Day 68 Thursday, September 15 Klamath, CA to Gold Beach, OR 75 miles
I had the world’s best pancakes this morning! Actually that may be overstating it a bit. What I do know for sure is that the pancakes I had this morning were the best on the trip so far—fluffy, yet still cakey and wholesome, and evenly cooked from the outside edges to the very center. Perfect. I told the cashier this and explained that I have eaten pancakes most mornings on this 10-week adventure and he declared me to be a “pancake expert”. At this point I wear the label proudly with no hint of modesty!
I woke up today with more determination than anticipation for the day of riding. I had not booked motels for last night and tonight so that I could keep my distance flexible depending on how I felt and how I often I wanted to stop and look at scenery. I did, however, book a motel for Bandon, OR when I was in Eureka figuring I could make the 210 miles in three days one way or another. Because I found riding in the fog and cold more difficult than I expected I decided that I really needed to make my destination in Gold Beach and save my easiest day for Friday so that I could let down for a full afternoon and evening. So I began today determined, but somewhat annoyed that I would need to push through another cold, moist and windy day up the coast. I think I wouldn’t mind the fog so much as long as it lifted near all the scenic overlooks! As it is I haven’t been able to see much of the ocean or the coastal cliffs.
The start to the day was as bad or even worse than I expected. I did alter my clothing which took the edge off the cold some compared to yesterday. But, I ran into a thick blanket of fog on the climb over to Crescent City in the first ten miles. I had my rear tail light on, my front blinking headlamp, and still I was feeling nervous about whether the vehicles could see me with sufficient time to make adjustments. There was little to no shoulder and I was aware that this was a bad combination of circumstances. My Adventure Cycling map warns cyclists not to attempt this section when there is bad fog. The problem was I started the ride with a high, overcast fog similar to what I faced yesterday. It was physically uncomfortable, but visibility was not an issue. Once I was halfway up the climb and ran into the descending cloud the warning from Adventure Cycling was definitely playing in my mind. I had to make a choice. I stopped, took a breath, and decided what my best options were. I could turn around and return to the café at the base and wait the fog out. That wasn’t attractive at all since I had images of the fog lasting for days as it had already been socked in for quite some time. I could sit there on the side of the road and again wait it out and grow grumpy, wetter and colder. Also unappealing. Or I could clip my feet back in the pedals and put my faith in my own riding ability and the hope that drivers were using some caution in the thick fog. Obviously, I am fine as I am sitting here writing this. I was fortunate that I only had a few miles of this. Once I peaked at the top of the climb and started descending the fog began to thin so that by the time I reached sea level in Crescent City the fog once again was serving more like a sun block than anything else.
And then…sun! I had only been shielded from the sun for less than 48 hours, yet it felt like I had been riding in it for days. I had to literally think back to when I last saw the sun and realized it was only on Tuesday between Garberville and Eureka. The air was still quite cool as is normal for the coast and the wind certainly whipped up unpredictably for the last 40 miles, but the presence of the sun lifted my spirits and allowed me to enjoy the ride rather than just focus on finishing it. I was able to stop at a number of spots along the road where the ocean air was somewhere between refreshing and chilling. Seeing the ocean had a similar effect on me that looking at the endless prairies had on me in Wyoming. Something about standing at the edge of an endless landscape (or oceanscape) is deeply calming and pitches the mind into a more soulful place. Between stops at the ocean this area of the coast also throws short steep climbs into the mix. In the mountainous West the passes are more gradual but can last for many miles. Here on the coast I am surprised at how taxing the series of short steep climbs can be. When I was racing bikes in my early 20’s I excelled at time trials where I was able to get into a rhythm on long, often flat stretches of road at the base of the Colorado mountains. Smaller, lighter sprightly riders tend to excel much better in this terrain. But, it is beautiful and a few hills are a small price to pay to be granted this opportunity to soak in the southern coast of Oregon—especially if there is no fog!
By now I am convinced I really did have a mild Eureka moment two days ago. Internally something shifted. I am in a new place. My thoughts now are less about whether something happened and more about what this means. It feels strange in that I don’t think it means any major shift in my life, my commitments, and my priorities. Yet, at the same time I can feel a significant shift in letting go of expectations and anxiety about the future. As I was working on the theme of acceptance since entering the Nevada desert I also noticed a subtle depression settling in. Something was not quite right. I had mixed up acceptance with resignation. With acceptance I was also feeling powerless. Somehow my “Eureka moment” broke the two loose from each other. I can now see that I am moving toward accepting the uncertainty of my future as a minister in the Church AND feeling in control of my future at the same time. In some self-help circles I think they call this “taking back your power”. Not that anyone had taken it from me. I did that on my own. More to come on this, I am sure.
Tomorrow (God willing!) I will arrive in Bandon, OR. It is likely that I will take an extra day there as my body is starting to cry for a rest. My muscles are sore from the increased work on these steeper climbs. My aerobic stamina is strong from the weeks of cycling, but the steeper hills are sort of like adding 20% to a weight lifting machine all at once and I think I only have one more day in these legs. I also will be enjoying a pleasant visit with my dad and his new bride who are driving over from Rogue River to visit for the evening. In addition to that, a close friend from childhood is spending his birthday in Bandon with his wife and if our schedules match up we’ll have a chance to catch up. I am especially appreciating these connections as I near the end of this pilgrimage and return to my community, my friends, and my family. It’s all unfolding as it should.