Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A side trip to the Redwoods

At 6 am it was hard to believe the radio weather forecast; they were claiming a high of 100 degrees in the valley while we were getting dressed into bike gear with the heating on full blast. It was just 5 degrees up at 6,500 feet but we knew from the day before when we'd hiked a 13 mile route up in the mountains, that once the sun had been up a while it would soon warm up.
Sure enough two hours into the ride when we were down at sea level it was 86 degrees at 09:00 and we were happy to have packed light for our overnight trip to Redwood National Park on the northern Californian coast.

The scenery on the way down the mountain was very much like it had been the day before; only because of the early hour it was like someone had turned up the contrast, the sharpness, the colour and the brightness; or just dusted and polished the whole day. Everything stood out so much more, the greens were bolder, the sky bluer, the snow cleaner and the water in the rivers looked like one of those photos taken with a slow shutter speed where the water blurs soft against the sharp surroundings. The alpine air even tasted clean.

We'd been told about the road from Interstate 5 to the coast and I'd read about it on a motorcycling web-site; it was alledged to be the best biking road in California. And it is!
The route of the road made absolutely no sense at all and could have only been designed by a biker; or copied from a child's first scribbling. (Non bikers talk amongst yourselves for a minute...) The sign was a 'twisty roads' yellow triangle that promised bends for the next 140 miles and that promise was fulfilled; the first 80 miles or so was slightly undulating and winding and open - the road could have been flat and straight but the engineers were obviously practicing for when they had to build it through/over the coastal mountain range, and the surface was race-track smooth. The mountains were the same only more so; steeper and twistier - perfect; no traffic, no police; I could go on all day...

The shock was riding down to sea level after the coastal range and seeing nothing but thick grey clouds below us; we hadn't seen cloud for weeks, (or was it months?) and as it got colder nearing the sea we realised that dressing for what we thought was appropriate for the Californian coast in late June was a mistake. We stopped in the first town we came to, Eureka, for lunch and to warm up in a cafe and had the biggest b-b-q pork sandwich imaginable; the pork was more like what we call bacon and there must have been a pound of meat in each roll! But it was hot and filling and what better on a cold seaside day than an overdose of bacon butty after a 250 mile ride?

Further up the coast we checked into a cheap(ish) motel in a town called Arcata, turned the heating up to full and went for a walk round town to warm up; both of us wearing all our layers - of light summer wear! The town was small and quaintly old but seemed very 'off season' for late June so we killed a couple of hours browsing any shop that seemed warm from the door way until we stumbled into an old theatre that had been turned into a modern day cinema inside (and watched Oceans Thirteen - highly recommended by the way!); a perfect way to while away a couple of hours till dinner!

The next day we rode up to Redwood National Park (our 4th National Park since getting back into America a month ago, and our 21st park (out of 58) since starting the trip 2.5 years ago) and drove the scenic route amongst some of the tallest trees in the world, reaching the dizzing heights of 357 feet (over 100 ft taller than the Statue of Liberty!). Well not actually through the middle of the trees themselves; there is one tree you can drive through that had been hollowed through some years ago. There is also a felled tree that someone has hollowed out and turned into a home; the wood shavings from within which have been used elsewhere to make a normal sized 5 bedroom house!

We stopped for lunch at a local micro-brewery at the base of the mountains happy in the knowledge that for once the weather would get warmer as we went uphill! A couple of hours later it was back up to blue skies and 3 figure temperatures!
We took a different route home; not as empty or winding but just as scenic and after already riding 100 miles that morning, a slightly shorter route of just 230 miles; making the two day ride 380 miles altogether.

getting back home was like returning from a great weekend away in the real world; mechanical jobs to do on the RV, housework to catch up on, packing up to leave the next morning... real world, how will we ever cope???

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