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Trans-Am Trail and beyond! - Days 33 and 34, from fantastic lakes to giant trees...

Day 33 - Crater Lake, Oregon

Some days start better than others. Whether it's due to the quality of the dream you were having just before you woke, or the soft, gentle sound of a loved one breathing softly next to you as you wake, the day just seems to start right. I can add a new reason for a day starting particularly well. Waking up and opening the tent to be surrounded by trees and next-to-no-one under a cold but brightening dawn. Even the slight ache in my back caused by the thermarest(tm) going down during the night, leaving me lying on a quarter-inch of foam atop a rough forest floor couldn't take the edge of my mood. Which was only enhanced by a lovely warm shower. Only a decent cup of tea and a nice English breakfast could have improved things. As it was, I skipped breakfast (as I didn't have anything to make it with and the nearest cafe was a long way away) and packed and loaded the bike and headed off into the woods. Only to discover that despite the early morning sunshine it was still bitterly cold. 4C according to my onboard computer, and who am I to distrust what she says? But it was a glorious morning all the same

Early morning on the way to Crescent Lake

I guess part of the reason for my overly poetic optimism this morning is the prospect of seeing Crescent Lake whilst it is still relatively early. With just a short ride into the park, I should be there well before the hoards of tourists arrive. Assuming there are any hoards, that is. After all, we're past Labour Day weekend now, and that means summer is officially over. But not for me. Skipping past the pay entrance (I didn't have the requisite $5 in change, so I'm now a fugative hoping that I won't get caught and held to account), I rode into the hills and ever higher as the sun failed miserably to warm me up. My first stop was on the crater's rim, just as the entrance road arrives and I was met with a small gathering of other tourists braving the early start. Ignoring them, I climbed up the small hill and peered over the barrier to see the most spectacular lake I've ever seen. Trust me when I say the photos, which are pretty good despite the early morning haze, don't really do it justice.

The magnificent Crater Lake

Crater Lake

As I rode around the rim road, I kept glancing to my right to catch glimpses of the still placid waters surrounded by giant rock walls. The road did not have any barriers, and occasionally I found myself staring vertically down a steep dirt embankment punctuated by trees all the way to the water - which looked like the sky as it reflected the clouds and was deathly still. I suffer from slight vertigo and, bearing in mind my near disaster in the forest on the last day of the TAT, found myself riding in the middle of the road, well away from the edge. I found the experience quite disconcerting!

A steep drop into Crater Lake

Now at this point, perhaps I should explain a little about this remarkable piece of geology / geography. Initially Crater Lake was a mountain, albeit a volcanic one called Mount Mazama. When the volcano erupted, it created the crater that eventually filled with water. However it was formed, it certainly captivated me, from stories of the legends of Llao and Skell, who fought battles over the lake and represented different groups of wild animals, to stories of the "Phantom Ship", crystallised in rock as a warning to any that might sail across the lake...

Close up of the Phantom Ship

The Phantom Ship on Crater Lake

Even the island in the lake, formed from piles of volcanic ash, bears the evocative name "Wizard's Island".

Wizard's Island

Finally I managed to tear myself away from the lake and head back along the highways south-east, towards the coast and my intended overnight stop at Crescent City. The ride was glorious as usual, punctuated by a breakfast stop at Beckie's Cafe in Union Creek, famed for its Blueberry Pie. Which of course, I don't eat as it contains cooked fruit (which makes me hurl!). I settled for what looked like the healthiest option on the menu - an egg with bacon on 2 cakes. Turned out the "cakes" were "American pancakes" which even without the soaking in maple syrup necessary to chew them. Naturally, I only managed to eat about 90% of them, so I felt good about not pigging out. Right until I discovered I was waddling when walking back to my bike...
The rest of the ride was uneventful, if only because I couldn't stop as I no longer had the strength to heave my fat gut off the seat and walk about. I did stop once, when I saw a nice rest area by a river, but the river turned out to be too far away to walk to to take photos (am I getting lazy?). What I did find, though, was this rather nice setup for folk wanting to cook their own food for a picnic (who says America is obsessed by eating?). Not content with the BBQ setups, this place even had a 4-ring electric stove on which to rustle up something tasty. Cool!

Self-catering rest stop!

When I got closer to the coast, the temperature started to plummet. I'd just got used to riding in the mid-high 20s C when it dropped to 15C within a few miles of hitting Highway 101. Then dropped as low as 11C and got decidedly foggy before I was within sight of Crescent City. I stopped at a couple of motels to ask my mandatory 3 questions - "Do you have Wi-Fi?", "Do you have laundry facilities?", "What's your best rate?", settling on the first to answer to my satisfaction, even if the room wasn't quite ready. But I got a call in to Tracy before she fell asleep (or was it just after?) whilst I waited, so all was good. And with wi-fi and laundry at my disposal, I was able to update the blog for the past week and sort out all my smelly clothes too. A bargain at just $49.50 including tax.

They even recommended me a local fish restaurant, and when I saw it was already 7pm, I hopped on the bike and rode there. But after pulling out of the parking lot I realised something was amiss. I'd got a flat front tyre. Sh*t. It was only partially deflated and I was hungry, so I went and ate anyway. Whilst in the restaurant tucking into a rather good fish and chips, I got chatting to a couple sat nearby. Seems the guy, who I'll call "Dave" as that's his name, has a friend who's buying a bike like mine. Inspired by the "Long Way Round" (aren't we all, if we're honest?), he's getting the bike ready to do something spectacular. I hope he does. Dave rides a Harley and works too hard (his wife's words, not mine!). But as he has the coolest job title ever, perhaps that's understandable. He gave me his business card, which reads "David xxx PhD. Unconventional Threats & Multi-Discipline Approaches to Homeland Security". I won't pass comment on America's need for "homeland" security for fear of upsetting all my American readers, but suffice to say I hope the "multi-discipline approach" includes sending all those that make decisions on foreign "threats" to spend time in foreign lands, living alongside the foreigners to gain an understanding of their beliefs and values. But Dave seemed a truly nice guy, so there is hope, after all...

On the ride back to the motel I stopped and put some air in my tyre, and checked the pressure hoping it was an anomoly caused by the widely fluctuating temperatures I'd been riding through, or perhaps just a curse put on me by some foreign power I've offended in the past!

Day 34 - Route 101 and the Avenue of the Giants, California

The good news is my front tyre is still recording the same pressure as last night. The bad news is it's really foggy and quite chilly. But mustn't grumble, as they say, because according to Tracy, back home their well into the 40-days-and-40-nights and I should be home building an ark. So, with the Pacific Ocean shining brightly under a blanket of fog so thick it looks like I'm riding in the clouds, I continue south on Highway 101. This is the road most folk enthuse about when talking about riding a bike in the States. Sure, I bet it's absolutely spectacular when you can see for more than 100ft in any direction. The view of the ocean must be awe-inspiring. As it is when it's this foggy, it's just another road with bends that creep up unseen and traffic that really ought to be using its fog lights.

In the first picture below, see if you can see the horizon. A clue, it's about 2/3 the way up the image. In the second, can you see the white pickup (with lights on) coming towards the camera? I coudl when I took the photo, but only just...

Pacific Ocean? Where?

Spot the oncoming traffic...

One of the many highlights of my delightful ride down 101 was seeing more Elk. Now I know how disappointed you all were when I said I'd seen them a couple of days ago but was enjoying the ride too much to stop and take photos, so this time I screeched to a halt in a cloud of brake dust and tyre smoke (much to the annoyance of the twenty or so folk already parked up taking photos) to grab a couple of shots. Lovely, ain't they?

Mr Elk, hides from the cameras


Ok, so the pictures could be better, but there were warning signs everywhere telling me not to approach on foot, and I thought that I'd scare them off if I tried riding up to them.

I eventually stopped for breakfast / lunch in Eureka, having a sense of deja-vu. I'd already ridden through Trinidad (not the one where I had my birthday in Colorado) and here I was in Eureka, although not the one where we couldn't get a motel room. This was a coastal port town with a history and an old town that was lovely. It even had a bakery/cafe that looked just perfect for my "healthy choice" dining requirements. It was, and I got a lovely healthy chicken salad wrap and a slightly less healthy cafe au lait to go with it. Then I ruined it when I saw the humungous piece of ginger cake that surprisingly not only knew my name, but shouted it loud enough to scare me into ordering it. It was good, though. Whilst I ate, I read the local paper, which was full of the news of the difficulty of setting the laws surrounding medicinal cannabis, which is legal, whilst trying to stop the widespread growth of cannabis, which is illegal. This is complicated further by the federal government's position on the control of certain substances, including cannabis, which makes it a federal offense to grow it. Which is scaring the local county and city officials as they're trying to define laws under which it can be grown for medicinal use, and which effectively means they are sanctioning breaking a federal law and could end up in jail themselves. So for the time being, it looks like the bakery and cafe will only be serving ginger cake and not the Amsterdam variety. Pity, although it wouldn't mix with riding my bike anyway...

From Eureka I rode a little further south on 101 before taking the famous "Avenue of the Giants" through the Redwood forests. Now, this was quite spectacular. Redwoods are not just big trees. They are very tall trees. Very, very tall trees. The road passes under 101 and then enters a tunnel of trees that block out the satellite reception on my GPS. As well as most of the sunlight. At the roadside, spreading back into a forest are trees that look like they belong in a Harry Potter film. "Harry Potter and the Golden Goose" perhaps. The one where he climbs a tree and discovers a land of giants with golden geese laying golden eggs. Proper eery, I can tell you. And these trees are HUGE! The first picture shows the underpass under 101 - the bridge sign warns of as height restriction of 14ft 9in. The second and third is an average redwood tree, with my bike parked at the base...

Start of Avenue of the Giants

My bike, dwarfed by a Redwood Tree

My bike and a redwood

Towards the end of the Avenue, there's a small town called Myers Flats with an RV and campsite that featured in some literature I'd read. All excited to find a decent site with laundry, showers and wi-fi, I checked in, finding a shaded pitch near the river to escape the by-now intense heat (35C). I'm not sure days like these, where the temperature changes from 4C to 35C, are good for me, but remembering Tracy's words of earlier, I won't complain. Once pitched I went to pay and check out the facilities. Seems the owner died recently and now the site is run by her offspring, a heavily-tattood young woman, and it has seen better days. The laundry facilities are no more. One shower block is closed "for renovation", whilst the other wouldn't be fit for a derelict housing estate in inner-city Manchester. But there's wi-fi and they sell cold beer so I really should be grateful. Even if it did cost me almost as much as a comfy bed, with en-suite shower and toilet, wi-fi and full laundry faciltiies last night. But I stopped at Safeway earlier and bought plenty of fruit and some tortellini and pasta sauce, so I can cook up a storm just as soon as the temperature drops a little and my hunger returns...

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