Sunset Bay State Park to Humbug Mountain State Park: 57 miles
After our much needed rest day, we felt great!  We had a great pace the next day.  All of our breaks were really well timed.  I had a hard time with Seven Devil’s Road.  I had trouble with my shifters, which wouldn’t go into the easy gear at all when the hills got steep.  It got frustrating really fast.  
I overdramatized how terrible the day was going to be in my head before we started, so, it turned out not to be too bad. About 20 miles in, we took a break, and ran into a bike shop on the side of the road, where we hadn’t expected to find one. Tyler’s pedal had been clicking and making grinding noises for a few days, and we were all getting a little worried about it. It had been getting louder by the day.  Chad suspected that the bottom bracket might need to be replaced.
The bike shop we found had just opened up. I just lost the business card AND even forget which town it was in, since it’s been over a week, and it was so new it wasn’t on the map.  We were all really thankful to find it, though.  They had just opened about a month before, and were this little mom and pop shop.  The man that owned it gave Tyler a temporary fix, since he didn’t have the part, that would get us to the shop in Arcata.  I also had him take a look at my shifters, and he fixed them right up, and didn’t even charge me after I gave him a cd. 🙂  
After that, I my bike worked perfect, and I did much better on the rest of the ride, which went through all kinds of quaint little unsuspecting seaside towns. 
We have since started trying to find nicknames for our bikes.  Tyler’s is Tin Can, and his road name is Major Tom. 
We got to Humbug Mountain State Park.  It was pretty windy getting into the pass where they had the campground.  We started riding in, and saw a little dust tornado rise from the ground on the side of the road.  The swing weight of the guitar made me pretty nervous, but it wasn’t so bad.  
We got to the campsite and it was pretty clean, and nice.  There was a little creek going right by our site.  It was really green and picturesque, so Tyler and Sarah suggested that we make a little music video.  The whole trip, while I’ve been riding, I’ve had “Train Song” by Vashti Bunyan stuck in my head, and wrote down the lyrics and chords in Newport, and have been practicing it, so here it is:
That night it was so pretty and there were so many stars, we decided to sleep outside.  Everybody snored. When we woke up, the marine layer had come in and it was really cold.  My sleeping pad deflated in the middle of the night.  I fell asleep kind of worried about everybody.  I woke up with a cough.  Everybody had a cough.  
Humbug Mountain State Park to the California/Oregon Border: 69 miles
The ride from Humbug Mountain to the campground after the California/Oregon Border was probably one of the toughest rides of the trip for me and for everybody.  We climbed to the summit of Cape Sebastian, just after Gold Beach, which was the highest climb on our trip so far.  It peak is at 712 feet.  I had been looking at it for days on Chad’s Adventure Cycling Maps and it looked like a big snaggletooth towering above everything else we were going to go through.  We also decided to ride an extra 15 miles to start in early for the next day, when we would have two climbs, the highest of which would be 1200 feet.  
Chad and Sarah kept telling me not to psyche myself out.  But I kept having flashbacks of going down that first hill before Florence, and being so scared.  
We started out the day with everybody riding at their own pace.  I was totally okay riding in the back, I had been pretty tired and getting really nervous about the climb ahead, so I was just trying to conserve my energy, and sing myself songs, and get moving.  
Tyler got a flat tire, just a few miles in.  An older cyclists, that the rest of the gang had met when I was dragging behind, David, passed us and asked if we needed any tools, we just smiled and waved and he kept going.  David has been a mystery to everyone.  He’s about 55 or 60, and is traveling alone.  He’s on a long tour, and all of his gear is worn in.  He’s really short with all of his responses when the rest of the gang run into him.  
“Hi David! You staying here tonight?”
Then he keeps moving.  Very mysterious.  We keep building up who he might be in our campfire conversations.  
We fixed Tyler’s tire and kept going.  We got closer to the Cape Sebastian Summit, and Tyler got another flat tire.  We fixed it, and made another stop for coffee afterwards, just before the climb began.  Everyone was in pretty good spirits.  
Once we started climbing, I was just cruising, pretty content to be pedaling in the granny gear in the back.  I sang to myself.  It keeps me moving.  All the way up the whole mountain, I sang the “Train Song”.   As the climb got higher, I started noticing construction hazard signs, and parts of the road that had caved in.  and potholes.  and signs for slides.  and rocks.  There was a narrow shoulder, and the rest of my friends were far ahead.  I finally got to the top, and they were waiting for me.  Probably antsy to bomb the hill.  The boys live for it.  Tyler told me that when he bombs through the winding mountain roads through the trees, he feels like a storm trooper speeding after an ewok.  
I just feel scared.  I got to the top, and I was a little nervous, but still in a pretty good mood.  I picked another song that makes me happy, “So Long, Marianne” by Leonard Cohen, and started to sing it as I started rolling down the hill.  It was steep.  That deep feeling of fear started to sing in again, and my voice started to crack.  I tried to keep singing just to keep through it.  Toren had told me stand up straighter and make myself big to act as a windbreaker.  Still terrifying.  More construction.  More warning signs.  More trucks.  I sang that song and cried down the whole mountain.  I didn’t want to stop, because I was already the slowest one in the group.  
We got to the bottom, and the ocean was awaiting us.  It was calm, and cold, and the road was flat and welcomed us to keep coasting.  I was really embarrassed about my panic attack and didn’t make eye contact with anyone  and tried to smile and keep riding.  I felt embarrassed for being so scared on something that the rest of the group found so invigorating.  And over something that was so inevitable. There were going to be more mountains along the coast, and two more big ones the next day.  
The ride was stunning.  May has been an absolutely lovely time to take this trip for several different reasons, but one of which is all the wildflowers.  So many that I’ve never seen before or dreamed of.  The ocean is something else too.  I’m just in awe of it.  And up here, it’s deep and the color is so pure.  It’s cold and rocky, and just as inviting as it is dangerous.  
I fell behind quite a bit. I could see the little dots that were my friends winding up the hills.  I was slowing down a little, getting a little disappointed with myself, and the mysterious David rolled up right behind me. 
“You’re doing great!”
He rolled up right next to me, and was super friendly. 
“You must be David!”
He rolled up right next to me, and we had a great little conversation for quite a while.  I told him about how I was the slow poke of the group, and he told me it was okay.  He told me about how he had been traveling around the world for the past 11 months by bicycle.  He had gone to New York to Europe to Australia to Asia to the Northwest, and now he was heading home.  He rose and slept with the sun.  Together, we caught up to my friends, and he wished me luck, and waved to everybody and kept riding. 
Over the rest of the ride, I fell behind more and more.  And after a while, it had been over an hour since I had even seen anyone else in the group.  I hadn’t stopped for more than a minute or two to catch my breath after the panic attack, because I was embarrassed about falling behind, too.  How far are they?  Are they at the top of some  big hill waiting for me?  Why haven’t we taken lunch yet? I’m tired.  I’m scared.  I wish we would have stopped at any of these gorgeous vistas or state parks.  The road weaved over bridges and rivers that gave to oceans, and through forests and ferns.  If I stopped for lunch, would it make them mad for having to wait for me somewhere?  I just kept going. 
I finally caught up to them.  I was exhausted, and frustrated and ashamed for being scared and needing them to stop.  There was tension.  I wanted to cry.  I’m sure they were just waiting for me to stop, but I couldn’t go any further, so we ate lunch right there. on top of that hill, with the stench of fresh asphalt underfoot.  
We pushed ourselves, and kept going.  We passed the Oregon/California Border.  It was another moment that I had overdramatized in my head and ended up being anti-climactic.  I was sore, and frustrated, and we came upon the  Border.  On one side was the Oregon Border, that was spotless.  Then we rode up to the California Border, and it was covered in stickers.  That bummed me out a little. 
Welcome to California, where we don’t respect our land.  Where the campsites are more expensive, and they don’t have soap or paper towels in the bathroom, and showers are $2.00 for ten minutes, instead of the pristine flowing unlimited hot showers of Oregon.  The benches are chained to the ground.
Sarah took a picture of us.
We were totally zonked by the time we got a little further to Smith River, where we were trying to find a camp ground.  We went into the grocery store in a total haze, stumbling to figure out what to eat for dinner.  We got some vegetables and veggie burgers and chili to make some sloppy joe’s.  
The checkout clerk at the grocery store told us that there was a KOA, which is the McDonald’s of the campgrounds, 8 miles outside of town, and another campground only a mile.  
The campground was a trailer park.  We pushed on, but the further we went, Sarah’s face got a little more pained.  We came upon another trailer park,  but it was closed.  
It had been a few miles, and a few more miles was sounding pretty daunting.  And there, just a little bit further was another campground.  It was actually a pretty amazing campground, too.  We started entering the redwoods, and the campground was called “Redwood RV Park.”  It was really clean, and had a great vibe, had a laundry facility AND was cheaper than the state parks and the KOA.  
I did laundry, called my dad and Toren, and Toren gave me tips about my panic attacks, and my dad gave me tips about the rides, and told me about his own experiences riding through mouton roads and over bridges.  It helped so much. 
The California/Oregon Border to Elk Prairie State Park: 44 miles
Right into the 1200 ft climb.  Sarah knew I was super scared and psyched out, so she rode with me.  It really helped, but after a few stressful days of riding, and the tension that was starting to arise from the difference in pace and experience within everyone in the group.  I was worn out.  As I’m typing this, I feel like the biggest thing that I’ve been writing about was how tired I was and scared and intimidated.  
But the cool thing, is that even though this was one of the biggest, most intimidating parts of the ride, it was through the great redwood trees.  In between these two great mountains, was a little spot called “The Trees of Mystery.”  The enigma of a place with a name like that was encouragement enough for me.  
It was a lot easier to ride with Sarah behind me.  I know she didn’t really like riding that slow, and was getting a little tired of my slow pace as the day went on, but it made a world of difference having her there to encourage me and even just to talk to for the ride to take my mind off my fear.  As we climbed higher and higher,  we even talked about our fears.  She said to me, “We’ve all got our own fears.” 
“What are yours?”
“When I’m riding?  All the same things that scare you.  The trucks, going fast.  The construction.  I don’t have health insurance.  Mentally, before this trip, I prepared myself for the reality of the dangers of this trip, and that I could really die somewhere along the way.  That’s a reality.  That could happen.”
And that’s when I realized, that in all the time I spent putting together itineraries, and fundraising, and promoting, and the blog and bikes, and clothes and gear… I had such confidence that I dismissed that reality altogether.  The streets are flat in Long Beach.  I just hadn’t actually mentally prepared myself for the up and downhill battle that this great endeavor would be.  
But then, Sarah said that she had been just as scared and helpless feeling as I am when she was watching me do all the planning.  But all that stuff, the Vaudeville show, finishing the album, fundraising, networking, promoting is what I do.  For her, this is what she does.  She knows how to push herself further than I feel like I can. 
“Sarah, you’re a really strong woman, and I admire you a lot.”
“Alyssandra, so are you, and I admire you, too.”
And we made it up the mountain.  We met the boys, and Sarah started to notice just how invisible they were in the shadows of the trees with their dark shirts, like I had been trying to point out. 
The decent wasn’t so bad.  It wasn’t very twisty-windy, and it wasn’t as steep as I had feared. 
We made it to the Trees of Mystery, and had lunch at the hokey diner across the street.  All of the food was sub-par, but what we were really paying for was a nice place to sit out of the elements, witha  soft cushion and a neat vibe.  There were flowers all over the walls, like a plastic forest, and on the other side, they made the ceiling to look like the bottom side of a pond, with little duck feet sticking out of the ceiling.  We’re really proud that about 2 weeks in, it’s one of the first meals we’ve bought out.  We’ve been really good about making food at the campsite, and stopping to make our lunches on the side of the road.  
Across the Street,  just as mysterious as the Trees of Mystery (which was a $15 per person Gondola ride up through the redwoods, that none of us really wanted to pay for) was a giant Paul Bunyan statue with Babe the Blue Ox.   
We had to take a closer look.  Their Paul Bunyan i49 foot 2 inch tall, complete with eyelashes and a thick rug of chest hair.  We asked a lady coming out of the shop to take a picture of us, and she took five pictures, every one a little awkward, because she spilled her coffee and giggled and fumbled all at the same time.  That photo’s on Sarah’s camera, but as soon as she wakes, up, I’ll update this with it.  It’s pretty priceless.  We checked out the gift shop and museum, at least, and Sarah really enjoyed their exhibit on the indigenous populations in the area, and I got a little smokey the bear pin with wings (I thought it might help my bike fly on some of the scarier rides), which came with a smokey the bear song at checkout! 
That afternoon, we rode through a really beautiful section of the redwoods.  The forest floor is dense and green with ferns, blackberries, huckleberries and california bay leaves.  Plants and small trees grow all over the giant trees, and the smell is so fresh and earthy.  
We rode into our campground, Elk Prairie, which is named after a little open prairie, which is surrounded  by all these redwood forests, where Elk like to come out and hang out at.  Dustin really wanted to see an Elk.  We joked and daydreamed about it the whole ride in.  
We set up camp, and ran into the Colorado boys again.  Tyler and I went on a walk to explore some nature trails, and sure enough, there were some Elk grazing on the far side of the hill.  We ran back to tell everybody, who had just relaxed into all their comfy clothes around the campfire for the night.  They all put on their shoes, and ran out.  We just stared.  It was a pretty amazing way to end such a hard few days. 
Then, when we went back to the campground, we were going over the itinerary, and found a mistake.  I counted 7 days of riding to San Francisco, and Sarah had counted 8 in the tour book.  My stomach dropped. I looked over the two of them, and I had missed a 60 mile riding day from Arcata to the Burlington State Campground (in the middle of the Avenue of the Giants).  We had all been very tired and sore and looking forward to a rest day in Arcata, which we were arriving in the next day. 
Bonus points:  my friend, Ricci, in Mendocino, was working on booking me a show in Mendocino on Tuesday night.  So we ended up deciding to use our flex day as a 60 mile riding day, and were going to take a rest day in Mendocino a few days later.  It was pretty disappointing, and I felt like I let everyone down by not double checking the book and my itinerary.  But it was a mistake that anybody could have made.  
But now, instead of having a rest day in Arcata after 4 days of riding, we were getting a rest day in Mendocino after 7 days of riding.  Big hit to the morale. 
Elk Prairie State Park to Arcata: 45 miles
First thing in the morning, I had everybody line up their bikes and talk about their gear and how they have it set up:
On the way out we had a much more up close confrontation with the Elk.  They were right in the middle of the road!  Here’s the video:
After having so many large climbs and 60+ mile days, we were pretty sure that the 45 mile ride to Arcata with a few little hills drawn out on the graph in the book was going to be a cinch.  
Everyone was tired, and the frustration and tension within the group was rising, because everyone was afraid of talking to each other.  I was slow.  Tyler’s bottom bracket was still a problem.  All Sarah wanted was pizza. 
The little hills were lots of rolling hills, and each one took a lot of energy out of us.  We stopped to get a few snacks, and at a fruit stand to get a $1 basket of cherries.  I got a voicemail from Crystal, my friend in Arcata.  She had booked us a hot tub.  And there was a soul dj dance night we could go to.  And she lived right behind a pizza place.
All of our muscles were very tired, and the Colorado boys passed us by, all in neon pink and orange cycling gear.  We could see them shining from at least a mile away.  Sarah and I were really impressed. We decided to buy the boys construction reflector vests whenever we got to a hardwear store (which wouldn’t actually happen for a few days, but the intention was born). 
The ride took a lot longer than we had thought, and we began to get nervous over whether Tyler would get to Arcata in time to fix his bike, especially since we didn’t have a rest day to take care of it tomorrow.  
So for the first time, we intentionally separated.  Tyler and Chad rode ahead and booked it to Arcata, using Chad’s adventure cycling maps.  
Sarah, Dustin and I hung back.  We hardly said anything to each other on the ride.  We missed the turn off of the 101 for the Pacific Bicycle Route, and ended up on a busier part of the freeway.  It was a little confusing, and the traffic noise was wearing on the nerves.  Sarah was really nice, but I could tell riding slower with me, and the fact that we had to separate to get Tyler to the shop on time was annoying.  
When we got to town, we met the boys at the pizza shop in front of Crystal’s apartment.  We passed the Colorado boys in front of a bike shop, and we all hung out for a while, and Crystal and her parter, Gr met us.  The pizza was so satisfying! 
Crystal is super neat.  She’s an artist who works with metal and she’s studying to be a dulah.  Her big dream is to study being a dulah abroad in a place like South America or Asia.  I think it would be a really amazing experience to learn all about the difference cultures’ approach to childbirth.  
We went to the finnish spa/coffeehouse where there was a duo playing celtic music.  We got our number, changed into our swimsuits and took a stroll around the pond, listening to ribbit-ing frogs as we made our way to door number 12.  We were going to take some time to have an open discussion about our challenges on the ride over the past few days, but as soon as our sore bodies dipped into the warm water, we pretty much melted.  We didn’t talk about cycling.  We just enjoyed the relaxation of the hot tub, the cozy vibe, and each other’s wonderful company.  It was hands down just what we all needed. 
We walked back to Crystal’s apartment, and Sarah and I separated from the boys and we started to talk about things.  She and the boys were getting really frustrated with not being able to ride as fast as they would like, and they had a hard time waiting for a really long time, and letting their muscles get cold.  The ride wasn’t any fun.  
I wasn’t having any fun either.  I was trying to work as hard as I could to keep up, and it still wasn’t enough.  And I was terrified of everything, and embarrassed about it.  I didn’t know when anyone was stopping, and it stressed me out.  I recognized that most of my stressors were in my head, but there had to be some compromises we could make to make everything work.  
I had a fear of getting to San Francisco, and everyone giving up, and trying to ride on by myself.  If we even made it that far. 
Sarah suggested that since we missed the day tomorrow that was going to be our rest day, that it might be a good idea if I rented a car, and met everyone in Mendocino to get some rest.  Or mail my guitar or heavier stuff ahead to other gigs.  She was really pushing me to consider it.  
I told her I would think about it, but I couldn’t.  Even if she rode with me, it wouldn’t solve anything once we all got back on our bikes together.  
Then the boys caught up with us, and we all started having a group discussion.  Another compromise came up, of splitting up my weight.  I’m the slowest rider, the least experienced, and with my guitar, I have the heaviest, and most awkward load.  
I was never very good at math. of COURSE it made sense to divide some of my stuff up.  That way it would make my bike easier for me to handle, and it might even slow the others down a little bit.  It was really hard for me to do, though.  I planned this trip, ready to be autonomous, and independent and strong, and carry all my own weight.  But when I was struggling with both the weight of my load and the emotional weight of my own mind games, I was going to become that dead weight I was so afraid of.  And Dustin brought up that we were a group, and my weight was part of the groups weight, and if they were stronger, it was okay for them to help.  and it was like a lightbulb going off. 
I also suggested that we make designated meeting spots, even if I do fall behind.  That way I won’t go into panic mode, because I’ll know where I’m going to meet them.  And I asked if I could carry the tour book, so I could keep track of the route as we went, so I wouldn’t feel like I was blindly following.  
Then Dustin stood up, and said “This just isn’t right.  We can’t just point to this spot on the map and say we’ll wait for you here, and that spot there and say we’ll wait for you there.  That just isn’t right.  You guys go ride ahead, and I’ll hang back ride with you the whole way.  We started this as a group, and we’ve got to end this as a group.”
It made me want to cry.  I felt like Dustin was my big brother.  “How do you feel about everything, Aly?”
And I didn’t even know.  I could see how everybody else felt, and wanted them to enjoy the ride.  Why else would you ride down the coast for five and a half weeks, if you couldn’t ride at the pace that worked for you?  And I had initiated the tour, but everyone had invested their sweat and miles and money and heart into getting as far as we had.  
“Well, we’ve talked about a lot of compromises and ideas.  Some of them might work better than others, but it’s worth a try.  Let’s start with evening the load, and setting out solid meeting spots, and see how we do tomorrow.  If that doesn’t work, maybe we can take turns being buddies, so everybody can get a chance to ride most of the way at their pace, but I don’t have to ride alone.”
Everyone was nervous about the 60 mile day ahead of us, since the 40 mile day we had just done had kicked our butts.  Nobody wanted to be on their bikes for over 8 hours, if the terrain was bad or if we were slow.  
But it had opened up the line of communication.  I didn’t feel isolated anymore.  Even though we didn’t get a full rest day, we got to relax our muscles and sleep indoors and out of the elements. I went to bed with ease, knowing that we had done what we could, and were working together to make the tour something that we could all believe in again.  I was starting to feel my confidence grow.  
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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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