Matt O'Donnell
Pacific Coast
Crescent City, CA to Garberville, CA After lunch-time fueling, it was time to get climbing. Exiting to the south of Crescent City sends you climbing 1000 feet up into the Redwood National Park. The shoulder frequently disappears and leaves you within inches of cars rushing past your left shoulder while climbing a 6% grade. The majority of drivers did a great job moving over to give me plenty of room. Some applauded and shouted support from their windows, including a school bus full of hippies. Though one car did take the opportunity to silly-string me. That was a new one. Finally, at the end of a long day I made it to the entrance for Del Norte Coast Redwood State Park. Immediately after entering the park is a 600 foot descent to the campgrounds, which is both fun and frustrating, since you realize climbing back out will be the first order of business the following morning. The campgrounds were beautiful and pretty empty. Setting up my tent beneath a massive redwood was just… kind of dreamy. Surprisingly, nobody I had met the night before were there. I ended up having the hiker biker all to myself for the evening.

After my morning breakfast of oatmeal and almond butter (by this time I’ve started to get pretty sick of oatmeal) and my cup of coffee, I started the 600 foot slog back up hill. It actually wasn’t that bad and worked wonders to wake me up. Once I got back to HWY 101 I took a left and enjoyed the speedy descent. At the bottom it was a short roll till I saw the ocean again on my left. On my left. I was heading north. I had turned the wrong way out of the park and gone right back down huge 1000 ft climb I had done the evening before. I’ve never been quite so angry at myself. 1000 feet at 6% wouldn’t be that big of a deal on my road bike. It’d be a workout, but with a fully loaded touring bike, it’s an almost panic inducing idea to do it all over again when you’d already checked it off your list of accomplishments. I spent a good while cursing myself and even considering hitchhiking back up to the top. After I got over my self-pity fest, I sucked it up and pushed back up the damn hill.

Around lunch time I ran into Leo and Laurent (the musically inclined French Canadians) and Tom, a lanky Brit. I told them of the shitty start to my day and my plans to camp at Humbolt Lagoons State Park, but they told me about their plans and invited me to join them to sleep on the partially hidden beach in the small town of Trinidad. It sounded great, but that made for a really big day. I thanked them for the invitation, but passed because I didn’t think I could manage it. I ran back into them while on the Avenue of the Giants. I had seen a sign for a “Big Tree” and seeing as how the entire forest was filled with gigantic redwoods, I was curious what would be considered a “big tree” in this region, so I went to inspect. Yeah, it was pretty big. Also, there were the three guys checking it out as well. They insisted I joined them and said we’d paceline and I could sit on the back. Making new friends is always fun, so I agreed and off we went. Holy shit. These guys were fast, which makes sense seeing as how two of them were over ten years younger than me. I ended up doing 65 miles with 4500 feet of climbing that day.

When we got to the beach we locked our bikes together at the top and then walked all our supplies down the equivalent of four flights of stairs. We ate and drank and listened to music before we passed out. I woke in the morning to the sound of fishing boats anchoring off the shore. We took it easy and made the short ride into Arcata. I had originally planned on doing a down day in Eureka (just due to its population size and wanting a day in a real town), but the guys told me Arcata was the far superior town so I decided to crash there. I was glad I listened to them. There were great bars and breweries and I saw a movie at the longest running movie theater in the United States. Laundry was done, a hot tub was sat in, and I got ice cream while drunk late at night.

The three guys I had traveled to Arcata with were all sticking around town longer, but I had to get back on the road. The road from Arcata out to Myers flat was beautiful, dotted by rustic old towns. There were a number of fascinating old graveyards, and abandoned ranch buildings. At Burlington Campground I found an amazing shop right across the highway. They had beer and hot cooked food, I got a salmon sandwich. It’s the sort of place you wish was next to every campground. Going back to camp I found Cameron, the Canadian cook, along with a couple other cyclists. It became fascinating watching Cameron cook because it took so long, but looked so good. He’d still be cooking when we all went to bed and in the morning he’d still be cooking when everyone else was all packed up and rolling out. I loved his laid back mentality. He was doing it just the way he wanted to.

Biking past the route for the Lost Coast was a little bit of a bummer. I really want to go check it out sometime, but I decided I did not want to do it while carrying that much stuff with me. I’d ideally pack much lighter and do it on a shorter trip. Some day.

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Matt O'Donnell

Gear List

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- My Blackburn Gear -

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Matt O'Donnell
  • Genesis moment? A year ago I started a new company with a friend here in San Francisco. It’s been successful and I feel blessed because of that, but the hours were long at times, the stress high and I found that my fitness and riding is what took the biggest hit. I went from regularly riding 200+ miles/week to being lucky if I got in 40. When the holiday season came around I found myself with a week off and a huge amount of excitement to get back on the bike. I went for broke and rode over 300 miles in the six days I was visiting family out in Tucson, AZ. What did I get for my effort? A knee injury, seemingly caused from overuse; meaning I jumped back into the deep end too fast. I should have waded into the kiddy pool, I guess.
    I’ve spent some time in physical therapy and the knee is feeling good. This trip is going to be a great opportunity for me to get reconnected to my functioning body and to allow my head some time and space away from work, to reevaluate priorities, tell some stories, and to just ride bikes and sleep in tents.
  • Have you traveled in the past? My previous experience traveling distance by bike is pretty limited. I’ve done a few overnighters, but this will be my biggest trip BY FAR. I look forward to learning primarily by making mistakes and then trying not to repeat them.
  • Goal for the route? My biggest goal is to find some great characters and stories to share along the way. So much of the fundamental basis of American cycling culture spawned from the West Coast and I know there are going to be great examples of it along the way. In addition to that I hope to keep all my fingers and toes attached to my body.
  • What do you hope to get out of the journey? It sounds hippy-ish, but I’m hoping to come away from this with a bit of perspective. The sort of insight and calm that only many miles, the open road, and no cell phone reception can bring you. I’m also aiming for some real nice, crisp, tan-lines.
  • What's in your bag? #1 my Fallkniven F1 survival knife is my favorite camping knife. Seeing as how it is a fixed blade, I (for legal reasons) don’t want to “conceal” it. I tend to actually mount it right on the bike with zip ties holding the plastic sheath in place. Getting it through customs will be interesting.

    #2 My Coffee & Tea Collective tin mug. This was given to me by a good friend who hails from San Diego for my 30th birthday. I’ve never spent any time in San Diego, but since this route is going to take me right through I figure I should swing by and fill this baby up straight from the source. I will then immediately begin an epic burrito sampling to settle once and for all who has the best, San Diego, or San Francisco.

    #3 my GoPro Hero 4 Black. I have a variety of accessories from mounts, to filters, to nifty time lapse doodads that will allow this camera to do some heavy lifting for the mini documentaries I intend to produce while out on the tour.

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- Pacific Coast Milestones -