51.5 mi / 10.8 mph / 1876 ft. climbing
Home: Eureka Travelodge motel
We intentionally have two different mobile phone providers (I have Verizon, Rett has Google Fi), to maximize our coverage. We’ve had brief periods where neither of us has had service, but staying for two days and nights at Prairie Creek was the first time we totally Internet-disconnected. We managed fine (like bike touring 40 years ago!), but when we reached Orick and data after six miles, we had a lot to take in.
And the weather forecast sent us spiraling. Just as we were crossing the fuzzy, invisible, and perhaps-mythical line on the map we’d been questing toward, where rain amounts in the fall/winter markedly drop off, the forecast was showing nothing but rain for at least 10 days out. WTF, that’s the opposite of what’s supposed to happen as we head south! We had been planning a short 22 mile day to Patrick’s Point State Park, but after a frantic planning session, we decided to take advantage of the sunny day we were currently experiencing and push on, more than twice that distance, to Eureka, where we could hole up during the oncoming rain. But that meant we needed to get moving immediately, since we had just added 2-3 hours of riding time to our day, and the sun is setting earlier and earlier every day.
Rett had been excited to see and hear the barking sea lions that supposedly gather offshore around Patrick’s Point campground, so it was a disappointment to now be skipping that. Thus it was equally exciting when, on an off-101 side-road nearby, when we were looking for a long-past-due lunch spot to reveal itself, the pull-off that opened up was filled with the sound of their unmistakable “aurf! aurf! aurf!”-ing, and the sight of dozens of them piled onto a craggy, surf-pounded rock down below! Pulled out the folding chair and had a great grinning lunch listening to their really varied, emotional, and often-silly communications.
In Trinidad, we paused to look forlornly at the weekend-closed post-office that was holding a hoodie Rett had ordered to the via General Delivery, but our timing left us no way to obtain. Oh well, problem to be solved later.
We stayed on the old road south of Trinidad, which, while beautiful and filled with surfers and other weekenders visiting the beaches a tumble down from the rocky cliffs, would also unexpectedly turn to one-way gravel at random intervals, conditions that forced still-relatively-new-to-biking Rett (and even sometimes me) into walking. With the already-lengthening shadows, it was stressful every time a new patch would slow us to walking pace, without knowing how many miles it would be until the return to paved-road would stay permanent.
Luckily, after a couple miles it did stay permanent, and then shortly after we got back on US-101, which by that point had become a full-on four-lane limited-access expressway. While not the greatest for general bike-touring, it was actually perfect for us at that moment. Super-wide shoulder, smooth, and relatively flat, it let us put down miles unthinkingly, with the off/on-ramp crossings bringing the only stresses.
It brought us into the McKinleyville/Arcata/Eureka area, the biggest population center we’d been in since the start, and the biggest we’d be in for a long time. But for such a (relatively) sprawling area, the entry into town felt surprisingly easy and safe due to that well-designed US-101, even when we were heading straight into the blinding sun on the horizon.
Several miles from our motel, we passed CA 299, the route that I took in 2012 to leave the coast and head up into the Sierra Nevada mountains. No such heights will be scaled on this round, as we’ll stick to the coast going forward, mainly in legendary California Highway 1. That means that I was now in personally-uncharted territory. As gratifying as it was to be a bit of a tour guide for Rett on the Oregon Coast the way that my brother played that role for me, it’s now equally exciting that we’ll now both be discovering things for the first time, together.