The long road from San Francisco to Eureka was taken and throttled by Keys to Freeze. There were moments of joy in every day but on the whole I would describe our ride into Northern California an unpleasant one. The miles were just too many, the roads too narrow, and the drivers too mean. Life grows more difficult when you wonder about every blind turn, every passing truck, every broken bottle that fills your tires with crushed glass. There is a weight there, pressing you into your saddle, chafing at your skin. In the 340 miles since San Francisco I’ve developed what I must call my worst case of saddle sores. Remember Mustafar, the volcanic planet of Star Wars? It’s like the boils of Mustafar down there. Every pedal stroke is painful. It feels as if I’m trying to light a fire with my crotch. I stand and ride and my quads cramp. I sit and feel a chamois-shaped cutting of my sensitive skin. There is no relief, except for my day off today. I am currently sitting up on a long padded plank looking over the high country of Arcata, happy to not be in the rain and around the mosquitos that populate this lush climate. Our hosts, Wendy and Mike, put us up at the last minute when our contacts in Eureka came down suddenly with the flu. Brady and Rachel and Tyler sleep all about me, farting occasionally, startling the Bob the bunny rabbit, Wendy’s preferred pet.
I may just be grumpy because I am too timid to make the morning coffee. It would surely wake everybody up and then I’d start the day off as the local pariah. Yuck. Maybe it’s because every time I shift my weight around I threaten to pop a ponderously heavy zit nestled deep within my gluteal folds. Maybe it’s because I’m the one who planned this section of the road and this section of the road is kicking my chapped butt northward. I could just be a baby. Maybe.
I will say this – the landscape leaving San Fran has been amazing. Every morning we start there are fog and heavy clouds covering the valley ceiling in a drear shading. Yet the sun burns away the gray and our day is thus cast in gold, the bright sun falling into the dry fields. There are steep and small mountains poking up all along the coast. We ride into valleys and over these ranges, winding our ways along these busy thoroughfares. I understand why California has been ‘the destination’ for the past two decades. It is stunning. You pay the premium with the taxes but they might be worth the view.
On our first day back on the road we met and stayed with the west coast leg of Climate Ride, one of the two non-profits we’re representing with Keys to Freeze. We gave a talk about our tour, ate some bombing out catered fare, and listened to three speakers discuss terrestrial and aquatic climate change. I camped that night with 170 folks interested in bicycles and the environment, and shared a sausage breakfast with them the next morning. It was an amazing experience, being part of an organization that is bigger than you, one that embodies the change you hope to create through action. Keys to Freeze was but a small part of the Climate Ride mission yet we felt at home with the people we met and talked to. Thank you Climate Ride for letting us stay with you!
The next three days were but waking whirlwinds. We woke at 6, rode at 8, and never stopped longer than an hour to rest. Our rides would end by 7 and we would hang out with our hosts – Nancy & Tom, Joe, Wendy & Mike – through dinner and fall asleep at 10 to rinse and repeat. I remember pieces of these days but few details other than our ride into Arcata when we rode through the Avenue of the Giants, and Tyler and I ate at a Chinese Buffett.
The Avenue of the Giants is a huge acreage of protected redwood forest. Altogether it has seven times the biomass of a tropical rainforest. It is amazing, and we spent 30 miles weaving our ways through the trees.
Then our day turned hard. Dreadfully hard, and in need of a break Tyler and I decided to, at long last, commit ourselves to shoving as much Chinese food in there as possible.
And this happened.
And now we’re here, and I’m sleepy, and really wishing I had just made the coffee because now a fresh cup would be ready for me. Oh well. Maybe instead I’ll just rub more chalky paste onto my tenders and fall back asleep on my stomach until the world wakes up around me.
* You know, after reading through this text again I’ll say this – it has been a good four days. Climate Ride, the Avenue of the Giants, and our hosts have made this experience possible. So don’t let me sour it up. I am happy, and relaxed, and inside, and have a full belly from last night and a full tube of butt butter for today. Life is good. Life is great. I am lucky to be here, and I won’t forget that as the road continues its way north.