Tuesday 16 June
Still not practiced in the art of camp site packing I fumbled my way through the task, swearing at the now wet patches of bird poo and the sticky goo from the pine trees. There is a fog and just a hint of misty rain which is probably just bloated fog anyway. Breakfast done and dusted, its time to hit the road. The trip through town was a bit of a doddle but I knew that there were trials to come, I just didn’t know the whole of it.
Left: Looking back at Crescent City from halfway up the Hill from Hell.
The road out of Crescent City immediately turned toward the heavens and for about 40 minutes I spun in granny gear never seeming to get anywhere. Eventually, there was some respite in the form of quick drop of about half a mile. Whoa, off we went, when suddenly, and at 45kph there was an ear rending (yes even for me) screetch and the back of the bike started to slew from left to right (or is that right to left in the northern hemisphere?) and fortunately back again until I finally managed to stop the whole kit and caboodle to discover that the trailer was minus its left wheel. Closer inspection revealed that the axle shaft was worn into a very nice wedge after being dragged about 60 metres along the road. Beside me, and very close, the road dropped precipitously into the thick forest so I thanked whatever deity prevented me from plunging into its verdant depths and looked around to see if anyone had witnessed this embarrassing interlude.
Ok so now the problem – where is the (expletives deleted) errant wheel. No problem, after all how far could a swiftly rotating, eccentrically weighted, round, rubber tyre clad object go? I didn’t want to know the answer to that so with sinking heart I began what was fortunately a brief search for the thing. There it was, about two metres from and roughly the same distance below the road, wedged precariously in the branches of a shrub. Not being an experienced alpinist, the job of extricating the thing was not something that I intend to brag to my grandkids about but nevertheless, wheel in hand I struggled back to the road and began the search for a solution to my new problem – how (more deleted expletives) do I fix the wheel, still with axle attached, back into the axle shaft?
Photo above: A serendipitous photo of the start of the downhill that witnessed the beginning of my trailer woes. Disaster lurked just around the corner.
Photo Below: Terrain similar to that where my bicycle wheel turned up.
To my rescue, a discarded cigarette packet complete with its silver paper. I fashioned a shim from the silver paper and guiltily discarded the rest of the previously discarded packet into the scrub (after wiping off my fingerprints). With my bandaid solution the left wheel seemed to be fairly firmly wedged into what was left of the axle shaft so I set off to resume my journey to Orick, stopping every mile or so to kick the axle back into it’s place. Needless to say the pace of my ride was much reduced. Quickly, the road resumed its climb to the 1500′ mark where it turned almost vertically downhill for the next mile or so. Around a bend and I was confronted by some roadworks – oh joy!
The roadworks came complete with flag-person who seemed to wave me behind her (arm held out to the side, palm down and quickly moved behind back repeatedly) so that I could continue and not wait for the line of traffic to move off. Well did I get that wrong; I was abruptly followed by a stream of vitriol fit to make a bullocky blush, which warned me that perhaps I was in error. I stopped and turned.
She appeared to be gesturing me to stay where I was – wrong again – the motion of raising and lowering a downturned palm apparently means come back here. Eventually, after she yelled over the 30 metres between us ‘are you deaf or something sirrr’, I decided that she required an audience so I turned back uphill accompanied by more verbal abuse that started to get my hackles up. When we finally got together (a marriage not made in heaven and destined to be short and turbulent) she started to question my aural acuity again in a voice that could be heard for some distance. When I explained to her that I was indeed aurally challenged she shrunk to even less than her 5′ and looked as if she could have crawled under a rock, perhaps the one from under which she came originally.
Below: Illuminated but not illuminating, Californian Leprechauns wear day-glow green, plastic stetsons and hold lollypops.
Now this person was about 5 foot high (or standing in a hole), 50 kilos wringing wet and had trouble holding the lollypop sign. Dressed in day-glow yellow, she looked like one of those glowing sticks that you get at shows and concerts. This vision was crowned by a building workers helmet that was shaped like a stetson (yes it was rigid plastic) complete with leather, silver studded hat band and toggles. I did have a bit of trouble keeping a straight face as she berated me for my recalcitrance – sirrrrr.
She got the last laugh though and wouldn’t let me ride through the roadworks in case I got keeled or worse (sic) so I cooled my heels for 40 minutes as the traffic sped past me at about 10 k’s an hour and until a ‘trerk’ came from the other side to ferry me through the seemingly impassable terrain.
Upon alighting at the other end after a short trip through what was rather innocuous hard packed dirt secton of road complete with idle machinery and an army of similarly employed road-workers I unloaded my bike and trailer to discover that the right trailer wheel had followed its mate and parted company from the shaft. Another quick fix, this time with a discarded match (there may be something to this smoking habit after all) I was again on my way to Klamath and then on to Orick after another brush with the stratosphere.
Paul Bunyan, his red axe and his Blue Ox, Babe dwarfing the SUV’s and other gas guzzlers.
Klamath boasts a 20+ foot high wood carving of Paul Bunyan and an equally gargantuan effigy of a dyspepsic looking blue Oxen named of all things ‘Babe’. There is a cable car ride through the tops of the redwood forest but, sadly the wait for the cable car was more than the time that I had and one had to walk two miles to get to the damn thing so I passed on that and headed off. Shortly down the road I was greeted at one end of a bridge by two large, gold grizzly bear effigies (everything here is twice the normal size) and at the other end, mooned by a similar pair. The bridge crosses the Klamath River and the bears represent California. Strangely, the grizzly bear is the California state emblem but the grizzly’s were hunted into extinction by the locals in the state over a 100 years ago. Go figure!
Below: You are nobody till you have been mooned by two golden grizzlys. And lived to tell the tale (sorry about the pun).
The flat road through Klamath was soon followed by another series of steepish hills that take the unsuspecting traveller 800 feet up before about 9 miles of gently sloping downhill into Orick. By the time I arrived in Orick I was largely over my desire to throw the trailer over the cliff into the Pacific Ocean. Nevertheless a couple of long cold beers managed to help erase the memory of what was not my best day so far.
Thank the lord for alcohol!
Right: A wooden effigy remarkably resembling my mate Terry welcomes me to Orick!