Crossing the border from Oregon into California, I was most excited to see some ginormous redwood trees. I just wanted to hug a truly gigantic tree.
As we rode the bus (because car traffic depleted the enjoyment of cycling) from Crescent City to Klamath, Christian remarked that this entire stretch of SW Oregon and NorCal used to be completely covered with gigantic redwood trees. Redwoods are the planet's tallest tree. Logging destroyed 96% of the old-growth redwoods. Of the remaining 4%, about half are in Redwood State & National Parks.
While it's sad to realize the vastness that has been destroyed, we can be thankful there were at least a few old souls who recognized the beauty & significance of these even older souls in the forest.
This land belonged - and still belongs to on a much smaller scale - to the Yurok native Americans. The indigenous today (in Klamath and throughout the country) suffer from poverty, alcoholism, and 80% unemployment because they feel like strangers in their homeland. There's a casino in Klamath where some work, but it's an awful dichotomy: living a very culturally-rich life in harmony with nature until the white man comes along and wants you to conform to his way of life. Currently, there is more emphasis on keeping native traditions alive, especially the languages, but this comes so late - after so many years of society trying to erase it and have them conform.
We were in a bar in Klamath called the Country Club. It's the only bar/grill in town besides the Holiday Inn Casino & Restaurant. The Country Club serves burgers & beers. The bartender was an Yurok woman named Delores. The clientele was us, a couple from Florida (visiting the woman's brother in Salt Lake City; they said the Pacific has nothing on the clear water of the Gulf; not really into gambling, but the guy likes darts - seriously, they spoke so loud I think the whole town knows about her life story and how to make a Washington apple shot), a 92-year old WWII Air Force vet, white people in their 60s, a native woman named Joann with a funny & unique dart throw, and a native man named Alden.
It was an uncomfortable few minutes when the vet was talking about which German cities he bombed and it got even more awkward when ol' Missy starting asking Dolores about the Incas. Missy was like, 'my grandkid be learning about dem Incas. Whatchyou know 'bout dem Dolores?' She had to repeat 'Incas' 3 times before Dolores knew what she was talking about and upon her realization even I could sense the total annoyance at Missy's cultural insensitivity in thinking all the indigenous peeps from Chinook to Chile are the same. It's really saddening and disappointing to see that this cultural ignorance and borderline racism still exists. Then, thinking about how money-hungry the pioneers were in greedily cutting down the redwoods almost to non-existence... we were a little depressed.
Some of the towns are pretty depressed too. Many towns popped up along the NorCal coast as the lumber industry provided lots of money and jobs. Then one day there weren't any more trees left to cut and most people skipped town. A prime example is the town of Orick. The buildings of Orick haven't seen renovations since the 60's. Just take a look at what modern amenities our hotel advertises.
Dial phones and color TV. There was no water in the pool.
From Orick, we went to Lady Bird Johnson Grove in the National Park before continuing south to Trinidad, CA. There we stayed with another wonderful warmshowers host named Carol. We began the next day cycling along the dramatic, rocky coastline through the fog to Fortuna via Eureka.
Eureka seems haunted. We found a regional newspaper that shed more light onto the white-indian relationship in the past. The article was entitled 'Murder in Arcata' about the brutal slaying of an old blind indian mother of 2 young children. The murderers were largely known yet went unpunished. As did the murderers of ~70 native women & children on Indian Island when they were having a celebration. The white pioneers had native children as indentured servants, went on indian 'hunts' for sport, and forced them into starvation on reservations.
While downtown Eureka retains a pretty, Victorian facade, the only thing I found enjoyable was the organic bagel place called Los Bagels. I liked the local brewery too. It's called Lost Coast and was started by a woman. Great beers & great brewpub.
We finished the last few miles to Fortuna via bus because the road, depsite being the designated Pacific Coast bike route, was not bike-friendly. We stayed in a Super 8 motel (which was actually very nice) across the street from Eel River Brewing Co. After a couple brews, we got a good night's sleep in preparation for cycling the 32-mile Avenue of the Giants through giant redwood trees in a state park.
After 3 full days of the redwood experience, it is still awe-inspiring.
At the end of the day's 89 km leg, we found ourselves in the heart of the Emerald Triangle in Garberville. We remarked on the abundance of hippies, but didn't realize it was their Mecca until hotel wine & cheese happy hour overlooking the pool. It sounds refined, though the evening was anything but... We weren't there to trim... this time.
After encountering many free spirits and dreadlocks, we went from red to green and then back to red in California wine country.
We met Kath & TO in Calistoga. Calistoga is a great town. It's very laid back, pretty downtown area, with a plethora of local vineyards and superb restaurants. We ate at the Calistoga Inn, which is also a brewery!
The next day, we got the bike gang together and cycled to Uncle Spike's friend's vineyard, Burgess Cellars.
Burgess is a wonderful, family-owned vineyard in St. Helena with red wines. Best known for its cab, we had a great tasting experience and took a bottle of the Sirah home. I like that the vineyard is up in the mountains and takes a bit of effort to get to because that way, people are purposely there to enjoy specifically Burgess. And enjoy they shall! In an intimate cellar setting (it helps that the entry road is too small for big tour buses).
Thankfully, my parents were spared the task of biking home post-tasting due to technical issues sustained during the 5-mile uphill trek to the vineyard. Though completely ill-suited to this journey, the cruisers at least make for a nice pic.
Mom didn't get enough uphill cycling action in Calistoga so we headed to some bigger mountains in Yosemite National Park.
Just outside Yosemite is the town of Groveland. We had doubts our sweet little minivan would make it up all these hills so we stopped for a brief happy hour at Priest Station Cafe.
Once inside Yosemite, passed the crowds & beyond the clounds, this stunning view awaited:
We did a great high elevation loop hike that included this spectacular view of Tutokanula or El Capitan and I was looking for Hazel!
This was the site of our picnic lunch:
Talk about sweaty palms! A girl recently completed the first solo ascent of this cliff:
Sunset was nice:
As we left the park & headed back West towards San Fran, we stopped for one last wine tasting. Just outside Turlock, where Kath & TO dropped us, we discovered a small winery. We enjoyed a personal tasting with delicious wine and brought some for our next Warm Showers host. A bottle even survived the trek to LA to Rob & Laura.
Mom & Dad dropped us off at the train station in Turlock and we rode to Martinez.
It was a dream of ours to cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. Coming from Yosemite/inland, we realized this dream by spending the night in Martinez with our awesome Warmshowers hosts, Jacob & Victoria. The next day, we biked north & west around the San Pablo Bay. Jacob joined us! It was a great, long ride that ended in Mill Valley. We spent the night with another great Warmshowers, Mark, who is one of the first WS members - from way back when it was just an email chain! Our stay with Mark was followed by a leisurely ride into San Francisco the next day.
Took us a long time to actually cross the bridge because of all the pictures and because Christian helped a fellow biker fix his beat-up bike. Red is a good color, eh?
The best part about San Francisco was meeting up with GINA!!!