Fort Bragg to Point Arena, CA

Fresh from the rest day (mostly), we rolled along the bluffs south into Point Arena.

We managed to sleep in a bit, so got a late start. That was potentially a bit of a problem, since the market in Point Arena closes at 7. We decided we would buy evening supplies before checking in.

The first few miles heading out of Fort Bragg were pretty meh, with enough traffic to take away some of the fun. There were lots of little climbs and descents, but only pockets of any particular view. I prepared myself for a day of simple transportation.

Once we got south of Mendocino, things got a lot more interesting. We got nice views of the ocean as we rode 200 feet above on the bluffs. Traffic died down a lot, to where we’d go a few minutes between cars.

The elevation profile of the day was really jagged, without a main climb or two to define the ride. Instead, there were a lot of small, shallow climbs, followed by small, shallow descents. Most of the river and cove inlets had bridges to soften the edges, unlike the road north of Fort Bragg.

We stopped for lunch at what looked like the parking for a state beach in Elk, outside of the old Post Office building. There was a path leading behind, but we couldn’t bring the bikes so we just blocked off a dirt parking spot and picnicked. After we finished, we found a few hundred feet down the road the actual parking for the beach, complete with picnic tables and toilets. You gotta work with what you got, and can’t always win.

Elk Creek, a few miles south, gave us the hardest time today. As we approached, we could see the road disappear inland, but also ahead, cut into the cliffs. Something interesting was about to happen.

Turning in, we descended sharply. A bridge kept us from losing all the elevation we had built up. After the bridge, it went up, a lot. The next half mile climbed at 10% with two switchbacks. The first part was in a headwind, for some bonus challenge. We worked our way up, grunting encouragement to each other in between pants. Then the first switchback put us on the outside of the turn, making it less steep. Other than coping with the crosswind, it was okay. Then, having turned 180°, we got tailwind to help us up the next part.

We got to the next turn and saw it was another switchback, this time with us on the inside, steep part of the turn. Anne groaned and stopped, shouting for me to keep going if I could. I saw no traffic behind me, so took the turn as wide as I could while keeping in my lane. Oncoming traffic kept me from going wider. I huffed up and around, and made it to the vista point at the top. I stopped for some pictures and to wait for Anne to catch up with Ruth. Sooner than I expected, she came pedaling up the hill. She had only walked up the switchback, then managed to get started again for the rest. She didn’t want to stop, so I quickly saddled up and fell in behind her for the last few feet up, continuing along the bluffs. It wasn’t very long, but it was a real challenge while loaded.

Today’s hotel, Wharf Master’s Inn, is further off our route than we’ve been staying. We descended down to the pier at Arena Cove. As we got to some parking, I announced I was glad we weren’t staying in the houses on the ridge above. We rolled through the parking lot, trying to figure out what the signs were telling us. Then we saw the ramp leading up the the hotel. It turns out those houses were actually a stylish hotel, and the lobby and our room were higher up still. We walked.

We had dinner at the pizza place at the bottom of the ramp. We had an anti recommendation from a friend, but a vote from another cyclist who came to chat while we were unpacking. Plus, it’s close, and we weren’t excited about walking back to the main drag. Anne reports that while we were at the counter considering the menu, the woman ready to take our order gave somebody the finger behind a hand, although she couldn’t tell if it was directed at us or somebody in back. After we sat down to wait for our food, she disappeared and an older woman who seemed to be the owner came and apologized for the “uncooperative” employee. I think they were related. It was an exciting experience, but really, after a biking day, any food is good food.

After dinner we explored the pier, watching seals poke up their heads in the water. The kids had fun spotting them before dipping back underwater.

We’re starting to see more touring cyclists. In addition to the one at the hotel, we passed one on a climb (carrying less gear than us, fear our muscles). We also saw a pair go by during lunch, then again on the side of the road apparently fixing a flat. They declined our assistance. We also saw one going north, and waved, but he was too busy with his headphones to acknowledge us.