Cycling California Part 1: Redwoods and dreadlocks

Happy Cyclists in Mendocino County

We made it to the coast! Welcome to Mendocino County.

Cycling California Part 1: redwoods and dreadlocks

Country: USA

From Crescent City to San Francisco

Lesson learned: Stick to the main road in Garberville

Laughed about: Nonstop laughter with Jesse and Jeff

Most wonderful miracle: Redwoods

Greatest challenge: Hungry raccoons

Days on the bike: 9

Kilometers cycled: 684

Average Kilometers per day: 76

Total Kilometers cycled till San Francisco: 24,849

Missed the last blog? Here it comes: Cycling the Oregon Coast

Blog auf deutsch: Mit dem Rad durch Kalifornien Teil 1


After a comfy night indoors we started the day separately. Willow had decided to take it easier and spend some days in the redwoods. Jesse and Jeff didn’t feel like rushing, but Roberto and I wanted to get going fast, so we could make it in a day to Wendy’s and Michael’s from warmshowers.

Elk in California

Elk in California

Leaving town we biked right past a big group of elk. Having learned that elk can be quite dangerous during mating season, we decided to keep respectful distance. Just like cows, all elk looked up, but none moved.

Beautiful scenic road

Beautiful scenic road

We started the day with a long climb (very efficient warm-up) in between the impressive redwoods. The road was covered with fog, the tree trunks mossy and there was fern all over the rocks and in between the pebbles.

Redwood closeup

Redwood closeup

It was a humid and fresh morning and even if I had spotted a troll between the trees I wouldn’t have been surprised. If there were trolls, this was the kind of place they would live.

Big old redwood

One of the old biggies

We rolled back down to the coast and back up into the woods. The road was being repaired with only one lane open. We were let through and biked uphill as fast as we could, so the waiting traffic in front of us wouldn’t have to wait too long.

Little beach stop with Willow

Little beach stop with Willow

When we reached the man who held the “stop” and “slow” sign, he gave us a thumbs-up and shouted over: “Well done! You only got one more mile to go!”

cycling the redwood roads

Lovely ride

What a great gesture! We smiled and thanked, when some drivers behind the man rolled down their windows. No, they didn’t complain about us blocking a one-way lane, they cheered us on! Between “Way to go” “You’re nearly there” and „Well done“ we felt like marathon finalists. The motivational push made that last mile feel all easy.

Tidy redwood forest

Tidy forest

We took a right turn to enter the 10-mile scenic road that led us parallel to the highway through many and more redwood trees. It was so beautiful. Some of the trunks were so huge, much wider than my bike was long. Some old and dead huge trunks were home for young tree’s roots and the leaves on the ground were so perfect that I had to stop and have a closer look to make sure, they weren’t fake.

Huge redwood tree or tiny bicycle

Makes you feel pretty small

Surprisingly there was hardly any traffic. We reached the highest point and from here on it was the most perfect leisure ride. Even the sun made an appearance. It shone through the trees and painted the road with yellow stripes. Now I know why Willow wanted to stay here. I wish we had some more time and could allow some stops!

Take a picture inside a tree!

Take a picture inside a tree!

We had time for exactly one stop and it was at the information center and campground, where we prepared a nice salad and some sandwiches. Willow arrived when we were just about to keep on going. She had decided to spend the night here and do some hikes through the National Park.

Some more redwoods

Some more redwoods

We continued with a heavy heart. Towards the end of the National Park we saw a lot of badly parked cars. Up North this is what they call a “bear jam”, some tourists who have spotted a bear and decided to stop, take pictures and by doing so, attract even more tourists. There was no bear to be seen, but some drivers got way to close to about 50 elk.

Call for Elk information

Call for Elk information

It was a hilly day. In Trinidad it was time to make a decision: It had been 98 exhausting kilometers. Should we stay here for the night or should we continue for another 30 kilometers? It was going to be dark soon and tonight at 2am my younger brother was going get married, so camping was not an option. It was a night for putting on lipstick and setting up skype on the laptop. So we would need wifi and a plug.

Ocean Grove Lodge in Trinidad, California

Ocean Grove Lodge

It was sad enough that I wasn’t able to be there in person, but our budget was just going to bring us to Tijuana. The decision was made quickly. We had no idea how hilly the way was going to be and we didn’t want to risk it. Even if we were to make it in time to Wendy’s and Michael’s, we’re not really the kind of warmshowers guest that just arrives late, eats, has a shower, sleeps and gets going early. And they said that either today or tomorrow would both be just fine.

Ocean Grove Lodge in Trinidad, California

The second cheapest room

So we made our way to the “Ocean Grove Lodge”, an inn that for some inexplicable  reason perfectly resembles every aspect of a horror movie’s motel without feeling too creepy. Weirdly interesting place. After the fourth knock the door opened. An elderly lady who clearly had problems walking, approached us. I instantly felt guilty because she got up for us. Well, now that she made the way to the reception I asked if she still had a room for tonight.

“Well yes, there is some space, but there will be live music tonight in the bar”

“Oh that’s nice!”

Loud music”

“Oh, that’s alright, really, we’re not too fussy”

Ocean Grove Lodge in Trinidad, California

Interesting place: Ocean Grove Lodge in Trinidad

“But it’s reggae and the band isn’t really good. The bar will close at 2 am”

“Alright. What’s your cheapest room?”

“You don’t want our cheapest room, believe me!”

“…?!” (confused look)

“It’s far too close to the loud music and it’s so tiny that you won’t be able to fit your bikes in it. This is not a place to leave your bikes outside overnight.”

“Is it so dangerous here?”

“No. But they do steal a bike every now and then. So how about the second cheapest room?”

Beautiful Arcata Town Center

Beautiful Arcata Town Center

Welcome to beautiful Trinidad, California. But I have to be honest, I really liked her attitude and honesty. Also there was no motel-camping option, so it was either here or missing the wedding.

Next morning Jeff and Jesse came over for a coffee. They had camped only five miles further up north and we got going towards Bayside in a team of four. Now we were double happy that we had stayed. Firstly for the great company. And secondly because most of the ride went along a beautiful bike path that would have been tricky to follow in the dark, besides, we would have missed all the beauty if we had rushed along in constant fight with the clock.

Café in Arcata, California

Very chilled out. Arcata’s young inhabitants love their Cafés for food, drinks and snacks.

It was a relaxed ride to Arcata, where we made it just in time for the weekly farmer’s market. Vegetable stands, honey saleswomen, jugglers, acrobats, fire artists, herb growers, jewelry makers and barefoot kids were all over the town center’s grassy area. Jesse and Jeff found themselves a hotel in town while we biked the last few kilometers to Wendy’s and Michael’s.

Warmshowerers Wendy and Michael

Warmshowerers Wendy and Michael

Together with their dog weasel and bunny bob, these two lived in a beautiful wooden house in a very calm area with lots of trees and nature around. They had built their own sauna (of course we tested it) and done a lot of tandem tours. Wendy was a doctor, but she had taken some years off, so she could work as an environmental activist full time. Seriously, this woman knows what she is talking about.

Wendy and Michael with folding bikes

Our future dream! Some great folding bikes to bring everywhere

We learned a lot about the importance of circles, not only in recycling, but also in the everyday life, as well as in a big scale about the importance of politicians and votes and about how everyone has to do their part. Wendy was still writing her first book when we were there, I am already excited to read it someday. Michael was a retired carpenter and he was very talented in constructing things from scratch. He even built his own bike panniers out of old paint buckets. Absolutely waterproof and cheap. And he cooked the most delicious vegetable lasagna.

community breakfast

Yummi delicious community breakfast

Next morning Michael and Wendy invited us to join them for a community breakfast. This is again one of those things that I love about the US American culture. Community stuff. Being open to everybody who is willing to join. Or simply interested. This is getting big now. Community is now, what the church congregation used to be. A group of people who come together on a Sunday to share their excess fruit, swap homemade soup, work on the community garden, exchange books or organize a breakfast for everybody to join.

Volunteer as a breakfast helper and get the next breakfast free!

Volunteer as a breakfast helper and get the next breakfast free!

The pancakes (with free maple syrup because we arrived by bike) were delicious and I was very positively surprised by some delicious scrambled tofu. We got to know some nice community members, listened to the band’s music and found out how Michael got us all in for free. He has often helped out on these kinds of events. For every time you help, you get a free ticket for the next time. Works perfectly!

Jeff from black heart Tattoo in San Francisco

Jeff the artist

We biked back to Arcata, where we met Jeff and Jesse. We had had such a good time all together, that we decided to stick together all the way to San Francisco.

Jesse was a calm guy in his (very) early fifties, who appeared a lot younger in the morning, until the sun cream colored his beard all white. He enjoys climbing, yoga and some surfing. Jesse is the calm anchor for Jeff, a tough cyclist in his forties. Despite knee pain he pushed through day after day. Jeff was the team’s map reader (and therefore my best friend, because we didn’t even own a map of the area) and owner of a tiny dog named Stanly, who unfortunately was way too old to join them on the travel.

Best travel buddies: Jesse and Jeff from San Francisco

Best travel buddies: Jesse and Jeff from San Francisco

These two are true masters of sarcasm. It is like they speak pure sarcasm with an English accent. Both are seriously good tattoo artists who run their own studios. If you ever find yourself in San Francisco and feel like getting a tattoo, you might want to call a few months ahead and make an appointment with Jesse or Jeff.

posed ....

smile for the picture….

... okay, done!

… okay, done!

I know if I’ll get a tattoo, it will be with one of them. They even sharpie-tattooed Roberto’s little sumo honk and it looks awesome. Their humor is so bad and yet so fun that it is just impossible to stay serious. Often when they were cycling in front of me, I would hear their voices (hard to hear any words with the wind) and then some uncontrollable giggles. How could anybody not laugh with them?

Lunchtime in Loleta

Lunchtime in Loleta

We had a relaxed ride to Loleta where we stopped for testers at the cheese factory. The testers were so good that we bought two cheeses between the four of us. After lunch break in the village’s park we headed back to the 101. At this stage the 101 was an actual freeway with exits and two lanes, but due to the lack of alternate routes, cycling was still allowed.

Natalia and Bernardo from Chile

Natalia and Bernardo showed us (now Jesse) a lot of pictures of the great places ahead of us.

Great to meet those inspirational and brave cyclists going up North towards the cold against the wind. And they just love it!

Great to meet those inspirational and brave cyclists going up North towards the cold against the wind. And they just love it!

We had another stop in Fortuna to meet Bernardo and Natalia from Chile, who we had met online. They were biking up north, so cycling together wasn’t an option. Instead we met for a drink. Coffee junkies Jeff and Jesse were seriously excited when Roberto announced the Starbucks as a meeting point.

Cycling the Avenue of the Giants

Avenue of the Giants

Next stop: The Avenue of the Giants, a 50 kilometer scenic road that led us right through a redwood forest. The redwoods create their own little ecosystem and there was hardly any other vegetation. The woods looked so clean and tidy, it was like being inside a movie set.

Easy riding on the Avenue of the Giants, California

Easy riding

Inside a redwood tree

Jeff inside a tree

We stopped all the time, it was just too beautiful to be true. There was a hiker biker campground right in the center of the avenue, surrounded my many and more redwood trees, so we pitched the tents there.

Redwoods Camping Hiker Biker

Perfect camping spot right there in between the redwoods

the fearless vier!

The team – the fearless vier!

Eventually we had to return to the freeway and after a while we reached the town of Garberville, a rather special town with a very unique vibe. This part of California provides near perfect conditions for growing marihuana, and Garberville was surrounded by many farms.

View into the redwoods

Perfect view onto the sumo’s butt (now tattooed by Tom from Vernon (didn’t last long), Ben from Seattle (both butt) plus each arm by Jesse and Jeff

Especially around harvesting time, there was a lot going on. Farm helpers from all over the country came for quick and good money. They met in Garberville, where they were picked up and brought to the farms. This was also the place, where the farmers and helpers stocked up on groceries, had a barista coffee, met other people and exchanged goods. The supermarket was full to bursting point.

Jeff Rassier and Jesse Tuesday

Dear kids, don’t worry, what you see there is just the index finger.

I have never seen such a concentration of teens and young adults with blonde dreadlocks, colorful pants and tired, worn out faces. Several people warned us to stick to the town’s main road and the freeway only. We decided quickly to follow their advice. Everything inside me told me to do so, even before we had been warned.

Huge redwood tree

This is a pretty huge tree

Relaxed rolling through the Avenue of the Giants

Relaxed rolling through the Avenue of the Giants

We pitched the tent on the coolest hiker biker ever. There were coin operated hot showers, rainproof sockets, a bike stand for repairs, a raccoon-proof box for food, lots of space for camping and a few picnic benches under a roof. Furthermore on the other side of the road there was a little shop and an outdoor-restaurant with seriously good burgers and beer.

Hiker Biker near Leggett

Comfy camping …

Little store near Leggett

… convenient shopping …

Outdoor restaurant with burgers on Highway 101 near Leggett

… and even burgers and beer! Perfect!

It was mostly uphill today, so the calories and proteins just melted away in our mouths. We had a fun evening with a couple of other cyclists. As usual Jeff and Jesse started a campfire and everyone dried out their bike shorts and shirts.

Hike and Bike Camping on Highway 101, California

Hike and Bike Camping

We still had the big climb ahead of us. Today we would change from Freeway 101 to more remote Highway 1. And in between the inland and the coast there were lots of meters in altitude to climb. I believe that Jesse and Jeff got me slightly addicted to coffee by now, but I started the day with an energy I can’t even describe.

Camping in the nature

Camping in the nature

The climb was done in no time. I probably sweated out half of my body weight in an hour or so. With fleece and windbreaker we started the descent. It was so long and curvy that we had to stop in the middle to let our rims cool down, if we didn’t want to change our break pads again.

From Highway 101 to 1

Finally we had made it back to the sea

Wow, what a ride! What we didn’t know was that the second, slightly lower hill, was far steeper. All coffee had left my system and when we finally reached the top, I was done for today. But it wasn’t even noon yet. We reached the coast with perfect sunshine. The air smelled like sea grass and salt and the views over the rocks into the Pacific Ocean were terrific.

Bike path on PCBR

We even got to bike on a bikes-only path

From now on it was a constant up and down. My speed dropped to next to nothing, but fortunately Jeff and Jesse were huge coffee fans, so we had a good excuse to stop every now and then.

cycling the US West Coast

Beautiful ride under the sun. But I was so tired!

At night we reached a hiker biker. It seemed to have closed for the season, but after a long drop down to the campground we didn’t mind too much. The bathrooms were still open, the lights on, the water running, they might have closed the main campground but it seems like they kept the hiker biker place open for a while.

Beautiful Mendocino Coast

Great view and good reasons to stop every couple of kilometers

Our tattooed friends seriously considered pushing the bikes back up to the road and trying to make the next hiker biker before nightfall (what if a ranger comes?), but once we got off the bike seats, we were all convinced that this was enough cycling for today. They wouldn’t have left lights, water and door if it wasn’t to host cyclists.

Happy Cyclists in Mendocino County

We made it to the coast! Welcome to Mendocino County.

We were just pitching the tents, when Jin from Korea came rolling down the hill. We had met him back in Canada and biked together from Lake Louise to Golden. Tonight everybody cooked ad we all had ourselves a great buffet.

We were just leaving the campground in the following morning, when two rangers drove down the hill towards the campground. They waved and smiled, we waved back. Seems like it was alright to pitch our tents.

Jin from Korea

Jin joined our little team for a while

Jin decided to join our little group so now it was the five of us. Over here on the hilly coast, we kept on running into the same people over and over again. For some reason we hardly ever biked together with anybody else than Jesse and Jeff, but we often met the others during breaks or on the campgrounds.

There was “the motivated couple” from San Francisco, who did cycling research to start their own business. They wore matching full-body bike jerseys and had been working as bike guides for years. Every now and then they randomly confused us with their customers by giving out secret hints like “stick to the lowest gear and do not stop until you made it up this hill” or “don’t forget to stay hydrated”. These two had their exact plan figured out and knew by Monday where they would spend the night on Friday. Pretty impressive.

Coffee break in Mendocino County

Stop for cookies and coffee. Jesse and Jeff love their coffee and I really got used to it too.

The opposite of the “motivated couple” is the “flower girl”. We met her once in a little café, where she was preparing herself a smoothie from some herbs. She was extremely overwhelmed and overly excited about anything. Her big smile was constant and I wondered if she kept it on at night. We left the café before her and expected her to spend the day in town, we didn’t even know that she was a cyclist too, she never mentioned it and we didn’t see any other bikes outside. Later a driver told us about this confused female solo cyclist, he had overtaken. We got a bit worried for her, but when we saw her next day pulling her tent from the camping area deep into the woods, we just hoped that she had simply been caught in her own little world for a while. We’re still curious about what her Smoothies contained.


A big gulp followed by a long sigh. Just coffee.

Another long-termer we have met over and over again, was Josh from Australia. I don’t know how he does it, but he always seems to be all fresh and relaxed, no matter how sweaty we look like. He rides much faster than us (with more bags) and constantly stops and returns a bit for pictures and videos.

Another one of those coffee stops. When in Rome do as the Romans do?

Another one of those coffee stops. When in Rome do as the Romans do?

It reached a point of ridiculousness. This guy is energy in its purest form (without smoothies). But also, he was a solo cyclist, who enjoyed our company in the evening just as much as he enjoyed his freedom during the day. We were group-people. And if that’s what slows us down, that’s fine.

The four Js: Jin, Josh, Jesse and Jeff

The four Js: Jin, Josh, Jesse and Jeff

For those who didn’t remember her name, Natalie was just „the girl with the ukulele“. A young woman who comes from “everywhere” (she sounded US American though). Her bike is in a terrible shape and her bags strapped onto it in the most creative way, but she keeps on riding and according to Jeff and Jesse her ukulele skills are great. She reminded me a bit of ourselves (this is the improvised bag system we started with back in 2011) and our strapped bags except for her blonde dreadlocks and her ukulele bag.

Raccoon proof storage for camping

Raccoon proof storage for camping

We had lost the “fast Czech” guy within a single day. His aim was 120 miles (200 kilometers) per day, so he could make it from Fairbanks, Alaska down to Tijuana, Mexico, before his 3-month visa expired. He was the guy that went for a trip to see the into-the-wild-bus in Alaska. The fast Czech (whose name I forgot) has taken a few jobs during his travels and still took no longer than a year to bike all the way from the Czech Republic to China and from Fairbanks down to Oregon.

Bay Leave Camping California

Bay tree Camping

It was fun how every now and then we would meet some of them again and again. We camped in a really beautiful campground full of bay trees and Jin biked all the way back into town to fetch “some beers”.

Jin is getting ready for the day

Jin is getting ready for the day



He came back with a huge plastic bag full of cold beers and we had a very funny evening with a great camp fire (teamwork), delicious mac and cheese (Jesse early that evening), the world’s worst minestrone soup (Jesse some beers later), one burned bike glove (Jin’s glove, Jesse’s brilliant work) and one shot of Vodka (the neighbors thought we were kind of cool and wanted to drink with us). Fortunately the trees kept the noise in our corner only, so the other neighbors didn’t hate us.

Roof of leaves

Roof of leaves

10 Minute delays for one cow?

10 Minute delays for one cow?

The ride along the coast was absolutely stunning. I couldn’t have imagined cycling California any more scenic. Every day we enjoyed spectacular views over the ocean. But it was not an easy task to bike here. The road was very hilly and it was constantly up, up, up, down, sharp right curve and back up. Once I even pulled my front wheel with all its bags in the air, trying to push myself up a steep section.

Pretty tough climbs in Mendocino County

Pretty tough climbs

Cycling through arid California

Cycling through arid California

California was in a state of drought and it was visible everywhere. Cows and sheep spent the days under the shady trees on dusty brown fields, must bushes had dried up and most of the time we saw sharp rocks and brown fields. Some restaurants even decided to offer plastic plates only, so they would save some water with the dishes.

The world's worst minestrone soup.

The world’s worst minestrone soup. It’s not even of soup consistence! Not even the good cheese could fix this disaster.

Cycling California

Our new team

Jin left us to bike further inland and we were back to our team of four. We got along great and we even biked in the same speed! Going downhill and on the rare flat stretch, Roberto and I overtook them in no time, but uphill they were still giggling and looking all relaxed, while I gasped for air in my lowest gear. Makes the same average speed.

Cycling the Westcoast

Dry landscape but incredible views

The pacific ocean was so blue

The pacific ocean was so blue

We reached the Golden Gate Bridge on day 14 of nonstop cycling. The last rest day was on that stormy day back in Yachats, Oregon. This was the end of Jesse’s and Jeff’s trip. We scared away raccoons together, nibbled peanut butter with salami and beef jerky, laughed, complained and drank together.

cycling to San Francisco

The last kilometers into San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge

We had great bonding moments during our ride and to our big surprise after all those days of 24/7 togetherness they were still not sick and tired of us! Jeff even invited us to stay at his place.

Jeff cycles with beer

Last night of camping included beer again.

San Francisco's City Limits

Officially reaching San Francisco’s City Limits

We may not have gone to San Francisco with flowers in our hair, but we went with friends on their bikes. That’s a lot cooler anyways.

On the other side

On the other side


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