September 13, 2013, Friday
Gualala Point Regional Park to Bodega Dunes State Beach, California
48 miles (running total = 528 miles)
The morning is cool and dark with the trees keeping out the light. I begin my camp striking routine yet again. While at the trike packing a bag, I notice an obvious clue about last night. There are two distinct raccoon paw prints on my recumbent mesh seat. Alex is getting up. She tells me about the loud crash sound, that it was Bert’s bicycle being knocked over by a raccoon, so she picked it up, leaned it against the tree again, and put his panniers in the food locker. Bert and Vic slept through it all.
Fabian’s story was interesting. He looked directly into the eyes of a raccoon at its level, being as how he sleeps on the ground without a tent. The raccoon then began dragging his bicycle helmet away into the forest, which is when he began expressing his dissatisfaction with its behavior and his gear. It was a unique night, that much is certain. Raccoons can be tenacious, but after enough evidence that people are going to stop them every time, they really do finally give up. Oh, if only there were an easy way to keep them at bay during the night. My bell was successful in its intended purpose, but that is only after the raccoon is already either on the trike or messing with my gear. Nothing on my trike was damaged, and the panniers remain fully intact. The odor-proof special plastic containers I purchased at REI did their job. The animals could not locate the food in my left Arkel pannier. Food storage strategies are the key at overnight camps.
As with every morning, I’m on the road again, early, but the sun is already shining over the eastern horizon. That dark deep forest at camp was deceptive about how late it was getting. I pass a sign that reads CLICK IT OR TICKET, posted by the government to let vehicle drivers and passengers that seat belts are mandatory – hmm, I don’t have a seat belt, but then of course, my speeds are not generally fast enough to kill tens of thousands of humans every year like cars. Pompous grass abounds along this coastal route, and I always love watching it sway in the breeze. The ocean panoramas are gorgeous. On challenging hilltops, I often stop to rest my feet, eat a bar, and have some water. When it’s hot, I hang my Outdoor Research Sunrunner cap on my flag antenna so the breeze will dry it.
I pass through the Fort Ross State Historic Park, which used to be a Russian settlement in the early history of California. The old fort buildings are still here, overlooking the ocean. Highway 1 always has surprises, but what is never a surprise is that next hill waiting just around the corner! One thing trikers and bikers can always count on is an over abundance of steep challenging uphills. My suggestion for today is: If you don’t like endless daily hill climbing, don’t ride the Pacific Coast Highway. Hills are one big memory that sticks in all cyclists’ minds.
As I enter the small coastal town of Jenner, California, it dawns on me that midday is here, the sun has been warming me up quite a bit, and an ice cold Odwalla protein drink (or three) would hit the spot just fine, along with some other things like bananas and whatever other healthy stuff this tiny berg might offer. I pull into the parking lot of the Jenner ‘C’ Store and gas station, park under a tree, and remove my headgear. As I am doing so, three motorcyclists with whom I’ve been playing leapfrog for a while out on the road, pull in and park next to me. We have a fun talk, and I tell them of my former days of motorcycling, on Harleys, BMWs, and other mounts. Two of the guys are on Harleys, and one is on a BMW. So the BMW guy asks me if I preferred Harleys or BMWs for the open road. I liked them both for different reasons, but said if I were to pick a bike for long haul motoring today, it would be the BMW for its ultra smooth ride and dependability. He smiled, and even the Harley guys got a kick out of it as the BMW guy was rubbing it in.
Then, my friend Alex, the bicyclist from Germany, rolls in silently. She gets a sandwich in the store, and we sit, eat, and visit for a while before hitting the road again. The weather is perfect, and we are really enjoying the day. Back on the highway, I turn right at the big fork not far south of town, and head towards Bodega Bay and its state park, where I plan to camp tonight. It’s only 10 more miles, so the afternoon should be easy … except for those never ending uphills, of course!
There is still plenty of daylight when I arrive at Bodega Dunes Campground, a Sonoma Coast State Park. When I pedal into the hiker/biker area, Bert and Vic from Canada are already here, so now we are three, but it is yet early, and others are sure to arrive later. This hiker/biker camp is clearly on a piece of ground that was not usable for any other purpose, so the park officials designated it a hiker/biker camp. It’s on the side of a deep sand hill, most of which is tough to even walk up. The only really practical tenting area is at the very bottom, next to the paved roadway, where some grass covers the dry sand. Even here however, the ground is not level, so we all pitch our tents so our heads will be on the elevated end of the tent.
Some state parks do like this, giving hiker/bikers the undesirable leftover landscapes that no one else wants, but others, such as Patrick’s Point, Half Moon Bay, and Big Sur, really do it up nice for us human powered humans. Clearly, there must not be a statewide mandate to provide the same level of camping experience at all parks. It must be up to the individual official in charge of each park. The good news for us tired cyclists is that the showers here are free! This is because so many thieves were breaking into the money collection boxes inside the showers that the state park finally gave up and just removed the boxes, allowing unlimited hot water luxury for grungy and hot pedal pushers. So, I am happy, but as I am coming out of the shower, all cleaned up, a little kid, who was left holding a huge dog while his dad was in the bathroom, cannot control the massive animal, and it bolts towards me growling as the panicked child does everything in his power to stop the fracas. I jump into the deep sand to escape my impending sullying by the large animal, and barely escape unscathed. Out comes the dad, who figures out that perhaps he might devise a better way to control his untrained animal next time.
Alan from Arizona pedals in, and pitches next to my tent. I am between the Canadians and the Arizonan. Then Alex arrives, and pitches her tube tent up the hill from Alan’s two-person tent. Alan stores all his cargo in his tent each night, as well as using his stove in there to make his morning coffee. The tent Alex has in one of those that only has room to slide into from one end. She cannot sit up in it at all, and dressing in the tent is a real chore she says. She mentions that after this trip, she will find a new tent that is more reasonable for long trips. My NEMO Obi one-person tent has slightly more area than hers, but I can sit up, easily dress, and pack away my gear while inside. Choosing the best tent for one’s needs is a live and learn experience.
Other cyclists also come into camp a little later. They are new folks who the five of us who have been camping together on and off have never seen before. Turns out they are heading north on the PCH instead of south as we are, thus the fact we have not seen them prior to this evening. Over dinner, they ask us about the road ahead for them tomorrow. We tell them of the mother of all uphills they will face on their ride north to Gualala. For us, it was a thrill ride downhill, but for them, it will be less than desirable. The north side is more gradual, which made it easier for southbound cyclists.
I take a couple of photos inside my tent to show what it’s like. One is looking out my door towards the trike, one is of the area where my head goes, and one is facing where my feet are. This tent is very well designed, and if the fly gets wet for any reason, the tent remains dry because it is suspended from the pole, so no water dampens any pole tubes because there are no pole tubes. This was one of the factors in my decision to get it, because my former REI Arete had pole tubes, which actually contacted the fly material.
Tonight’s sleep is, as always, well earned and easy. The first 18 miles of the ride were easy, but then the long steep cliff hills kicked in, and the work began in earnest. The foghorn tonight is a wonderful companion with which I am familiar because in my own coastal town where I live, I hear the horn from my bedroom. For me, it is a cozy ambiance that always puts me into deep restful sleep.