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Day 152-160, 10-18 Dec 2008: Breaking a knee in steep California: from Red Woods to a Golden Gate…

We had camped in the cold Redwoods & enjoyed the rest of the Avenue of the Giants leisurely. After no more than 35km we ended up in Redway, where we called Johnny, our host for the night for directions to his home and he picked us up and took us far into the curvy hills.

He told us how basically everybody in the entire county was somehow involved in the growing of marijuana, either for ‘medical’ or for business reasons, and that even the local radio had special announcements when ‘the helicopter’ would be on patrol.

This got confirmed by Todd, our host for the next night and was amazing to hear as we thought that with the ‘war on drugs’ and all, easy targets (like very citizen in a 50 mile radius) would be focused on first, but apparently it was just part of life here.

We had been told about Todd by our friend Kristen from Vancouver, who had cycled and met him here a few years ago. But before we could sit down at the fire and listen to his stories we had two encounters.

1000 Americans: Dakota & his horsesWhen going slowly uphill I noticed some fresh looking scat on the side of the road. It didn’t really look like Grizzly material and I thought we had left the wildest bear country by now.

Soon I saw more and with the sun in my face, I viewed a dark shape halfway up the hill. Even though I was only going about 8km/hr (5mph), it was the first thing I encountered on a hill that was slower than me and soon I caught up with a strange sight: A large wooden horse cart, pulled by 3 horses -with a 4th on the side- was slowly making its way up the hill, completely blocking one of the two lanes.

An old man with was standing proud. he was not too friendly and didn’t say much, but I found out that his name was Dakota and he had been travelling like this for 25 years, all west of the Mississippi…

Ivana summits Legget HillOur next encounter was with a dreaded place: the Leggett Hill. Actually it was much easier than feared beforehand, steep but constant, narrow, but zero traffic. We did not have to walk and Ivana arrived at the pass as well without much problem.

A Short downhill later we arrived at a level part, called Haley’s Grove, where we spent the night inside a trailer. Read about our chance meeting with Todd here on 1000 Americans.

12-14 Dec: Breaking a knee and viewing a lion between Hales Grove – Jenner, via Mendocino. 74km + 78km + 70km. Plus 3km  up and down..

A long downhill through the woods brought us back to the coast, but there was one more surprise, the Rockport Hill. When going up, my knee started hurting and we both pushed up several parts as it was too steep in places.

Steep roads on the hills of the california Coast. Phot by Ivana

Steep roads on the hills of the california Coast. Photo by Ivana

Back at the California coast, the road kept on oscillating between sea level and a few hundred meters above it for the next days. In 5 days we had climbed more than 5000m, so 1km vertical per day. My knee started hurting more, even on the flatter parts and at the end of the day I could barely walk as my knee would not bend.

Probably the best thing to do would be to rest or see a doctor, but we were on the ‘Lost Coast’, far away from any medical assistance. Besides, we were only a few days from San Francisco, se we decided to continue and seek help there. Also, not only my knee was bad, our multi-charger had broken down and I had no more batteries for my cameras, which made me feel even more handicapped than the fact that I stumbled more than I walked…

We had stayed with Barry in Mendocino, who was about to embark on his own bicycle trip. as happens often with our hosts, he called some friends, Chuck & Maria, to ask them if we could stay with them the next night. Some hours before we arrived, I was waiting on the side of the road for Ivana to catch up so I could point out a large group of deer, when a car pulled over.

‘Your friend’s bike just collapsed! She fell, I am not sure how she is doing, she is just a few hundred yards back!’

I hurried back – uphill of course- as fast as I could and was relieved to find Ivana cycling my way.

Ivana, back on her feet, ehh wheels...

Ivana, back on her feet, ehh wheels...

‘What happened?’

‘Oh, my small shoulder bag was not tied to the bike very well. It got stuck in my wheel, it blocked and I flew of my bike!’. Fortunately both Ivana and her bike were without any damage, but Ivana, who seemed to find what happened quite amusing, was now even more afraid of fast speeds and so she took it very easy on the downhill.

Just a few miles ahead I noticed a large shape walking through the grass, with a large tail and pointy ears! As the grass on the hilly East side of the road was long and dried, it immediately reminded of a lion in the Serengeti, where we had been, just 5 months before. The moment I realized it was a mountain lion, it noticed me and dropped into the high grass. I could just make out the tips of his ears that were moving every now and then.

My cameras were both dead, so I hoped that Ivana would arrive soon. When she did I pointed her towards the field, but as she did not know where the lion was, she could never discover it. When she came over to me and handed me her camera bag, the mountain lion decided that these two half-metal monsters were a threat and she jumped up and spurted away at an amazing speed. It took a few seconds to get the camera out the bag, at maximum zoom and ready to shoot, so all we have is a short shaky video of a fast moving dot, but in the still you can see the long tail, which –besides the size- differentiates it from a Bobcat.

The next morning the bad weather that had been announced for more than a week, really caught up with us. The rain soon came down in heavy showers and then turned into a full-blown hailstorm, the ice pounding our hands and faces. It was impossible to cycle, so we went for cover under some trees.

California coast, taken with Ivanas camera

California coast (with Ivana's camera)

A car stopped and a friendly woman asked if we wanted to wait inside, but as we were soaked already and there was little point in wetting her car, we thanked her.

The rain eased down a bit and carefully we made our way over the steep and wet hills to a small town. The same car came up to us and the lady, – Marge– offered to take us in her car. I saw it was too small for both bikes and our gear, and therefore told Ivana that she should go and wait for me in the next town, taking also part of my luggage, as there were some very steep and dangerous sections coming up.

Californian Coast

Even though my right knee was now completely useless I knew it had been a good decision to let Ivana ride the car as the hills before Jenner were steep, exposed, windy and wet. There was no level part, it was either very steep up or down.

My cycle computer had stopped working as usual in heavy rain, and did not record the final hills (up 150m, down 80, up 120m, down200m, up 50, all within a few km); likely this had been one of the steepest day so far on the trip…

Ivana would have hated the steep and narrow climbs and downhills with steep drops on the side and barely any shoulder. I arrived totally exhausted in Jenner, where the friendly owners of the Bed & Breakfast let us pitch our tent behind their building.

15-16 Dec: 3 Cyclists to Sausalito via Point Reyes, 70 +50km

San Francisco cityscape

The US is full of public restrooms, which is great for biketravellers. We packed our wet tent –though it had cleared up in the morning, it had been raining all night again- and walked towards the visitor centre, when we noticed another loaded bicycle.

It belonged to Graeme, a young cyclist who had been chasing us for several days, going twice our speed. He could use some easy days and therefore he joined us the final miles to San Francisco. It was nice to talk with someone else for a while and we enjoyed his company.

That evening we stayed with a Tori & Laurie, friends of Marge (the woman that had given Ivana a ride). One woman had just lost her job, something we would encounter a lot the coming weeks. On a bike you do not notice much of the world economy, but apparently the financial world was collapsing and many jobs were lost..

They had a great house, were already hosting another cyclist (who was out on a side trip) and even offered us the use of their outdoor Jacuzzi. That could never harm my sore knee, so at the end of the day, Graeme & I discussed life under the stars, floating in hot water, while it was close to freezing temperature…

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The next morning we noticed how cold it had been: everything was frozen solid and it took a while before the air warmed up again. We had to be very close to San Francisco, but still the route 1 showed nothing but wonderful scenery, with no city in sight. Only after a last set of very steep hills, we zoomed down the other side of the hills into Sausalito, and suddenly we were in the middle of the city again. I had tried to ride using one knee only, but the other hurt so bad  and was so swollen during the final hours, I could not even bend it.

We made our way through Sausalito towards Doug’s house. He had found our website several weeks before and had offered us a place to sleep using our contact form, being  Couchsurfer/WarmShowers host without even knowing about it (he has signed up now :)!

San Francisco & Golden Gate Bridge

He also added Graeme to his invite without problem and took great care of us and the next day took us on a short drive to the viewpoint. There it was, maybe the most famous piece of metal in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge and behind, San Francisco!

Kowalski! Status report!

  1. Bikes: great, no problem at all.
  2. Ivana: single flight from bike. Little shaken but unstirred
  3. Harry: down to one knee. Might be a problem for next 20.000 miles.







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One Response to “Day 152-160, 10-18 Dec 2008: Breaking a knee in steep California: from Red Woods to a Golden Gate…”
  1. gilbert lopez says:

    Hi Harry ,sry to hear about your knee and was wondering what was wrong with it and did you have to rest it or have any surgery? you didn’t say.

    Your friend Gil Lopez in Waldport Or.

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