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The Good, the Bad and Shitty Crescent City

[slideshow]

Port Orford Oregon to Gold Beach Oregon 44.6 km
Gold Beach Oregon to Harris Beach State Park Oregon 43.94 km
Harris Beach State Park Oregon to Crescent City California 48.48 km
Crescent City California to Elk Prairie Campground California 23.97 km
Elk Prairie Campground California to Arcata California 70 km

Our ride from Port Orford to Harris Beach State Park was beautiful, showing off the Oregon coastline at its best. We were jubilant on the ride to Crescent City as we crossed the California border.

Tonight we are happily lodged at the Arcata Hotel in what looks to be a great small town. We also enjoyed a wilderness camp after a beautiful ride through the redwoods yesterday. Both experiences a nice antidote to one of the more depressing towns I have ever been in.

So starting with the bad and moving to the sublime…

We stayed at Harris Beach Campground our last night in Oregon. We ran into our friend Anita again and another guy named Jarrod who has some great cycling tales from his six years of travelling around the US on his bike. We also met a man named Stephen, close to our age, who told us some rather weird details about himself: that he has stage 2 pancreatic cancer that has moved to his kidneys and liver and how despite that he still manages the odd 70 mile day; and that he started his bike trip in Boston in December! He knew a lot about our next destination, Crescent City, which was a bit odd as he was travelling south and so should not really have been there yet. His tent was huge for one person travelling on a bike and he didn’t have panniers. He told us his ‘rig’ had been stolen in Seattle so he was making due. He had befriended Anita and seemed a bit besotted…she was oblivious to what became obvious to us…he was a homeless guy pretending to be a cyclist, simply to fit into the community.

Ian and I rode into Crescent City the next day passing into California (yay!) We had decided Crescent City would be a rest day as we had ridden for three and were facing the dreaded Crescent City Hill the next ride. The budget motel we stayed in was right ‘downtown’ across from the beach and RV park and campground. I think we were the only residents the first night, other than the owner’s son who seemed to hang around his room with sketchy looking friends smoking out of a sketchy looking pipe. The streets were mostly empty of pedestrians. The only people on the move were homeless guys on bikes…just like our friend Stephen whom we later saw at a bus stop with his bike. The city was grey, run-down and down-right depressing.

While checking out any possible routes that would avoid the highway we were told by a California parks guy that there is a bus that goes from Crescent City to Klamith, allowing us to skip the big hill ride. He said many people do the ride but he can’t see how it would be any fun as the road is narrow and traffic heavy and the climb long and steep. This echoed the Newport Bike shop owner’s experience, a guy who had just completed the ride to San Francisco and who said the Crescent City climb was his worst experience on the trip and he would bypass it and get the bus next time.

So we got up at 6 am to get the 6:30 bus and happily drove over the big climb and three summits…the road was narrow and under construction and we were glad to have given it a pass.

I was so happy I forgot about the second climb out of Klamtih on Highway 101. (I realize now that I never could have done the Crescent Hill climb and then faced another 900 foot climb right after). I was grouchy by the time we got to the Newton Drury Parkway turnoff and grumbled to Ian about how I wasn’t getting into shape fast enough and wondering if I could really do this trip etc. etc. He did his best to remind me we are two thirds of the way through and then cycled off. I followed, still climbing and cursing.

It took awhile for the clarifying air of those big redwoods to start shifting my attitude. But finally, I stopped a hundred metres from the top of the climb and finally noticed where I was – in the middle of a forest of giant trees – ancient redwoods. There was no traffic and I was alone in this grand, grand, silent world. The internal grumbling subsided and I slowly made my way down a very long descent, in silent awe, feeling like I think we are meant to feel in church.

I arrived at the turnoff to the Elk Praire Campground in an entirely different mood. The campground was also beautiful and more of a wilderness experience than most so far. We met Jarrod again and two other women cycling solo. I really appreciate the guts of these girls – it is more common than I thought for women to be out here on bikes on their own but that doesn’t take away my admiration for their courage.

The ride to Arcata was a little grueling (California, even on the ‘easy’ ride days is hilly and that is going to be a big challenge for me all the way to San Francisco, a challenge compounded by traffic conditions). Fortunately Ian found a side route off the 101. The 101 becomes a freeway on and off for the next few rides and despite wide shoulders the traffic is really intimidating. The side route Ian found was great: at first a bike path along the beach, paralleling the 101, then a bike path through woods and finally along a series of country roads winding around farms.

We rode into town and were euphoric to find a vibrant downtown built around a plaza, a place with stores not up for lease, a place with people walking around enjoying the day, a place without the grey parade of lost homeless souls on bikes.

We were downright giddy at dinner once we checked into the Arcata hotel, on the plaza and built in 1915. The hotel has been maintained properly and it is a lovely respite where we get to take another day off, this time to deal with a stuck seat post which may require a welder and a new seat post.

It will take some serious Zen practice for me to manage the rest of the rides in California. One pedal at a time…

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