13 – 22 Aug 2021
Today we are at Burlington campground. Right in the middle of the Avenue of the Giants. It’s a road 31 miles long that winds through Humboldt County and is surrounded by giant Redwood trees. Our campsite here has these trees towering over us all around. The sun only shines through in some places so it is cool here and well shaded. Not great for our solar panel charging or drying our laundry but the atmosphere here is one of calm and peace.
We are having a day off here. We have hand washed our clothes and they are hanging on the clothes line we have set up from the bear proof food locker to the fence. Our little tent is next to me and our stove is standing on the fire pit grill.
So far in August we have been camping every night except the first night of the trip when we stayed at a San Francisco airport motel. Our camping gear is good, we are happy with it especially here where it is cool and dry. The nights are not too cold are we are sleeping comfortably. Most nights we are in bed around 10pm and we normally wake before 8am. Even though we are waking up quite early we are taking a long time to get our gear packed up and loaded onto the bike. We need to sort out some things and see if there are some things that we can do without making it easier.
Our tent is a Decathlon Forclaz Trek 900 for 2 people. It seems well made and it’s easy to put up and down. I do wonder about how we will get on when the weather turns wet and cold. The tent is a bit cramped inside and we don’t have much space if we need to bring things out of the rain. The tent does have two vestibules for storing our panniers but there isn’t enough room if we want all our gear out of the rain. A 3-person tent would give us a lot more space but with added weight and bulk. Also it would need a bit more room when we are wild camping. I’m still not sure what to do about that yet. For now we will keep the tent but it’s in the back of my mind to change to something bigger.
Our sleeping bags are another thing which we will probably have to change at some point. They won’t be warm enough when the cold weather comes and they are also a bit bulky. Something lighter, that packs smaller and is warmer would be ideal. We are currently using Decathlon synthetic bags which are only rated to 10 deg celsius.
On the morning of 13th Aug we left Gualala and continued up the west coast towards the next stop that Rick had suggested to us. The Manchester KOA campground. KOA runs campgrounds all over the country and the one at Manchester is a good one. They have a pool and a hot tub. Laundry and showers. The shower rooms we used even had a lamp heater on a timer which is luxury in the evenings. Once the sun goes down it turns chilly and the heater is a useful addition.
Across from our KOA camp spot were parked a couple of big 40 foot RVs. They looked brand new and very smart. I saw the occupants sitting around their fire pit throwing big logs onto the fire. I was setting up camp and Gale was working the little stove we have for a cup of tea. Once the sun is down it’s cold and we were very happy to have been invited to go and enjoy the warm campfire. It was great to meet these two older couples Frank and Kathy and their long time friends Dwight and Terri. It was Frank’s birthday and they were just preparing muffins and ice cream as we came over so we very lucky to be able join them and we could share in the tasty dessert. Gale sang a Chinese version of Happy Birthday for Frank, everyone was happy even don’t know what gale was singing. We stayed at the fire chatting and shared stories until well after dark. They had traveled all the way from their homes in Florida and they are making the most of their retired life travelling the country and seeing so many different places. Next they will be heading for the hot air balloon festival in New Mexico. So great to see them enjoying the time with their friends and it was a pleasure to meet and spend time with them. Finally we headed back to our camp site to fry the steaks we had bought at the town just before Manchester.
Originally we had planned to stay only one night at Manchester but the lovely hot showers, other facilities and our new found friends made us want to stay longer so we stayed a second night. In the morning we did our laundry while we made use of the outdoor community kitchen. A great set up, it is a central platform with three cooking stations with an electric stove top and sinks. A nice touch where we could meet other campers and cook. Kathy came over to see us and invited us to join them for dinner! Pasta with pesto sauce was on the menu tonight. Oh delicious! They still had ice cream in the freezer so we would go to town and get us a pie for dessert.
We went for a bike ride down to the Point Arena Lighthouse. It was a cool foggy day so we didn’t see a lot. But it was nice to head back to the KOA and we went into the pool for a swim and then the hot tub for a warm soak. In the hot tub we met a couple and the young lady had many tattoos on her body. Very sexy, she is a motor biker and she shared stories about her tattoos and some of her biking experiences. One of the great parts of our journey is the people we are meeting. They have all been super friendly and open and they are all excited for our journey and happy to listen to our story as well as sharing their own.
Dinner that evening was delicious. Around the big campfire we had pasta with salad and sausages and a glass of wine. I even dressed up and put my shirt on! We were invited into the big RV’s for a tour. They are big and very luxurious. They have all the comforts of home and plenty of space for every thing you might need. They have a full size fridge/freezer, closets, big showers and even several TV’s so you can watch a movie from bed, in the lounge area or even outside so all your friends can pull up a chair and sit comfortably in the open air. The big RV’s are a great luxury but for us we would be perfectly happy in something a little smaller. Just one or maybe two TV’s is enough for us!
After our two nights at the Manchester KOA we carried on riding and headed to the Van Damme campground. Another very beautiful campground our spot was secluded and very quiet even though it was just next to the camp toilets and shower block.
From there we headed to Fort Bragg where we would eventually spend two nights.
Wifey was very helpful on the back of the tandem. Besides hard pedalling she also helped me find the fish and chips that I wanted. Google Maps is very useful for this kind of thing and it led us to Sea Pals where we could sit overlooking the water and enjoy a very good value meal of fish and chips.
Just north of Fort Bragg we rode along the coastal trail for a few miles towards the MacKerricher campground. On the way there we met a guy with his deck chair tied to the back of his bike. He had just finished work at the Fort Bragg Food Bank and he was taking his deck chair to go and sit in the ocean. That seems like a good life. Helping the poor at the food bank and then going to sit in the ocean. We watched him walk down the cliff side to the waters edge, strip off and change into his shorts and he started to dance in the ocean waves. Getting grounded and reconnecting with the earth is what he called it. It’s a pleasure to see the raw energy and expression of joy when you watch a man half naked dancing in the chilling waves of the Pacific Ocean.
That evening we walked out to the beach and watched the sun setting over the ocean.
In the morning we rode back south along the coast for three miles to have breakfast at Denny’s. We placed our orders and the waitress came back with several plates with all our food. We had eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast, pancakes and crepes. We finished it all. Hungry Cyclists!
After our big breakfast we headed further south into Fort Bragg to the phone shop as we needed to pay for our mobile service. As is our norm one of us goes into the store while the other waits outside watching the bike and our gear. That’s when Steve came over to talk to us. He asked us about our bike and our journey and he shared about his adventures kayaking on the ocean and riding around the country. As it happened he had come to the store to buy some cilantro for the big pot of chili he had just made. Gale was so happy to declare that we had some cilantro! So Steve very kindly invited us to his place for dinner and we could camp on his land. He has an acre very close to the ocean and we went for a walk with his dog, Cora. Finally we went down to the rocky shore and I got my feet wet. The Pacific Ocean is cold but refreshing. I was glad to stand in the waves and get my own connection to the ocean.
For dinner we had chili and our tortilla wraps. Jill, Steve’s partner works at the Van Damme campground that we had stayed in previously. We didn’t see her when we were there but she was the one who processed our payment envelope. The one we put into the box for after hours arrivals. We had a lovely evening of sharing and chatting with Steve and Jill in their lovely house.
Steve told us something that would be very useful for the next part of our ride. The Branscomb Road.
Our way northwards from Fort Bragg takes us to Leggett. And before Leggett there is a big long climb along a steep, busy, narrow and winding road. We’d heard about it before from other cyclists and I was not looking forward to it at all. Steve’s idea about the Branscomb Road certainly seemed worth investigating. It’s quite a bit longer and we would still need to make a climb to higher elevation but the road through the small town of Branscomb is much quieter and safer. A steep long climb is one thing. It’s not very pleasant but it’s something we can manage given enough time. But being winding, narrow and busy makes it dangerous. For the long climbs we have to stop very often and there are often no safe places to stop. But we don’t have a choice so we just have to stop. Even though the Branscomb Road is longer, safety takes priority so we decided to give that a try.
18th Aug we left Steve & Jill’s home and rode through Fort Bragg again. Soon enough we were at the junction to turn up Branscomb Road. It’s a very beautiful road. Narrow and steep but there are very few cars. For some of the very steep sections we could even zigzag our way uphill to lessen the steepness. But it is still a big long climb.
The cars that we saw were very few, just a handful, so it was easy to recognise the old pickup truck that passed us and then a few minutes later came back down again and stopped next to us.
So happy, the driver offered us a ride to the top of the hill! So kind and thoughtful, Kerry had seen us, turned his truck around and headed back down to save us the massive effort of climbing to the top of the hill. I’ve decided a while ago that if things like this come up then we will take the kindness on offer as long as we feel it is safe to do so. So we unloaded all our gear and loaded it into the back of the truck. There was no room for JB to lie in the back so we sat in the back as well and held onto the bike as we enjoyed the view and the ride. It is still a long ride to the top and I can’t imagine how long it would have taken us to ride it. Probably we would have run out of daylight before we made it to the top so Kerry really saved us from a big problem.
At the top of the hill we broke out into the sunshine and unloaded while we chatted. Kerry was struggling with the trials of life but it was so good that he was staying positive and focussed on the light at the end of the tunnel he was in.
From the top of Branscomb Road the descent is long and winds through some lovely forest lands. But we did eventually run out of daylight so before it got too late we searched for a safe quiet place that we could pitch our tent.
Happily we found a small path off the road that led to an opening in the trees. A clear area out of sight of the road that we could safely stay the night. I don’t remember what we had for dinner that night but I’m sure that it was good. We packed all our food into out bear proof canister and set it away from our campsite. We don’t want to be disturbed by a hungry bear or other animals during the night.
The next morning we continued our ride along Branscomb Road and finally made it out to the main road. At the junction we found a taco truck. We had a very tasty big burrito. So big I saved half for my dinner. That night we would stay at the Standish Hickey State Campground. Riding along sections of the main highway 101 and also we found some parts of the old highway. Renamed the 271 it was a delight to get off the main road and ride along the quiet road while we could still see and hear the traffic on the main 101.
From Leggett we rode to Garberville and stayed at the Dean Creek Campground. And from Garberville we rode our next section along a stretch of road that deserves to be world famous. the Avenue of the Giants.The road is a beautiful thirty mile tour through massive redwood trees. Within the redwood forests the temperature is cool and shaded. the feeling riding along that road amongst those huge old trees is really very special. It is a huge privilege to be able to ride quietly along slowly past these giants. Some of these trees have been standing there for hundreds even a thousand years. some can live up to two thousand years. Our own lives here and riding this little bike on this little tour it all seems rather insignificant! We would stay two nights at Burlington campground. A campground midway along the Avenue of the Giants. As our helpful guide, Rick told us – take your time along the Avenue.
It is one of the most beautiful roads in the world. If you have been I am sure you will agree. If you have not had the chance to go, then do try to get there one day. I’m sure the trees will still be there, standing tall and watching from way above.