Life on the edge
Trip Start Jul 12, 2013
15Trip End Ongoing
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After crossing over 3000 miles (4828km) of Canadian territory I think I had a slightly lackadaisical attitude towards covering just half that distance to cycle the USA from top to bottom.
As a good friend commented, "That will learn me!"
Far from the tracts of arrow straight roads across the prairies, the coastal route of Highway 101 and now Highway 1 which I've been riding, have an elevation profile which looks similar to an ECG trace. Sharp peaks and troughs on the map translate into narrow, ribbon like roads which soar and dip around the coast
Gone also are the shoulders (not mine, on the road), cycling is now on hair-raising single lanes often with precipitous, unguarded drops, being tailgated by SUVs, motor homes and logging trucks.
The Pacific Coast Highway is promoted as an iconic route for all levels/types of cyclists, of whom there are many, even at this time of year. The abundance of state parks, with inexpensive hiker/biker sites further encourages this, however the road itself does not. Small yellow traffic signs appear sporadically on route politely advising car drivers to 'Share the Road', advice not always taken by impatient automobiles producing several heart stopping moments.
Sadly too, a number of memorials to cyclists, such as the 'Ghost bike' outside Davenport, dedicated to Joshua Laven, a biker killed in a hit and run last year, attest to the limited efficacy of the above.
So why do it......aside from the challenge. The sense of achievement in conquering the big climbs, including 2 more mountain sized hills, the adrenalin rush of inching along roads set hundreds of feet up in the cliff face with nothing between you and a sharp drop to the ocean crashing far below
Hairpin descents which, when traffic free, allow you to slalom down mid-road at white knuckle, bone shaking speeds.
The beauty, power and wildness of the ocean is life affirming, pure ozone, rocky outcrops pounded by surf, sea birds hanging on the thermals and sunsets that make you want to weep.
Camping remains on the chilly side of Arctic, but falling asleep to the sound of breaking surf is worth the temperature twice over.
The sea mists of northern California finally evaporated around the Redwood forests, where cycling through the 'Avenue of the Giants' inspired a cathedral-like hushed awe as sunlight filtered through the canopies of one thousand year old trees, towering over 300 foot overhead.
And the final highlight of this stretch, arriving in San Francisco on Halloween. Climbing the steep, steep hill from Sausilito was more than mitigated by travelling triumphantly into the city via the Golden Gate bridge. Claud, pannier laden, weaving in and out of the tourist bikes and pedestrian traffic. Being a city known for embracing the unusual, diverse and decadent it was also the perfect place to spend a day or two relaxing and of course celebrating Halloween in true be-costumed style
Hard though it was to leave the city, the promise of seeing/staying with family nearby spurred me on. Riding out through Golden Gate park led once more to the ocean and a short two day ride to Santa Cruz where Claud and I will be taking a much anticipated break for a few days and enjoying the mountain air before tackling some of the biggest, most challenging climbs of the trip.
Thank yous for this leg go to James at Arcata bike shop for Claud's emergency first aid, Rob and staff at the fabulous USA hostel in San Francisco, James, Amber at the Sun Cafe, Mark for a lovely stop in Davenport and to fellow cyclists Katie et al, Tracey, Paul, Dan and Lusha. A huge thank you to John and Sue for putting me up/putting up with me for the next few days and finally to Ben, for much fun in San Fran and for sharing the highs and lows of the road, which I will miss.