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losing myself on the lost coast

I start to develop the urge to arrive in San Francisco when there is still 400 miles, or so, to go. I ride along the glorious coastline, in and out of giant redwood forest, but I am driven forward by an urge I can’t quite put my finger on.

Californian coast; sunshine and pampas grass.

Californian coast; sunshine and pampas grass.

However, my relentless advance doesn’t stop me having a number of adventures.

I am rescued from the streets of Arcata at dusk by a cyclist who invites me to spend the night at his house, after I query him about camping options in the area.  A range of treats – a hot shower, clean clothes, laundry facilities, pasta, red wine, rhubarb and strawberry pie, and, most of all, congenial company and intriguing conversation –  almost tempt me to stay another night in Arcata. Two book shops further slow my escape and it is two o’clock in the afternoon on the following day before I get back on the highway.

Next, I get lost; first of all in Ferndale, a town which is, itself, lost somewhere in time.

Ferndale feels a bit like a movie set but apparently all the people were real.

Ferndale feels a bit like a movie set- The Truman Show, perhaps? - but apparently all the people are real.

Or maybe Edward Scissorhands...?

Or maybe Edward Scissorhands...?

In Ferndale, again, I find myself treated to unexpected hospitality for a night before getting lost on the ‘lost coast’ of northern California – a section of coastal road that the sensible avoid because of its brutal gradients.

Bill and his wife invited me for dinner and gave me a bed for the night.

Bill, and his wife, invite me for dinner and give me a bed for the night.

Bill, a keen cyclist himself, did his best to dissuade me from attempting to cycle the 'lost coast.'

Bill, a keen cyclist himself, does his best to dissuade me from attempting to cycle the 'lost coast.'

Bill and Cheryle's house.

Bill and Cheryle's house in Ferndale.

Luckily, travelling south, I descend, rather than ascend, The Wall – a one mile hill with gradients of 18 – 22 %. However, there are certainly also climbs in the opposite direction. I find myself topping the final hill on dusk, descending it in the dark with a malfunctioning headlight, completely missing the Sate park campsite in the redwoods and finally finding a place to bed down under a freeway bridge at 9.30pm.

Lost highway.

Lost highway.

Horses...

Horses...

...donkeys...

...donkeys...

...and dummies.

...and dummies.

The last three days of cycling into San Francisco are a blur of cute coastal towns, separated by stretches of steep, winding road carved into rocky cliffs high above the ocean.

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