The third leg of our journey has brought us from the Northern California oasis of Arcata through epic trees and breathtaking coastline to the bustling mecca of the San Francisco Bay Area where we’re spending a couple of days exploring. Our path has brought us not only some amazing views and a better understanding of the land, but we’ve felt ourselves getting stronger and still more comfortable on our trusty steeds, and have made even more friends along the way, and learned some good lessons.
This stretch of riding has been chock full of good friends, old and new. We were sad to leave great pals behind in Arcata after such blissful days of surfing and oyster eating and hot tubbing, but the good ol Highway 101 did not disappoint by bringing us straight to the renowned Avenue of the Giants as we reentered the Redwoods. We had both driven the Avenue in a car, but pedaling through it was a totally unique and magical experience. We spent a memorable first night back in the tent tucked in a hollow between a few of the Giants, on a bed of their tiny, needly leaves. An entire day was spent cycling the 30-some magical miles along this most amazing stretch of road, weaving along the Eel river, passing under and around the main highway 101 and completely surrounded by the tallest trees on earth. We wished it would never end.
But it did! We celebrated its completion and the beginning of the next journey with excellent pizza in the tiny town of Redway, CA, at The Lost Frenchman. Delicious!
Further fueled by veggie burgers from The Peg House with the apt slogan “Never Don’t Stop” we made the most daunting, but in the end not-as-terrible-as-anticipated climb up the infamous Leggett Hill, a 5-mile, 1,800ish ft hill at the branching-off point of the scenic Highway 1 from the now 4-lane, very freeway-ish Hwy 101. We both found that pain in the uphill was doubly rewarded with an ex-hill-erating downhill that seemed to go on forever. We didn’t push a pedal for miles! At the end of the downhill was the greatest reward of all for us ocean-lovers - the return to the shining sea!
According to our bike trip guide book, we had officially entered the central part of the California coast, and we could tell!
Cruising through the rest of Humboldt County was just gorgeous, as was perhaps our favorite stretch of coastline yet in Mendocino County. A magical mix of rugged rockiness, thick trees: coastal cypress and some kind of pine and even some scrubby oaks, a dearth of traffic, and some truly adorable tiny towns convinced us that this was our favorite thus far.
Eventually we entered Sonoma county, where it got hotter, drier, and traffic surged. Of course, we were entering a heat wave, proximity to the SF Bay Area, and the weekend - perfect conditions for flocks of weekend tourists and it was almost shocking to suddenly be surrounded by so many people. We made it through the morass of cars and remarkably speedy older cyclists zooming past us and to a lovely campsite at Samuel P Taylor State Park, away from the heat in the redwoods of Marin county, and away from the crowds of strangers but we were thrilled to find the hiker-biker site filled with many of the fellow biker friends we’d made along the way! All of those bikers were ending the next day in San Francisco, and the memorable night had a celebratory feeling. We ourselves were celebrating the halfway point! We felt really good, feeling motivated and excited to continue on our journey. The next day we got to ride down one of Kate’s favorite roads, Sir Francis Drake Blvd, all the way to San Rafael, where we met up and brunched with a friend of Alanna’s mom’s, before continuing on to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge!
We found the bridge simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying - high winds, fog, tourists on rental bikes wobbling around, cyclists speeding by, and the dizzying height of the bridge, but were lucky to be crossing on a day with pedestrians blocked from our path. We sped through the peninsula past a remarkable amount of tourists (I thought we were in a lockdown?) at Fisherman’s Wharf before boarding BART (also Kate’s favorite) and making it to our next rest stop in Berkeley at a house Kate used to live at.
We spent our “rest” days exploring and eating as much delicious city food as we could fit into our stomachs, and seeing friends old and new.
It was so interesting to be immersed once again in a very urban are with so much humanity, in contrast to our quiet days further north.
So much gratitude as always for the kind and generous souls in our lives and for the copious fuel for our bodies and minds.