on the OCEAN HIGHWAY

Day 06

DAY 6

September 08, 2013, Sunday

Patrick’s Point State Park to Stafford RV Park (2 miles north of Avenue of the Giants), California

59 miles (running total = 309 miles)

We all awaken to a dry camp. No dampness is on anything, so unlike yesterday morning, we pack away our gear fully dry this time. Tim is making his peanut butter and chocolate spread on tortillas breakfast. I pour my granola, adding wheat bran, veggie powder, and raisins. It is a grand morning … except for one potential issue that has been developing.

David has become the victim of an infection, which began manifesting itself yesterday, but he was hoping to beat it through the night’s rest. He has medication for this occasional issue at home, but did not bring it with him on this trip. This morning, he feels really bad, and it seems to be worsening rather than getting better. He informs me that he will likely be leaving the PCTA today, having found an airport on his iPhone near Arcata, California, where they rent Hertz automobiles. His plan is to ride south to this airport with me this morning, which is about 13 miles south of our Patrick’s Point camp, and then depart in a rental car back to his home in Glendora, California. Of course, this immediately saddens me to hear, as his company has proven very pleasant for me. I enjoy the camaraderie of a kindred triking spirit. Challenges often seem less daunting when shared with a good friend, and so it has been on this adventure.

This Pacific Coast Tricycle Adventure (PCTA) is now reminding me of the 2011 Coast to Cactus Tricycle Expedition (CCTE). On both expeditions, the crew consisted of three cyclists at the onset, yet two of the three faced issues that led to them leaving prematurely. This is Day Six, and it now seems that the days between now and September 20 when I reach Morro Bay will be spent solo once again. Twelve days of solo riding now are ahead of me, unless I meet up with other cyclists along the way who wish to ride with me. Chances of meeting a triker though are next to zero. There are scores of bicyclists, but a triker? Not a chance.

We pedal out of Patrick’s Point, heavy with the impending separation. David really wants to complete this overland journey, and so besides the infection hitting him hard, the sadness of having to stop short is also hitting him hard. At least his final night’s camp was as good as they come. He tells me that last night was his favorite of all the campgrounds so far.

After a lot of up and down pedaling in the typical morning fog, we arrive in Trinidad, California, hit the small market, eat some snacks, and sit in front of the post office as David finalizes his plans with his wife on the iPhone. A local war veteran who plays a First American flute, tells us of a wonderful shortcut off of Highway 101 that takes us straight into Arcata, with ocean views all the way. He says all the cyclists take it, and if we can’t find it, we deserve to be lost. He points to the road near the on-ramp to the highway, and says to just take that road right there for the best ride, which he insists beats the highway experience. Okay, I say. Let’s give it a shot, although I have never heard of this road.

Well, to make a short and miserable story even shorter, this road has not been maintained by any governmental agency in decades. It is loaded with potholes, has fallen away down the cliff side, is full of huge cracks where earth movement has broken the road, and is of the “chip seal” variety that simply jitters a cyclist nearly to death. Sure, the view beats having gotten back on Highway 101, of that there is no doubt, but the going is so very slow and painfully tedious that every ounce of potential enjoyment is sucked right out of our heads. We are miserable on this most horrible of all horrible roads, just creeping along most of the way to avoid crashing, and pedaling up rather steep, but fortunately short, inclines along the cliff. After a couple miles of this hellish torture, we come to a DEAD END sign! The road dead-ends into nothing, meaning that all our endurance of this gauntlet was for naught, especially considering that David feels miserable to begin with due to his infection, and this agony has only magnified his suffering! Lucky for us there is a short road that leads back to the main highway here, so we turn left, get on the steep on-ramp, and are back to smooth sailing to the Arcata airport and David’s rental car. Lesson learned? Never take an alternate route if in ANY doubt – the main highway is nearly always the shortest and easiest route, well maintained, with the most gentle of grades.

Back on Highway 101 and flying along, we pass a sign that indicates 8 more miles to Arcata. Then, it happens! We arrive at the off-ramp to the airport, so I stop to wait for David. He rolls up and reiterates that he must leave the PCTA due to his degrading health issue. I take some photos of his trike, and of us together one last time, and then watch solemnly as he pedals down the off-ramp named 722. Our early hours today were shared, yet what happens next will be wholly different. Our worlds have been ripped apart, and our stories are no longer similar from here on out.

I do not know what became of my friend. As I pedal along towards Eureka on the flat and very fast roadway, I wonder how he is feeling, and if he will get a car and be able to drive home today. I do not keep my borrowed cell phone turned on, so can receive no incoming calls from David. This phone is very old, and the battery does not last long, so I only turn it on at evening camps to notify family of my whereabouts, and then off it goes until the next night. Since there is not always cell service, and since I keep calls short, the battery lasts long enough to eventually find a suitable recharging solution, which is often a plug in a campground bathroom, trusting that no one will abscond with it during the hour recharging. If I suspect that an upcoming camp will not be in a cell service area, I will sometimes make a midday call and simply leave a short update message. I try to call a correspondent with the online name of Desert Dune, who has volunteered to update the Trike Phantoms website for this Pacific Coast Tricycle Adventure.

The highway is lined in many areas with huge eucalyptus trees, and the smell is lovely, like the oil that comes from these trees and can be purchased in stores. Growing up as a young lad, my parents’ house had five eucalyptus trees in the backyard, so I grew to love the aroma always out the back door. These trees have an orange cast, and their long slender leaves that have fallen line the road now and then if the weather in a particular area has been cold enough to initiate fall-like conditions.

At 44 feet above sea level, I reach the limits of a town with nearly 30,000 residents. I need to pee, and there is an opening in the heavy shrubbery to the side of the shoulder here, where I notice an old and abandoned railroad track. I park my trike at the city limit sign of Eureka, walk through the opening in the bushes, into total privacy, and realize I am smack dab in the middle of an extensive blackberry patch! It’s my lucky day! After watering the old trestles, I have a grand time picking and eating all the blackberries I want. I did not expect such a treat, but since it’s here, I take full advantage of it. No one will be picking these berries this far out, including bears, so might as well use them before they shrivel up.

The next stop is the Target store on the northern edge of town. It is an easy off and on to the highway, so I pedal into the shade of the store, park the trike, and shop for an ice cold protein drink and some fresh strawberries and cherry tomatoes. I also make a cell update call here, and leave a message, figuring that tonight I will likely be back up deep in the forest, with no service. Then, into the main town I head.

When I pedal through most towns, I remain on the main thoroughfare for expediency sake, but Eureka has a bike route worth taking. Yes, it does go through back areas where bums are living in the bushes around industrial areas, but it also skirts a nice marina, and then takes the cyclist past the private member Ingomar Club, which is housed in the world famous Victorian mansion that appears on post cards and other travel memorabilia. I grab a shot of the ICE Q right in front, and have a good laugh imagining this as my private residence. Of course, it runs completely counter to my way of seeing life, the antithesis of my wilderness ideologies. I am a 62 year old tricycle rider. Clearly, I don’t do things like everyone else. When the herd turns right, I turn left. This expression of overindulgent opulence is a tribute to someone’s ego out of control years ago, shouting to look at what I have, when nearly a billion humans are starving to death.

It requires a long time to get through Eureka, as there are many stoplights along the way. I make good time however, stop in a Chevron convenience store, fill my water bottles with ice cold water, and then book on out the south side back into the wilds. One of the first things I notice is a large billboard with Sasquatch chasing some campers in their car, as they drive through a big redwood tree. This is advertising the Avenue of the Giants, a world famous series of redwood groves that are so expansive that at midday on a sunny day, it is dark inside the forest. I have been through this avenue, and highly recommend it to touring cyclists. It adds mileage to the route, of that there is no doubt, and it adds hills and time too, but the big trees are worth the effort. I was fully planning on taking this wonderful side trip with David, but since he is now but a memory, I will remain on Highway 101 to cut down on my mileage, work load, and time frame. There are many challenging uphills on the coastal route, and now my goal is to avoid any unnecessary ones.

The road it pretty flat much of the way today, and I make good time in high gears once again. The rest from uphills is welcomed. The milepost markers seem to fly by, which is fine with me, especially since I’m still bummed out that David is no longer part of the team. My mind today says to lay down as many miles as I can as I adapt to the new solo routine. Solo riding has its advantages though, the major one being that I can do what I want when I want, on the spur of the moment, without any consultation necessary. This typically makes for quicker progress, yet I would rather have a companion and the fun of shared decision making.

Now the day is wearing on. The sun is rapidly getting lower. There are no state campgrounds anywhere close to where I will end up today, and now I am facing the potential for a wild stealth camp again. Being solo, wild camps are easy. It’s easier for one guy and one trike to inconspicuously blend into the environment than two people with two trikes. One reason I chose the new NEMO Obi one person tent is due to its ultra small size and rapid setup time. Big tents may be nice in dedicated campgrounds, but they are a liability for stealth situations. Plus, the NEMO tent is dark gray and black without the fly, so it virtually disappears into the darkened night forest.

The next small town, called Rio Dell, has a camping sign, so I exit the freeway, pedal over the overpass, and quickly find within about three blocks that whatever the highway sign was referring to is no longer here. It’s just a bunch of old run-down homes with no further signing of anything. I turn around, stop on the overpass, make a quick cell call in case there is no later service, and return to the highway via the on-ramp. The road is still wide and relatively flat, so I fly along towards my unknown destination as the sun continues to race towards the horizon. The little town of Scotia comes and goes, with no available camping. Things are looking dicey.

I notice the big AVENUE OF THE GIANTS sign coming up ahead. On a tricycle, one sees road signs for a much longer time period than folks in high speed automobiles. On a tricycle, I can also stop anywhere along the shoulder to take photographs. Ahh, the freedom of the trike is exhilarating! As I approach an off-ramp next to the big sign, I notice off to the left side of the highway, a large sign that reads STAFFORD RV PARK, and my spirits rise with thoughts of an easy camp without any hassles or worries. I exit, pedal under the underpass, ride down the rural road of old houses, junk cars, and barking dogs. Just when I think this might be yet another dead end, there is the RV park, not the type of camp I would usually pick, but perhaps the best solution this late in the day.

Into the RV park I silently roll. I walk up the steps of the old mobile home in which the elderly couple live who own the massive acreage of towering redwood trees. Their little “yipper” dog goes nuts, being surprised by my quiet presence. The wife tells me it’s $18 for a tent campsite. I think to myself that I could stay for more than 3 nights at hiker/biker camps in the state campgrounds, but suck up my logical pride and ante up the bucks. Besides, this lady and her 86 year old husband are very nice to me, and I am too tired to seek other solutions this evening. She asks me if I would like an ice cold Arrowhead water to drink, which they sell. I ask how much it costs. She takes pity on my pedal pushing body, and just hands it to me while saying, “It’s free!”

I ask if there is cell service here. She says yes and no. Over there at the road, people can get it, but just these ten yards to where you are standing knock it out for some reason. I walk over and fire up the cell, dogs barking, but not aggressing. I get service, so I update Desert Dune about what’s going on. Then, I pedal way back into the redwood grove to find the tent area. Gorgeous! This choice, even though pricey, is a good one, and I’ll be able to take a long hot free shower tonight to boot! I find a great place to pitch my tent right at the base of a colossal redwood tree, and as I look around, what do I behold? You won’t believe this!

Yes, just a few yards to the west, next to a tent already pitched, is … hold onto your helmets, a (I can’t hardly believe it myself) human powered recumbent tadpole tricycle! Unbelievable. I know how rare it is to see these things out on the road, but here one is in the next campsite. I call out “hello” to find the rider, but no response is forthcoming. He must be taking a shower, I think. The mystery triker’s ride is a blue Greenspeed Magnum, the new heavy duty trike introduced in 2011 by the Australian trike company. I know Ian Sims, the owner of Greenspeed, and think that I have to tell him about this when I see him at the 2013 Recumbent Cycle Convention this coming November. I will be manning a booth there, and so will he.

Having pitched my tent, I sit down at the old picnic table among the giants to eat some precooked rice and a 3 ounce packet of salmon, protein and carbohydrates to rebuild what I destroy each day on the road. Midway through my meal, as darkness slowly encroaches, Sid Cheek walks over and introduces himself. He is 64 years old, and tells me he is on one of his “bucket list” endeavors, that being something a person really wants to do before he dies. I think to myself that he is awful young to be engaging in bucket list things, but I have no idea if there is something that might afflict him I don’t know about, thereby prematurely terminating his life power. Sid is only two years older than me, and I have no thoughts whatsoever of bucket list things. Life is yet young and vital, and bucket list activities seems somewhat depressing to me.

We talk a bit, but I cut it short eventually so I can go get into the shower across the big field before it gets too dark to see in here. As I shower, I consider Sid’s undertaking. He lives in the midwest portion of the United States. He has a son in Puyallup, Washington, which is where he began his trike odyssey. He is riding from his son’s house, south to the Mexican border, and then east to the southern most tip of the Florida panhandle! This is his first trike ride cross country. The distance, and solo no less, makes my head spin. Sid says that 20-30 mile days are his maximum. Today he rode 40 miles and said it nearly did him in. He is in pain tonight, and taking Ibuprofen to ease his suffering. Tomorrow, he will be pedaling through the Avenue of the Giants. I hope for the best for Sid. He is a really mellow and nice guy. He will also be on the road for a VERY long time, many months if successful at reaching his stated objective at the Atlantic Ocean.

After my shower, I crawl into my tent, put on my headlamp, write in my journal, and then fall quickly into a deep sleep, content to know that the giant redwoods loom all around me. I feel at home in this awesome forest, and the pine needles below the tent make for a very comfortable sleep. The weather is dry, with no chance of rain.

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