Our Last Day Off — Upscale California Inns and Barking Sea Lions

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Redwood River Resort to WestPort 55.41 kms
WestPort to Fort Bragg 25.95 kms
Fort Bragg to Manchester Beach 65.08 kms
Manchester Beach to Gualala 34.82 kms

We’re almost there. It seems fitting to commemorate the ‘last day off’ as our days off have played a big role in the overall trip. We have been pretty consistent in our pattern of cycling for three days and then taking a day off and I’ve come to count on that pattern to let my quads recover. I’ve had lots of breakthrough days right after a day off, noticing that I am climbing more easily than I was the week before…or feeling really, really strong for the first 30 or 35 kms of a ride.

And tomorrow is the last day off…day after tomorrow we cycle to Bodega, a big day for me at 73 km with lots of hills; after that we head to Samuel P Taylor State Park and at some point during that ride get off highway 1 and start cycling on a bike route on Marin County trails. On our last day, we cycle through the ‘suburbs’ of San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge. We expect to be in San Francisco on Monday.

We had thought about dawdling even longer out here as our flight isn’t until a week Sunday and San Francisco is kind of expensive. But we’ve found that nothing is cheap this close to San Francisco and so we are just accepting that this part of our year-long trip has cost more than we planned. I take it as a challenge to write a few travel articles and do some cost cutting in cheaper places in the world and other financial juggling to make up the difference.

In the meantime, we are enjoying our second upscale California inn here in Gualala (Breaker Inn). We’ve got a four-poster bed, a fireplace and deck with a view of the ocean and tomorrow we get upgraded to an even bigger room and deck plus a Jacuzzi (for same price because we have to move). We had a great stay in WestPort at the WestPort Hotel, a treat after the 6 km long Leggett hill climb. The pub made a great crab fettuccine alfredo and we toasted having climbed the highest hill on the trip with two pints of California micro-brewery IPA.

The descent of the Leggett hill marked the end of the redwoods, a magical ride on a spectacularly sunny day. I think there may have been a break through for me on that hill…I understand that my challenge is more psychological than it is physical and I’ve had less anxiety on the last few rides as a result of accepting that. And that, not the physical challenge, is my real challenge and the understanding that I hope to extrapolate to other parts of my life. (But don’t get me wrong…the hills are still a physical challenge :-0 There are very few people out here moving as slowly as I am. Coyote and another guy Ian calls Whiskey Jack come to mind…they are both over 60 and smoke!)

The end of the Leggett descent took us out of the forest and into dry headlands covered in windswept grasses on the ocean side of the road and cattle ranches on the east side. It was after WestPort that we climbed switchbacks, stopping at cliff-side vista points to look out at the Pacific. Since then it’s continued to be a combination of cattle ranches and cliffs broken by the odd inland stretch of pine forest.

Today began as a challenge as my stomach was upset for some unknown reason for the first 25 kms. The traffic, which has been relatively light compared to the 101 has picked up and the combination of the odd bad driver and the lack of any stretch of flat road had me fighting being grumpy again. But the views were so amazing I forgot the bad drivers after every vista. And I was able to forget my stomach completely when I rounded a corner and heard sea lions barking. As I wound through a stretch of pine forest I caught glimpses of a huge sea stack that must have been covered with sea lions given how loud the barking was. Too far for me to actually see them but close enough for me to hear them – they got me grinning again.

This is the California I know and love – the wild pampas grass and brown hills, cattle ranches, Napa Valley wines, well-kept and prosperous small artsy towns, Spanish spoken everywhere, and great Mexican food.

And hey we got here on our bikes!

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