Summary – day 12 – Fort Bragg to Sea Ranch (Tuesday 6 September)

Summary – day 12 – Fort Bragg to Sea Ranch (Tuesday 6 September)
Posted by Mike

Estimate: 65 miles, actual: 70.62 miles
Avg. speed: 15.0 mph
Cumulative distance: 1,006.41 miles – we’ve gone through 1,000 miles – well over half-way now. About 800 miles to go!

As we weren’t going to be cycling so far today, we stayed in bed a little longer than usual and had some time to look at the attractive and well-maintained gardens at the Surf Motel and Gardens. The gardens were arranged all the way around the building and in the centre of a large courtyard/car park. There were fountains, gazebos and benches among the planting – it looked really quite special and quite unusual for a fairly inexpensive motel.

We knew that there was a rather nice bicycle store in Fort Bragg and we’d spotted the Fort Bragg Cyclery in a rather large impressive-looking building on Main Street as we rode into town the previous evening. We went back into town to pay them a visit; we needed some spare inner tubes and puncture repair patches, (the ones in Matthew’s puncture repair kit are self-adhesive … these are useless and shouldn’t be used!). The Fort Bragg Cyclery is on the major north/south Pacific coast cycle route, so does good trade with touring cyclist. They have a visitor’s book – so I left an entry telling of our trip celebrating my upcoming 50th birthday and left our blog address – I wonder if the number of hits will increase as a result?!

Matthew picked up a ‘Buildings to Bragg About’ leaflet – a short guide to some of the historic buildings in Fort Bragg and since there was still plenty of time before we needed to set off, we decided to take a bicycle tour of the town and check them out. Many of the older buildings along the Californian coast were destroyed in the 1907 earthquake. So most of the older buildings are from just after then. We had a look at St Michael and All Angels church-a 1902 shingle-style building with a lovely arcaded entrance to a hall on one side; an arts and crafts house and a fantastic 1938 ‘Streamline Moderne’ house – painted white with corner windows; the 1938 Cotton Auditorium built as part of the New Deal and part of secondary school buildings; the 1922 Fort Bragg City Hall, with a big US flag on the side and finally there were lots of interesting wooden shop buildings with apartments above.

Outside a Starbucks coffee shop, we spotted a bicycle, heavily laden with touring equipment. Inside we met Torrie, from Portland and a student of Marine Biological and Art at Oregon State University. An unusual combination, I thought. She’s yet another cyclist who’s interested in a career in environmental conservation work after she graduates. We also spotted two hitchhikers in Fort Bragg (separately); the first that we’ve seen on this trip.

We eventually left Fort Bragg at about 1.00 and headed south on Highway 1 through Caspar, Mendocino, Little River, Albion, past a rather curious little Catholic Cemetery high on a bluff at Cuffeys Cove and bathed in mist, rather reminiscent of a 1950s horror film!

On to Manchester, where we met a delightful woman who was staffing a Save Our Libraries desk in the entrance to the general store.

Point Arena and St Orres followed before – where we passed a Russian-style inn and restaurant.

Puncture #4 (Matthew – rear – again) just before we arrived in Sea Ranch. I didn’t notice that Matthew wasn’t right behind me when I arrived, so had to go back to find him!

It’s been a day of real contrasts: up and down, warm and cold. The road was quiet and characterised by short steep climbs followed by longish curving descents. We were often right by the sea and the cold fog was fairly thick all along the coast. If the road moved inland a little or climbed higher up, we’d find ourselves enjoying warm sunshine. It was an odd sensation. Mostly we were riding in fog, so the few good views out to sea were really appreciated. As we riding along in the mist, we could often hear the waves and once we heard sea lions.

Sea Ranch doesn’t have a town centre, as such. Rather, it’s a series of very nicely designed houses that are well-spaced out in roads that run off Highway 1 towards the sea. There’s a lovely unity of design and appearance to the houses – fairly square and angular, single storey, with large picture windows, wide verandas and all in a uniform silver-grey wood. The houses stand in a wide open grassland, just a few metres from the sea.

Bob and Sophia (+ Tender the beautiful doe-eyed greyhound + Cecil the cat), gave us an extremely warm welcome and made us very comfortable. Bob is a computer programmer, working on games software. Sophia works to prepare environmental impact assessments/reports for new developments. We were little surprised to learn that although they’re listed on Warm Showers, they don’t cycle themselves. Bob is a big hiker, though. Still, it’s really wonderful to come across such generous, warm-hearted, interesting people who are prepared to open up their home to passing cyclists and tourers.

We had a wonderful dinner of pasta and fresh warm bread and told stories from our trip and learned a little about them, too. They’re aiming to live small and minimise their impact, which was quite a boost to some of the things that I’ve been thinking about the importance of consuming less, wasting less and just generally trying to think more about how we live. After dinner we talked until late, while Matthew tickled Tender’s tummy – she looked fantastically relaxed on her back with her fine big paws in the air – it reminded me a little of being back home with our cat, who likes having his tummy tickled, too.

Bob and Sophia are planning a trip to Spain at Easter and we talked about some of the places that they could visit there. Hope they get to the UK, it would be lovely to see them again.

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