Pacific Coast Tour: Day 10
Day 10: Elk Prairie Redwood State Park, Orick, CA to Stafford, CA
Approximate daily mileage ~ 88 miles
Approximate total mileage ~ 859 miles
Approximate daily elevation gain ~ 3,500 feet
Approximate total elevation gain ~ 31,200 feet
As far as comfort goes, the first night with the lightweight sleeping pad did not disappoint. However, it was another cold night which caused me to awake shivering multiple times. Soon enough I would be further south with warmer nights or so I convinced myself at the time. Once the sun arose and much time was spent gathering my things and refilling water containers I then spent some more time conversing with the larger group of cyclists about their daily plans. They planned to traverse about 40 miles this day which was about average for them. I also met a kind young man who actually shared a small portion of my large campsite. He too was sleeping in a bivy on the ground, although he had a sleeping bag in addition. His journey took him from his home in San Diego northward mostly by bus until he recently purchased a bicycle as he found it made his planning much more flexible. He described his trip as “self therapy” after what sounded to be a bad car accident earlier in the year.
By the time everything was packed and goodbyes to fellow travelers were said it was nearly 10 am. The day began slowly and continued at the same steady pace all day in attempt to reduce further aggravation to my knee. At my first stop for coffee about 10 miles into the ride two of the Swiss men happened to stop as well. The one with extensive experience with long tours in the past had dealt with similar knee pain. He reminded me to stretch fully each day and also suggested readjusting my saddle position. Both were very good points that I knew but had neglected to do until that point in time. After spending an extra five minutes stretching and changing the saddle height I was back on the road.
The conditions for the day were a combination of fog and smoky haze. It was astounding to see the widespread impact of the large forest fires. This day I followed a combination of the routes suggested by the Adventure Cycling Association maps and Google maps which led to taking some very rough roads early on. Had it been a clear day the rough roads would have been rewarded by incredible views. On this hazy day the views were significantly limited. The vast majority of the first section of the day was rural riding through continued stretches of redwood forests before returning toward the coast after the tiny town of Trinidad. The next stop of the day was in Arcata, California about 43 miles into the ride.
The previous day I began to hear a loud noise from my rear wheel at times while coasting during descents. The sound immediately disappeared upon resuming pedaling. The same symptoms continued on this day. So I looked up the nearest bike shop and found Revolution Bicycles in Arcata. The staff there was outstanding as they quickly confirmed that it was likely the freehub on my bike making the awful sound. For a low price they quickly took a look at my bike, disassembled, cleaned, and re-oiled the freehub. They even let me charge up my phone, looked up the part number of a new freehub if one would be needed for replacement in the future along the ride, and recommended a good place to eat nearby!
After eating an omelette and pancakes at the recommended restaurant it was nearly 3 pm, and there were still many miles to go before reaching my goal for the day. The goal was to get as close to Avenue of the Giants as possible so I could really enjoy it and take my time riding through the next day as I had been looking forward to that stretch of riding since the trip started.
It was past time to get back on the road. Leaving Arcata there is a nice route to take in order to get off the busier Highway 101 for a while. The lower traffic route is taking Highway 255 west around Arcata Bay then crossing a bridge to Indian Island then another bridge directly into Eureka. Riding through Eureka seemed like riding through any small city with a decent amount of city traffic. I made a quick stop at a fast food restaurant to pack a couple sandwiches for later in the day in case there wasn’t anything else for food readily available. Surprisingly, a couple of fast food chicken sandwiches remain fairly tasty after being stuffed in an already full backpack for 4-5 hours!
By this time my left knee had reached about the maximum pain of the entire trip, and I still had about 30 miles to go before a campground on the map just outside the very small town of Stafford. There were some route options to deviate off Highway 101 occasionally. However, the remainder of this day I chose to continue on the main highway as it seemed to have less hill climbing involved. This isn’t to say there weren’t still some large hills, but on the 101 they seemed to be more gradual. I really just wanted to get to a resting point for the night. Luckily, the miles seemed to go by quickly, and there was little traffic on the main highway. I stopped for a short moment and spoke with my brother, Jeff, who was kind enough to be shipping a new tire and tube to my planned stop at my cousin’s place in Oakland. Additionally, there were some very high bridge overpasses making for great scenery as my knee continuously screamed to stop and give it a break.
About an hour before sunset I finally came upon the exit for Stafford and made my way to Stafford RV Park nearby. The older gentleman working said I could have my choice of all the tent camping sites as there was no one else there yet. He also directed me to use the outlet outside one of the tiny cabins to charge my phone and battery back-up – both of which were completely depleted. The RV park had a few RVs although by no means was it full. It was a relief just to be stopped at a point where I could safely unpack a couple things, rest, shower, and recharge my phone/battery back-up. Not to mention, those 4 hour old chicken sandwiches tasted like food served from a Michelin-starred restaurant by that time. This was one of a number of days along the journey that was especially trying. There was still a long way to go, my knee was extremely bothered, and much of the day was spent chugging along in hazy conditions. Even though, there was much more for which to be grateful – the team at Revolution Bicycles, no flat tires, minimal traffic overall, food, warm shower, safe place to sleep with a sleeping pad, and a new day tomorrow with one of the absolute highlights of the entire tour, Avenue of the Giants.