Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day Seven: Elk Prairie to Burlington Campground

July 29th is my birthday and this year’s was certainly a memorable one.  We started our day by packing up camp in Elk Prairie campground at Praire Creek Redwoods State Park.  Vaibhav, Andrew-from-Melbourne and I saw a real live elk, and then a whole herd, on our way in to Orick.  No pictures from my camera as I needed a charge again.

We grabbed breakfast in Orick at the cafe that had closed just before our arrival the night before.  The guy working there was really into bikes so we had some good conversations about our ride and about his days in Portland.  I feasted on an Orick Omelette while we charged our phones and planned the day.  My guidebook said that the Redcrest campground rents out teepees, so we made that “plan A.”  If we couldn’t get a teepee then we had a good “plan B,” too: the Marine Grove hiker/biker campground near Weott sounded fantastic in Vaibhav’s guidebook – 1.5 miles away from the car camp, a lazy-bending river to swim in, a town 0.2 miles away to get dinner/beers/snacks.

After breakfast the day got a bit challenging.  My knee got a bit sore, with some disturbingly sharp pain at times, and we had to fight a killer headwind throughout the farmland near Arcata and on the run-in to Eureka on 101.  By the time we sat down for lunch at a Thai place in Eureka, we were done.  We all just sort of sat there and started off into space until our food arrived. We all knew that we still had 50 miles to go (I’d called Redcrest and they don’t rent teepees anymore) and we weren’t sure that we could cover that distance before dark.  It was 2:45 by then time we left the restaurant.

But about 10 miles after Eureka we turned off onto some farm roads and soon found that we had a killer tailwind.  It was *fantastic*.  Andrew and I passed the time by playing the celebrity alphabet game, where you have to name somebody whose first name starts with the same letter as the previous celebrity's last name.  We gave out Bonus Points for using all four Golden Girls (Rue McClanahan, Betty While, Estelle Getty and … and … Bea Arthur, that’s right!)

The farmland section led to some surprisingly challenging climbs/rollers.  They were too short to really be climbs but to steep to be rollers.  Some of the descents were tight and tricky, with a bit of rough pavement and the heavily-loaded touring bikes.

The hilly section led us to the town of Rio Dell.  We had agreed to regroup before getting back on the 101 but there was some confusion about which on-ramp we meant.  Andrew and I stumbled onto the Wildwood Days festival in downtown Rio Dell.  A ton of classic cars were lined up getting ready for a parade.  “A parade for my birthday!!” The locals encouraged us to stick around for the parade and the BBQ afterwards, but we were a man down and still wanted to get to the Redwoods and our sweet riverfront campground.


After waiting what seemed like a bit too long, Andrew and I figured that Vaibhav may have taken another route and so we got back on the 101.  We went over a cool bridge to leave town and then it was Freeway Time again.  They were repaving 101 and we had to ride on super-bumpy recently-scraped pavement for a few miles.  One of my bottle cages had gotten bent a few days earlier and the bumps snapped it in half, causing bottle and cage to go rolling down the road.  Nice.


When we exited the 101 we were finally on the Avenue of the Giants.  I’d really been looking forward to this part of the ride and I wasn’t disappointed.  I took a bunch of pictures along this stretch (see below).  As we neared Redcrest we saw a cyclist up the road with a red jersey and grey panniers … sure enough, it was Vaibhav!  We were surprised how far ahead of us he was already.  The three of us rode on together to the hiker/biker camp. 

It was an intense three-way sprint for the Weott city limit sign.  We almost missed the Marine Grove park sign on the other side of the road.  In fact we had to double back and try to find the camp entrance.  The gravel road had a chain across it with a sign informing us that the hiker/biker campground was now just a group camp, and that hiker/bikers could still go to the car camp 1.5 miles down the street.  Lame.

We figured we should buy some food in town but had a hard time finding the town.  Two people walking along the side of the road told us that there was no town.  We had to go to Myers Flat instead, 6 miles down the road.  The barista at the coffee shop there would later tell us that Weott was washed away in the great flood of 1964.  We found it hilarious that the guidebook still mentioned a town that disappeared 45 years ago.  We also found it hilarious when she told us that “Weott used to be as big as Garberville!”  Wow!  Garberville!  THE Garberville??  We hadn’t been to Garberville yet but we’d seen enough small rural towns by then.  In her defense, Garberville turned out to be a good deal bigger than we’d expected.

So we rolled on to Burlington Campground and found the hiker/biker sites.  Burlington was actually pretty nice.  You were right next to the car campers but there were lots of big old redwoods.  We met Sofie from Maritius at the campsite and she rode with us to Myers Flat for dinner.

We arrived in Myers Flat around 7:45pm.  We knew that most businesses in these small towns close around 8.  But the store had closed early that day, due to business being really slow.  The restaurant was closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  The Bed-and-Breakfast only served breakfast, and only to guests.  That left the bar, which didn’t serve food.  But the fire chief gave us a frozen loaf of bread out of his own freezer, and a few locals told us to look for Bill at the bar.  Bill is 84 years old and owns the bar as well as many other establishments in town.  Apparently he often cooks for people at his bar.  Sure enough, he showed up during our second round of beers.  He wasn’t up for cooking that night but he gave us a few cans of chili and some vegetables to make a soup.  He also sold us a bottle of Crown Royal to take back to camp, along with a bottle of 7-up and some cups.


We rode back from the bar in the dark with our bike lights on.  We saw one car in 4 miles.  It was awesome to ride through the redwood forest at night.

Back at camp we heated up our chili, had some drinks and sat around the campfire telling stories and jokes until sometime after midnight.

It was a bit of a slower start the next day!


More pictures:

9:15-11:15am: coastal views, a bit of fog


11:30am: the first highway sign that I saw with “San Francisco” listed on it.  Hey, we’re not that far away!  We could ride our bikes there!


Noon: after riding up a somewhat steep gravel trail, Andrew found some Eucalypt trees that reminded him of home.  He kept the branch tucked into his front pannier for a few miles, before abandoning it in the awful Arcata/Eureka headwinds.


1:10pm: getting punished by the headwind on the way in to Eureka.  You’ll notice that I didn’t take a lot of pictures during this stretch.  We were too tired.  I did take a few while drafting, at least.


3:14pm: College of the Redwoods.  This is where you go after graduating from Redwood High School, which we saw earlier in the day.


3:56pm: some bridge that we crossed.  I thought it looked cool.  The slanting is a “special effect” from my camera when I’m moving quickly.


4:05pm: farmland, including lots of goats.  We had a great tailwind in this area so the pictures are hella slanted.


4:39pm: the Elk River from the top of one of those short, steep climbs after the farmland but before Rio Dell


5:23pm: the bridge out of Rio Dell


5:49pm: a viewpoint off of the 101.  Once we got past that terrible, bumpy pavement the road sloped downwards for a mile or two.  It was glorious.


5:52pm: about to turn onto the Avenue of the Giants.  I wanted to get a picture of the green highway sign as I thought this was a really cool name for a road.


Around 6pm: a bunch of blurry pictures along the Avenue of the Giants


6:30pm: that guy up the road looks really familiar … could it be Vaibhav? Really?


6:30-6:40pm: more blurry pictures along the Avenue


7:56pm: the Saloon in Myers Flat


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