Last Saturday, I woke up uncomfortably hot and sweaty in Matt and Monica’s living room, a hard heavy lump lying on my stomach. Their most precious and spoiled “fur baby” – Napoleon, the french bulldog, and I had shared a short leather couch all night, his loud snores lulling me to sweet dreams and his short labored breaths hitting my face like a pleasant tropical breeze. As I sat up Napoleon woke with a start, his beady eyes staring into mine with a look of annoyance. As I stood to pack up my things, Napoleon went to play with his stuffed lobster toy. Last night, for the better part of an hour he laid sucking on the claw of the bright red animal, with the utmost care and with absolutely no shame for the strange noises he produced as we talked and observed the odd creature. By the time my sleeping bag was stuffed into its stuff sack, I turned and saw Napoleon had destroyed the toy he had so gingerly suckled less than 12 hours ago. It seemed Napoleon had a had a change of heart and it wasn’t long before the toy was unrecognizable as a pile of red fuzz and white stuffing on the hardwood floor.
Monica and Matt were up, being the most gracious and helpful hosts you could imagine – changing over our laundry, hand grinding coffee. We stood in the small organized kitchen and talked for a long time, sipping the dark brew, and wondering how we convinced ourselves that gas station coffee was drinkable. Along with hosting us for the night, Matt, as always, gave great life and career advice. We turned from talking about the day to the much more indistinct FUTURE, dark and swirling like our hot cups of coffee. Careers, plans, the future – topics twenty-somethings on a bike tour are not quite sure if they hate or love to think about.
We stood outside waiting for our laundry to dry as Napoleon attacked a new dog toy Lizzy found at our last campsite and cats climbed and fell off of things. Fully entertained by the animals, it took extra effort to convince ourselves it was time to leave. Before long, we were back on the bikes headed to Winco to score some bulk items, the detailed directions Matt had given us in our mind’s eye. After some turns in the complete wrong direction, and after descending and then climbing a giant and completely pointless hill, we made it to our destination. The Winco of our dreams. We meandered through the bins of the bulk section, filling bags with the finest calorie-rich goodies and carefully mixing and mislabeling our items. I insisted it was my turn to pay, and Tim and Lizzy wandered off as I took the heat for mixing our almond butter with peanut butter. “If you’re going to mix you have to put in the code for the most expensive item,” the cashier assigned to the self-checkout stations scolded me. Not for the first time this trip I succeeded in playing dumb, I said something like, “Oh I didn’t realize, that makes a lot of sense,” as she typed in the code for the much more expensive item and I was forced to pay the going market price of almond butter for a container mostly filled with ground peanuts. Lizzy and Tim returned just in time to help me carry off the groceries. I was unable to look at the cashier, me face turned floorward in red hot, nutbutter shame.
We biked south of Eureka through a stretch of freeway I honestly don’t remember that well. By the late morning we took an exit for a viewpoint that turned out to be really unspectacular but rested for awhile as Tim and Lizzy discussed long term plans for the continuation of their trip.
Eventually, we got back on the freeway for five minutes to exit at the Avenue of the Giants road for a scenic stretch of redwood cruising. Lizzy insisted we stop to take a picture of a corn statue early on and we refilled water at a small post office somewhere along the way as two neighbors mowed their lawns and tried really hard to pretend they didn’t notice us.
Throughout the day, I paid the price for a comment I made over last night’s meal to Matt and Monica how we hadn’t yet had to stop for any major bike fixes. My well lubed chain slipped off my gears several times. Lizzy and Timbo of course were helpful even though I was most definitely the one to blame either for my careless jinxing words over Thai food or the fact that I still haven’t figured out what cross-chaining is.
That afternoon was another highlight for me, it is always nice to escape the highway and gradually descend through thick forest on roads with signs that declare “Bikes Can Use Whole Lane.”
Before nightfall we began to be on the lookout for suitable places to camp. Tim at some point asked me my opinions on the matter and I replied “we’ll just know.” Surprisingly, these words came true as we found a beautiful spot nestled on old river channels and gravel bars next to the gorgeous South Fork of the Eel River. Hidden behind the “Giants” we felt stealthy and inspired by our spectacular surroundings. The full moon rose just as dinner ended, providing so much light that it felt like daytime as we sat around a fire Lizzy made out of dry willow and river-swept grass. No fire has started so quickly perhaps since Moses and the burning bush. Lizzy got skillz. Soon we were asleep and my final full day of this crazy journey came to the perfect end in our cramped and cozy tent as Tim sang me back to sleep with his famous #1 hit, The Langlois Song. Boy I wish I could hear him sing it one more time.
Take care ya’ll,