Westport Hotel to Cloverdale

Pacific Coast Bicycle Route Oregon and Northern California: Day 11

We awoke, well rested, to fruit, scones, and coffee at our door today. This hotel is just what we needed coming off two hard days and facing a third. Got packed up and headed downstairs for a second course, a fresh fruit parfait and more locally produced coffee.

By the time we were finished eating our multi-course breakfast it was nearly ten o’clock, meaning we got a bit of a late start on what we hoped would be a 92 mile day. We had been feeling so strong the last few days that we decided to push past our projected campsite at Hendy Woods, just 55 miles in, and aim for Cloverdale, the next city large enough to have some inexpensive hotel options.

Riding along the coast, over very steep pitches and consistent rollers, we made our way through cow pastures and past some small enclaves of vacation homes. The ripe blackberries dangling from fences by the side of the road tempted us, but we knew we had to keep moving to make our goal for the day before dark. We rode on through Fort Bragg, stopping only for a quick restroom break and made reasonable time despite a headwind.

At about 26 miles in, we came upon the town of Mendocino, which was an ideal stopping spot for lunch and our last obvious opportunity to refill our bottles ahead of forging inland into the heat of the Anderson Valley. We took a Yelp recommendation for Mendo Burger, a local burger joint just behind the main street in town. While happy with the food, we somehow ended up spending $30 on burgers, fries, and soda…we’re definitely not in Oregon anymore! The food also took almost half an hour to get to us, with the excuse being that all their food was “made to order.” We left town mostly satisfied, but concerned about making up for the late start and lost time.

After another 10 miles or so of cycling down the coast, we finally hit HWY 128, which was to be the last turn of the day, though we were still more than 55 miles from Cloverdale. This road was flat, well-paved, and allowed us to take advantage of Eastbound winds blowing off the ocean. Our pace lifted and so did our spirits.

A few miles into our speedy ride up 128 into the redwoods, we started hearing a noise coming from the back of our bike. We had found a screw loose on the lower left connecting point of rack to frame several days earlier and initially thought that might have happened again, but as it turned out, things were about to get complicated.

 

After some investigation, we realized that the screw holding the rack to the frame on the right side had snapped right off, and the lower connection point of the rack was supporting itself by scratching into the frame and sitting atop the wheel skewer…NOT GOOD! The load being carried on the rear had become unstable, and the rack was starting to bend to the right.

We consider our options as we stood in amongst the giant redwoods, 15 miles from Mendocino and nearly twenty miles from Boonville (the next town on the map). We tried to lighten the load by putting the panniers on our backs, but there was no good position for them and our other items swayed recklessly on the rack with no panniers to rest upon. We put the panniers back on and decided to make for Hendy Woods, some 11 miles up the road, where we hoped to find a better solution.

Forced to move slowly to avoid the danger of a high-speed crash, we took nearly 45 minutes to travel another four miles, where we came upon the town of Navarro, which is to say we came upon the Navarro General Store, hidden amongst the trees.

After speaking to a few locals with trucks without any luck getting a ride into a bigger town, we were running out of time to make it to a city before dark. A hitchhiker who we had been leap-frogging the same route with for several days turned up and, seeing our rack problem, declared himself the winner
the likely winner of our race down the coast.

At nearly 5pm, we made the decision to ask the storekeeper to hold our belongings until we could ride into a city big enough to rent a car and come back. He accepted, only after first asking us if our bags were full of drugs, weapons, or other contraband (apparently that’s something to be concerned about in the area). The more we talked though, the more the storekeeper and the other employee warmed up to us and we felt assured they would take care of our gear. All that was left to do was ride 43 miles to Cloverdale before dark…

The first hour, we flew down HWY 128 with the wind at our backs and our bike now much more nimble, but as we reached the town of Boonville, our energy began to fade and so did the coastal breeze. It was still more than 90 degrees and we stopped for gatorades and a snack.

While I was in the store, a bicycle touring company (Undiscovered Country Tours) owner came in to re-supply as well, and after hearing our plight, he gave Jo a few cliff bars to help us on our way. Again, we were reminded of the friendly and supportive nature of the bicycling community, and especially of those who know the challenges of touring.

 
After Boonville, the roads headed upward in a surprisingly steep fashion and the shoulder thinned out significantly, making us both exhausted and uneasy about the prospect of not making Cloverdale by dark. Just when things were becoming unmanageable, nature distracted us. Deer turned up all over, boars roamed through the brush, and sheep grazed as the sun began to set.
 
 
After making it up the last climb (which a road sign suggested was 8% for 2 miles), we began a spirited descent down winding roads towards Cloverdale with our front light on, though we didn’t yet need it. Finally, around 8:15pm and now using the bike light actively, we peddled into the town of Cloverdale, sighing relief and cheering after completing a 90+ mile day.
 
The Super 8 hotel was nearly as welcome a sight as the Italian food spot right next to it. We gorged on spaghetti and meatballs and pesto pizza and then headed back to our hotel to sink-wash the clothes from our backs in order to be ready for the next morning’s ride into Santa Rosa. 
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