Back in the Swing (USA 118-120)
We rested the ankle for two more days atop the hill, surrounded by redwoods and generosity. But the south was calling, and there’s only so much kindness you can take before feeling like you ought to do something to earn it.
The cycle into Crescent City was downhill (mainly), through age-old redwoods that towered over us very patiently. Their size is staggering, and no picture will ever truly convey that (not least because by the time you’ve got far away enough to get the whole tree in the viewer, there’s more trees in the way), but what I also struggle to show is the peace of these forests. They retain this permanent damp alongside the quiet of a conversation that’s been well-and-truly had, and there’s nothing else to say on the matter thank you very much. The redwoods stand there clustered together, all in agreement, and we’re left to only guess at their conclusions.
Crescent City had all the usual shops, where we stocked up on all the usual yoghurts and collected a few bike bits from the post office, most notably a fresh round of brake pads to replace our squealy ones. Amy’s are far squealier than mine, which either means that she uses her brakes more, or they’re easier to scare.
The hill out of town wasn’t nearly as hard as the general public made it out to be. We climbed through forest (not quite as old as the one earlier, but equally peaceful) and descended into Klamath, an Indian Reservation town with a feeling of not-quite-being-anywhere-at-all. We worked our way through two coffees next to a table of homeless women and watched a touring cyclist sheepishly climb aboard a bus while trying not to meet our gaze. I wanted to tell him that we’d done the same not two days back, but the moment never arose.
There are many, many cyclists on this route – far more than the TransAm. It’s not surprising, given the regular incredible views, but the local populace’s reaction to us is far more apathetic than we experienced coming across the country. Perhaps it’s because each town has its own booming tourist trade thanks to the fishing/sailing/surfing that already exists, so we’re a mere drop in the ocean compared to that. While there are plenty of (lovely!) WarmShowers hosts, there isn’t the same cycling community along the route. In fact, most tourers barely give each other a smile as they pass, whereas we’re used to full-body-embracing any TATter we meet, sharing both maps and Instagram handles, riding together for a week and promising to visit each other when this whole mad experience is over.
We nipped west off the 101 and headed towards the coast, into one of the many blobs of forest reserve that call themselves, collectively, Redwoods National Park. We climbed gingerly for some time, protecting the ankle the best we could, until the roar of the ocean tumbled forward to meet us and we found ourselves riding north, on a tiny gravel road, towards our campsite. Flint Ridge was a quarter of a mile off this tiny road, up a muddy footpath so steep that I burned more calories pushing the bikes up than I had for the rest of the day combined. At the top, we made house in a little clearing with views of the sea, and sat back with a beer to watch the sun set into it.
For the time being, we’ll be doing fewer miles, but going by today, we’ll be seeing just as much. Good!