Standish-Hickey State Park at 2:30pm! The winds really did help. Across the street from the park is a restaurant with outdoor seating and live music. We sat ourselves down and enjoyed some beer, burgers, and ice cream. We met a new cyclist couple as well! He is from Norway and she is from Spain. We talked with them until around 5 when we decided it was time to check into the campground. We met back up with the Canadian we met in Patrick’s Point and talked with him until well past our bedtime.

In preparation for a lengthy hill tomorrow, Sheena is finally getting rid of a fuel can she’s been carrying this entire trip. In Vancouver, the only fuel we could find was a 2 gallon can. We only used about 1/2 of it so, not wanting to waste it, she’s been carrying it. Not anymore! She’s keeping it at the hiker/biker site here so others can refill their fuel containers. I’m going to miss her carrying it – I always know when she’s near because the fuel can makes so much noise whenever she rides over even the smallest of bumps. If she were to have a trail name, it would definitely be the Tin Man for obvious reasons, as well as she doesn’t have a heart — kidding!

All in all, it was a much easier ride than we were anticipating and it was beyond pleasant to enjoy a relaxing holiday afternoon.

Oh! And 2 years ago exactly we started the TransAm! Oh how time flies.

Day 19: May 27th; Patrick’s Point State Park – Redcrest CA; 70 miles

I honestly can’t remember anything from this morning until we arrived in Arcata at about 9am this morning. The 22 miles before that are completely lost. But Sheena and I both slept extremely well, so we just needed those miles to shake off the tiredness!

We made a pit stop in Arcata, a super cute little town. We ran into Jon again, an older gentleman who owns a touring business we met yesterday in the state park. He saw us riding and stopped by to say hello again and to offer us free tours when we get into San Francisco. Really nice guy!

After Arcata, the tail winds picked up and we basically flew through a whopping 38 miles. We were advised by everyone we encountered to go through the town of Eureka as quickly as possible. We did (well, we did stop to get some donuts. I mean, when it comes to life or death situations, you need a belly full of donuts, right?!) and understood why. The word of the trip is “transients” – that’s how locals refer to homeless. It’s no secret that this area of the country has a widespread meth issue, and we have encountered a lot of towns suffering from the aftermath, including unpredictable individuals roaming around (i.e. the knife wielding man in Orick). We just keep our heads down and keep pedaling so as to not draw too much attention to ourselves – a difficult task considering how massive our panniers are.

We did some shopping and ate lunch in Rio Dell. We only had 5 more miles left to our original destination, but because we were feeling good, we decided to push on to take advantage of the gorgeous day and tailwinds. But not without detours! We encountered a bridge under construction. In order to not backtrack and pass a group of people who had previously been yelling obscenities at us just before the bridge, we decided to push our bikes across and see what happens. Success!

We soon found ourselves back in the redwoods – the Avenue of Giants in fact! I finally can check off riding through the redwoods from my list. Riding along them really captures the unspoken beauty of the trees and captures the magnitude of how incredibly large they are. You can’t get that experience through a car ride! Although those Winnebago RVs are trying really hard to rival the tree’s powerful stature. Hopefully there are less of them tomorrow… seeing them careening down such a narrow road is kinda harrowing.

We’re staying in an RV park tonight, Redcrest Resort. It’s a nice enough place and I got my first shower in a while (gotta practice for the JMT!) so it’s okay in my book! Tomorrow we’re tackling the first part of the highest climb of the trip (we’re splitting it up between two days) so we gotta get some good sleep tonight!

Day 18: Elk Prairie State Park – Patrick’s Point State Park, CA; 22 miles

We slept in today! If you call waking up at 6:15 am sleeping in, then technically we did. I mean compared to our normal wake up time, it was late. The rain let up around 11pm and we woke up to glorious sunshine. We took advantage of being in the redwoods by going for a short hike amongst the giants. They really are magical and larger than life. Words can’t really put into words the magnitude of these behemoth trees.

We soon broke down camp and were on our way. Our original plan was to just bike it to Orik. However, after talking with the ranger yesterday, we realized that it was way too short of a ride. She also told us that there was a man wielding around a knife running around the neighborhood earlier that day. So needless to say, we only stopped there for some coffee and breakfast. And thank goodness we did. We checked out the places we would’ve stayed, and let’s just say that a man running around with a knife would’ve been the least of our worries.

The remaining 15 miles of the ride were up and down with minor headwinds. We made it to Patrick’s Point State Park early and got to hike to Wedding Rock. We really enjoyed climbing the rock and getting a great view of the Pacific Ocean. We are camping right next to a huge group of young Boy Scouts. None of the bathroom doors lock and they seem to not have gotten their “knocking” badge just yet. We stuck around wedding rock for a great sunset and met another cyclist. We never got his name, but this is his 20th time riding the coast. He gave us some pointers and told us not to worry about an upcoming hill that looks pretty intimidating. So that was reassuring. We’re heading to bed early to get some good sleep (questionable because of the volume of noise coming from the scouts) before getting back into higher mileage days.

Day 16: May 25th; Brookings OR – Redwoods National Park CA; 66 miles*

Today was the kind of day where I wish I could’ve curled up on the couch, snuggled with Addie, and binge watch Netflix. Unfortunately, Addie is thousands of miles away, my couch even further, and Netflix doesn’t exist in the wilderness.

But we made it to California! And what a cold and wet reception we received. The ride in was relatively flat with rolling hills. We hit the Welcome to California sign super quickly… it snuck up on us! We snapped a few pictures and ran into some more German riders going south. We’ll likely run into them again soon. Since we missed the “Welcome to Oregon” sign last week, we quickly got a few photo ops with the sign today. Oregon is the first state we rode through both vertically and horizontally!

After a short stop at the mildly disappointing Pebble Beach, we stopped in Crescent City for some food and to mentally prepare ourselves for the hill we have been warned about for a few days now. When we were right about to leave the cafe, the heavens opened and it started to pour. Thinking it was just a quick shower, we did some grocery shopping. That’s where the locals told me that it’s going to rain all day and going south on the hill would be pretty dangerous. Sheena was warned in the store that going down the hill would be treacherous and a guaranteed way to wreck. Great!

We decided to set up camp in a McDonalds and wait a few hours for a bus to take us to over the hill. The rain was forecasted to continue until 2pm, at which point it would be too late to start our 36 mile journey to our destination. Riding up the 5 mile hill in pouring rain after being warned so many times didn’t sound like a safe idea. While I was ordering, sheena was talking with a local. When I walked over I overheard he had a truck. A shot in the dark and basically joking, I asked if he wanted to give two cyclists a ride. He said yes without skipping a beat. *We stuffed all our junk in his truck and he drove us all the way to Elk Prairie! Jeff is retired from the Peace Corps and worked for a while with the UN. Now he just drives his truck up and down the coast fishing. He drove us the 30 plus miles to the campground and saved our day.

Riding in the redwoods was one of my most anticipated parts of the trip. A part of me is really disappointed we got a ride, but we also have a pretty solid few miles still in the redwoods. Plus, as Jeff was driving, we saw why we were warned. A good bit of the road had absolutely no shoulder with blind turns. Parts were under construction and had steep drop offs. Visibility was extremely limited and I realized that we really did make the right decision. My pride will just have to take a hit.

But despite the danger, the ride was absolutely stunning. We got our first glimpses of the magnificent redwoods and I was in awe. We’re staying in Redwoods National Park in Elk Prairie campground. Because it was still pouring when we got there, we stayed in the visitor center for warmth and to stay dry. We met a young cyclist who started his trip from Bandon, OR to LA two days ago. He and his brother rode in the rain without any gear and they lived to tell the tale. His parents are sagging for the next few days, then he’s on his own. We’ll probably run into him a few more times this trip. The visitor center closed at 5, and it was still raining. We decided to buy ponchos and bite the bullet. We set up camp and later rode back to the visitor center to eat dinner under a porch roof. And thank god we got the ponchos. They kept us warm and dry and provided hours of entertainment. And even as I write this at 8:30pm, it’s still raining. So much for sunny California!

Tomorrow we plan on hiking in the morning here in Elk Prairie (praying the rain stops), then riding 20 miles south to a state park that a ranger highly recommended, where we’ll do some more sight seeing. Between the short day today and tomorrow, we’re considering it an “off day”. I’m super excited to ride amongst the giants of the redwoods!

Ps… to all those who said California would be horrible, you were wrong! Everyone we have encountered in here have been nothing short of awesome, kind, and generous!

Day 15: May 24th; Port Orford – Brookings OR; 50 miles

We didn’t make it to California today… and that’s okay! We’re only a few miles from the border so we’ll get there super early in the morning! Plus with everyone we run into saying to get through California as quickly as possible because traffic is horrible, there aren’t any shoulders, you’ll get everything stolen, and you’ll end up murdered (seriously… we need to stop talking to people) we are in no rush.

Today started with a very misty morning along the coast. Got to see more of the coastal beauty, but with all the rocks shrouded in fog, it added an eerie mystical vibe to the atmosphere… I loved it! Out of the mist, however, we ran into a garden of dinosaurs… the T Rex was not happy to have us there!

We rode another unscenic few miles where I don’t remember anything to Gold Beach. We had coffee and muffins and mentally prepared ourselves for a monster of a hill we knew was waiting for us.

And so we climbed it. Both of us agreed it wasn’t nearly as bad as we anticipated. Plus we were rewarded with an amazing downhill… which at the very last turn dumped us out into sparkling blue water with gorgeous rocks which we just had to stop at to snap some pictures.

We had some more considerable climbs in Samual H Boardman State Scenic Corridor where we didn’t stop for anything scenic. Except at lunch we got stuck talking to an ex-Californian for entirely too long… Sheena got to hear all about my frustrations of the situation for the rest of the ride.

But alas we got out of the conversation and faced some headwinds heading into Brookings. We decided to get some Subway (courtesy of Matt, an old co-worker… thanks Matt you rock!) to do some planning. We figured with headwinds, hills, and it already being pretty late we were going to stay in a hotel and do some planning for the next few days over some Mexican food. So California, you’re just gonna have to wait till the morning for our joyous arrival!

Day 14: May 23rd;North Bend – Humbug Mountain State Park OR; 63 miles

This morning was a doozy. Thank God we started it out with coffee at the motel. We should’ve known that starting the day out on a road named “Seven Devils Road” would be pretty darn close to hell. On the elevation maps it showed only two hills that we were mentally prepared for. Turns out it was nothing but up and down for miles on end. Paired with the misty fog and no services for miles, it was like we were stuck in the twilight zone. But after 30 miles of this, we finally found ourselves in Bandon and had a great cup of coffee, breakfast, and a much needed 1.5 hour break.

One thing that’s been super annoying this trip is never knowing what clothes to wear. The nights and mornings are freezing so we bundle up for winter’s worst. We peel off layers as we go, but that’s where it gets confusing. We sweat like crazy going up hill, but later that sweat freezes on downhills. We’re constantly stopping to take off layers only to put them back on 10 minutes later. I gotta say, I kinda miss that heat wave in Washington.

Another thing of note is today all traffic stopped when two deer crossed the road. They show more respect for those two deer than they do for two cyclists – us!

Not much today in the way of scenery. We were stuck in the boonies for most of the ride so once again I zoned out and don’t remember the majority of it. In fact, I passed time by trying to remember what I was zoned out thinking about for 10 minutes. It’s enough to make you crazy.

But we did catch some good coastal scenery our last 6 miles of the ride. Was absolutely gorgeous! Before we started those miles, however, we ran into a couple hitchhiking their way across America. We stuck around to see how long it would take for them to land a ride. Sure enough they got a ride in less than 5 minutes. Needless to say, sheena was not pleased that we couldn’t hitch a ride to our destination.

We’re staying at Humbug State Park tonight. It’s very misty out and looks like typical Pacific Northwest, so I love it. Once again we ran into the Norwegians, who will now be renamed The Germans, who had similar thoughts on the horrors of Seven Devils Road. They had a much tougher day than us… a raccoon stole all their food last night, she got a flat tire, and their tent poles broke. But they still have a positive attitude and are nothing but smiles!

Tomorrow we have another hilly day… but it looks like we’ll have tailwinds (they were lacking today). Hopefully they’ll push us through to California!

Day 14: May 22; Florence – North Bend OR; 60 miles

We made our return to Florence! Apparently Florence is pretty big because technically we stayed there last night, but we rode through the 15 miles to Florence proper pretty quickly. But not before taking in some gorgeous views! Below is atop Heceta Head just past a tunnel. The view was stunning and there were tons of sea lions swimming down below. (I’ll get back to the sea lions later)

After doing some research, we decided to stop at a cafe for breakfast in Florence. The cafe we chose was right next to a subway we camped out for a few hours the last day of the Transam. Reminiscing about the good old days and the yelp reviews of how good their bacon is made it a must stop. And holy moly was their bacon good. Perfectly cooked thick cut bacon the likes of which I have never had at any diner before. I daydreamed about that bacon for miles after we left.

The route deviated from the coast the entire rest of the ride. We were riding next to Oregon dunes national recreational area the entire stretch which blocked out the ocean and we caught very few glimpses of the dunes. Because we were stuck in the woods all day, nothing worth taking a picture of.

At first we had headwinds. Which was super disappointing and disheartening following yesterday. BUT after noon, the winds again were in our favor and pushed us forward. We blew through 30+ miles without a break. Needless to say I zoned way out and can’t really remember anything about that part of the ride.

One thought sheena and I both share is our feelings about semis and shoulders. Because they are so obnoxious and huge, we can usually hear the behemoths coming from pretty far off. How we feel about them is entirely dependent on the amount of shoulder we have. When there is barely a shoulder, we hold our breath and think, “oh god oh god please don’t hit us”. When there is a nice big shoulder, we welcome them passing us because it means catching a huge draft to push us along for a good 5 seconds. When paired with a good tail wind gust, it feels like we are in Mario Kart and just passed over a turbo boost. It’s actually a lot of fun.

Along today’s ride, we ran into a couple we saw in San Juan Islands. We don’t remember where they’re from, but we call them the Norwegians anyway. They’re really nice and we feel as though they might be our “Monica” for this trip. During the transam we continually ran into Monica during the trail during different stretches. We will probably have similar run ins do with the Norwegians! Unfortunately, they were intrigued by the advertised Sea Lion Caves and were suckered into paying an exorbitant fee to see them. After they already paid, the owner said it’s a bad time to see the sea lions cause they’re all in the water with their pups. Talk about getting swindled! We were warned by the Canadian couple yesterday to not go down to the caves because you can just see them from the road. Wish the Norwegians got the same advice!

After crossing the bridge into North Bend with them (we got honked at for a good solid 10 seconds… so Sheena gave her a piece of her mind) we split off. We could’ve gone further to take advantage of the obnoxious tailwinds, but I was exhausted from the constant wind and cars passing that I needed to stop. Just listening to noise like that takes more out of you than you’d think. We decided to not deal with the wind anymore and instead opted for a motel in town. Awesome decision. We had a very filling dinner and now are watching Netflix! Great way to end the day. Plus in 2 days we’ll be in California!

Day 13: May 21st; Lincoln City – Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park (Florence…?) OR; 65 miles

Today we found out why it is more popular to ride southbound on the pacific coast. Today we got very well acquainted with tailwinds and they were fantastic.

We headed out early as per usual and went through the usual coffee routine. The sun was shining which could only mean one thing… wind was coming. I learned this during the Transam. The sunnier the day, the windier the afternoon. Whereas it was usually unpredictable on the Transam whether or not the winds would be in our favor, the prevailing winds of the pacific tend to go south. Just like us.

We were cruising along at a pretty substantial clip passing absolutely beautiful coastal landscapes. They sure weren’t lying when they said the Oregon coast is some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.

Oh! And we saw whales! Finally!! Doug was adamant about us riding Otter Crest Loop – he guaranteed us we’d see whales. Doug did not lead us astray – as soon as we pulled in, I saw one breaching, spouting and everything. Unfortunately, Sheena just missed it. We cycled a little more up the road to the final lookout, and sure enough there was one lone whale swimming around in the kelp. Now that she can cross “seeing a whale” off her list, Sheena’s only “must do’s” of the trip is not getting hit by a car.

We made a couple stops in some of the coastal towns – boy are they cute. We made it to our original destination, Yachats around 1:30pm, plenty of time to do some more riding. We stayed in town for a while, where we ran into a couple from Canada cycling from San Diego to Victoria. The winds were not in their favor, unfortunately and their mood reflected that. We saw a few more cyclists pass by. Definitely a record for the most cyclists seen in one day!

We decided to go another 9 or so miles to Searose when the wind was still kicking. We rode up some pretty substantial hills, but with the wind blowing us up as hard as it was, they were relatively easy. And apparently distracting because we blew (pun intended) right past Searose without even noticing. Maybe it was during the time I was experimenting with how far the wind alone could push me up a small grade hill without pedaling. 3/4 of the way in case you were wondering – it was that strong.

Because backtracking 1 mile against wind to Searose sounded like cruel and unusual punishment for missing it, we decided that 4 miles to Carl G. Washburn State Park was the more appealing option. And we flew there. It’s a nice park with pretty moss covered trees everywhere. But the wind is still kicking so we’re praying one doesn’t crash into our tents tonight! There are also bears in the area, so everything scented has to be placed in a bear box overnight. Should sleep well tonight!

We’re sharing the biker/biker site with a fellow biker who is cycling all over. Alan, a retired British bloke, is hiking and biking until “I’m in a wheelchair”. He’s hiked the John Muir Trail 3x in his lifetime and has loads of experience in the Sierras. I picked his brain a little to see his thoughts on the JMT. I guess since he did it 3x, he must really love it!

Another early night. No service so this’ll have to be posted tomorrow! Probably will get a bunch of frantic texts from my parents whenever we get service tomorrow… Fingers crossed we’ll have the same luck with winds!