In case you’re wondering, here’s the different ways we have been packing our bikes.  This video was from Elk Prairie, so everything’s changed a little, since:
Arcata to Burlington State Park: 65 miles
I was a little nervous about the ride after the group talk in Arcata.  I didn’t want to be the source of the ride not being any fun for any one.  But also felt a lot of love and support from the people I have been riding with.  Even though I’m a little slow, they were really proud of me. 
It would have been our rest day, and in Arcata, they were having a bicycle rodeo and an Eclipse Festival.  We rode 65 miles instead. 
It was the first day with the weight redistributed.  Once I got over myself and my ego wanting to carry all my own weight… it was actually pretty nice being about to ride easier and I was able to kind of keep up with everyone else.  
We rode through the Avenue of the Giants.  The biggest and most famous of the majestic redwoods.  It was incredibly inspiring to ride off the freeway and down this shady, winding, lush, and beautiful road.  There were lots of groves dedicated to people.  It makes me wonder, what kind of person gets a whole redwood grove dedicated to them?  The idea of it, a person, who probably passes away any time from when they’re 40-90, which is just a small fraction of the age of some of these trees, who will continue to grow, with their name attached to them. 
Burlington is a pretty campground.  We slept under the redwoods and met a couple, Adam and Jane, who were riding a tandem bike from Crescent City to Los Angeles.  They were super friendly and we invited them to hang out once we got the fire started.
After we got camp set up, I remembered about the Eclipse.  It was 6:20, and the Eclipse was supposed to peak at 6:24.  But we were in a grove of giant redwood trees, and the sky was pretty covered up.  There was a river a short walk away, so I grabbed Tyler and Chad and we ran through the forest to the water.  Chad said, “Geeze, we should tell Aly there’s an Eclipse at the top of every hill!”  As soon as we got to the river, there was a couple walking away who had just caught the last glimpse of the moon passing in front of the sun.  We missed it. 
Adam and Jane joined us around the fire and I sang them some songs, and they decided to join us the next day for camping at Standish-Hickey State Park and were going to try to catch my show in Mendocino.
Burlington State Park to Standish-Hickey State Park: 50 miles
The ride from Burlington State Park to Standish-Hickey State Park wove near and around the Eel River, which was really beautiful.  We were approaching Leggitt Hill, the highest climb on the whole Pacific Cycling Route, and I started to psyche myself out again, of course.  At it’s peak, Leggitt Hill reaches 1950 feet, and the Standish-Hickey State Park rests at about 1,000, so we got half the climbing done in one day.  In the book, it looked like it would be a steady uphill climb for the whole day.  
When I woke up, I mentally prepared myself for a grueling uphill climb, that would leave me exhausted only to climb the next 950 feet the next day.  In reality, it wasn’t so bad.  Since we had spread out the weight, I didn’t fall so far behind, and the climb wasn’t as dramatic as I had imagined.  Right at the beginning of the day, I was a little behind everyone else, slowly riding up a big hill, and I heard a voice behind me, 
“You’re doing great! Keep it up!”
It was Adam and Jane, the couple with the tandem bicycle.  They were super stoked on my sparkly helmet cover, and rode with me up the hill and told me about the voice acting they do in Brooklyn.  Jane also does vocal coaching, teaching dialects.  Super neat.  Tandem bicycles are very efficient especially for touring, because you have twice the power to move two wheels.  So, once I caught up with my friends they breezed by, and said they would meet up with us at the campground.  It was the perfect way to start the ride.  
At around noon, we stopped for lunch, and swam in the Eel River.  It was the first time we had jumped into a body of water the whole trip.  Sarah was happier and smiled bigger than I had seen her the whole trip.  Such a water girl. 
We rode past Confusion Hill, which is a spot where gravity runs silly, and started the steepest part of the climb of the day.  That day the rode started to twist and wind and the shoulder shrank to almost nothing when the traffic was at it’s worst.  Sarah got really nervous after a big truck missed her by only about 8 inches, and as we approached the steepest part of the climb, her chain jumped, which is a problem she has been having consistently throughout the trip.  It’s one of those things that is an easy fix, but can be very frustrating.  She told me to go ahead of her and meet her at the campground.  
I climbed up the last section and went around the bend to the campground.  
“Standish-Hickey State Campground Closed”
Of course.  State budget cuts.  The same reason none of the California State Campgrounds have paper towels or soap in the bathrooms. 
As I got closer, the boys were all waiting at the entrance and waved.  There was another sign. 
“Hiker-Biker Okay”
That was us!  Standish-Hickey Campground was one of the state parks that the legislation that they had tried to pass in the last election or two did not save.  However, since it was one of the last  campgrounds for cyclists before the Leggitt Hill climb, they kept it open for us, since the next wasn’t for another 20 or 40 miles.  
They had been closed for two weeks, and had one of the coolest general stores across the street that we had seen the whole trip.  They had pretty much everything.  It was a bar, coffee shop, they made sandwiches and breakfast burritos (which we totally planned on hitting up the next morning after miles of oatmeal).  Even salty seaweed snacks.  And wooden bow-ties.  There was a sign on the entrance that said, “State Park Closures Are Bad for Business.”  
Sarah wrote this letter about our state parks to our friend, Bernadette:
You know it’s interesting that you bring it up I don’t know a lot of the current stuff on it. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot as we’ve come across many closed parks on this trip and independent stores and communities that rely on them almost entirely. First I feel that given the “budget crisis” in California that threatens education, unemployment, and welfare- it seems that some park closures seem reasonable especially the ones they’ve selected. There are A LOT of sate parks in the north. Almost To excess. And I can see parks like dalton sea and Anso borego in the south as they are desolate. However I’ve heard that the plan is to “destroy ” the park meaning taking down all structures. Which sounds costly and shortsighted. An alternative would be to allow the parks to exist and become dilapidated but open to the public. In the hopes that a few years down the line the economy will turn around and they can be restored and reopened. Are they talking about selling the land? What have you heard on the topic as of late? Of course my final note is that the government is corrupt and inefficient and cuts could be made in other areas and creative initiatives could be put in place for the parks to become self sufficient. But. That’s all a little optimistic;) lets ride when I get home. Have a great day. 
When we entered the campground, even though it had only been closed for two weeks, it was already a mess.  Plants were overgrowing, the roads were dirty, leaves and debris were everywhere.  Maybe they had been closed for the Winter Season before that.  They had a few spots marked for the hiker bikers, and Adam and Jane had also just arrived.
Everybody wondered if anyone would even check to see if we had paid.  If a ranger came, Adam had planned to say he only had a 20 and was going to get change at the general store in the morning.  We tested our luck, and sure enough, at about 12:30am, the ranger came by.  Dustin came out of the tent to talk to him.  I listened to the conversation from my tent, and Dustin is one of the most polite people I know, and handled the situation very well.  He gave the ranger twenty, and said we’d pay the remaining five in the morning.  I heard the ranger talk to Adam and Jane, too.  
The next morning, they both told us that the ranger had been very timid.  I could imagine we were probably some of the nicer people that maybe he had approached.  
I made sure we paid the remaining five in the morning.  And to me, it was kind of a lesson.  I mean, here we were, lucky to have the facilities still open for us (including a bathroom and a shower that were left open for us), and we were seeing if we could skate by for free, when the campground had been closed due to budget cuts.  
But coming from a state that didn’t even pass a legislature that would have made all state parks free if everyone paid an extra $12 when they registered their cars, it sadly wasn’t surprising.  
As we got closer to the campground
Standish-Hickey State Park to Mendocino: 55 miles
When I talk about this next day, I’d have to say it’s probably one of the most dramatic scenarios of the whole trip.  It was our seventh consecutive day riding without a break, we were climbing the highest hill on the Pacific Coast Cycling Route, Tyler was having problems with his bicycle, and I had a show in Mendocino that night at 6pm.  
We started the day with breakfast burritos from the general store, and they were pretty amazing.  It was also a nice treat to have eggs to start the day.  
Tyler was having a problem with his tires.  There was a hole in it, and he was going to have to take the almost 2,000 foot decent pretty slow.  It was scary, but on the bright side, since he was riding behind me, I kept checking on him and it gave me something to think about instead of getting into the lonely headspace where I might get another panic attack. 
I started singing my way down the mountain.  I’ve been using it as a gauge for my fear.  If I start to sing a little shaky, then I stop and take a breather.  I was singing the Train Song again, and when I stopped as my voice started to get a little shaky, I felt okay.  Then Tyler passed me, and I took a second to breathe, and the feeling of fear and dread settled in and I started to cry.  Those feelings were inevitable, but it felt a lot safer to know when they were coming and to be able to get off my bike and feel it out.  I had half of a baby ruth for a morale boost, and when I started to feel better, I got back on the bike.  I rode right through the rest of the redwoods and we met back up with the coast.  
Tyler’s bike made it okay!  Tin Can was hanging in there. 
At first I was a little sad to leave the redwoods, but the scenery remained breathtaking in a whole new way.  The road to Mendocino was the best smelling section of the ride we had had the whole route.  We smelled the ocean, some sort of twisting evergreen tree, eucalyptus trees, and millions of wildflowers.  
We arrived at Ricci Dedola’s house about two hours before the show.  She’s a friend of mine I know from the theater scene in Long Beach.  She’s wild, threw amazing cast parties, and is a total hoot to hang around.  She and her husband, Stephen had stopped in Mendocino for lunch last summer, and fell in love with the town.  She looked around at prices in the area, and found a very tempting deal on a home built from a kit for his wife in the 1970’s.  Her daughter loved the area, and didn’t want to go back to school in Southern California, so they all took the jump and moved.  
Here’s a tour of the house:
We couldn’t have stumbled on a more perfect and restful place to spend our rest day after such a long stint of riding.  She has a 3 acre lot and a stunning view off of her back porch that captures you, no matter what you’re trying to do.  She had a back house that we all stayed in, and even opened up her home to our new friends, Adam and Jane.  
I washed my hair before the show, which had been so dirty it was standing straight up, and we all headed over to a little pizza/ice cream place called Frankie’s.  They couldn’t pay (which I hadn’t expected anyways), since we had planned the show short notice, but they did offer a free pizza to share with my friends (which was a  nice motivator the whole ride from Standish-Hickey after 7 days of camp food).  
Adam and Jane joined us at the show, as well as Ricci’s daughter, Serendipity.  It was intimate and really nice.  After the show, I talked the wife of the owner into trading one of my cd’s for the most amazing ice cream sandwich, I’ve ever had.  Since I know you’re wondering, it was with peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and rocky road ice cream.  It was divine. 
We ended the night sitting in front of Ricci’s fireplace telling stories.  
The next day, the long awaited rest day was so nice.  Ricci took the boys on a hike and put them to work putting cup a hammock, and Sarah and I each took a bath and sat out in the sun looking at the wonderful view and took naps.  Then, Chad made bread from scratch and Ricci cooked up an amazing pasta, and we had a wonderful meal together.  I stayed up until 1am, way too late, working on this blog. 
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About the Author

Alyssandra Nighswonger

Alyssandra is known by her community and everyone she comes in contact with as inspirational, a dream-pusher, limitless. She has the divine craftyness to make anything she imagines a reality. This is expressed through all of her art forms; singing and songwriting, poetry, painting and performance. A local legend in Long Beach, she is a hub in her community, constantly realizing new ideas and events to gather and bond her fellow citizens.

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