September 09, 2013, Monday
Stafford RV Park to Richardson Grove State Park, California
47 miles (running total = 356 miles)
First thing in the predawn morning, I get up. Sid is already up over at his table. I take the time to snap some photographs after eating my granola, as he is about to depart for the Avenue of the Giants ride. He rolls his trike over for me to get the pictures. I tell him I will be placing him on my websites eventually after my journey. Then, I watch as he pedals out towards Highway 101, for another day on the endless highway of adventure. He got about a 30 minute head start on me, but I will probably not see him again. Sid will be turning off 101 in two miles for the side trip, but I will be remaining on 101 for the more direct route. Not only that, but our daily average mileages are vastly different.
Speaking of daily average mileages, I am noticing on this coastal journey a different daily mileage paradigm at work. On my former trike treks inland through eastern California, where campgrounds are rarely found, I usually just pedal the trike until about an hour before sunset, judging the time based on where I see the sun in the sky. This is because camps are frequently wild stealth affairs, so I make the most of the daylight hours. This translates into a higher daily average over the course of the journey, around 67 miles per day. On this coastal route, where many known state campgrounds exist, I find I am planning the days based on staying at the next reasonable state camp, so the riding day is typically terminated earlier in the day. I suspect that on this journey, my average daily mileage will be more around the 50 miles per day range. Oh, the trade-offs for a hot shower each evening, ha ha.
Today seems to be warming up rather rapidly, probably because I am heading inland, farther and farther from the cooler ocean with each pedal stroke. I pass through Humboldt Redwoods State Park early in the day, and then continue on through and past the little towns of Weott, Myers Flat, and Miranda. It is now sometime approaching midday, and I am getting really hot. There are no clouds this far inland, and no breeze either. Not only that, but my two water bottles on the mainframe of my trike have finally reached an empty state – I have one liter left in my rear pannier for emergencies, but hope to find some water prior to accessing it. The elderly owner of Stafford RV Park said it was 83 degrees Fahrenheit there yesterday, but it feels like 83 has come and long since left right now on the air’s incessant march towards more scorching temperatures. Of course, these numbers are not so bad depending on what one is doing, but a triker pedaling up hills in full sun has less tolerance than someone sitting on their deck in the shade.
Highway 101 is gaining elevation ahead of me, wide open in the sun. There is an off-ramp coming up, showing signs for the towns of Redway and Garberville. The sign displays numerous local businesses, something that was not shown in Weott or Miranda, so I make a spur of the moment decision to exit into the shade of the trees. I pedal into the driveway of the first business I see on the right, a small motel. I have no idea what the temperature is, but I am beginning to realize that today may be a might more intolerable than any day prior on this trek. Inside the office, I ask the rotund lady if there is a water facet at which I might fill my two bottles, as perspiration is clearly visible on my shirt. She directs me to the laundry room sink. I walk over only to find my 24 ounce Hostel Shoppe bottles are too tall to fit under the facet. I return to the office, where she somewhat reluctantly agrees to fill them in the office. I ask the woman if there is a market nearby, and she tells me of a nice local market in Redway, just up the road a mile or so. I also ask her what the temperature has been here lately. She responds that yesterday’s high was 101 degrees. I thank her, get back on the Q, guzzle some water, and pedal up the hill towards the heart of town.
I locate the Redway Shop Smart market, a modern and nice looking store with all expected amenities of any well stocked market. However, things are oddly bizarre here. The town is old and rundown for such a nice market. The small parking lot is absolutely packed with cars and traffic in and out is almost perilous for a triker. As I always do, I park the trike right by the front entrance, which was a challenge because of the large number of people entering and exiting. And the people, boy are there some anomalies compared to any other market I’ve been to thus far!
In a former life, I was a cop, so I have loads of experience with alternative folks of all walks of life. It takes a lot to unnerve me, yet this place is certainly on the spectrum of mental composure. I would say that conservatively, only about 5% of the folks I see right now are what you would consider “normal” people. Now, I realize that this discussion borders on what is called profiling, a prejudgment of people based on their appearance and outward demeanors, but what I am seeing is so “out there” that my mind certainly wonders if I have entered the Twilight Zone or something.
Most people I see have not apparently bathed in quite some time, a matter of many days to be more precise. Most are well endowed with numerous tattoos, earrings, piercings, and other decorative embellishments that scream anti-establishment to the maximum. Most are smoking cigarettes, many have “dreadlock” hair arrangements that are filthy, and everywhere I look, the “others” are sitting in the shade on the sidewalks trying to stay cool. One is playing a guitar. Many look really out of it mentally, as if they are recovering from a bad hangover, or are on some kind of an illicit drug. Some have knives in scabbards hanging from their belts. Most clothing has not been washed in probably days or even weeks. I mean, this place is so far off the normal zone that it defines a new normal called Redway.
In all my experience, I have never witnessed something this bizarre. I’ve seen a lot, but nothing this concentrated in such a tiny area in such a tiny backwoods town. One man, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, stares oddly at me as he enters the store. I continue to eat my foot and drink my Odwalla protein monster drinks on the newsstand next to my trike. The trike looks so oddly out of place here! That same man who stared at me going in, now exits the store.
He is very dirty, with earrings and tattoos. He steps out of the market entrance, cool air-conditioned freshness spilling out onto me in the oppressive heat even in this shade, and stops about an arm’s length from me. He faces me directly, stares directly into my eyes, and says absolutely nothing as I sip my Odwalla and pop another cherry tomato into my mouth. Finally, after a time that would indicate to a sane person that something is really weird here, he speaks. “How are you?” he asks me in a very zombie like monotone voice, staring blankly into my eyes with his nonblinking and expressionless eyes. I realize my description here borders on what you may consider overreacting, but I assure you of its accuracy.
So here is the scene: I am hot beyond belief in this totally still, what must by now surely be triple-digit air, even though in the shade. I’d rather eat in the market, but they have no place to sit down. The ambiance is so bizarre that all I really wish to do is finish my food and drink and get out of here. I’m hot. I’m tired as a result from all the pedaling in the heat, and the last thing I wish to do is engage a man clearly under the influence of some substance that is not conducive to human longevity. I am indeed a rogue maverick, but this guy, and most of the others, are not of my philosophical mindset. So, staring right back into this man’s eyes, I respond with one short cold sentence: “I am not in any mood to talk.” There is a noticeable hesitation as his numbed brain attempts to process my meaning. At long last, without another word, he does a military twist on his right foot and ambles off into the parking lot somewhere. Moments later, a tall dark man in tattered dirty clothing, with earrings and a nosering, dreadlocks hanging about his chest and shoulders, and with an equally bizarre woman standing behind him, asks me if I have a knife. He has an orange he needs to peel. I simply say no, finish my last sip of protein drink, and carefully maneuver my trike out to the parking lot, where I click into the pedals and begin pumping.
On my way out of the market driveway, an unkempt gal playing a guitar on the curb, with a sign asking passerby for money, tells me she likes my trike, and wants one for herself. I smile, tell her how fun they are, and quickly pedal out onto the roadway, which is slightly downhill, allowing me to reach a high speed quickly so as to distance myself from this den of craziness. Within short order, I sail past the city limit sign, into a dead-air canyon and a heat blast that exceeds anything I’ve ever felt, even out in the Mojave Desert or Death Valley on the trike. The air is also heavy with humidity, making things even worse.
No sooner am I dying a million deaths in this canyon than the road climbs a steep hill into the neighboring town of Garberville. In low/low, I am out of water already, and it was only a few miles back that I refilled the bottles. Near the top of the hill, I see a gas utility building on the left. It is very modern, and looks perfectly normal compared to the Shop Smart market. I pedal up its steep driveway and park under the shade of a lone tree, although shade in this heat is marginal at best. Once inside, I walk up to the well dressed people behind the customer service desk, apologizing for my ragged looks, wondering in my mind if they think of me what I was thinking of those folks at the market.
In my best English grammar, with the utmost in politeness and articulation being put forth, I provide the reason for my situation (pedaling a tricycle for hundreds of miles and living in a tent), and provide further clues that I am a highly educated and compassionate man who does not have any association with the readily observable populace in Redway. A customer next to me, an elderly woman paying her utility bill, is interested in my journey, and begins a conversation. I ask the lady behind the desk if she might fill my water bottles. She happily agrees, and provides not just water, but ice water! The air conditioned room is a haven to me, and I hate to leave, but I still have miles to go, so I bid my farewells and thank them for their acts of kindness.
Just as I am about to leave the building, I hesitate, turn around, and ask if they happen to know the outside temperature today. The clerk tells me they are having a freak heat wave this week. She further states to my nearly brain-dead head that the temperature outside right now is 107 degrees! How about that! The day I decide to pedal a tricycle through Garberville, California, it is 107 stagnant degrees without a cloud in the sky. Guess this makes up for all those chilly and foggy mornings up in Oregon. Okay, I’ve paid my dues. I’m outta’ here!
As I pedal through the remainder of Garberville, I observe many people similar to those observed in Redway, sitting under curbside trees, sometimes in group, smoking and playing guitars, and just trying to survive the sweltering heat. This town is definitely more “upscale” appearing than Redway though. On the ensuing uphill grades out of town and farther down the highway, I stop many times for rest in whatever shade I can find. As the afternoon rolls along, the shade stretches farther across the pavement, providing more wonderful opportunity at relief. I am just poking along now, with practically nothing left to keep me powered up.
Forty-seven miles into the day, a day I shall never forget, I finally arrive at Richardson Grove State Park, now fully back into deep redwood forests. Some California state parks are no longer staffed on weekdays because of the state’s indebtedness, so I self-register and proceed to the hiker/biker camp, which is a tiny pie-shaped wedge of ground barely big enough for 5 tents. There are two picnic tables. I need a shower, tons of water, and some food. I need to revive what is left of me!
Here there is a French-Canadian woman named Pierrette, who is pedaling a bicycle and trailer for world peace, all over the United States and Canada. She is an admirer of the late Peace Pilgrim, a woman who walked tens of thousands of miles in tennis shoes for world peace. She never owned a car. Pierrette was cut from the same mold as Peace Pilgrim. She was writing in her journal when I arrived. There were some other hikers there. A little later, a fellow named Alan, from Arizona, rides in on his Surley Long Haul Trucker touring bicycle. Alan is packed with Ortlieb waterproof panniers, an obvious veteran of the overland cycling clan. He wears an Arizona jersey, with the state’s star and sun-ray symbols emblazoned upon it.
It has been a very difficult day for me, not really the bizarre people in Redway at Shop Smart, but primarily the extreme humid heat of 107 degrees. Physically, I am drained, and chat only briefly with my camp companions before I go hit the showers through the woods. After cleaning up and returning to my tent and trike, Alan walks over to talk about the trike. I tell him about Redway, and he knows precisely what I’m describing. Alan tells me that there are many marijuana growers in that region, and the people who live on the streets there are simply waiting in hopes of being hired to work the illicit farms in the forest. Alan seems to know this from some reliable source. I just want to go to bed in this cooler evening air, so I really don’t care. I excuse myself and crawl into the Obi for the night. Sleep quickly overtakes me.