Day 22: Eureka to Humbolt Redwoods
Today was our first day on the road without Sara... and it was weird. We got to put all our gear in the Uhaul instead of carrying it on our bikes, which was a nice break but overall we wish we didn't have the car because we miss riding as a crew. We rode through a whole lotta nothing today on a bumpy road, seeing lots of big fields full of cows..all of which smelled exactly as you might guess they did, but MAN do did they help serve us a delicious lunch. We stopped at Loleta Cheese Factory and sampled about 20 types of cheeses and then nommed hard on a fresh grilled cheese sandwich (this tiny little cheese factory blew away the infamous Tillamook cheese factory in our opinions...although Tillamook had some dank ice cream, I'll admit)
We took off again on our bikes and our amazing SAG driver made sure we had our bike lights on and we're ready for the rest of the ride while she reached out to media contacts to help get us some press! Best SAG driver ever (can I get an amen?!?)
HOORAH we made it to Avenue of the Giants!!!!!!!!!!! Breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking. This was no doubt my favorite road we've ridden on so far! Not only was it shaded and absolutely stunning, but it wasn't busy with car traffic at all, which is a major plus. Since we've entered California, the drivers have been BRUTAL to us mere little cyclists...we spend a lot of time reminiscing on the sweet drivers of Oregon, and laughing at how drastic the change was within even the first 10 miles of crossing into California.
We made it to our campsite in the Redwoods, Sara brought SUSHI to our campground for dinner (!!!!). While I have no regrets about that meal, I'm not gonna lie when I say we hid from the other cyclists while we ate because we felt like divas eating our fresh sushi in the middle of our campground surrounded by other cyclists eating their ramen and deli meat and freeze dried meals.
We ended the day with a riveting game of Hearts that we got too tired to finish. Stay tuned for the results (note: Savannah is freakishly good at this game and I, Grace, am having a really hard time coming to terms with maybe, just maybe, I am not. I am losing miserably)
Day 23: Humbolt Redwoods to Standish Hickey
Today was our hardest day yet. After we finished the last stretch of the beautifully shaded Avenue of the Giants we were greeted harshly with the hot sun and lack of ocean breeze because we were a bit inland.
We rode 20 miles before lunch, met up with Sara in Redway for lunch when we found out she had spent the better part of the morning trying to get into our Uhaul because the lock broke. We finally found a nice human with a crowbar who helped us break into our own Uhual. Lol
Then we ate lunch at Deb's Great American Hamburger Co (approx total hamburgers eaten on this trip: 30) and I (obviously) ordered a milkshake along with my burger and fries. I told Savannah and Sara to not let me drink the entire milkshake because we had about 30 more miles to go that afternoon, but I just couldn't stand the thought of leaving a perfectly good milkshake on the table to melt and get poured down the drain so (obviously) I drank every last drop and had no regrets......until we got back on the bike and had to climb some gnarly hills that afternoon. Not a good combo. I'll leave it at that.
We got a half full water bottle thrown at us out a car window on the highway, so we left the highway for a bit to escape the traffic and decided to ride down a road marked closed to cars, which we have found that usually means is good enough for bikes. It was quiet and a bit more shaded but we pedaled on and reached a portion of the road that was just...gone. We had to do a bit of mountain-goating and scale the side of the hill to get around the hole in the road but made it without any scrapes or bruises and continued on.
Like I said, this was probably our toughest ride to date. It was hot and it was hilly. We were frustrated. We missed Sara and as a whole group we really felt like we hadn't been able to catch a break. Savannah and I climbed hill after hill in frustration and sweat. Finally, we turned a corner and saw a little cove we could swim in! Luckily it was just as Sara was driving back up north to see where on the route we were since we had no service. We all swam in our clothes and did nothing short of BASKED on the rocks. Praise. This was heaven on earth and the cold water was so so good for the soul.
Camped out under the redwoods again, played more cards (update: the game is still not over yet and yes, Savannah is still winning by a lot) and realized our bike lights and external charger were stolen.
Day 24: Standish Hickey to Fort Bragg
Today we climbed an 1,000 foot hill at the beginning of the day but went downhill for 10 STRAIGHT MILES down a beautiful, curvy and shaded road. 10. Whole. Miles. It was INCREDIBLE. I listened to old school Taylor Swift and sang dramatically to all my nonexistent ex boyfriends who have cheated on me and broke my heart into a million pieces, and air drummed my way all the way down the mountain. I don't think I've ever experienced anything else that I could more accurately describe as GLORIOUS. Just plain glorious.
I think what made it so incredible was not just the length of the downhill and the fact we didn't have to pedal for 10 miles, but the fact that I we knew that we had earned every single inch of that downhill in the days before. And to make it even better, we were back on the coast!!
There were no towns between our beginning and ending campsites so we decided to do it all before lunch, but we arrived in Westport and decided to keep going and get one day ahead of schedule so that we could stay in Fort Bragg, which was a much bigger city. So we did it. Another hard day of climbing but in the end it was so worth it.
We got to eat good pizza and drink good beer and then got to see a movie in the theater! Felt like a real human for the first time in a while. (A real, but smelly human. Haven't showered in a few days not gonna lie)
Day 25: Fort Bragg to Mendocino
Instead of staying ahead of schedule since we did two days in one yesterday, we decided to relax today! We slept in later than usual, made some freeze dried egg scramble for breakfast and went to a coffee shop with wifi, wrote some blogs and facetimed with friends and family, went to a local Mexican restaurant, bought some new bike lights since ours were stolen, ate more ice cream and headed just 10 miles down the road to Mendocino, the CUTEST little ocean town we have passed thus far! We walked around, ran into Claire and Caleb, a couple of other cycle tourists we have crossed paths with multiple times in the past week, lounged on a beautiful beach and watched some surfers and headed to meet our Warm Showers host, Jesse!
Jesse lives in a beautiful refurbished water tower right in the center of town, where he let us shower, charge our phones and sleep in REAL BEDS. bless.
We all went to dinner and swapped stories and laughed at the level of newbs we really truly were when we started this adventure. (Key word: were. Jesse said himself, "if you did that last stretch of climbing that you did the last two days, then you're officially real cyclists")
Jesse took us to the grocery store after dinner and gave us advice for how to grocery shop while on a bike tour, especially how to eat a good breakfast because we were tired of oatmeal and freeze dried eggs and biscuits.
Day 26: Mendocino
We woke up, ate our wonderful breakfast that Jesse helped us buy groceries for, decided we wanted coffee before we head out, realized a farmers market was starting in about 30 minutes so we just had to stick around for that, ate the best tomales and blackberries of our lives, Savannah and I said bye to Sara and we headed towards our bikes only to sit down against the fence for 30 minutes and justify to ourselves why we should take an impromptu rest day. So we did. And it was wonderful.
Day 27: Mendocino to Gualala
Jesse did little, MUCH needed tune ups on each of our bikes and we said goodbye to him (again) and this time actually headed on our way. Today the coastline was BEAUTIFUL -my absolute favorite so far. Savannah and I stopped to run across a field and out across a closed peninsula that was covered with wild flowers and jutted out over the waves crashing against the rocky shore. We were just in AWE at the sights and even more in awe that our LEGS brought us to these places!
Other than that, today was pretty uneventful. Sara Swagwagon Belmer did much needed laundry for the whole crew and we met up in Gualala where we decided to stay and camp. We bought some dry salami, Loleta cheese (our favorite), crackers, nectarines and starbursts and had ourselves a feast! Along with our freeze dried Chili Mac, of course. We stayed up late in Sara's tent playing cards, talking, telling stories and dreaming big time about the future.
One of my favorite things about this trip has not only been the people we've met along the way, the way we've been shown enormous amount of generosity from friends, family and total strangers who have latched on to the mission of The Refuge with us, but also the two girls I get to do this thing with. I laugh when I think about how we have literally been together 24 hours a day for 4 straight weeks. No exaggeration. Yes, we each have our own tents but we set them up as closely as possible and then squeeze into one tent to play a game of cards and talk about everything under the stars. You'd think we'd be tired of each other by now but let me tell you, Savannah and Sara are the best of the best. These girls are encouragers and challengers and they don't expect you to be anything but yourself, no matter what that means for that day - good or bad. They feel the feelings of what is layed out for us each day. They cry happy tears, laugh big laughs and scream loud screams. They dreamed up this whole trip and let me be apart of it and for that I am forever grateful. They're my go-getter friends who push me when they know I can go farther but empathize with me when they know I'm at my breaking point. They let me be snappy after a long day and then laugh about it when I've come to my senses. They make fun of me and laugh with me and tell me to ask big questions of myself. To never doubt my abilities to do good in this world. There's not many people I could do a trip like this one with, but these to gals are two of the best. (Didn't mean for this to turn into an ode to my gals, but here we are. What can ya do??)
(oh, also update on the card game: Sara lost and I, grace pfeffer, had the comeback of all comebacks and won the game.) (fun fact: most people assume otherwise because I hide it well, but I am a very competitive human ESPECIALLY when it comes to card games and board games)