Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Solo PreRide

After kissing Yaney goodbye in Florence, OR, I had a pleasant ride down the coast with no premonition of what lay ahead of me. There were some challenges - seven devils - lots of other cyclists from around the world, and memories of my previous experiences along those roads.

Carol, my host in Trinidad was gracious and engaging. The hardest part of staying with her was leaving so soon. She fed me well and gave great advise about Google Maps for Bikes, suggesting that I stay on Hwy 299 because their alternative routes were much harder to ride.

The highway to Redding has five major climbs, each hotter than the last. I was proud to get over the first three, plus two harrowing descents in one day. I drank ten bottles of water and tested my limits. The potholes on the downhill shook off my headlight and loosened one pannier. Luckily I've got bombproof wheels. Phrank N. Bike is weird, but tough.

There were certainly times when I regretted the 90 pounds of equipment I straddled. Why had I chosen to bring all this stuff? Besides always having whatever I really needed, I was able to medicate a flagger suffering with serious allergies and rescue two motorcyclists who didn't have the tools they needed to fix their breakdowns. A daintier bike wouldn't have been able to ford the streams that Google Maps sent me through later between Redding & Chico. But weight equals work.

When I lay exhausted in my tent-sauna in the evening, I heard a voice just outside. The gentleman from the next tent, whose father-in-law had briefly tested my weak Spanish, was offering me tacos. Although I had eaten, I gratefully accepted. I haven't had so much red meat in years, but they sure hit the spot.

The next climb was better planned. Up at dawn, I made the west side of Oregon Mountain before the sun rose and crested Buckhorn Pass by noon. It was a great day to be alive and nobody to share it with. My cell was out of service for the first time this trip. Then two young women arrived, parked their pick-ups back to back, and started trading loads. They worked for two branches of the same company on opposite sides of the mountain. They filled my water bottles and shared a pizza with me.

Next I made a fun descent on switchbacks at about the same speed as the rest of traffic. The pavement was much smoother than what I'd been experiencing. Even the over-sized FWD pickups and huge RVs were nonthreatening, for a change. Downhills are my favorite part. This one isn't quite up with the side road through the Redwoods south of Crescent City, but it was refreshing.

It was a good day and I felt sure I could cover the miles to Red Bluff, where I had an invitation to camp in a yard. By the time it hit 106 degrees, I just wanted shade and water. I slept a bit in a day use area until the shadows covered the shoulder.

Somehow I forgot Carol's advise. Between ridiculous diversions from Google, Garmin's absolute inability to plan a sensible bike route, and my own baked brain, I spent much of the night wandering lost. At wit's end, I slept on the side of a rural freeway ramp, bike taillight still flashing, until the traffic sounds dimmed. Then I "cheated" for six miles of smooth wide shoulder. We need to pressure lawmakers to lift that ban.

I found my host's home at sunrise. She was in Canada, but left permission to camp. With the shade of a big fig tree and a well placed garden hose, I was clean and relatively refreshed for the final push into Chico.

Now I'm relaxing in the wonderfully supportive GRUB Collective - Growing Resourcefully Uniting Bellies. Today when he gets off work, I'll begin the next phase of the journey in the company of Ron Toppi, the founder of Bike4Peace.