||It is hard to say exactly when I got the idea to ride The Golden State,
California, from Oregon border to Mexican border, on my bicycle.
A little bit of the idea came in the dead of winter as I watched the rain beat down outside my office window at Glendale Community College.
A little more of the idea came as I taught my California State and Local Government class and found out that some of my students had little concept of what California was like beyond the greater Los Angeles area.
And a lot of the idea came in August 2003 as I rode down my seven-year-old touring bike down the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles. What a great experience that was. And what a remarkable place California is.
||A simple plan came together in Spring 2004. There would be a family
vacation to the California redwood country and I would be dropped off at
the California-Oregon border. I'd ride the first 22 or so miles into Crescent
City to make sure the bike and I were both in working order. Then if all
checked out I'd be left to cycle my way down the state taking notes and
pictures of what I saw.
The following pages will carry two types of commentary. Bold text is my Ride Diary, written each evening, chronicling that day's ride. Additional commentary (often an explanation of adjacent photos) will be in non-bold text. Note that photos will be presented in chronological order on each day's page.
So, with no further ado, here is my Ride Diary for Day 1...
Above are two photos of the same sign at a liquor store
a mile south of the Oregon border. Northbound motorists
see the side that says "Last Chance"; Southbound drivers
(and wandering bicyclists) see "First Chance."
Day 1 Oregon Border to Crescent City--22.5 mi/22.5 total
There isn't a lot at the border...a couple of signs and a souvenir stand on the Oregon side. Shoulders on this portion of Highway 101 are narrow and the traffic is fast.
The Pacific Coast Bike Route--which runs from the Canadian border to the Mexican border--makes a right onto Lake Earl Drive. It's a good move. The road is lightly-travelled and even has a shoulder (that unused margin at the side of the road that usually doesn't matter to drivers but serves as an all-important margin of safety for cyclists) for most of its length. The most important facility on Lake Earl Drive has guard towers. I rode past the entrance to Pelican Bay State Prison. Didn't stop to say hi.
Crescent City isn't high-falutin. As a matter of fact all of Del Norte County has a gritty feel to it. Logging trucks rumble down the highways. Residential and shopping areas are modest. The townies look ruddy and wind-blown. The sun apparently almost never shows itself, even during summer.
Crescent City relies on a bit of tourism in the summer, but mostly it's a hard-workin, blue-collar town.
The town survived a tsunami in 1964. There had been a huge earthquake in Alaska and it caused a tidal wave (a tsunami) in places thousands of miles away, including Crescent City. Locals say the harbor was briefly sucked dry before a wall of water hit with breathtaking speed. Part of downtown was destroyed, and lives were lost. A lot of things in town--including the bowling alley--have "Tsunami" in their name.
The Crescent City Lighthouse--which survived the tsunami--is open for tours, which are really cool.
||Might as well throw in a little bit of California wildlife. We took
a family side trip to the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (located just
a few miles south of the Oregon border) and walked among the redwoods.
While there we came upon a robust example of one of Northern California's most beloved indigenous animals, the Banana Slug (Ariolomax Dolichophalus). Please note this is no garden snail--the slug in this photo was 5 or 6 inches long.
California Trivia Question: The Banana Slug is the much-adored mascot of what California university?
(answer at the bottom of the page)
||It's not even 8 a.m. on my first short day of riding. I've been on
the road for all of 20 minutes and I'm already hallucinating.
Or maybe that really is a 150-foot-long steamship that has been planted on a nice lawn with the gang plank bringing customers aboard from the parking lot.
You might as well know the truth right now. I'm a big fan of roadside attractions. The cheesier the better.
California Trivia Answer: The Banana Slug is the much-adored mascot of University of California Santa Cruz. In 1992, the slug was named the #1 mascot by Sports Illustrated and the National Association of College Directories. In 1995, the Fiat Slug logo ("Let There Be Slug") was catapulted into national fame when it was prominently featured in the hit film Pulp Fiction.
SUMMARY: 22.5 miles. Glad I didn't have to deal with heavy fog on that busy stretch of 101 with narrow shoulders. Tomorrow the real milage will begin.
[DAY 2: On to Eureka]