Jenny looks up from her milkshake with a look of alarm,
It can't be noon already.
No joke Love, ten till mid-day and we've got about seven miles in so far, I respond with a smile as I grab the styrofoam container from my ice-cream loving wife before I lose the chance.
Where the hell did the day go?!? Are we in a time warp? Did we get abducted by aliens? Jenny's line of questioning seems reasonable given our best intentions for an early start and arriving at camp before dusk today.
The thick blankets of heavy coastal fog that envelope the morning air make it easy to justify the comfort of the sleeping bag for another half an hour or so. The daily routine of a third, and often fourth round of strong black coffee over conversations with interesting travelers from around the world derail the best intentions of early morning departures. Our delayed embarkations have a way of leading to belated finishes, and I am rarely denied my birth right to a couple of beers at the end of a hard days' work; many of my fellow bicycle touring companions seem to embrace a similar ethos and I am seldom left to celebrate around the camp fire alone. The sunset setting over the ocean on the West Coast beats the heck out of the sunrise sneaking through the trees here anyhow.
And so the pace of the West Coast Tour unwinds as the Highway 101 carries us ever south. Miles of riding on amazing coastal bluffs in the cool marine air are suddenly juxtaposed by turning just a few miles inland and sweating in the hot sun surrounded by hundreds of acres of dry farmland filled with robust grazing bovines. Oregon saves the best for last and in our final day of riding along the sheer cliffs, inlet beaches and jagged sea stacks of the coast I catch the spout of Gray Whale out of the corner of my eye. Jen and I pull over along the highway and watch mesmerized by the sight of a mother and calf dancing in the ocean a quarter mile away. RV's bigger than our house scream past at 60 miles per hour oblivious to our private viewing of some of the most majestic animals on earth.
California greets us rudely with strong headwinds and sudden cool temperatures. We escape the fog of Crescent City and climb steeply over 1200 feet into the coastal mountains of Redwood National Park. Two thousand year old Sequoia trees towering over 300 feet into the air bring a sense of humility and insignificance to my existence; I am comforted by these thoughts. A screaming and bone chilling descent through a waning evening light in this ancient forest leaves a smile on my face and etches deep a memory not soon to be erased from my mind. We arrive in Elk Prairie and are greeted by many familiar faces from the road and a warm glowing campfire.
The world is a small place and shrinks with every new friend you make. I am reminded of this again when I run into Brookside students and their parents at the Redwoods National Park visitor center. After a short conversation Jen and I are invited to join them for dinner in Eureka. We enjoy an evening of laughter over the best of meals and sleep fast camped on the lawn of their vacation rental home. Grateful does not adequately describe my feelings towards the Gallagher Family for their graciousness.
A rest day in Arcata finds us strolling through the farmers market amidst dreadlocked youth in haze of of cannabis smoke. A large portion of California's 13 billion dollar underground marijuana economy is centered here in Humbolt County. Jen and I stick to sampling the best of Northern Californian micro-brews over an intense game of UNO with our new friends Sam and Marcelle. A $35 camping fee at the KOA or a $60 dollar motel finds Jenny and me at the Travel Lodge in Eureka. Thin walls have us second guessing our decision, but the smoke clears and noise subsides by midnight; stuffing our food bag with butter and cream cheese from the "continental breakfast" in the am helps ease blowing our daily budget on accommodations.
The morning dawns thick gray and cold as Jen and I prepare for the last leg of the Coast Route. We should be in San Francisco by next week and I look forward to spending time with family and exploring the city for a couple days before our journey takes us eastward towards the steep climbs of the Sierra and the land of the rising sun.