Day 24: MacKerricher Beach – Manchester Beach

Day 24: MacKerricher Beach – Manchester Beach (KOA)

Distance: 46.5 miles.
Time: 5:05.
Average Speed: 9.1 mph.

As it was a relatively short day, I took it easy this morning, fixing yesterday’s punctured inner tube and stitching the seam of my shorts. It was after 12 by the time I left the campsite and pedalled along an old haul road for the few miles into Fort Bragg. I stopped for a lengthy lunch at a Pizza Buffet restaurant and by the time I really got going it was almost 3.

Despite the short miles, it was still meant to be a tough day because of the climbs, but by the time the road had been predominantly flat for 15 miles, I was feeling complacent.

As the morning’s clouds dissipated, the sun broke through and the – already – staggering scenery became bewildering. I took a short detour around Mendocino headland, affording me stunning views back along the coast.

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Arriving in the quaint town of Mendocino, an artist’s haven with its own film festival, I stopped at a cafe, off the Main Street, for an Ice Cream, it was idyllic.

Soon I was back on the highway, and the bubble burst. The hills started, with a vengeance. It took an age for the miles to go by, as the road made its way, agonisingly along the coast.

The scenery remained astonishing, and along a winding road with no shoulder, it reminded me of the Outer Hebrides back home.

Finally arriving in Elk, after 30 miles, a thought crossed my mind. It had been lucky, that so far all the shops I’d gone to had been open, even when arriving in the evening. The one in Elk was shut, great. It was only 13 miles to the campsite now, I was sure I’d manage.

Just outside Elk, I arrived at, allegedly, the steepest climb on the route, instantly I knew why. The straight section at the start ramped up to well over 10 percent, and then, as I crawled around the outside of the first switchback, I gasped: the inside of the corner must have been 25 percent, astonishingly steep for a major road. Then it was my turn, for the second corner, I was on the inside, and as I entered the corner it looked like a wall in front of me. Standing to force through the pedals, the chain skipped, and before I had a chance to react, I had tumbled off the road and into the verge, the bike flipping 180 degrees and landing on top of me.

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Dusting myself down, I seemed to be ok, just having banged my elbow. Remarkably, the bike seemed fine too, I reattached the panniers, which had fallen off in the crash, and tentatively pedalled on up the road, on the outside of the bend. Summiting the climb, the adrenaline was pumping and I laughed out, of all the things that could have scuppered my trip, falling off going uphill wasn’t high up on my list of predictions.

I arrived at the Manchester Beach KOA campsite, just after the office should have closed, but my luck was in, the shop was still open, and, amazingly, they had a $10 Hiker /Biker rate.

Tomorrow, I will be largely staying on my bike, hopefully, all the way to Bodega Bay!

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