Redward Woodward (USA Day 117)
I loved staying at Karen’s chaotic and wonderful home with its half-remembered Nordic nut biscuits and metal cans of cannabis ankle balm, but we knew it was time to leave when I oversaw a topless Bill, leather-skinned and silver-haired, snarfling a handful of the freshly-baked dog food, still hot from the oven, with his fingers.
We added a few miles to the day’s itinerary: 25 to make Hiouchi, a tiny town just east of Crescent City, California, nestled in redwood forests and hidden from Highway 101. Our bodies, or at least all of them except Amy’s ankle, were dying for more. We’d both gladly have ridden a century today, but as Anne Robinson taught us, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Just like yesterday, we rode slowly and took regular breaks on windy outcrops, overlooking the ocean wherever possible. The ankle is getting better. It no longer produces winces and hisses: the worst it gets is a groaned, “I think I can feel it,” from Amy, which prompts another stop and some emergency almonds.
As soon as we left the 101, we plunged deep into forests that absorbed the heat and light from the sky, leaving us damp and wide-eyed. Occasionally, we’d spot a redwood hiding amongst the others: its rough, ribboned bark twisting upwards to peaks that our eyes couldn’t follow. The forest absorbed our sound, too. We pedalled silently, a sparkling cold pressing on our skin, until our turning came far too soon. This new climate, like the beaches and the deserts and the mountains and the high plains and the river valleys and the flooded farmland that came before it, has taken our breath away.
Our host, Thomas, lived at the top of a hill steep enough for three of our four legs to get really excited, and one of them get pretty scared. We compromised, two of the legs riding the hill and two waiting at the bottom for Thomas to pick them up. His beautiful house, built-to-order and utterly off the grid, overlooks forested hills that curve away to the sea. We plan to rest again, with the hope that once we set off for good, Amy’s ankle will have done all the healing it needs.
There’s an optimism about this injury that wasn’t there even yesterday. It’s improving as fast as we could possibly hope, and for the first time neither of us believe that this tour’s over. It’s been yet another challenge on this trip, this time physical (for once) but we’re about to emerge the other side rested, slightly chubbier, a little bit behind schedule and with one leg visibly larger than the other.