Day 20: Cleone State Campground to Salt Point State Park

It was a rough day, and we cycled from sunrise to sundown. I had been looking for sea glass the entire trip, and I finally found it at a beach in Fort Bragg! A beach full of sea glass of al different colors. We spent awhile there, and they helped me collect glass. I couldn’t tell if the pain I didn’t feel during the Leggett day finally caught up to me, because today was brutal. My body is so sore.

I was grumpy the entire day, mostly because I didn’t have enough food and there was nowhere to stop and buy anything for most of the day. The scenery changed between coastal and agricultural land, so we had some variety, although the day was cloudy and foggy. I was also freezing and had to apply vaseline to my butt 20 times. I feel like Vaseline saved our lives, I would’ve quit otherwise.

We finally got to Gualala, and spent a long time there at a safeway to warm up and get food. Apparently, we spent too long there and nightfall was upon us. We pushed it, in the dark, without any lights, to Salt Point State Park. It was extremely stressful because although there weren’t many cars, they couldn’t see us. We also had a run in with a skunk. I guess they must not have those in Europe, because Ruth and Rob tried to get close to it and stop and awed.

When we pulled up at the campground, it was super eerie because it was closed due to COVID. Something I haven’t mentioned until this point is how afraid I was of camping alone. I had my own tent and it was nerve wracking, so I also shoved my tent next to Ruth and Rob so they could hear me scream if anything happened.

I didn’t take any pictures, because my phone was dead, and also because we were really pushing it.

Day 19: Benbow SRA to Cleone State Campground

Leggett Day!!! Also known as the day we would have “the worst climb of the trip”. We spent the first part of the morning worrying about how bad the hill would actually be. When we finally got to climbing, it was already midday.

I can confidently say that Leggett was not the worst hill of the trip! It was actually a pretty fun ride. We put in our headphones and focused in on making it to the top. We stopped frequently to take water breaks and to do visualization exercises that helped get us to the top. The hill definitely, 100%, was not nearly close to the worst climb on the trip.

The ride down was indescribable. We zoomed down with no problems, and often went so fast that we had to slow down not to run into cars on the steep curves.

When we passed the dreaded Leggett climb, it was fairly remote. We finally switched over to a newly paved Highway 1, and it was the most breathtaking oceanside view of the trip (pictured below on the far left).

We saw a drastic change in foliage, tried to go wine tasting but were rejected from the tasting room after struggling down a gravel road and nearly puncturing a tire, and ended the day with our favorite beers (Lost Coast).

Day 16: Brookings to Prarie Creek

Today definitely deviated from the norm. On my way to cross into California, I was joined by a homeless woman who lives on her bike. She told me about the dangers of the area, and repeatedly tried to give me one of her knives, which was actually very thoughtful. She also warned me a million times about the dangers of Humbolt County, which I had forgotten about until that moment. We cycled together for awhile until she could go no further, and we parted ways near the Oregon/California Border.

After that experience, seeing how rough Crescent City was, and being told how terrible the traffic was due to construction, I decided to take a small California Transit bus from Crescent City to right before the Redwoods. The bus ride was actually really interesting because I was able to see the neighborhoods that public transit services. Alongside a First Nations reservation, there are a few mobile home parks sprinkled into the remoteness of the Northern Redwoods. The rural poverty and lack of services was shocking to me, especially because I expected more of California.

When I got off at my stop I biked up one big hill and then cruised downhill until I arrived at Prairie Creek Campground. I settled into a $5 hiker/biker spot and finally met up again with Ruth and Rob. I’m not a forest girl, so the energy of the forest really spooked me. I put my tent adjacent to Ruth and Rob’s. It didn’t help that the hiker/biker sites are off a ways from the actual campground. But, all in all, it was gorgeous and I saw many jays, elk, and deer. A lot of people even saw black bears near our hiker/biker site; thank god I didn’t.

Day 18: Eureka to Benbow SRA

Two of us woke up sick in Eureka, so we decided to take the bus for some of the day’s planned route. We started cycling somewhere before Avenue of the Giants, and stopped at every large tree stump or fallen log. My butt hurt terribly, and I kept stopping to rub Vaseline everywhere. We skipped every “drive thru tree” because we thought they were natural structures, but they were not. (This really disappointed Ruth). It was a remote stretch with no grocery stores, and all of the smaller town stores were closed due to COVID. The road didn’t have a shoulder, but there wasn’t any traffic. I would say this stretch is one of the trip’s best, but I feel like I’ve said that 18 times already. The pictures speak for themselves.

Day 17: Prairie Creek to Eureka

I started the day by taking the gravel path from the hiker/biker site to the highway 101. It was really hard on my bike, and I should’ve just taken the 101 from the beginning, but I try to find alternate routes when possible. I made a stop in Orick, a small town, to grab snacks at the only general store that I would pass for awhile. I kept finding used needles everywhere: the bathroom, the parking lot, and the side of the road. I was nervous that I would run over one and it would puncture my tire, or worse, I would step on one. Clearly a lot of these small NorCal towns have big drug use issues.

As I began to cycle out of Orick, I passed over a bridge where I saw police officers doing a search of some kind near what seemed to be an encampment. They didn’t seem to like that I stopped to watch, so I pressed onward and wondered what could’ve happened. It was around this time that I began seeing a ton of missing persons fliers as well. Apparently there are a ton of illegal (and some legal) drug operations in Humbolt County, and many people who go to work up in the mountains to make extra money don’t come back. There are a good amount of kidnappings in this area, probably because of its remoteness. This both fascinate and horrifies me.

Moving forward, the 101 turned into a multiple lane highway. This stretch was terrifying, mostly because of merging vehicles. There was also another interesting twist: I had to dodge traffic and homeless encampments.

During this part of the trip, my mind was preoccupied thinking about the structure of the camps and their governance. I passed a man that had built himself a throne up on a hill that was sectioned off from everyone else. It seemed like every camp I passed had leadership and organization to some capacity.

I passed another cyclist biking, with his surfboard attached, from SoCal to NorCal. I can’t even imagine what that was like. After hours on the 101, I noticed there was a bike path along the coast. The path ended up taking me to Arcata, and I got to see a ton of seals along the way. I met Ruth and Rob at a Safeway there and we headed to a KOA in Eureka that welcomed us with a pool and hot tub!

Day 15: Port Orford to Brookings

Port Orford provided us with free camping (on a cliff, where we precariously pitched our tent). After a few stares from strangers, we were finally warned that the morning wind would blow us away. Apparently the wind was so strong it had knocked over an RV (although I’m not sure if I believe that). We slept there anyways, but I decided to pack up super early to beat the wind and grab a coffee. My phone hadn’t been charged in days, and I wanted to relax and catch up with the world.

On the way to the cafe I met a transplant from Minnesota that now lives in Port Orford, and we had breakfast together. He caught me up on the Port Orford insider scoop: the “land grab”, the diverse underground music scene, and the battle against vacation homes.

I was particularly interested in the “land grab” because I had been seeing signs for it since northern Washington. After speaking with people in Washington, the turnover of land seemed favorable to land conservation and preservation. However, my Port Orford informant also told me that a lot of land was being seized for development or pipeline construction.

Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor

After having a long chat over breakfast, we exchanged emails (because he didn’t have a phone), and I headed towards Brookings. My two main stops for the day would be Gold Beach and Samuel H. Boardman State Park. I enjoyed the ride to Gold Beach and, once again, saw hikers on the 101. I quickly realized that Gold Beach was a bit dodgy, with a lot of wanderers and people that were way too interested in my cycling gear. After a brief stop I continued south and hoped to meet up with Ruth and Rob again eventually.

I spent a large chunk of the day at Samuel H. Boardman State Park, which has the most beautiful coastal scenery in all of Oregon and is bike accessible. I did a couple of hikes, only to realize how sore my muscles were.

When I got to Brookings my body was pretty much collapsing from heat exhaustion, so I grabbed a motel room to recover.

Day 14: Winchester Bay to Port Orford

The day started late, and we had a ton of miles ahead of us. The most important thing I learned was that Google Maps and predicted elevation will lead you astray. They must average the elevation, because Google Maps had been messing up the estimated elevation the entire trip. Today it wasn’t even remotely close to giving us a somewhat true estimate. I found that the reading became slightly more accurate when I changed my preferences to kilometers, and that was confounding.

I sped ahead of Ruth and Rob so that I could get to Coos Bay with time to spare. I was eager to eat at the Kurt Vonnegut themed “So it goes” cafe. I should’ve known Coos Bay was going to be bad when I was forced to take the narrowest sidewalk I’d ever seen over a heavily trafficked bridge. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one crossing, and I was hassled by homeless men. There was no way around them, so I had to act confident and hope that they weren’t going to haggle me. It was on this bridge that I also realized there are a lot of backpackers hiking the 101. I still don’t understand this. Why hike on a highway when you could be backpacking the PCT?

I was pretty shaken up after my encounters on the bridge, and it didn’t end there. I was constantly dodging wanderers/homeless men in the rough downtown area of Coos Bay. It reminded me of our time in Aberdeen. I hid out at the “So it goes” cafe until Ruth and Rob met me there. I’ll repeat the advice I received but didn’t follow: “Stay out of Coos Bay, or get through it quickly.”

When we finally got to Port Orford we found free camping on a cliff overlooking the ocean, but the wind was heavy. It was a pain setting up and we went to bed immediately after sunset. I was so stressed the entire day that I didn’t even stop to take pictures.

Day 13: Newport to Winchester Bay (Oregon RV Park)

I left Dani and Vinnie early and caught up with Ruth and Rob after grabbing a coffee. I was solo most of the day, but the views were spectacular. There were some big climbs with no shoulder, but I was able to stop in small, scenic towns to relieve the anxiety. I remember doing one h-u-m-o-n-g-o-u-s climb followed by a MASSIVE downhill that overlooked dunes and miles of coastline.

I tried to stop at the Seal Rock lookout, but the line was out of control. Instead, I cycled down from there and enjoyed the hill until I stopped at a cafe for chicken and waffles. Ruth and Rob met me at the cafe and were amazed and amused when they tried chicken and waffles for the first time. I guess they don’t have that in Europe! With full bellies, we put headphones in and powered through to Winchester Bay to find a proper campsite.

Day 12: Pacific City to Newport (Thousand Trails)

There were another couple of big climbs from Pacific City to Newport, mostly passing through dunes and lookout points. We stopped to pick blackberries on the side of the road- our healthy snack.

I kept chaffing and rubbing Vaseline all over my body—we had to constantly stop to do that because of the heat. We left Michael in Depot Bay with his friend and kept going until Ruth and Rob left me in Newport with Vinnie and Dani, the American couple we met at Cannon Beach. They had forgotten their charger back in Cannon Beach, and I had promised I would deliver it to them.

Vinnie and Dani bought me dinner to say thanks, and we stayed at a Thousand Trails campsite after climbing some killer hills right after dinner. It was all worth it because we were able to make a fire, share stories, and have a heart to heart.

Day 11: Cannon Beach to Pacific City

Today I left Cannon Beach alone, but quickly caught up with Michael, Ruth, and Rob for a delicious lunch at Oyster Shack (the fried oysters did not disappoint). After, we headed to the Tillamook cheese factory. “What is Tillamook cheese?”, you may ask. Tillamook cheese is the brand that monopolizes every Safeway, gas station, and roadside stop and shop in Oregon. It is more fondly known to us as the only brand of cheese we could afford.

Unfortunately, the hour long line at the factory scared us away, so we skipped it and used the extra time to cycle to Cape Lookout. Up until our trek to Cape Lookout, it had been easy sailing through flat coastal towns. We expected the entire day to be relatively flat, so we were disillusioned when we saw the climb to Cape Lookout. We all put our headphones in and braved it, stopping at outlook points for pictures and breaks. It really wouldn’t have been that bad if it weren’t for the suffocating heat.

The downhill was steep and awarded us a nice coastal view, spitting us out into dunes. There was so much diversity in the landscape and we were in awe. After we passed through the dunes, we ended in farmland, where we climbed one more hill until our arrival at Pacific City. Upon arrival, we quickly learned that there was nowhere to stay in Pacific City. We even tried the county parks, but they turned us away.

Also, they were a literal breeding ground for domesticated rabbits. Can someone explain this to me?? Please?? I mean to say that there was actual, purposeful breeding of domesticated rabbits that were then allowed to roam the county parks. Welcome to Oregon, I guess?

We gave up and ended up sleeping near a boat launch behind public bathrooms. To close out the day, we had a “Pacific Coast Party” (the name of our cycling group) with our favorite drink local to Oregon, Great White Beer.