Gold Beach to Brookings

Saturday 13 June

Last night’s pizza was huge so the doggie bag made a good chaff bag for breakfast the following morning. The pizza was washed down by the browish liquid from the coffee drip machine in the room so I was ready for the road nice and earlyish. By 10 I had left Gold Beach in my wake and headed out to Brookings via Pistol River and not a lot else. Not a lot else that is if you don’t count the biggest climb of the trip so far followed up by a series of lesser climbs all the way to Brookings.

The bike gearing is playing up a bit because I suspect the cables are stretching so I pretended to be the knowledgeable bike mechanic and did a bit of ‘tweaking’, luckily I managed to get back a few of the gears I had lost. The reward for 300 vertical metres was a huge downhill for nearly 7 ks. Woo hoo! Today I am riding along the coast but in forests of many different kinds of conifers and oaks which cascade down the steep slope to the road then on to the cliffs over the ocean – very spectacular. I have lost count of the different kinds of wildflowers including many hued Rhododendrons and Irisis. At home the Patterson’s Curse is the weed of choice, here it is the sweet pea. They are everywhere and like the Patterson’s Curse, they are spectacular but try convincing the locals of that. Today must be also be a rest day for RV’s because the traffic is fairly light. All good!

Spectacular scenery today with Arch Rock, Thunder Rock Cove and Natural Bridges Cove taking a lot of beating. This is a superb part of the coast, very rugged and breathtaking.

Thomas Creek Bridge soars across the creek at a height 358 feet, over 100 metres. If I don’t stop stopping to take photos I will never get anywhere before dinner time.

Brookings appears up ahead and I find my home for the night – the Harris Beach State Park. This park is spectacular, set in soaring redwood trees with manicured lawns, screens of native shrubbery and is picture perfect. The price for this – $4 for a tent site including free showers and cheap washing facilities. I pitch my tent in a grove of trees with two others, all of us cyclists. The park ranger is giving a talk tonight on the various different types of Seals and Sea Lions that can be seen along the coast so wander up there with my bottle of wine and am treated to an excellent hour long presentation.

The town of Brookings is less than a Kilometre away so I cycle into town and track down an excellent seafood meal – scallops and of course clam chowder. I found a bike shop just before dinner and the mechanic did his magic on my gears for the princely sum of $10. Today was my last full day of riding in Oregon because the California border is only about 6 miles (less than 10 ks down the road).

Sunday 14 June

Who needs an alarm clock when, just above my flimsy abode, there is a bird convention happening. I swear that there must be a million of the things blissfully caroling away just above my head. As I emerge from my tent this is bourne out by the tell tale signs of their guano which, assisted by gravity, forms large patches on my formerly pristine tent. Fortunately the bike, sheltered by a picnic bench remains unblemished.

Who can guess what country we are in?

Fuelled by two very tasty cinnamon buckwheat pancakes and several cups of coffee I head out to Hgy 101 and California. Crossing the border into California is a bit daunting. I am asked to stop by no less than 4 uniformed blokes with buzz cuts and canons strapped to their hips. Y’all carrying any fruit. Feeling guilty for harbouring an innocent bag of nuts (with dried berries) in my bag I quickly and with shaking voice declare the nuts but deny giving succour to any potential terrorist apples or bananas. Y’all have a nice day now and willcum to Keliforniiiia. Deeply relieved I pedal off into the distance wondering what would have happened if I had been caught carrying contraband.

Prior to the border I had been cycling along Oceanview Drive, a quiet detour from the busy Highway 101, my last views of the Oregon coast were spectacular and viewed in almost total solitude. Was this a road or a wide bike path? I merge back with 101 for the short trip past my welcome party and then Oceanview Drive appears again so I spend the next 15 ks or so back in peaceful rural country with little or now traffic. Oceanview Drive is a misnomer though, there is no view of the ocean. Nevertheless the ride was enjoyable, the weather has warmed up and I am cycling in front of a 15 kph tailwind. Just before the little town of Smith River my newest friend Kell, sidled up to me and we have a pleasant chat about cycling and the beautiful countryside that we are in.

Fortunately Kell is not a a cycling evangelist but a 74 year old retiree from San Francisco. He is very fit and riding a bike that looks as if it would float away if his weight wasn’t holding it down. He jokingly tells me that he gets on his bike when his long suffering wife needs a break and spends a fair bit of time cycling the coast and other regions around California. We share a cup of coffee and a chat while Shirley, the proprietor, cleans up around us. Apparently it is after closing time and her soaps are waiting for her. Oblivious to this Kell and I chew the fat so Shirl resigned to the fact that we have settled in for a while finally turns on the telly and watches Days or some other long drawn out soapie.

Finally, after our coffee either evaporates or we unknowingly drink it, Kell and I part. He is over the horizon in next to no time leaving me to dawdle along smelling the roses. Back to 101 for another short stint then onto Lake Earl Drive for the final 14 miles into Crescent City during which I pass the State Penitentiary near Fort Dick (an interesting juxtaposition) where regularly spaced signs tell me not to stop for hitch-hikers and to roll up my windows. Having no room for the former and a dearth of the latter I increase my cadence and speed past Lake Earl.

Crescent City is a reasonable sized town with all the necessary shops and a great selection of restaurants. I stumble across an RV park that has ‘tent sites’ where, after selecting one of only two shaded sites I stumble round filling up gopher holes and smoothing the hills that used to be the holes. Finally with tent flushed clean of its little avian messages and erected I set out to explore the the town.

My restaurant of choice, seafood of course, nestles on a breakwater that stops the harbour from leaking out into the sea. There are a number of noisy sea lions sunning themselves on large pontoons put there for that purpose. They occasionally let out grunting sighs and slither into the water for a snack and after a turn around the harbour fly out of the water landing on their bellies on the pontoon or on some other poor unfortunate sea lion that was foolish enough to stay to close to the edge.

I earned my dinner tonight as the restaurant is three k’s from the camp ground so the walk there and back was good for the appetite. Coincidentally, there is an excellent ice cream parlour on the way home. When I ordered my ice cream the person behind the counter excitedly said, ‘you are an Australian aren’t you?’. I replied in the affirmative, asking her how she knew because most people think I am a pom kiwi (for some strange reason). She said, ‘oh no, I know you are an Australian because my children watch the Wiggles and you sound just like them’. Sigh! Where is my bright yellow skivvy?

Looking North from the edge of Crescent City, the rocks don’t stop surfers from doing what they do.

Monday 15 June

Rest day today so there is time to wander around and look at the town. Washing done and all my house work finished I set out in search of breakfast, which I found not far from my abode. Finding a computer shop I convince the proprietor to download all my photos to a DVD for safety. An hour and $20 later I have checked my email, downloaded all my pics, done a few facebook essentials etc. With the disc safely posted to Deb for safe keeping I find a great little italian caf where I settle in for lunch. This place has a wonderful old bar that was the counter in the original restaurant in the town. The original was owned by the grandfather of the current proprietor so he is fiercely proud of it and his business. The food was pretty good as well.

The lighthouse on Battery Point is connected to the mainland by an isthmus which, in the manner of all good isthmuses, (or is that Isthmi?) is under water as the tide flows and is only exposed for short periods depending on the height of the tide. Just re-read that last para – d’uh! Alas every time I was there the Point was cut off so I didn’t get to see the lighthouse. The coast is rugged here and the long breakwater provides a man made safe harbour for pleasure craft, fishing boats and the coastguard.

The next difficult choice for the day is, where do I have dinner. Fortunately or unfortunately, this is made easy, today is Monday and most places are closed but I did manage to find a place, obviously run by heathens who believed that the masses needed to be fed even on a belated day of rest. It was also fortunate that they knew how to cook. The food was excellent and the service was as good. I won’t tell you what I had but I am sure you can guess.

Crescent City closes down on monday evening (and possibly every other evening as well) so there was nothing for it but to retire to the campground with the remains of my bottle of red and a good book. Life is so hard!

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