I had decided to ride RAID early summer, believing it to be the younger, cooler cousin of the Paris-Brest-Paris ride I had not yet made up my mind about. Really not a fair comparison but such style: independent, low-tech, with a small number of hearty folk.
I woke up late Sunday night anxious about the ride. I decided to ride the 101/1 route instead of 5 and this put me to sleep happy. The coast promised much better views and ice cream pickings. Still leaving with the group Monday morning I didn't have a schedule- just Friday at the latest for friends awaiting my arrival.
We left at about 11 am. I have only once before tortured myself riding to San Rafael. It is not far at all, and I've ridden the slightly western route through Fairfax etc tons of times. But there is a place just south of San Rafael that is as close to automobile hell as I've seen, that I avoid at all costs. It is totally irrational, and really doesn't compare to, say, Bangkok but who knows why it affects me so. For some reason it feels like fifty highways cross. I finally made it to Wolfe Grade and past that nastiness. Then it's some highway riding: it is very fun. FAST. Enough that it doesn't feel dangerous at all.
The ride along the 101 corridor is a comfortable one after all the San Francisco brevets. And it's quick, with hot dry air and a southerly wind. I still hadn't decided how fast to ride, or where to end up for the day, but I ran into Joel again and joined the plush 150-mile-a-day, sleep every night plan. And he is good company with right priorities.
Fearing leftover beer cans and people and diesel exhaust we dreamed a pristine site on Cow Mountain east of Ukiah. I still do not know if this place exists, but two stubborn people pushed uphill for a long way and did not find it. The site on Lake Mendocino ended up a fine, quiet one, free if you can impress the ranger with your day and promise only to bivy till dawn.
Tuesday: We set a good precedent, early out and riding 30-50 miles before real food. Of course the unplanned meet up spot in Willits could be none other than the $2.99 breakfast place. There is only one.
After this the day was long and hot. this was the hardest day of the trip. It is not really noteworthy except for the strangeness, undiminished from a previous trip, of Garberville, a diverse and initially puzzlingly prosperous town.
Even the avenue of the giants can be painful when it is over 100 out. But it is almost lush in the trees too. An early stop is a pleasure as heat had sapped me for the day.
Wednesday: Again, early rising helps for a long day. Rode with the Chicago pair of Mike and Erin, who had cyclocomputers reading close to our mileage though they had taken the much much harder way. I admitted I might have ditched the ride too if I thought the whole ride to Oregon could be as heinous as the very slow motion rollercoaster that is the coast route south of Leggett.
At the risk of sounding like a Chronicle food writer, it must be said that I've had no finer omelettes than those at Carl's Omelette house in Eureka. This Carl is a genius who knows how to use butter. As drumming Arcata hippies can only sneak bacon in dark back rooms, breakfast anywhere in Eureka is recommended.
There was some rain on the stretch from Eureka to Crescent City, but not enough to pull out raingear. A tail wind made all but the final climb south of Crescent City easy. This section though was as dicey as I remembered- with rain and wind and no shoulder it is unpleasant to have logging trucks next to you.
Brookings marks the first of the glorious Oregon State beaches with lovely hiker-biker sites and free hot showers at Harris Beach State Park. This luxury along with full nights sleeping had me very content. The parks are so good you want to support them, but who can resist the challenge to ride five days and not pay once for sleeping?
Thursday: Not knowing my company well enough, I gave up too easily on my plan to hit Langlois, Oregon for a night stop. A dear friend's family is here, and I think it the most idyllic homestead I've seen. Emus, kittens, horses, sheep, ducks, dogs, tomatoes, horses, carrots, hot tub. And the best company in zo's (not eric) family. Unfortunately only a short break made sense, but I had long enough to remind myself that 9 months was too long away.
The section to Honeyman State Park was a fast one, probably from knowing that the end was really near and I could spare the energy. We easily made up for the afternoon farm break and Bandon Creamery stop. More food notes- long bike detours or breaks for good (Tillamook in this case) ice cream are never foolish.
The sleeping at Honeyman state Park is quiet, except for the bizarre fact that it attracts the street luge RV set, whose sport must be all the more exciting past midnight.
Friday: the last morning is cool and foggy, beautiful of course with more pillars in the sea. I was glad to have gotten along so well and have no pain, just tiredness, even after finishing PBP the 22nd. The road inland from Lincoln City is an easy one, only one real hill since it mostly follows the Salmon. Plentiful melon, plums, and water made the heat seem fairly mild, and only the last twenty miles into Portland were painful. Though the city that has much touted urban growth boundaries, there is definitely something that spreads it tentacles out for many many miles to the southwest. Riding into Portland was a pleasure though, and riding 99 you end up easily downtown without any hairy traffic. Joel and I finished in fine time, with good people waiting at the finish with much needed food (and un-needed gin and tonic).
The couple days after RAID I did little but swim and rest and eat tomatoes on Sauvie Island. I am always amazed at just how reasonable it is to go such a distance and that we can recover quickly. And it's still cheaper than the hound. After this I rode just around Portland and Seattle, taking the train up rather than riding to Vancouver.
Finally, let it be known that the pleasant company of you messenger people finally convinced me to do this work in SF for awhile.