Days 64-74: Benbow to Berkeley
Day 64, after sleeping like never before in an amazing king bed at the Benbow Inn, we leisurely get ourselves up, eat breakfast, and hit the road again. We roll up and over a bunch of hills. It’s cold in the morning, but warms up a lot during the day. After our Cup o’ Noodle experience, we hit the first market we find, attached to an RV park. It’s mostly standard fare, except for the steaks wrapped in bacon that Russ finds in the freezer. Yes, you read that right. They’re frozen solid, so they bump along the rest of the ride on the back of my bike and slowly defrost in the sun. We camp at Standish-Hickey State Park and meet a few other bike tourists. We also watch the last episode of Season 3 of ‘Dexter’ on the laptop, so we begin to ponder what show to download next for those evenings when we just want to do nothing.
Day 65, we’re up early, to conquer Leggett hill. We stop in the little town of Leggett, which has a market and a post office and not much else. We buy up supplies at the market and are astounded by how expensive they are (easily, the most expensive small market on the coast!!). The ride from Leggett to the coast takes you up and over two good climbs. The first peaks at 1800 feet (starting at 1000), then you roar down to almost sea level, then the second takes you up to around 800 feet. They’re slow, well-graded climbs, but they take their toll, as there’s no shoulder and a lot of logging trucks. We hit the coast in grand manner… tall cliffs, strong gusty winds, majestic views. We take a few breaks to enjoy being back on the coast and then continue the rest of the rollers to MacKerricher State Park. And we both decide that it’s these last rollers (not the previous two slow climbs) that kill you. We’re exhausted when we roll into camp, but meet three other cycle tourists and share a campfire and stories with them.
On Day 66, still tired from the day before, we get up slowly and ride in to Ft. Bragg (just 2 miles away, down a beautiful path that was converted from an old logging road). We find a coffee shop with great coffee and an amazing belgian waffle, and then we explore the town (which is adorable and full of great art-stuffs). We roll the few miles down the highway to Mendocino and poke around there for a few hours as well. Then we call it a day and pitch camp at Van Damme State Park (just a few miles south of Mendocino). It’s astoundingly windy in the hiker/biker area and we watch our campfire nervously as it whips around, until we’re just too tired of the wind and we put out the fire and crawl in the tent.
It’s much less windy when we wake up the morning of Day 67, so we have a morning fire to chase away some of the cold. And then we roll out. In Elk, we stumble onto a fantastic little diner and enjoy a second breakfast. (Ah, the joys of bike touring!) The route is full of ups and downs, and we’re beginning to realize that this is excruciatingly common along this stretch of hwy 1.
We roll into Manchester State Park and set up camp, waiting for the camp hosts to come back to break our $20 bill so we can pay for our spot. The State Park is kind of bleak, with just pit toilets and nobody else around. Russ rolls up to the KOA next door to pick up a juice at their store and comes back with grand news… the KOA only charges $9 per person (for cyclists) and they have a hot tub and showers! Since we haven’t paid yet at the state park, we pack everything up and move up the road. Sorry state park, but the hot tub just sounded too good to pass up. As it turns out, all the other bike tourists stopping in that area already knew about the KOA, so there are seven of us there.
Day 68, we’re up, slowly, to head up and over more rolling hills. In Anchor Bay, we run across one of the best small markets along the coast. And in Gualala, we find a coffee shop with internet and take a long break. We’re tempted to call it a day at the county park outside of town, but decide to push another 20 miles instead. The scenery is beautiful south of Gualala, as most of the traffic begins to drop off, but we’re exhausted by the time we roll into Salt Point State Park. We’re glad for the KOA the night before, as Salt Point doesn’t have showers. But, the camp hosts give us free wood and we stay up late talking with Paul, a cycle tourist from England who’s headed all the way down to Argentina.
Day 69, we’re beginning to get used to all the rolling hills, when it gets kicked up a notch. The road is now right along the cliff, with no shoulder and no guardrail. Traffic comes in waves behind us, due to road construction, so we’re mostly able to let them all pass and ride in peace. The road pitches steeply upward for a few miles, levels out, and then goes screaming downhill in a twisting fashion we haven’t seen before. The hairpin turns make it hard to go too fast, but we enjoy the craziness of the road. In Jenner, we watch seals play in the water, where the Russian River meets the sea, and then we have lunch. We camp at Bodega Dunes State Park, in a totally vacant hiker/biker area, in the sand. We’re tired, so we take it easy that night, eating dinner in the nearby town of Bodega Bay.
Day 70 is a rest day, and we are both glad to take a break from all the rolling hills. We sleep in, then make pancakes and lots of coffee. I spread out my jewelry studio on the picnic table, while Russ hunkers down over the computer. In the afternoon, other tourists (the next wave!) start to trickle in. By the time we go to bed, there are 11 other tourists crammed in one little hiker/biker area. We continue to be amazed at how many people are still touring this late in the season.
On Day 71, our Krebbs map (that was gifted to us by another couple back in the Redwoods) routes us off hwy 1 for awhile and we are treated to quiet farmland. There are steep hills, but there are also cows and quail and beautiful views. We join hwy 1 again and follow it along Tomales Bay (which, we learned a couple days earlier, was formed by the San Andreas Fault). We roll into Point Reyes and are delighted by such a cute town. They have a bookstore and I finally find the novel I’d heard about on NPR and have been searching for over the past week and a half. We pick up groceries and poke around town a bit before heading off to Samuel P. Taylor State Park. There’s a gnarly climb on the way there and I curse my derailleur yet again for refusing to shift down into my lowest gears (I have to get off and move it manually – and we fix this when we roll into camp). We’re delighted by the wooded beauty of the park and the fact that the hiker/biker area here is only $3 per person (instead of the $5 we’ve been paying elsewhere in California). We stuff all of our everything that smells into the critter boxes because the raccoons are big and fat and completely unabashed in their attempts to eat your food. We laugh as the folks in the next campsite over chase a raccoon up a tree, laugh as it hisses at them, and take photos (in the dark).
On Day 72, we decide to just hang out at Samuel Taylor for another night. We’re only a day out of the Bay Area and we haven’t yet figured out what we’re doing or where we’re staying. We go into Lagunitas for groceries, and Russ spends the afternoon using the wifi at the cafe next door, while I return to the campsite and work on more jewelry. We share a campfire with a couple from Germany (traveling from Alaska to Argentina) and swap ridiculous stories of being on the road. (And laugh at the folks next to us who chase the raccoon up the tree yet again.)
On Day 73, we get up early and just throw our stuff on the bike, in order to have breakfast in Lagunitas. It’s amazingly worth not having coffee immediately, because the food at the cafe is some of the best we’ve yet to stumble on! The road climbs gradually for several miles before gifting us with a screamer of a downhill on the other side. It’s Saturday morning, so we pass group after group of roadies on their weekend rides. In Fairfax, we stumble onto Biketoberfest and meet the Rivendell folks, as well as several others who are interested in our trip. Then we stumble onto a new cooperative bike shop (The Bicycle Works) just down the road in San Anselmo, and we feel like we’re definitely entering another bike mecca.
In Sausalito, we stop for coffee and learn that it’s fleet week in San Francisco and the Blue Angels are flying over the bay today. This causes some crazy traffic as people are stopped all over the road to watch the show (and then trying to get out of town when it’s over). We watch for a bit at the North side of the Golden Gate Bridge, then make our way over the bridge. We ask at least 4 people, including a CHP officer, where we’re supposed to go and everyone seems as clueless as we are. So we go for it, on the sidewalk, and later meet the bridge patrol who tells us that we’re on the wrong side of the bridge, but not to worry about it because nobody ever sees the sign (!!). I think, well, then, make the sign more obvious. We get to the other side of the bridge, successfully, without trampling any of the hundreds of pedestrians, and then try to figure out our way to the BART station. Traffic is insane and we get lost and it takes way longer than it should, so we’re tired and kind of cross-eyed from culture shock because of all the people when we finally make it to Berkeley. We meet our hosts, Adam and Julia, shower, find some dinner, and crash early.
We spend the next day in Berkeley, buying too much at REI and going for a beautiful ride out into the Berkeley hills with Adam and Julia. It’s a delightful day and we’re thrilled that the rain that’s been forecasted holds off while we’re camped in their back yard.
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