Brookings to Garberville

Meg kidnapped, a taste of homelessness and the magnificent Redwoods

Posted by Gordon Dunlop on January 28, 2016

After riding out the storm in southern Oregon, it felt great to get back on the road and clock up another state crossing. Just as we took photos at the California / Oregon border, one of the famous yellow school buses happened to pass. It seemed fitting that such an iconic US symbol should pass just as we entered a state which is home to so many more iconic US sights. As we crossed into California I began to reflect on all the music in my collection which had been inspired by the route and the cities we were about to encounter. Between its diverse cities, incredible scenery and world renowned sights, the next few weeks of riding promised much!

Entering California we had a nice steady ride off the highway and had our first taste of the magnificent Redwood trees. We reached the town of Crescent City where we stopped at a coffee shop as we both had Skype interviews to conduct with potential participants for this year’s Operation Groundswell programs. We’d seen this as a great way to put some money in the pot for our trip and so, much of our route through Oregon and California was dependant on having a Wi-Fi connection in the evenings.

After finishing my interviews, I left to meet our Warm Showers host for the evening – the minister at the local church - who was waiting to hand me the keys to the church hall. Reverend Michael had kindly left his dinner party just to open up the hall for us. After a great, but all too brief chat, I left Michael to his dinner and walked the five minutes back to meet Meg. She’d just finished up and, being a chivalrous type, I offered to ride her laden bike up the hill to the church hall while she walked. Back at the hall, ten minutes had passed and still no Meg. Knowing Meg she’d probably stopped to chat to someone en route, though, the wind was picking up and another storm was imminent. Ten more minutes passed and still no Meg and by this time the rain had started. I jumped on my bike to go round a few blocks, thinking she’d just got lost. The rain was now pelting it down and I’d been round the whole area and still no Meg. I decided to go back to the hall to get online to check if she’d left a message or, heaven forbid, a cry for help. As I reached the hall, a car pulled up and a cheery driver shouted, “So you’re the other crazy cyclist!” Meg then emerged from the back of the car laden with shopping bags and sporting a huge smile. Confused, wet and a little irate, I was soon appeased as Meg told how she’d been ‘kidnapped’ by a passing family who, upon hearing of our cycle tour, insisted on getting some groceries and snacks for us to enjoy that evening. “Welcome to California” they shouted as they drove off!

Leaving Crescent City we had a long steep ascent which, while affording us spectacular views of the coastline, also took its toll on Meg’s chain. Cue some lengthy, and rather greasy, roadside repairs! This setback, coupled with our need for Wi-Fi for our evening’s interviews, hampered our progress somewhat and so we cut our losses and stopped at a very hospitable café in the tiny village of Orick. In order to make up some ground we got an early start and, though wet, we had a beautiful coastal ride on the winding road through Patrick’s Point and Trinidad. We reached the university town of Arcata mid-afternoon. There was a really good vibe in what was a really nice town centre, however, we had some ground to make up and so, unfortunately, couldn’t stay.

We cycled on to the larger town of Eureka and a Wi-Fi connection for our interviews. We usually try to avoid spending the night in larger towns due to the difficulties in finding a suitable place to set up camp. We were both saddened by the number of homeless people in the area and as we pondered a cold night finding a safe, secluded place to camp, I wondered what it must be like for that to be a daily reality. That uncertainty and apprehension. The vulnerability as you try to keep your few belongings safe. As it transpired, it was homeless guy, Tex, who came to our aid. He led us to a secluded place where we could spend the night without fear of being moved on our having our bikes disappear. He was a really nice guy who shared his story and was keen to hear ours. He certainly helped make our night in Eureka more pleasant than it might otherwise have been.

Just fifteen miles south from the hustle and bustle of Eureka, the landscape could hardly have been more different. We arrived in the quant little town of Ferndale where, with its preserved Victorian homes and shop fronts, it seemed like time had stood still. After lunching we made our way across the farmlands – where time really had stood still – and some steady climbs towards the famed Avenue of the Giants. This beautiful stretch of road, guarded on all sides by the colossal Redwood and Giant Sequoia trees, was some of the most incredible and certainly the most unique scenery to date. On a Monday afternoon in early December, the road was eerily quiet and we were dwarfed by these giants, whose company we had all to ourselves. In the surrounding silence, the trees seemed almost to take on human characteristics as they creaked and swayed as we stealthily rode past. It was a magical experience and we camped under their cover through what was a wet night. As the rain cleared in the early morning, it gave way to a beautiful mist which only served to enhance the mystical aura of the forest as the sun tried to penetrate the tree cover.