So, day 43 was to be the day we’d finally say goodbye to Oregon and cross the border into the final state for this second leg of our journey: the ‘sunshine state’ of California!
Our day started with the much-anticipated Cape Sebastian and, true to the warning of the Tourist Information clerk, it was a hefty, slow and steady uphill to really get our legs burning and warm us through the muggy cloud and cold winds that were to be characteristic of the entire day. Tall firs lined the cape as it reached the summit of 712ft: a mere step in comparison to the Coquihalla, but by no means easy! Thankfully a 6% gradient roll downhill on the other side offered reward for our efforts; following this, the route rolled up and down several hills for the duration of the 27miles that were to take us to that last town of Oregon, Brookings. After the cape, we dropped once more to sea level and continued to follow the coast; we saw yet more surfers trying in vain to coax some action from the coastline, and plenty of sea stacks and rugged rock formations that we have come to recognize as commonplace features of the Oregon coast.
We crossed the Thomas Creek Bridge, the highest bridge in Oregon at 345ft with a stomach-churning sheer drop to a narrow creek joining the sea below. It was an enclosed bridge, however, surrounded by forest and engulfed by hillside, giving it a protected, enclosed feel: lacking that same ‘wow!’ factor of Deception Pass on our initial entry into the States, but still succeeding in producing shivers down my spine (especially as it was down to me to take pictures and as such, lean slightly over the edge for a good shot- truly terrifying!)
On reaching Brookings- the last town through which we would pass in Oregon!- we stopped to pick up some shopping, allowing Theo to run wild in the racing-car trolley before relaxing with a coffee and our lunch in Starbucks as I skyped my parents. It was only once we’d left the store and I begun to read ahead in the Bicycling the Pacific Coast book that I realized we’d made a slight faux-pas: purchasing a range of fruit (mango, peaches, grapes, bananas) just ahead of the California Agricultural Border Inspection station, where we were told we’d be obliged to empty our panniers and declare all fruit or produce which could be deemed a threat to Californian agriculture. Were we to lose all the fruit we’d just purchased?!
We sailed through without a hitch- waved past without even the need to stop by the officer on duty, our purchases remained safe and finally, after much anticipation, we were in California- in the legendary sunshine state!!
Just for giggles, I’d created a mini California playlist on my iphone (with a little help from my friends…!) and decided to give it a go as we passed over the border. I, like many before me I’m sure, had a slightly romantic, stereotypical-ised perception of what California would hold for me: I imagined stretches of golden beaches, with super-fit tanned blonde-hair girls whirring along the promenade on rollerblades. I saw palm-trees and bikinis, convertibles and vineyards. As the likes of ‘California Dreamin’ and ‘California Love’ blasted through my earphones, I have to admit, I wasn’t surprised (reading and talking to other travelers has re-adjusted my expectations somewhat) but I couldn’t help feeling a teeny, tiny bit disappointed. Of course the climate and scenery wasn’t magically going to change the instant we crossed the border; and the romanticized ideals I hold are, of course, of southern California- Los Angeles and the like. But truly, this vision of California couldn’t possibly be further from my dream. The heavy grey clouds had clung to the sky above us since our departure that morning; ahead, a hazy mist was descending from the hills and rolling in from the sea. As we cycled further along the 101, we were ushered into the state through a narrow tunnel of tall redwood trees; just a sample of the incredible trees to come, and comparatively small, but nonetheless majestic- with huge hollow stumps hinting at the sheer size of those that lie ahead! For about 5miles we didn’t even see a hint of the coast; when it finally came into view, it remained the rugged, untamed coastline of Oregon- stoney, isolated beaches, broken rock formations, isolated and uninviting to the sun-worshipper, but nonetheless owning a sort of wild beauty of their own. Oh, and not a blonde in sight.
It had been a long day; it was with relief that we called it a day upon arrival at the Crescent City KOA, just 5miles outside of the city itself. Ridiculous as it sounds, the thing I had been looking forward to most all day? Was doing my laundry. Oh yes- how boring I have become!- but when your days on the road are long and hard, when all your clothes are mindlessly shoved together into tight waterproof bags and when you’re traveling with two boys (!!!!) well, let’s just say… you don’t stay fresh for long.
After the Raymond laundramat ‘fiasco’ (because really, that’s what it was…) I vowed I would never find myself in that situ again. And yet, not more than 30minutes after our arrival, there I was…curled up on a plastic chair in the corner of the laundry room, machines whirring, the smell of fabric conditioner and powder heavy in the air. Fellow campers passed by and peered in with mild curiosity, hurriedly rushing past when they took note of my attire. Because once again, I had left it too long between washes; once again, desperation had got the better of me and every clothing item I possessed as a touring cyclist was now tumbling around in that drum of soapy water. At least this time I had the privacy of a restroom I which to change; but still, I was there in my waterproof trousers and coat and er…not a great deal else. Sockless, underwearless and friggin’ cold, I tried my best to hold my head high, appear nonchalant and ignore the strange looks thrown my way as I waited [im]patiently for that cycle to finish.
I think I’m just going to have to accept it as par for the course and embrace the experience as, well…one of ‘those things’.
After a disturbed nights sleep, surrounded by redwood trees and subject to the intermittent rain, we were ill-equipped for another day on the road. We couldn’t stay at the KOA (through lack of supplies!) but the prospect of the upcoming climb past Crescent City was not a welcoming one; we were in desperate need of a day off. We decided to begrudgingly pack up our tent and head towards the city and make our plans from there. As we made our way along the highway, I was surprised suddenly by the [re]appearance of Barry, a cyclist we first encountered at the Honeyman State Park, also cycling south along the Oregon Coast. This was the third time we’d managed to bump into one another: unheard of for us, given how slow we are in comparison to your average cyclist!- but fortunately for us (and somewhat unluckily for Barry…) he’d suffered a broken wheel followed by two punctures- never a good thing!!- which had slowed him down somewhat. We cycled alongside upon our entrance into Crescent City and were delighted to be given a few token gifts in the shape of some red wine (never, EVER say no to wine!!!) and some food; we then decided to follow Barry’s example and check into a motel for the night in order to give ourselves a proper ‘day off’ and enjoy a taste of ‘luxury’ for the night. After checking in, we decided to club together and go for lunch down the road, and enjoyed a lazy hour or so exchanging stories. It’s been fantastic to learn more about another grea cycis and the nature of cycle touring in the longterm; Barry has been touring every year for around 20years and enjoying cycling many years before that: traveling not just through the States and Canada, but all over the world. An inspiration for us and no mistake!!
We’d like to thank Barry at this point for his tremendous kindness and support, ranging from buying us lunch (!) to offering us his elasticized net to replace Matt’s rather sorry-looking medal ribbon that currently holds together his coat and bits on top of his rear pannier rack. Advice and help on the route, maps and tips and more- an absolutely invaluable acquaintance for us. THANK YOU!
And so tonight, we are cuddled up in a kingsize bed, with a movie to watch and a bottle of wine to treat ourselves. But trust me…after 12 days straight on the road? This break is very much long deserved.
Next stop? The Valley of Giants and the infamous drive-thru Redwoods.
Miles today: Gold Beach to Crescent City KOA: 50
Crescent City KOA to Crescent City: 11
Total Miles to Date: 1,331