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Trans-Am Trail and beyond! - Day 35, Avenue of the Giants, and highways of the gods...

Day 35 - Myers Flats, CA to Redding, CA

It's unusual for me to update the blog 3 days in a row, but tonight I'm holed up in a motel so that I can finalise arrangements for freighting my bike back home and rob a bank in the morning. Funds are low, and my ATM card didn't work, so I've bought some stockings and a shotgun and will be heading over to BofA first thing in the morning. Ok, I'm not really going to rob it, just did further into my savings. America isn't cheap, despite the weak dollar...

But enough about tomorrow, let's talk about today. I woke after a good night's sleep around 7am and went to have a second look at the showers. They were so bad that I didn't bother. I've staying in some rough campsites in my time, but this place really does need some renovation work. Whilst packing I got chatting to an old guy walking his dog, who proceeded to tell me all about America's crop farming in the mid-States. I've no idea why. Perhaps I looked like a farmer. In motorcycle clothing. Who knows?
I managed a very brief chat with Tracy before hitting the road again. My plan was to ride south to the end of the Avenue of the Gods and then to turn round and ride the entire length of the avenue, so I could walk the Founders Loop before riding north and picking up highway 36 East.

I may have mentioned this yesterday, but the Avenue is a rather eery place. The road winds its way along the side of the river, but rather than having trees on one side and the river on the other, it passes through the forest of redwoods while it parallels the river. Which means that while riding it you are completely surrounded by very tall trees. Which block out most of the light, adding to the atmosphere and requiring extra caution as the road twists round some very big trees. No time for letting your thoughts wander, or you'll discover just how hard a redwood tree can be...

Avenue of the Giants

I stopped along the way to visit the information centre, where I overloaded my brain with useless facts about the redwoods, that were then whiped from my memory by the following 6 hours riding. But I did manage to get another postcard for my mum and post it from the Post Office in the small town of Recrest (pop 89). Close to the North entrance to the Avenue is Founders Grove, where there is parking and a small loop trail that goes into the woods. Just half a mile long it starts with Founders Tree, a huge redwood that is dedicated to the good folk who had the sense to form the "Save the Redwood League" in 1918, and which is responsible for the preservation of much of the forest that remains. Some 98% of the original forest has been logged, which is a shame, until you realise that most of San Francisco was built using wood from these forests...

Walking the trail with a pamphlet in my hand that pointed out various interesting features was very relaxing. It suddenly struck me that I had no mission to get anywhere, and that time could pass in any way it liked. That's a rare feeling these days, as I always seem to over-plan my life to the point it becomes frenetic as I struggle to cram everything in. Here I was, in the middle of a forest, with not a care in the world. Totally chilled. I told you the place was eery!

It's also full of simply gigantic trees. Some stretch so high into the sky you can't see their tops. Others have fallen and lie there, stretching deep into the forest, gradually decaying but at the same time providing food and shelter for a variety of lifeforms (4,000 according the pamphlet). Once again, some pictures to help try and convey what a magical place this is.

Redwoods reaching for the sky

Fallen Redwood

Quite big, aren't they?

Fire-damaged but still alive, and a great place to hide

When I finally managed to drag myself away from the trees, I rode out into a cool but sunny late California morning. My next destination was a journey - highway 36 was noted in my guide book as "Hog heaven" - a reference to the fact that "Many motorcyclists call this 140-mile road the best cycle ride in California". Here, it seems "HOG" (the acronym of the Harley Owners Group) is a collective term for all motorcyclists. Of which the vast majority ride low-slung Harleys. With trailers, I've noticed. But for me, an overloaded F800GS on worn knobbly tyres will have to do (you'll be delighted to know the flat front has miraculously fixed itself). But, boy, what a road! This one twists and turns this way and that, with bends that tighten up or turn unexpectedly into hairpins. The road surface wasn't perfect, but the ride was, as the temperature climbed from 15c to a much more comfortable 25c.

Now on days like these, I don't stop to take many pictures. Today was no exception. I just enjoyed the ride, right up until I passed a gas station and a sign shortly after that read "Next service 39 miles". So I checked my computer to discover I had a range of 39 miles left (I'm not making this up!). Rather than risk it, I turned round and rode the mile back to the gas station. To discover a sign that read "no gas, sorry!". Oops. Now I had 38 miles showing. So, riding much more conservatively to save fuel, I rode on, and saw a sign pointing off to the right to a town by the lake (I forget the name) that had a gas pump on it. And was only 9 miles away. So I took the turn and for the next 15 minutes wondered if they would also turn out not to have gas, the extra 18 mile deviation effectively killing any hope I had of getting to the next services. Fortunately, they had gas, and ice-cream and a cold coffee drink too. Which I enjoyed sat on the porch in the shade, while the owner came out for a ciggy and told me "it's a hot one, today!". She was right. It was now 33c and rising.

Back on the bike I retraced my steps and rejoined the roller-coaster highway 36. All the way to where I turned north on highway 3 to discover a road that was even better. This one went high into the mountains, twisting this way and that and making me ever so glad that I didn't have a front tyre problem. In fact, I'm amazed just how well a top-heavy F800GS on worn knobblies handles. Well enough for me to be knackered by the time the road levelled out as it approached Redding. But that might have been due to the temperature, which was now over 42C!

Somewhere on highway 3

I found a cheap motel, and walked into town to eat at the Thai Bistro that I'd got excited about following reading Tripadvisor and checking out their website. Only their opening hours are incorrect and it was closed. Then the ATM refused to give me any money. So I went back to the motel, hopped on my bike and rode a couple of miles up the road to a chinese, where I had a great meal. Tomorrow I'll sort out the bank and the freight and head further east into the Californian mountains, before turning south once more. I've no idea where I'll end up, nor am I bothered. I'm just looking forward to yet another day riding my bike... Life is good...

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