27.7 mi / 9.1 mph / 2138 ft. climbing
Home: Manchester KOA Kampground
The wetness we woke up to on this eternally-wet coast was from actual rain/mist rather than the fog/condensation of the last two days. But it lightened enough and was warm enough (54 degrees!) for me to make coffee and to toast bagels, so with the forecast predicting an early-morning end to the rain, it seemed that when we were done with tent-breakfast, we’d be able to break down camp without much difficulty and move on.
Well, ha (said the rain gods). The mist turned back into actual rain, re-soaking the partially-dried tent, and getting all of our bags quite wet as we then were stuck in the dreaded middle-state, and once started, had no choice but to continue to pack up in the wet.
We finally headed out into the gray drizzle, and who do we pass but our hard man from the last two days, back with his bags. He looked, but made no comment as we passed this time. It seems he must have a moral disdain for hitchhiking, otherwise he’d be long south of us by now.
Shortly after that, we pulled into Albion, a tiny off-the-road town, to get a hot coffee, muffins, and shelter from the rain at their store, and an opportunity to re-assess plans now that we were back in a place with mobile connectivity. A customer says to us “looks like the rain is about to clear out!”, sarcastically, I thought, but shortly after he was proven right. Clearly the locals understand this coast-weather much better than I do (the stuff falling on us doesn’t appear on any radar!)
Meanwhile, for the fourth time, our walker arrives, this time sounding soft and reasonable when inquiring with other customers if anyone is looking for paid labor. No luck, he continues on, only for us to then pass him in uncomfortable silence for a fifth (and hopefully final?) time as we push more-solidly south.
Our stretch goal had been a big 50-mile day, but with the rain making us late out of camp, headwinds, and kind of wearing ourselves out on yesterday’s “off day”, we made the call to book a cabin at the Manchester Kampground of America. The state park campground next door was closed for the season, leaving the KOA as the only option, and since a tent site was an insane $50, compared to $85 for a cabin, paying a bit extra for walls, a roof, heat, and electric to recover and recharge was a no-brainer.
With the weather cleared up for the middle portion of the day, it was a pretty spectacular ride. Highway 1 returned to its near-emptiness, with occasional pastures on the east side helping to make it feel like a minor country road. But then the west side held scenes more associated with Jaguars than John Deeres. While we have seen dramatic ocean scenes for most of this trip, we have never seen them while feeling this car-free and carefree.
The spot Rett stopped at for lunch was one of those magical unmarked slivers of green between the road and the 300-foot cliff down to the ocean that basically could only be accessed and enjoyed by people traveling by bicycle. The only price for it was an incredibly steep hairpin-filled climb up from Elk Creek that made Rett feel like a failure when she had to stop a couple times after getting squeezed by passing traffic. Which was a dumb feeling for her to have, since it’s purportedly the steepest climb on the whole Pacific Coast route, and she was able to get going again and put it behind and below her.
After arriving at our cabin, since we were paying KOA prices, we took advantage of as many amenities as possible, such as the free showers, and the bathrooms that have both soap and ways to dry your hands (the California State Park bathrooms oddly seem to have neither!) And although we were under a roof, it was easy to pull out our soaking wet tent and all our other gear and get everything dried out on our “lawn”, so it’s a better setup for us than a motel in some ways.
And then we went to the “Kamper Kitchen” to cook our Caprese Mac & Cheese. A communal area under a pavilion, with sinks and electric burners on the central island, it let us do our normal camp cooking without needing to set up our stove, and made dish-cleaning easier. It’s the second time I’ve used an outdoor kitchen in my life, both in the last couple weeks, and something about it is satisfying enough to me that our forever-home might need to have such a setup!
There we met Leona(?), Kitt(?), and Avi(?), a solo + duo group of bike tourers who had joined forces and been riding together from Washington. So good to see more people sharing strength and leaning on each other! We also learned from them that the KOA charges only hiker/biker prices to bikers at tent sites (maybe it’s subsidized by the state park?), and so we could have spent way less than $85 or even $50. Oh well, we were pretty glad to have the roof, especially when the light rain came once again after dinner.