Setting out in different directions carries certain mythical implications. Westward movement speaks of manifest destiny and relentless exploration, while going North carries with it a sense of rugged adventure, for the North is accompanied by images of mountains and more savage landscapes.
I embarked North last week so I could meet my buddy Dylan in Arcata and ride home South with him. On the California coast and nearly as far west as possible, it is not an easy place to reach with a bike as luggage, so my travel up there was about as dissimilar from the pending journey as could be. Cooped up in a bus without fresh air and ability to move around freely, surrounded by windows instead of endless terra firma, and accompanied by pot-clipping riff-raff and other foreign members of America's sweeping lower to middle class, all I could do was stare out the window and know I could soon interact with these sights at my own leisure, with nothing but the strength of my own legs keeping me from the next big thing.
Dylan was handed off to me almost as a baton in Arcata, as he had ridden down with her through Oregon and I was to now take her trip. A "traditional" family trip was turned on its side as we hit the road the next morning because while the blood in our veins may not run the same, we are thick as thieves and tight as brothers. The classic coastal fog was strewn across the bay as we got rolling, our reacquainting ourselves with our bikes, who seemed to be weary old friends under the heavy influence of camping gear, food and clothing.
What took me 7 hours by bus we were to take a week, cycling and stopping, cruising and salivating, contemplating the feat of self-powered traveled and the awe of a coastline so dynamic a days ride crosses worlds. Not long into the day the road took a turn to the East and the forest grew dense among the rolling hills, the sounds of the ocean no longer audible. The sun, our savior began to beat down upon us and as we shed layers the fog was but a cruel memory. In one of Northern California's countless small towns full of charming old buildings and chuckle-worthy signage and murals, burritos prepared us for the plunge into the redwood forest.
Finally, the Avenue of the Giants. Up North, Highway 1 doesn't exist, so cyclists must share the 101 with our faster fellows the cars. The Avenue is the perfect escape, a winding road through thick redwoods, with crisp views of dense foliage, streams peeking through the trees and golden sunlight at the end of the day.
The end of the ride doesn't mean the end of the work however, the tent must be built, sleeping pads inflated and dinner cooked. After any bike ride you earn your meals, but cooked over a tiny flame, with extra miles in your legs, you are truly worthy. We are ravenous not only in our appetites, but in awe of the majestic forest, and in glee of the blanket of stars the covers us, undisturbed thanks to the lack of nearby metropolis.
Tomorrow will be another day of visual glory, splendid pedaling and all the food in the world we could imagine, but first, the epic sleep that follows a long day.