South of Eureka, the sky was blue, the road surface dry, and with my insides filled with breakfast, a cappuccino, kinship, and moment-appropriate music, life was good. The Coast Highway became locally The Redwoods Highway, and with miles the 101 morphed into a 4-lane freeway. At Leggett, I exited right, visited the drive-through tree, and resumed the coastward trajectory now on California State Highway #1. The ten or so miles from Leggett back to the coast were winding, hilly, and dizzying in the fog, and in two places had me pulling over to remove sunglasses and wipe the inside of my visor, only to discover that they both were in fact clear and it was just that foggy outside. The road was wet, and layered in fallen pine needles, and with many corners signed at 15 mph, it was 1st and 2nd gear picking. The exposure (in the mountaineering sense) was high, and I just tried not to look over the roadside cliffs.
Back on the coastline, the views were again spectacular, but the exposure remained, and the fog was mostly heavy. (Visibility about 50 metres at worst.) The 170 km from Mendocino through Bodega Bay took me three and a half hours, filled with constant concentration, caution, and thermos breaks during gaps in the rain. (In truth, the coffee was not to warm me up, or wake me up, but rather to provide a few minutes of stationary existence to regain bearings.) This road is a twisty two-lane affair, winding along the craggy shoreline, with continuous elevation changes, switchbacks, turns exceeding 180 degrees, and did I mention the cliffside exposure down to rock-pounding surf below? After some time in the fog, it could become disorienting. At one point, I noticed the hybrid concrete, steel, and cable guardrail protecting one corner, and the eyes noticed the one section of cable that was broken, dangling, clearly from having been hit. During another stretch, I battled not to psych myself out, thinking of all the parallels between today and the final day of my 2014 migration trip, which ended badly. Then there were two fricking greasy cattle gates. The afternoon was clearly about survival. Ride another day.
I missed a turn and ended up in Petaluma, back on the 101, which wasn't so annoying since it was getting late-ish. This would be the fast way into San Francisco, and my idealized hope of hugging the coast all the way until crossing the Golden Gate Bridge was abandoned. With Oakland as my destination, I crossed the Richmond Bridge, finally finding some relaxation in rush-hour Bay Area traffic, what with its clear visibility, comparably straight sections of road, and soft water landing should one go over the edge. I followed Garmin's purple line to Exit 13, and proceeded to head up into the hills. Maybe ten minutes later, sensing I was close to my friend Carlos's house in Orinda, I was slightly confused when the street lights went dark, the traffic disappeared, the road got windier as it climbed, and to my utter joy, the dense fog returned. It was halfway through Tilden Regional Park (described by Wikipedia so: "Its steep valleys and dense stands of timber offer a rare wilderness experience so close to the city." Indeed, they do!) when I remembered that earlier in the day I had set my GPS to calculate routes based on shortest mileage rather than on fastest travel time. Hence, Lady Garmin was doing her job and taking me in the straightest possible line -- rather than via the much more efficient 6-lane tunnel through the bottom of this very same hill. I rounded one corner on the ascent and saw two deer in the foggy right ditch, then while descending was greeted by a "Loose Gravel" caution sign. I cursed in my helmet that the only thing missing from this day was some fresh oil, and wouldn't you know it, right around the next bend, the sign. "Fresh Oil." Fine. OK. You've thrown everything at me. Me and my high beam, we will survive.
My eventual arrival into Orinda was magnificently unceremonious as, when I stopped in the shoulder to get my nightly destination sign photo, I put my right foot down onto a non-existent road surface and instead toppled with Badger down into a muddy ditch. After five minutes of struggling and dragging to get the wheels back just level with the motor, two sympathetic strangers stopped just as I was about to demonstrate my first lifting attempt, and got me vertical again.
With a broken mirror and handguard, and a right grip filled with clay mud, Badger and I rolled up to Chile-riding-friend Carlos's place and were greeted with a well-earned beer, warm hospitality, and temporary parking.
Special Note: Let's quickly count the hazards today doled out:
1. Wet road surface.
2. Thick fog, 50m visibility.
3. Layer of pine needles on road surface.
4. Cliffs with 300-foot drops into ocean surface, no guardrail.
5. Those two out of however many hundred corners on the Coastal Highway that aren't marked for reduced speed.
6. Greased cattle gates.
7. Live deer.
8. Loose Gravel.
9. Fresh Oil.
10. Sneaky pavement edges and a muddy ditch.
11. Meeting strangers in the dark in Oakland. (Seriously though, thanks red truck guy!)
12. Earthquake bridge deck collapses. (Hey, it's happened.)
Tomorrow, I'll fly home, and return in a couple of months to pick it up from here.
Day total: 661 km, 11h35m
Trip total: 4,534 km
Start: Crescent City, CA. End: Orinda, CA.
Soundtrack: California shuffle feat. Beck, RHCP, Social D.