68 miles and 63 miles respectively
Our days now begin with a cup of tea and bowl of porridge, having decided that dry cereal bars just don’t cut it. Two hard days of cycling along the beautiful Pacific Ocean Highway 1, took us from Stillwater Cove camp to a night at Van Damme camp to a night at Standish Hickey camp.The coastal scenery was stunning – eroded cliffs, rolling forested hills cloaked in mist and relatively light traffic.
We were both pretty cold and tired by the time we reached camp at the end of day 3. Everything was wet from the persistent drizzle, but once the tent was up and a hot dinner consumed, order was restored in the world. Later an ultralight bike tourer (sans panniers) rolled into camp after a 160 mile day! Impressive stuff and inspiring this early in our tour. We discuss strategies for cutting down our own gear.
On both days the road undulates, up and down and up and down all day. There are two notable climbs on day 4 as we turned away from the coast. Up and over Rockport Hill (690ft up from sea level) which serves as a warm up for the subsequent climb up Leggett Hill (1950ft, starting from 200ft). Pedal furiously, stand out the saddle to get round the hairpins, pedal some more until the legs are screaming and the heart pounding, then pedal round one more corner, a desperate last push before much needed break. Breathe, relax, gulp of water, procrastinate for as long as you can get away with until one of us suggests we should get going again, then off we go. Repeat until one can go no higher!
Camped in Standish Hickey now (end of day 4 – a brilliant day). They have hot showers, such luxury! Today (day 5) we’re cycling through the Avenue of the Giants – tree photos coming this way.
Distance: 68 miles
Yesterday we rode from our camp amongst the Redwoods, Samuel P. Taylor campground, to a camp on the California coast, Stillwater Cove campground. It was a hard day with several testing climbs – one particular climb (see hairpin photo above) going on and on, trying work for our novice legs, as we gradually get warmed up!
Mist engulfed us as we progressed north, giving occasional, tantalising glimpses of the vast Pacific Ocean. At times the road was perched right on the cliff edge, tumbling down hundreds of feet to the sea. Collapsed sea stacks and eroded cliffs were frequent sights.
It was another excellent campsite at Stillwater Cove, one of these hiker-biker sites which are rustic and amongst the woods. They provide raccoon boxes to store food overnight and flushing toilets, so don’t worry mum, we’re not roughing it too much. Yet…
Distance: 35 miles
San Francisco –> Samuel P. Taylor Campground
(I’m now writing this on morning of day 2.) Yesterday was a long day that began with us re-assembling the bikes in the hotel room and packing our panniers with all our possessions. Unsurprisingly, it took longer than we expected so it was something of a mad rush to beat the noon check-out time.
From the hotel we had to make a quick stop at the local REI store to pick up a few items we’d forgotten. Cycling through the lunchtime traffic on a laden bike was a little nerve-racking. The handling takes some getting used to – with only rear panniers, the front of the bike feels very light and “squirrelly”. After REI, we made a stop at the Rapha store on the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a superb space and delivered a dose of road cycling inspiration for the start of the tour (quotes adorned the walls “glory through suffering”, along with a collection of iconic photos of the peleton).
By 3pm we were properly on our way, dodging the crowds as we crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge was completely clear of fog so we could really appreciate the vastness of it, and enjoy fantastic views back to San Francisco. Sausalito for a lunch stop (first of what I assume will be many cheese and salami rolls) and then onwards, away from suburbia towards the campground in the state park.
The hills were hard, I’m not going to lie. We were riding into a stiff headwind which as I keep joking with Pete, will keep us honest (there’s no hiding a lack of fitness then, ha!). We reached camp around 6.30pm, amongst the redwoods (albeit small ones). Several other cycle tourers were here so we already feel like a little community, sharing knowledge of the routes.
Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, viewed from the bleachers of the Aquatic Park.
My brother arrived from Melbourne last night. It’s been great to catch up again and talk and talk and talk. Tomorrow we pedal over the Golden Gate Bridge and northwards into Marin country where the adventure begins for real. I can’t wait!
I’m writing this from a hotel in the heart of Chinatown in San Francisco. The bike box and I arrived here last night after an uneventful flight from DC. My brother is currently in transit and due to arrive within a couple of hours. So far, so good. With some free time to explore San Francisco, I’ve been wandering around this hilly city on foot, gravitating towards the waterfront and that bridge, you know the one.
I’ve been dreaming of coming here for many, many years. SF has been on my shortlist of places (you know, we all have one) for such a long time so it’s a great feeling to finally make it here. The steep streets are unlike anything I’ve seen before. Lombard Street (“world’s crookedest”) was an interesting sight but thronged with tourists so I didn’t stay for long. It’s lovely to be near the ocean again, to smell that salt air, hear the breaking waves and squawking gulls, see vast the expanses of water and beyond, to distant hills. Today the bay was brimming with sailing boats, bent over in the stiff breeze.
The bridge stole the show of course. Even up close, I felt as if I was still looking at a picture. It’s vast, much bigger than I was expecting. Much taller. I took various photos from different vantage points as I got nearer. I suspect it will only feel “real” once I can lay a hand on the orange metal itself, when Pete and I cycle across it on Tuesday. Some further photos from today:
Also had some good (albeit distant) views of Alcatraz today: