Highway One Diary: Redwood Curtain
Our_days_with_Highway One began at Crescent City, California. Lying just across the California state border with Oregon, it is a small little town that we skirted in the Jedediah Redwoods State Park before finally setting our wheels on the smooth pavement of Highway One-oh-One. Within about a mile we shot (or perhaps struggled?) up a 1,500-foot climb on the coastal highway. Our sweat and toil was rewarded with our first truly spectacular view of the Pacific. Like all great roads, it would be easy on the eyes and hard on the legs.
Most nights we slept in our tent, as we always do. Terrible phenomena of cold and frost were finally behind us (or so we thought). We awakened most mornings to a rancher’s pasture or a closed campground and sat comfortably over our oatmeal in the gathering light. In the high North Country we usually woke up concerned with survival, de-icing the tent, and counting down the days to a famously warm and sunny California.
Bicycle touring through a region is always a process of mutual transformation. We leave few physical signs of our passing, but our impressions with local people and the friendships we form have some power to them. The places we ride through certainly don’t mark us (provided we don’t crash into them) but they linger in our hearts and legs. A few miles of sunshine and quiet road can reveal entirely new states of mind. I hate to admit it, but the edge of toughness can be dulled by too much comfort; and Northern California was pretty comfortable. We saw no rain or adverse weather conditions on some of the most beautiful road in the United States. We got a little bit soft, acclimated to a new kind of riding. Even now it is hard to fathom how we rode through the cold rain in the Yukon and British Columbia in nothing but short-sleeve jerseys and spandex. In some ways I think we were tougher then, simply because we had to be. I think a lot of life is like that.
All of California was a cultural revelation for us. I think we first realized how different North Dakota and California are when we saw that we had just missed the Love Goddess Festival of Mendocino County. North Dakota would never have a “Love Goddess Festival” and if they did it could only be during the month of July when it is warm enough for everyone to feel love again. Perhaps I should not describe the culture of my home state as monolithic, but in comparison to Northern California I cannot help but do so. Every few miles had us greeting atypical variants of hippies, blue-collar loggers, farmers, travelers, vagrants, pastors, and more. North Dakota has its own kind of wonderful diversity but you have to look a bit harder to find it. Northern California can be weird and wonderful and many other things all at the same time. Yet the constant of kindness remained; we’ll never forget meeting Janet on the road, a cyclist out for a late afternoon ride. We fly pretty fast as far as touring cyclists go. We passed her and managed to have her stumble upon us down the road while we were looking for directions in the soupy fog of Arcata’s coast. Within minutes she had offered to take us in. We met her husband Barry who is an avid surfer, and that evening we were sharing touring memories over pizza and beer. Amidst big landscapes it proves to be the little things that matter.