Tuesday, August 15th
Last night had ended a little sadly..camped in an RV park, looking at maps and calendars and realising that I was over half way through the trip and the countdown to San Francisco had begun. I did my laundry, made dinner, and fended off an over friendly German motorcyclist before watching the sun set over the highway.
The morning was overcast again, not the best light to see Eureka in, a place I don’t remember too fondly from the road trip up the coast two years ago. There were a few deranged wailing people on the streets outside the coffee shop I stopped at but otherwise the downtown was an attractive, old fashioned place. The outskirts of town were rougher – broken basketball hoops and dented fenders. I didn’t hang around and exited on the 101 which felt dreary and long in the perpetually grey light.
It continued like this for a while until I had the chance to escape on some country and farm roads. Happily these eventually led me to lunch at Ferndale. A timewarp kind of town – but in the best way. The streets were lined with colourful and well looked after Victorian houses, the main street had the look of a 50s film set with wooden store fronts and signs. Life existed in technicolour instead of black and white – it was the very opposite of Eureka. I had two slices of pizza at Ferndale Pizza, the sun had come out, and things felt good again.
After a quick circuit of the town and a stop at a drive through bank, Grizzly Buff Road led me away from Ferndale and back towards the highway – and the road lived up to its name, providing three grizzly climbs until I arrived at Rio Dell, a small town to the side of the highway and the last before entering the Redwoods on Avenue of the Giants.
Getting to Ferndale and out again had been at least at 10 mile detour but back on the highway again it had definitely been worth it. The 101 was hot and loud and fast at this point and it was good to take any chance which came to get away from it.
The landscape was beyond the road was vast and wooded, with a occasionally glimpses of the Eel River. The road traversed it by bridge several times and the wide open views reminded me of Montana or Washington.
Things overall had a different atmosphere to the coast – grey skies and seas had given way to hot afternoons, big blue open skies and the smell of forest. People I’d cycled with then had been replaced with others. Time and miles had passed, and I’d probably changed a little too.
I saw out the afternoon cycling the Avenue Of The Giants. Like the road down to Elk Prairie, an incredibly beautiful winding road through grove after grove of redwood trees which provided much needed shelter from the afternoon sun which came occasionally made it’s way through gaps in the trees.
Soon after joining the road I crossed paths with Dan (a tree surgeon) and Stella (a baker), a couple from Bristol spending 3 months heading from Vancouver to LA – an enviable amount of time which allowed them to stop and hike and generally take their time with things.
We overlapped a few times then met up at the Eternal Tree House – a hollowed out stump which is the first of several tree themed road side attractions along the route.
Back on the road I took the last few miles to the campsite on my own,
enjoying having the smooth, flat surface to myself and being out in the open amongst the trees without windows are barriers that most people had.
The campsite was set right amongst the trees, just to the side of the avenue. It was a remarkable spot which at five dollars almost seemed too good to be true. I began setting up my spot, and was later joined by Dan and Stella, then at dusk a fourth cyclist arrived, a young guy trying to make it to San Francisco by Saturday which was a long way and not much time. We had some nice chats and it got dark, quickly, in the shade of the trees, and I knew it would be a hard campsite to leave behind in the morning.
One thing that stuck with me was something Dan the tree surgeon said as I was looking up a little anxiously at the trees which were swaying back and forth. He said that trees moving is a good thing – it means they’re alive.