Pacific Coast Tour: Day 13

Day 13: Gualala Point Regional Park, Gualala, CA to Samuel P. Taylor State Park, Lagunitas, CA


Approximate daily mileage ~ 90 miles

Approximate total mileage ~ 1,123 miles

Approximate daily elevation gain ~ 5,100 feet

Approximate total elevation gain ~ 48,300 feet

The large and well used picnic table served as one excellent bed as I had a great sleep after such a long distance ridden yesterday. The overnight temperature was very mild and my bivy provided great shelter from the dense mosquito population. By the time I woke up, the man from Austria had already departed. I was left with the entire hiker/biker campsite to myself. As usual, I took my time carefully gathering and packing my things. Although, this day was different. During the time I was packing a man approached me and offered for me to join him and his family at their campsite for breakfast.

Their campsite was just across the small road in the campground. They apparently saw me arrive the previous night, and they observed that I slept on the picnic table. The man’s name was Carlheinz. He, his wife, and two high school aged children were from Germany. They had taken a month to tour a good portion of the Pacific Coast and Pacific Northwest. It turned out that Carlheinz and his wife really enjoyed cycling as well and had done a great deal of touring about Europe. They frequently hosted people cycling around Germany at their home and offered for me to do the same in the future. As we conversed we had a breakfast of sausage, toast with jam, and tea. All was delicious, and the hot tea was a treat. What a pleasant and warm family! We exchanged contact information and both moved on toward beginning the day’s plans. I could not thank them enough for their warm gesture.

As I returned to my camp and was gathering the last of my things it came time to pack the remaining food. It is always best to store food in the bear/raccoon proof storage containers, and this is where I had placed everything in the dark the previous night. As I picked out the last of the items from the container I noticed a message carved into that shelf. The message read, “PEDAL HARD AND SMILE WIDE”. From that point forward that message really stuck with me. I’ll be the first to admit that up until that point the trip had a lot of great moments and also moments where a smile was not to be found. Although during that moment, that day, and throughout the entire remainder of the trip I couldn’t help but think - What could more aptly fit this day and the entire trip in general? Nothing. It was just right.

Indeed, it was an eventful day, and the ride hadn’t even begun yet! As if that wasn’t enough, there was one other very rare astronomical event. It was the day of a total solar eclipse! This is something that millions of people across North America had been awaiting and planning. I was no different. August 21st, 2017 was highlighted on my calendar nearly a year in advance. As I peered up at the sky there was a thick layer of clouds. There was a slim chance on the coast in this area to observe the eclipse. I still held out some hope. Even though, if it wasn’t visible through the clouds this day was already more than gratifying.

Around 10 am it was time to begin the day’s journey south. The pace for the day was slow and steady as I was making a great effort to cover a good distance toward San Francisco so I could have a relatively short way to go the next day and have some much needed rest. After covering well over 100 miles the previous day, my legs were far from feeling fresh. That, combined with frequent steep and winding roads, provided for another great and challenging day in the saddle of my trusty bicycle. The beginning of this day again felt very rural seeing little of the ocean at times and likely the fewest cars I would encounter on any single day of the entire trip.

The first stop was after about 20 miles on Highway 1 when I stopped at Ocean Cove General store. There I made a mini-feast of cinnamon rolls topped with peanut butter and a side of carrots. From that point Highway 1 returns to closely parallel the coast. What followed was approximately 28 miles of breathtaking scenery and breathtakingly steep hills combined with about 10 hairpin descents. I have yet to see the entire world, but if I had to make a guess I’d say this is a stretch of world class cycling any enthusiastic road cyclist would enjoy.

That stretch continues until the town of Bodega Bay which has a few restaurants and stores as expected in a small town. The supply of cinnamon rolls, peanut butter, and carrots continued to satisfy my appetite as I continued onward past town. Then the route of Highway 1 turns back inland and passes the tiny establishments of Valley Ford and Tomales. Shortly after Tomales more water is eventually seen as the road is directly adjacent to Tomales Bay. By this time the wind had picked up, and it was one of the rare times it was a straight-on head wind. The day was growing older. Even without being able to see the sun hidden behind the clouds the entire day, it was still clear our nearest star was quickly lowering beyond in the sky.

In hopes of reaching a campground for the night, I continued on. Finally, the town of Point Reyes Station appeared. What a welcoming sight this was! I had heard from Carlheinz that Point Reyes was a perfect town to stop and grab a coffee or pastry at one of their bakeries. It was a little late in the day for coffee (or so I thought at the time), and there were plenty of other restaurants and shops to grab something for supper. Point Reyes Station had a really cool essence as it still remains in my mind as a place which would be desirable to return. Toward the edge of town I came upon a sandwich and pizza place named, Whale of a Deli. It didn’t look like much on the inside, but they made one delicious and extremely large fresh burrito for me. While they carefully crafted it, I devoured some ice cream and sipped iced tea. When they handed me the burrito it felt like it weighed nearly 4-5 lbs! Into the backpack it went.

At this point I still wasn’t exactly sure where I was going to stay for the night, and it was nearly 7 pm. I called a campground not far out of town and asked them for availability. They had a tent site available, but it was $44. Having paid only $5 for top-notch state campgrounds in Oregon, $44 seemed awfully pricey. After talking with a local and checking my maps, there happened to be a state park, Samuel P. Taylor State Park, about a 10 mile ride out of town taking a road off Highway 1. It still wasn’t clear if they had hiker/biker campsites or reservation only, but it seemed like it was worth a try and really the best option at that point in time.

A couple more hills were in store for the ride out. It seemed really quiet with very few cars all the way out there. Any worries were quickly alleviated as gigantic redwood trees made another appearance and soon enough followed by the campground entrance. The office was closed after hours, but there were self pay envelopes. It was only $7. Perfect! So I wrote a check for $7 and pedaled into the campground. Sure enough, they even had a hiker/biker campsite. It was an impressive campground. There were numerous sites spread about and all were surrounded by a dense forest of tall redwood trees. I quickly came across the hiker/biker site and was welcomed by the site of three other cyclists already there. 

It was always great to have the company of other like-minded cyclists at the end of a long day on the road. They knew exactly what it’s like and had their own experiences to share. Oftentimes, they had great lessons or pointers as well. For example, two of the three cyclists at this campsite were from London. Their cycling journey began in Boston, Massachusetts. They rode all the way across the US to Seattle and south from there! They were planning to finish their trip in LA before flying back to the UK. The other fellow was also from the UK. He flew to Vancouver, bought a bike and all of his gear, and then started his journey toward San Diego from there. We all took turns trading stories. While the British guys were cooking a meal over their camp stove I was able to enjoy that massive burrito from Whale of a Deli, and it was absolutely delicious. The final decision of the night was where to sleep. We were all sharing the one picnic table, and there happened to be the most majestic redwood directly in the middle of the site. It was decided. I’d sleep right beside that tree sheltered from wind by the wide trunk and under its large overhanging canopy. Trying to savor the moment, I stayed up by myself far later than I should have. For all being well, tomorrow would end in San Francisco and Oakland.