Have you followed this whole journey from the beginning? Follow this link to find all the episodes of our North American Cycle Tour – 2019.
Monday 12th August: Crescent City to Fortuna (California, USA): By U-Haul Truck
Morning came, and there were indeed two men lying outside. One on the concrete seat under the verandah and another curled up amongst the bushes in the garden. They couldn’t have been very warm. It was pretty cold out there.
We saw no need to hang around, getting our things together, locking the keys inside as instructed, and heading out to get the truck. Just as we were leaving, Katie showed up. We filled her in about last night, but she didn’t seem concerned, only that we had followed the key/door protocol.
We said thank you and goodbye headed for the nearest Starbucks for breakfast, and waited for the U-Haul place to open. The sooner we were out of here, the better. Welcome to California, I thought!
We were up pretty early, so we had to wait a while at Starbucks for the U-Haul to open. The process of filling out some paperwork and loading and securing the bikes into the back of the truck was swift, and we were soon on our way.
We drove south out of town, neglecting to visit the Klamath Drive-Thru Tree. A bit too touristic for me, and I’d heard we might have to line up. I wasn’t even sure if the truck would be too big to pass through.
After crossing the Klamath River, we turned right onto the Newton B Drury Scenic Pathway. The scenic drive is through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, giving us our first glimpse of the mighty trees. The drive is dotted with several interpretive trails that we stopped and followed. Walking the trails is the only way to get an idea of how big these giant Redwoods are.
One of the largest is called “Big Tree,” a 1,500-year-old botanical behemoth 87m high and 23m around its base. It was very popular, and it took a while before we could finally pose for our own memory-making moment.
The Redwood forests are a bit like being on the set of the Avatar movie. We’ve hiked through many forests in our time, but nothing quite like these. The trails snake their way around the bases of the trees, and there is little sunlight that makes it through their thick canopies to reach the thickly carpeted forest floor. The narrow beams of light that make it to the ground paint ethereal scenes of light and shade on fallen, moss-covered logs. Each patch of light is an iridescent green, shimmering through the dark shadows around us. It was truly otherworldly.
After the Prairie Creek Visitor’s Centre, we revisited the 101 and followed close to the coast. After skirting around Arcata Bay, the highway took us through the center of Eureka, a larger town and a good opportunity to hit a Walmart and stock up on a few things. While I was primarily looking for a gas canister to cook with, while searching the aisles, I found some cheap, plastic coffee pods that you put your ground coffee in and drop into your cup of hot water – perfect!
There was no gas, though. So I tried back around at a Sports Store on the highway and was rewarded for my efforts. We were all set for dinner and breakfast.
The 101, now called the “Redwood Highway,” led us down alongside the Eel River and into the small town of Fortuna. Just off the highway was the Riverwalk RV Park, where we managed to secure a site for the night. Locking up the truck, we headed out for something to eat. Fortunately for us, the Eel River Brewing Company was just up the road, and we didn’t waste any time pulling ourselves up to the bar.
The place was already full, and it was only early. While they have a good selection of beers, the old fella we sat next to told us it was mainly the food everyone was here for. That was all we needed to know, so we settled in for a few beers and had something to eat there.
Back at the RV Park, I decided the ground was way too hard to get the tent pegs in, so we opened the back doors and slept inside the truck instead.
Tuesday 13th August: Fortuna to Ukiah, California, USA: Truck
We decided to save the gas and use the RV Park’s camping kitchen instead this morning. It was a bit grotty from last night’s BBQs, but it was OK for boiling water and making some coffee. While we waited for the water to boil, we met a couple of young guys who were “Weed Pickers” in the area. They hailed from the East but could make enough money picking and living in a tent for it to be worthwhile. It was hard work, they said, but today was their day off, so all their chores had to be done, as they needed to open post office boxes to receive mail.
We drove the truck to a nearby viewpoint on the banks of the Eel River and bought ourselves something to eat from the Shell service station across the road. Now we had the van, we didn’t have to hurry anywhere and could take it easy in the mornings.
Once again, we were following the Eel River, letting it take us down to the famous “Avenue of the Giants,” a 50km long section of road that used to be the main highway. It was hard to believe that all the southbound traffic had to traverse this section of the road. The “Avenue” is a thin sliver of tarmac that pours itself between the bases of the giant redwoods. The scarce sunlight allows only poor visibility as the road winds from tree to tree with scant overtaking room from trunk to trunk. Any oncoming traffic is invisible until it’s on top of you, which means any speeding is extremely reckless. We agreed we’d made the correct decision, not riding this section of the coast.
Shazz and I stopped at several places, taking a short walk into the enveloping forest each time. You don’t have to walk far along the trails to feel totally isolated from everyone else. Strangely enough, the deeper you go into the trees, the quieter it becomes until it is almost entirely silent. Getting lost here would be extremely easy as everything begins to look the same and becomes scarily disorientating.
Just south of where the road comes out is the town of Leggett. This is where we would’ve parted ways with the 101 and taken the 1 to the coast over an extensive mountain range. The last 50kms had been very hilly and dangerous and we’d seen a couple of pairs of cyclists struggling along the side of the rising, winding road, obviously finding the going tough, their lives entirely in the hands of the traffic. I was loving our truck more and more!
As we continued to make our way south, we found it increasingly difficult to find a campground in or around a town. This meant we drove further than planned until we found the town of Ukiah and decided to stop and check out some accommodation options.
The lack of campgrounds forced us to choose a Motel 6 for the night. Fortunately, it was next to a 50s-style diner called Be Bops, which served pretty good food and had some excellent beers on tap.
And finally, this year’s cycling adventure comes to a happy conclusion. You can see what happened in – Good Grief! Is it over already? Ukiah to San Francisco.