A pleasant detour

I knew that today’s “alternate route” along the “Lost Coast” was going to be bad so I left at 6:30, figuring it would take me about six hours to do the 50-mile loop.

Things went wrong from the beginning. I thought I was closer to Mattole Road than I was; it was six or seven miles rather than six or seven yards. Then I didn’t pay enough attention to the map, which had the loop as being 49 miles but didn’t include the 15-mile climb on the previous map panel.

By the time I got up the monster “starter climb” I was fried but not too unhappy. “I’m killin’ it,” I told me. “Glad I’m doing this bright and early rather than dim, stale, and late.”

The descent into pot-ag community of Honeydew taught me a nasty lesson: You can’t compensate for the 5 mph uphill speed by bombing the descents because the pavement looked like it had been subject to an air raid. The chug holes, cracks, and giant asphalt lips were enough to knock you down on a big fat touring bike loaded up with porcelain from China, spices from India, and gneiss from Odessa, Texas.

In Honeydew I got another nasty shock, this one in the form of a road sign that said “Ferndale: 45 miles.” Ferndale was my destination, and lawyer math had said that after Honeydew I was halfway there. Far from it. I was experienced enough with touring in Northern California to now know that under the finest possible conditions you can average 15 mph; in normal conditions 10 mph; in hills and/or wind, 6 mph.

“No prob, bro. You’re still killin’ it,” I told me. “It’s only eleven. Worst case scenario you’ll be in Ferndale by three.”

The next fifteen miles to Petrolia were unhappy. An occasional headwind and a series of unfortunate events a/k/a rollers kept me slogging away. A couple of rocky dirt sections added to the un-fun. But never mind, I kept telling me. “You’re killin’ it. Cuz you didn’t pillow baby. Early bird catches the covids.”

In Petrolia, which took a solid 1.5 hours to reach, things seemed a bit dimmer until I stopped into the grocery and met my ol’ pals Ben and Jerry. A nice 1,200 kcal lunch in the form of premier dairy products had me feeling spiffy, and shortly thereafter I was descending onto the road that paralleled the Lost Coast. “This ain’t so bad,” I told me gleefully. “I’m still killin’ it.”

Speaking of the Lost Coast, it should probably be called the Ignored Coast, because it fuggin’ sucked. There was a 30 mph headwind, the worst headwind I’ve ever pedaled into, and it was all I could do to keep my aircraft carrier upright. I looked so miserable and went so slow that passing cars rolled down their windows and gave me attaboys.

Ben and Jerry were still doing their magic, though, so miserable as it was I had enough power to plow through the wind, slowly. The road was endless and I cursed every bend that opened up a new stretch of nasty headwind. “I wish this fucking road would end,” I thought until the road ended.

Once it ended I wished it would continue a bit because it ushered in the start of a 10-mile climb into the same headwind. To sweeten the pot, the start of the climb was between 15 and 18 percent for the first two miles. I wished someone had told me to ride this route north to south instead of south to north. I really wish.

Halfway up the climb I gave up and simply turned the pedals fast enough to move forward. Three o’clock came and went. Four o’clock came and went. Five o’clock came and went and I was still slogging up this horrid, ugly cattle-grazed landscape that reminded me how nasty people are when they “manage” land as opposed to how the state and national parks are when they “conserve” it.

I know I looked like shit because every single car waved at me.

I crested the climb around six o’clock; from there it was an easy six-mile drop into Ferndale, where I holed up at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds with two Fat Agnes cheeseburgers, another pint of B&J’s, a quart of milk and half a dozen raw eggs as a chaser.

About 75 miles in eleven and a half hours.

Killin it.


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18 thoughts on “A pleasant detour”

  1. I see you’ve met “The Wall”. Congrats, you’ve conquered it! The most beautiful and rugged stretch of the CA coast. Fair winds for the rest of your journey. Everything else should be easy after this.

  2. Ohhh meep meep meep. I feel horrible for you. Poor ex racer boy, riding into the headwind on a cross bike w/poorly added panniers, carrying all that extra weight on one of the emptiest stretches of Cali coast. Ohh you poor thing! #winningnotwhining

  3. Killing. It.

    Hey, if you were going north to south, you’d just be fussing with the spinnaker all day. This way you get to pedal!

    (Plus I guess you’d be in Mexico most of this time).

  4. Dogdamnit Seth you didn’t tell us what flavor Ben&Jerry’s you been eatin’…one never knows what useless info might turn into….

  5. That little stretch along the river after Honeydew looked nice though…or was it dry this time of year? Nevermind, jus’thinkin’out loud…loving the journey man!!

  6. Tim Joe Comstock

    First blogger ever to send me to the dictionary: gneiss. Nice! In my 1972 Webster’s it falls between gnaw and gnome. So there ya go.

  7. I really wish I had suggested you ride from the North to the South. I don’t know how I ever left that piece of advice unuttered (The red squiggly says this ain’t a word, but fuggit).

  8. Seth – Are you running short of gears on those steep grades? What is your lowest gear? We just rode South thru there 2 days ago and struggled with ours. We are on fancy gravel bikes with a 32×34 low and about 10 – 12 pounds of stuff in our bags. We’re now up in the hills above Manchester and are still struggling. We did a lot of walking up the steepest pitches on this trip.

    1. I have a 34 on the front and a 32 on the back. Bike and bags weigh 55-ish, 60 when fully provisioned. The headwind on the coast and the headwind climb off the coast was one of the hardest things I can remember doing. I know the locals are used to seeing people walk because people were literally stopping their cars, windows open, to cheer me on. It was fucking hard.

      1. That’s a stout gear with a load. We fear it’s simply old age for us. How many times have you heard “I lost my legs when I was 65” or something similar?

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