Day 37 – We woke up Tom-less. I didn’t get much sleep. The waves were so loud, I kept thinking that Frank was going to be swept away to sea as he slept on the beach. I hurried to pack my panniers and I ate some pre-breakfast breakfast PB&J sandwiches. The plan was to ride several miles into Gualala and find a diner to eat and reunite with Tom. It was a tough little ride into town. My legs were destroyed. It felt like I didn’t have many more days of riding left in them.
There was a cafe called Trinks, where I got eggs, bacon, toast and potatoes. It wasn’t long before I saw Tom working his way down the street toward our parked bikes. I ran out the door and flagged him down. Frank grabbed Tom and yelled, “Tom, you’re alive!” The Hammock Guys were reunited at last. We all ate and charged our phones. Rama left first. He said he was going to put in an epic 90 mile day and make it to Point Reyes. It was a little under 40 miles to Jenner, mostly up and down on the coast. Then another 5 miles of flat terrain, up the Russian River to our campgrounds in Casini Ranch. I wanted to call and double check the availability, but we hadn’t had phone service for over 2 days.
Out into the fog and mist we rode. The Hammock Guys blasted ahead as usual. Russ and I pedaled our big rigs up and down the windy roads. A little ways along we spotted the neon green construction vests that the Brazilian couple wore. I slowly reeled them in, and we caught up to them next to a sheep farm. They said that they had been taking it easy. Only 40 mile days. We chatted a bit and then pushed off.
A couple miles down the road, Russ swung into a grocery store to see if they had wifi. He wanted to contact his sister and make sure it was cool if we all spent the night at their place the following day. I went in and grabbed a pack of Twinkies, a Cliff Bar and a mint and honey tea. We sat and ate some snacks on the foggy steps. I didn’t want to move, but we had a long way to go. It was another 10 miles of tough climbs and narrow roads before we arrived at a restaurant that we all agreed would be our meeting place for lunch. I was starving by the time we pulled in. We didn’t see the Hammock Guys bikes. We stopped in front of the cafe’s door and realized that they were closed. An older guy sitting on the curb drinking his coffee turned to us and said, “They’re on winter hours. They won’t be open until four.” It was only noon. Too long to wait for them to open. We asked if he saw two other bikers come through. He told us they went by about a half hour ago. We got back on the bikes.
Hunger overwhelmed me. We went another couple miles before we reached another grocery store. Sitting outside were the Brazilian’s. They were tossing popcorn into each others mouths, and swinging their legs from the porch. We asked if they saw the Hammock Guys. They said they went by 15 minutes ago. We were getting closer, but still no food. Off we went again.
The next restaurant was closed. I told Russ that I needed to eat at whatever place came up next. We put in a couple more tough miles when, finally, we came up to a third grocery store. Thomas was standing outside eating some chips. We went in, and they had a deli. Russ and I ordered big turkey sandwiches and chips. I devoured my food and I was still hungry. Russ went around the corner and came back with the biggest apple fritter I had ever seen. He said it was only a buck ninety-nine. I couldn’t resist. I bought one myself and proceeded to stuff my stomach to the brink of bursting with its frittery goodness.
Satisfied with our calorie intake, we all jumped on the bikes and pushed off down a steep hill. This was the beginning of the hardest climbs of the day. Russ and I threw our bikes into their granny gears and started the slow ascent. We were riding high on the cliff edge, with no shoulder and sometimes no guardrail. Cars would back up behind us, waiting until they could see far enough ahead to pass. We were high enough up, that if you looked over the edge as you rode by, you would get a little dizzy from the heights.
Every time we thought we were at the top of the hill, we’d go down a little bit and then have to climb back up. It was exhausting, and some of it was so steep that we had to pull over to catch our breath. That’s about the time I realized that the giant apple fritter might have been a bad idea. It felt like a log of dough and vomit was lodged in the top of my stomach and esophagus. The fog never let up and between my stomach and the hills, I was not feeling well.
Russ and I were in the middle of another climb when Boris came up behind us on his light rig. He chatted a bit before pushing ahead and leaving us in the dust. We came to a large valley where we could see miles of the winding Pacific Highway stretched out before us. I tried to grab some photos through the fog at the top. It was a blast coasting down the road, winding left and right, speeding up faster than the cars. The ride ended and we had to go back up another hill.
I thought that fritter was going to eject on the way up. I took a break and then pedaled up and over the last hill of the day. We coasted down to the mouth of Russian River. We made it to Jenner and caught up with the Hammock Guys. Rama was there too. He decided that 90 miles was too much, and was looking to hitchhike south. I looked at Russ and told him that the fritter was a bad idea. He agreed and we both sat in big wooden chairs, exhausted and sick to our stomachs. The guys ran across the street to grab some sodas while we relaxed.
The Brazilians showed up in town too. We said our goodbyes to Marcello and Roberta. Rama got a ride just as we were readying to leave. We all shook hands and sped off to our final destination at Casini Ranch. We stuck together in a nice pace line as we powered out the last 5 miles. In town we stocked up on drinks and sandwiches. We rolled into Casini Ranch and up to the check-in station.
The woman at the counter handed me a map and a price sheet. She pointed out that it would be almost $50 for the campsite, which included the first 2 people, then $14 more per additional person. On top of that, there were no trees for the Frank and Tom to hang their hammocks. The woman said that they would have to rent a tent for $10 and give them a $20 deposit. I came outside to tell the guys the bad news. We were all ready to get a shower and be done for the night. I gave them the price of a night in Casini. It totaled nearly $100. We all looked at each other in disbelief. The most we had paid for a site on the coast was $10 per person. We couldn’t bring ourselves to pay such a high rate so we decided to push on and look for another place to camp.
Back to the road we went. Luckily the terrain remained flat. We stayed together and made our way into the town of Monte Rio. In the center of town we came to the local fire department. Russ rolled up and managed to catch the chief as he was getting into his truck. He told him that we were traveling and looking for a place to stay; a church, a fire station, anywhere. The chief looked nervous. There was no room on the fire station property, but he remembered that the local church was handing food out to the poor that afternoon. He suggested stopping by and seeing if they’d let us use their lawn for camping. We thanked him and worked our way to the other side of town.
Russ went into the church and looked for someone that he could talk to. He let someone know that we were looking for a place to stay. I showed up just as a younger woman and an older gentleman started trying to explain the directions to Homie beach. They were both giving different confusing directions. I noticed that nobody had teeth. They explained that Homie Beach got its name from all of the homeless that slept on it. They joked about how if we had a six pack of beer and gave it out to the homeless we’d be just fine.
Homie beach started to sound like a bad idea. Another guy told us that there was a patch of grass behind a store where we could set up. It sounded a little better, but then a girl said we’d be fine if we slept with shanks. Then she laughed and said, “Just kidding.” Russ looked at all of us and said, “Let’s get out of here. We’ll just go all the way to my sisters in Santa Rosa.” I didn’t want to pedal anymore. But Homie beach wasn’t an option. There were just too many weirdos in town.
We hit the road and formed a tight pace line. It was getting late and the sun was setting in the Russian River valley. Frank lead the way, and we made great time. We held a steady 15 mph across the flat terrain. When we rolled into Guerneville, Russ yelled up to Frank to find a spot to stop and eat our sandwiches. We’d need the energy to make it all of the way to Santa Rosa. Frank found a great spot in downtown with tables surrounding a water fountain. We jumped off our bikes and began slugging down our sandwiches.
Soon we realized that we were once again surrounded by homeless people. Probably a dozen of them, all staring at us and eyeing up our panniers. They tried talking to us, but everyone seemed high and made no sense. Where were all of these people coming from? Russ got a signal on his phone and called his sister Julie to tell her we were coming all the way to her house that night. We packed back up and continued our sprint out of town.
Frank kept the pace up to 15 mph for the next ten miles down River Road. We broke out of the woods and into the open, surrounded by rolling hills of vineyards. The setting sun backlit us and cast shadows of our pace line across the blacktop. My odometer was closing in on 70 miles for the day. I figured we still had a good 10 to go when a big white truck honked us as it drove by. Frank slowed to take a look and Russ yelled out, “Keep going!” Everyone was focused on the mission and we all pedaled in unison. Next thing we knew the honking was behind us. The white truck drove up along side of us and rolled down the window. A woman yelled out, “Russ! Russ!” It was Russ’s sister Julie. She came to rescue us!
Russ waived her on to find a parking spot up ahead of us. She pulled over and we rolled up behind her. All of the guys, including myself, were ready to load up the truck and get a ride home. Russ asked how far her house was. He wanted to drop his bags and continue riding. The guys and I were ready to be done, but if Russ was going to continue, so were we. Then he found out that we were going to be staying at his brothers, which was further out of town. Russ relented, and decided we were going to have to load up anyway, so we broke down the bikes and squeezed them all into Julie’s truck bed.
It felt great to sit on a soft seat cushion. Julie fired up the big truck and took off. We all grabbed onto the sides of the truck. It felt like a jet rocket launched under our asses. I looked at Frank, Tom and Russ and they were all tense. I thought we might fly right off the road. I looked over and Julie was only going 60 mph. It felt like warp speed. We had been riding bikes for so long, that we all lost our perspective on speed. Julie seemed calm and relaxed, so we all kept quiet and white-knuckled the oh-shit bars the whole way into town.
The day finally came to an end. We spent some time at Julie’s house and met her husband Tom. They gave us some beer and let us relax for a bit. Then Russ took the monster truck and we drove down to his brother’s house. There we met his brother Wes and and sister-in-law Debbie. They took us in, fed us spaghetti and listened to all of our road stories. A couple more beers down and we were all out like lightbulbs. I don’t know how we pedaled so far. Especially after having such a long ride the day before. But somehow, we made it. And now we were all rewarded with comfy beds and home cooked meals. Tomorrow would be a much needed rest day.
(Repost of my 2014 Pacific Coast Tour Instagrams)