(Written from our Tues, July 28 Day 4 notes after we returned home)
As we left the KOA, we saw a sign warning about curvy, isolated roads for the next umpteen miles, so I decided that it would be helpful if I left the car and walked for a mile or so on Hwy 101 to see what it felt like to walk on a ‘real’ stretch of road – we thought it would be a fairly isolated area, with highway traffic. The traffic was there, alright – but so were about 200 cyclists on a planned group ride to Gold Beach, OR. I welcomed their company, with multiple “good mornings” – but it really wasn’t a good barometer of how I’ll feel out on the open road alone.
Larry scooped me up again and we headed down Highway 101. All was well until we hit California and a confusing mix of “Freeway Begins” and “Freeway Ends” between the Crescent City area and the Leggett area. Most of the “Freeway Begins” sections allow bikes – it was ‘splained to me by CHP before our trip that the jurisdictions allow for the very famous and well-used Pacific Coast Bicycle Trail to include bicycles on freeways when there is no good alternate. However, all/most of these sections very specifically PROHIBIT PEDESTRIANS. As I said, though, the signage is very confusing…
I did make some preemptive phone calls before our trip, and as I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, a person walking a bike may be considered a ‘dismounted cyclist’ in CA, and not a ‘pedestrian’, so that may be my course of action through these stretches. I subscribe to the idea, “sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness rather than permission”.
I’ve already decided that I will keep my bike with me as a ‘side-arm’ through many of my isolated miles – especially if I don’t have vehicle support. It will be my first line of defense if I feel unsafe for any reason, and I’m keeping the option open to bike some of the more isolated and ‘sketchy’ parts of the trip – SAFETY FIRST. I’ll be upfront with all of you when this happens (and I pray it won’t be necessary because I want this to be a total WALK) – but I do need to consider the safety concerns that my family has for me. I’ve promised them that I will not be foolhardy. I will also often use my bike in many areas to return to my car when I’m unable to arrange a pickup/dropoff vehicle.
This Humboldt County area was one that was of particular concern for my safety among family, friends, and our pastoral staff – primarily because of increased drug cartel activity in the area in recent years. After a phone call to CHP, I was comforted by the words that if I stick to the usual tourist areas, I have no more worries here than I have anywhere else on the coast.
As we traversed the area, trying to find alternates around the ‘Pedestrians Prohibited’ stretches, we did find some stretches that were disconcerting, at least from the perspective of a rather defenseless middle-aged female pedestrian. If I were to describe it from my historical perspective, I would say it was much like the Haight-Ashbury days of the 60’s – lots of transient ‘happy’ people gathering in groups, playing guitars on the sidewalks. At one point in Eureka, we slowed to allow an old schoolbus painted with peace signs to turn left in front of us – we saw a couple definitely ‘making love, not war’ in the bus as they turned. Yeeahhh – what is seen cannot be unseen.
We found a motel in Garberville that was really pretty nice – kind’a on the outskirts of this smaller-than-expected town. We chose to walk to dinner to a place recommended by the hotel manager, and we literally ‘ran a gauntlet’ of hippie-type transients – oddly enough, they really didn’t seem to want anything of us. They were just doing their own thing, minding their own business and letting us mind ours – far more into each other than anything we might have to offer.
The restaurant of choice was booked solid, so we ended up in a very HOT (temperature) pizza place about a block off the main drag. We found a table near the air conditioner, but it really just blew over our heads. A few other groups of tourists wandered in, one commenting that WE must be locals to situate ourselves near the air conditioner. We assured them that we hadn’t really ‘cut any fat hog’ in our choice of tables!
We had a good night’s sleep and left refreshed. However, I have to admit that our pastoral staff was on-point about this area. Lots to think about from a human-interaction standpoint – especially as a woman traveling alone. There are a lot of lost little lambs wandering around in Humboldt County, and it broke my heart – they’re all somebody’s kids. There, but for the grace of God…