Among the Giants

[ Day 24 — July 6, 2012 ]

It was a cold, damp morning at the Mill Creek Campground, and it took some grit to abandon the comforts of tent and sleeping bag. I woke before Erin and Charlie, trying to get a head start on the many tasks that stood between up and out. I heard Erin stirring in her tent as I heated up water on the stove. Before long, all three of us were around the picnic table eating breakfast, swapping stories and trying our best to stay warm.

Through simple miscommunication, we each left camp at different times, but reconnected at the park’s edge. The routine process of splitting up, riding alone for a stretch, and then reconnecting felt quite natural. We had all prepared to travel alone; there was pleasure in that just as there was pleasure in traveling together. Giving oneself distance required little explanation, and points of convergence came just as easily. Lunch was a natural rallying point. A dearth of options and a dash of coincidence led all three of us to the Palm Cafe in Orick. Charlie had eaten his fill and left by the time I arrived, but Erin stuck around long enough to sit through my order and join me for dessert.

Erin and I agreed upon Eureka as our evening destination; I called ahead and reserved us a spot at a KOA north of town. Charlie had decided to push on.

The day’s route took us past some of the biggest redwood trees I’d ever seen. Every mile I would stop to photograph what I thought would be the largest tree of the day, only to come across an even larger one some minutes later. The forests finally gave way near Trinidad, and before long we arrived at the Eureka KOA, nestled beside Highway 101 and Arcata Bay.

I’d opted not to stay at the KOAs I’d previously encountered on my ride. Their standard sites were more expensive than those of most state or county parks, and as the Disneyland of campgrounds, KOAs are incompatible with almost any notion of cycle touring street cred. They do have their comforts, though, and if one is willing to set aside ideas of “real” camping, there’s a worthwhile experience to be had—something reassuring, and perhaps even grounding in a way that wilderness is not. As a rule, KOA offerings are unpretentious, feel-good, and friendly by design. Everyone seems happy to be there, and there’s a pervasive effort to share the good feeling and find common ground.

Once settled in, Erin and I shared a dinner of soup, salad, bread, beer, and chocolate: a carb-intensive romantic dinner for two. We threw laundry in the washing machines and headed for the hot tub, where we struck up conversations with motorcyclists and other guests. I marveled at how quickly we’d started acting as a “we.”

It all felt very comfortable, but tomorrow we would again (temporarily) split ways. I wanted to bike the Lost Coast and neither Erin nor her bike were up for the rough roads and heavy climbing. We enjoyed each other’s company amidst the comforts of camp, and then finally crawled into our respective tents.

[ Daily Miles: 75 ] [ Total Miles: 1255 ]

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