Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Shangri-La

It's shaping up to be a beautiful morning - clear, blue sky, maybe 50 degrees. The final day in these bike clothes. With the relaxed atmosphere of the Benbow Inn, I roll out (naturally) just after the fat hour of 9 am. Struggle up two big hills on either side of Garberville and disappear into the Avenue of the Giants.

Riding 106 miles, then getting up and doing the same again. Not exactly wandering on vacation. Not really what I had in mind on Friday, leaving work. But looking at the sky overhead, who would guess that way out in the Pacific a deadline is looming... a huge storm due to make landfall Wednesday, 4am. Today's project is reaching Trinidad before it hits.

I should probably be tracking time more closely. Yet for some reason, the opposite thing is happening. Among the big old trees, so graceful, so tall. A feeling of immersion, floating takes over. No tension or traction (and it's not because they've repaved the road). The more I ride, the deeper and more profound it becomes. Flow. Auto-pilot. Whatever the name, it's digging in. I can steer and push the bike, but it feels like I'm permanently rooted here.

Like the trees, just a strip left by the timber companies as a PR gesture, I remind myself. Nonetheless they block out most of the light, and the horizon, the views and sounds. You think, what would be the harm of lingering here? Who would ever want to leave? Maybe the locals, who hit the gas and zoom through, as if urgent business were waiting down the road. I wonder if anyone has just camped out here, spellbound. Keep to this mantra: no stopping, no hike of any length, keep moving.

When the turn comes for Honeydew, a twinge of disappointment. But the decision is easy to keep going straight. Originally I wanted to take another day, a luxury day, maybe climb Panther Gap and head out toward Petrolia. Ride along the Mattole, spend the night out there on the Gorda Plate. There are a few places to stay; there is a store. Even if my legs were willing, Cape Mendocino is no place to be on a bike when a winter storm comes in.

As the morning silently blends into afternoon, it is the stomach that definitively weighs in: time is passing. It asks for a bar. Near the shuttered farm stands in Pepperwood it says one bar is not enough, it needs lunch. Preferably soon. The hunger of touring is kicking in. So there will be no more blissful floating until there's food. I may never feel human again.

It's about 7 miles to Scotia. It feels like a very long way.

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