And so it begins
Packing, eating, more eating, and more packing as I transit from Maine to San Francisco where Erik, Andrew and Myself set out to bike the California Lost Cost. The trip would span 500 or so miles from Crescent City Oregon down to San Francisco. While most people travel the ACA Pacific Coast Route, we had other plans. The goal was to string together a series of roads, trails, and jeep tracks to take us off the beaten path and get us out into areas of the coastline that have been largely abandoned since the building of route 1.
San Francisco to Crescent City
Coffee would become a central theme as we traveled the coast
We flew into Crescent City where we planned on putting the bikes together and then making the short trip into town for supplies and a good nights rest. We never could have anticipated what the airline would do to my bike box!
A motley Crew
Nobody told me skinny tires were allowed. Each of us came with uniquely different bikes. Erik on his Salsa Vaya was perhaps best suited to the trip as planned. Andrew on his skinny tired steed would be at a distinct disadvantage on any of the rough stuff, while I, on my Salsa Mukluk would be thrilled when it got rough but left in the dust on all other terrain. The hills and my 4 inch tires would prove to be an extreme personal and physical challenge
the trip begins
Despite the airlines best attempt at destroying my bike, we managed to get everything put together with no 'known' issues, something we would later discover to not be entirely the case. The first ride out saw clearing skies and bright spirits, the kind of excitement that each and every trip begins with.
We left the hotel with such positive thoughts about what we were attempting to accomplish. A self supported trek along the lost coast, made up of old trails, broken roads, and the occasional beat of pavement. That was our intention, but like all good trips, reality struck hard and fast. The route, up and into a section of forest, proved to be wet and difficult from the start. Working our way through the wet overgrowth we were eventually treated to a trail that followed an old road, giving us our first taste of the beauty and solitude we craved.
Oh the view
A view that would set the stage for all views to come
Up, up, up
Themes begin to arise from the first moment. Most of the coast is up, then down, then up again... Food would be critical and consumed in massive amounts. Nothing would be as planned.
Having traveled thousands and thousands of miles on my bike, I was sad to say, this hill was the first that ever caused me to walk. A moment that I won't soon forget.
Barns for Jason
Erik and I both felt compelled to shoot barns along the way as we searched for the perfect shot, an ode to our good friend JB. Note the increasing size of Erik's rear camera pack. As the trip progressed, Erik found the need to stuff more and more into the ever expanding bag.
repairs, food, food, food
Yep, that little hint that all was not well with my Muk turned out to be true. The damaged box had bent my derailleur hangar necessitating a bike store stop. Not that there is ever anything wrong with stopping at bike shops on any given tour. In this instance, the Universe proved how we are all connected with the shop mechanic being an old friend of Andrews.
words not required
Why is Mexican food and beer so important to any good and epic, bike tour?
From down under
Camped at the fairgrounds just outside of town, we had Mexican that night and then an opportunity for a huge breakfast the following morning. Little did we know that the art of making friends and finding traveling companions was just now beginning.
skinny tires and hills
The pure elevation grade combined with my fat tires and Erik & Andrew's skinny tires, left me at an extreme disadvantage. Needless to say, I brought up the rear the entire time, but always found the energy to catch up, proving that sometimes slow ain't so bad after all.
It was one of the most challenging climbs of the entire trip. Cresting the summit, we were greeted with broken asphalt and a view of the coast as far as the eye could see. This was what we were searching for.
the lost coast
"The Lost Coast is a mostly natural and development-free area of the California North Coast in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, which includes the King Range. It was named the “Lost Coast” after the area experienced depopulation in the 1930s. In addition, the steepness and related geo-technical challenges of the coastal mountains made this stretch of coastline too costly for state highway or county road builders to establish routes through the area, leaving it the most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast. Without any major highways, communities in the Lost Coast region such as Petrolia, Shelter Cove, and Whitethorn remain secluded from the rest of California" -- Wikipedia
all to ourselves
This stretch of coast, barren and undeveloped, represented the peacefulness and the solitude we were looking for. The coastal range on our left and the Pacific on our right guaranteed that we would be alone for miles and miles of pristine sea shore, nothing more than the warm sun on our faces and cool sea breeze on our shoulders.
finally some flat ground
The need for flat ground is profound when all you are doing is climbing and descending. That type of terrain never allows for rest, both physical and mental rest. Finally reaching a stretch of coastline, we all took a deep breath and soaked in the cool sea breeze paired with warm sun and the lightly rolling road ahead.
three becomes five
As we cruised along the coast we saw a pair of bikes, parked on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. We all looked, but did not really give it a second thought. We were tired and lost in our own sense of peace as we cruised along the broken coast. That afternoon we found a small cafe where we could fill our water bottles and our bellies. As we sat, smelly, dirty, ravenously eating our food, a young couple pulled in on their own bikes. We quick realized that these were the two from back on the coast. As all good cyclists do, we invited them to join us and relished in meeting other cyclists in this remote area. After lunch, we roughly laid out where we were headed and what our camping intentions were, but in reality never imagined that we would see them again. Later that evening, already settled into camp, Ryan and Elisha rolled in and joined us, forever changing the shape and dynamics of our little adventure. Three had now become five, life long friends in the making.
always, always last
I swear, it really did not bother me, well, at least most of the time. Ok, honestly, traveling with a group, being last all the time just sucked. Always made it, but dang, just to be in the front one time!
up then down
We had no idea that the entire trip would be a constant ebb and flow of climbing and then descending with very little opportunity to recover.
A gaggle of five into the redwoods
camped in the redwoods
One of the most amazing privileges that you can ever experience. This is now the second time I have had the joy and the honor of sleeping beneath these giants and I can say with the utmost conviction, there are no words to describe the energy that is emitted from these living breathing giants.
more skinny tires
They were traveling as a pair, lightly loaded, doing the little CC touring thing. We met them at the top of a pass, one of those spots where everyone stops because you are simply spent from the brutal grinding climb. The type of climb with a steep grade and a series of twists and turns, each of which you are convinced is the last, the top must be there, right around that next bend. After introductions, some small talk and the much needed snack, we agreed to meet up down the road for lunch and possibly a beer. We caught up with them a little while later at one of the few outposts on this stretch of coast, a sort of deli, wine, and supply shop that all cyclists dream of finding. Again, food, bikes and new found friends were the order of the day.
Descending back down to the Pacific, Erik leads the way.
It did not take long before Andrew, his skinny tires, and 'Calves of Doom' took over to constantly lead the pace. Having made the switch to a road based tour, Andrew now had the bike of choice. I was again doomed to bring up the rear.
The tourist season was effectively over which meant closed campgrounds. Having cycled all day with the intent of camping at the park, only to find out it was closed, we were forced to grab a small room and make the best of it. A local market provided true California comforts, wine, bourbon, cheese, meats, good coffee and an evening fire.
flats, englishmen, campgrounds
Poor Ryan just could not get his flat tire to hold a patch, and yet, he still kept staying ahead of me. Along the way, we ran into this lovely English couple who were stopped on the roadside taking in Tea. We saw them a bit later on what was one of the most challenging stretches of road. A long series of steep climbs that repeated themselves one after another. You could imagine this stretch of road as a massive roller coaster built by some engineer who despised cyclists.
needing a little help
To say that none of us wanted to pedal out of the bay, up and over the pass and then back down, just to start our final day of riding, well, that is an understatement. Instead, we relied on the kindness of strangers as we bummed a ride up, over, and down to the local bakery. This allowed us to fuel up with coffee and pastries before starting the final push to the city.
The natural tension that can build during a trip, as each person experiences a range of emotions, rapidly fades away as the thought of home, showers, more food, and the warm embrace of loved ones begins to take center stage in the weary traveling soul.
the final push
After getting that much needed lift out of the campground, up over the pass, Andrew took over and led us home.
Never before has a coke tasted so good. We arrived in San Francisco as a group of five dear friends. The power of the bike to connect humans is still, to this day, one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced.
one bike to rule them all
It is my sincere belief, that as an adventurer by bike, if I could only own a single bike, it would be the Salsa Ti Mukluk. While I love the Salsa Fargo for what it does, the fact remains that if your goal is to go wherever you please using only two wheels, the Mukluk is the only bike that will take you everywhere. It may not be the fastest or the lightest, but it will take you wherever your heart and legs desire.