Summary – day 11 – Miranda to Fort Bragg (Monday 5 September – Labor day)
Posted by Mike
Estimate: 89 miles, actual: 81.4 miles
Avg. speed: 13.9 mph – two epic climbs today and b****y hot!
Cumulative distance: 935.79 miles
Breakfast at Miranda Gardens this morning could have been very nice for two greedy British cyclists. There was plenty to eat, but unfortunately the breakfast room was in part of the motel reception area and the receptionist was sat behind her desk and looking out like a rather stern teacher facing a class at lunch time. I felt a bit self-conscious about repeatedly getting up for more, although I did manage to pour two sachets of oats into one bowl and she couldn’t see because I had my back to her. When she left the room for a moment to refill a coffee pot, almost everyone in the room got up for more!
We didn’t need to set off too early this morning, so we cleaned our bikes and tightened up all the bolts.
Polly’s partner Dennis has sent us a message asking about our bicycles and if we’re riding on hybrid bikes. So now seems as good a time as any to introduce you to our trusty titanium steeds: Condor and Van Nicholas. (*If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the sound of Matthew groaning*).
You can skip the next five (!) paragraphs if you find bicycle talk a bit boring! This is for you Dennis – hope you don’t regret asking!
We’re not using hybrid bicycles. Hybrids look a bit like mountain bikes, with fatter tubes and tyres and often have carry racks over the front, as well as the rear wheels. Hybrids usually have a triple chain-set, (three chain rings at the front), to provide lower gears to make it easier to get up hills. Newer ones often have disc brakes, too. Hybrids are really suitable for long/distance touring, especially if there’s a lot to carry, (such as camping gear), as they’re strong and they really come into their own if the journey involves going off-road, because a hybrid bike will take wider, knobbly tyres to provide extra grip on uneven surfaces. But the fatter tube construction on hybrid bikes means that they are also relatively heavy and any additional weight slows a rider down, (of course this is not a particular issue for many touring cyclists). The wider tyres increases road friction too, which means they’re harder work to ride than a bicycle with narrower tyres.
We’re not carrying that much as we’re staying in people’s houses or in motels. Also we’re riding on well-surfaced roads, so we don’t need hybrid touring bikes to take us off-road. Although we’re not riding that fast – aiming for 15 mph, (compared to the 18 mph average that I generally aim for on my road bike), we have a target destination each day and 10-12 mph would mean unfeasibly long days in the saddle.
We’re therefore using titanium touring bikes. A touring frame looks rather like a racing bicycle, but it has some subtle changes – the whole bike will be slightly longer than a racing bike, (a more stretched-out riding position is more comfortable on a long ride and allows for easier shifts in position). Also the frame geometry is such that there’s sufficient space around the frame to fit mudguards. There are fixing points on the seat stays and at the drop-outs for a rear carrying rack, too. The advantage of titanium is that it saves on weight and it also makes for a very strong, yet flexible frame. Titanium is more comfortable on a long day’s ride than aluminium or carbon as it absorbs some of the uneven road surface. The strength of titanium was also a factor in helping us to decide to bring our own bikes, packed in special bags with us on the plane. We thought that they’d have a better chance of surviving intact in the baggage area and in the plane’s hold if something dropped on them. So they’re light, strong, reasonably fast and comfortable to ride all day.
I’m riding my Condor Gran Fondo. I’ve had this bike for about four years now and it’s a beauty! Condor is a British brand, the bike itself was made in Italy. I use it to ride to work if it’s raining or if I need to carry anything. I also use it on longer group rides such as ‘sportives’ (group rides of 60\+ miles) if I think that it might be wet. My other road bike (Litespeed) doesn’t have any real possibly of fitting mudguards, so if it’s wet, the wheels throw dirty water off the road and high up into the air, all over my back and into the face of anyone riding just behind me, (although obviously it serves them right for being a ‘wheel-sucker’ – someone who drafts behind another cyclist uses up to a third less energy). I use Shimano Ultegra compact gearing, (a double chainring on the front), that gives a reasonably good range of gears. Ultegra is Shimano’s second tier groupset – (Dura Ace is the most expensive, adding between £1500 to £2,000 to the cost of a bicycle! It’s very lightweight and mainly used by pros). Ultegra is not so expensive (about £900) but it’s very good quality – smooth, easy shifting – and hard wearing. My Condor bike has taken me over many, many miles – including to Hamburg and back from Bristol (1300 miles) on our test ride for this trip.
Matthew has a new bike – see previous post. We bought it specifically for this trip. It’s from a Dutch titanium bike specialist – Van Nicholas. His is a Yukon, it’s also built with Shimano Ultegra groupset. We bought it on interest-free finance from Leisure Lakes Bicycles in Cheltenham. Although it’s still very new, he’s enjoying the quality of the ride compared to his aluminium Trek road bike. So there you are … too much information about our bicycles!
Back to today’s ride. It was baking hot when we left Miranda Gardens. We continued through the Avenue of the Giants then rejoined Highway 101, following the course of the Eel River as it meanders south-west. The roads were all very quiet today, as it’s Labor day.
In Garberville, a rather odd souvenir store – The Legend of Bigfoot – a large wooden carving of Bigfoot dominates the entrance and the storefront is strewn with redwood carvings,including Paddington and bear friend (bear friend carrying a shotgun!).
We rode past Piercy and about 5 miles from Leggett, we caught up with two other cyclists: Cleveland and John. We’ve spotted more cyclists on the road since we came into California than we’ve seen on the whole of the rest of the journey so far, (if the cyclists in the cities of Vancouver, Seattle and Portland are excluded). Cleveland and John are nos. 16 and 17! They’d been camping for the weekend … “Where’s all your camping gear?”, I asked? “Our wives have it in the ‘sag wagon’ – we’re riding along until they come and pick us up!” what a great idea! I said: “We don’t have any wives, unfortunately!” John works in insurance and Cleveland is completing a PhD in environmental business. That sound great – it’s good to meet people on bicycles like Cleveland and Christie who are working to help the environment.
We’d thought about having lunch in Leggett, but it was further off the road than we expected, so we called onto a service station to refill our water bottles and have a snack.
We were standing in the shade with our bicycles, when a man asked us where we were headed. Matthew said “Fort Bragg”, then he asked where we were from. Matthew said “Bristol, in south-west England.” Really? said the man, “You sure don’t sound like you’re from England”. “What do we sound like?” I asked. “You sound like you’re goddamn French” he said. Well what do you say to that? Apart from the absurdity of suggesting that we sound French, there was an insult – right there – at the ‘goddamn French’. Now I happen to love France and I think that the French do a pretty good job of making their country one of the most beautiful, prosperous and pleasant in the world. The French also have a very positive relationship with the bicycle – most of them ride for pleasure and they are usually very courteous to other cyclists on the roads – slowing down and giving lots of room when driving past, so it’s a real pleasure to cycle in France. The French also run the best, most prestigious and most exciting cycling race in the world – the Tour de France. An epic feat of sporting endurance played out against a backdrop of fantastic and dramatic scenery. What’s not to like about the French? I decided not to pursue this conversation any further and started to pack our bag to leave. Then the man continued; “Do you use weed?” I was a bit shocked by this. I know that we’re in California now, but that takes the biscuit, (or should that be cookie?!). I’m a bit naive about illicit drugs to be honest Believe it or not, no-one has ever offered to sell me them before. Do I even look like someone who smokes weed? I don’t even drink! I replied: “Certainly not. We’re clean-living guys!”. “This here’s weed-growing country”, he said. “It’s cheap”. Hmm … we said goodbye and set off.
The last leg of the journey involved two huge climbs along Shoreline Highway 1, through wooded hills to reach the Mendocino Coast section of the Pacific, (hence our low average speed today).
Once we reached the coast, the temperature dropped a little, but it was beautiful, undulating quiet coastline through Westport to Fort Bragg. The ocean was very calm and it would have been amazing to have seen some whales – they’re out there, but we didn’t spot any. We did spot the glass beach – what was the town dump and where the sea has smoothed the broken glass that was tipped there.
We arrived early in Fort Bragg and had time to get our laundry done while shopping for dinner at a lovely supermarket, with loads of good things to eat. Market Fresh even had solar panels on the roof. Back to the Surf Motel and Gardens in Fort Bragg for a feast and a rest.
Surf Motel and Gardens truly has some extensive and rather lovely gardens and a poster for the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route in the window :)