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  • Writer's pictureCory Howell Hamada

Day 15: It's Stopped Surprising Us

Miranda → Leggett

31.3 miles

↑ 1677 feet ↓ 1171 feet

At some point we’d gotten used to riding on back roads.

The miles of forest, mountain, ocean cliff. The long stretches of carless pavement. Silence except for the birds, the waves, our bike chains spinning through gears, our heavy-breath conversation.

After so many communities with populations in the hundreds, coming into Arcata felt like coming into a big city.

We had to pass through actual neighborhoods to get to the center of town. There were multiple blocks with restaurants and stores. There were two grocery stores within a half mile of each other!

Civilization meant stable cell phone connection, good Wifi, options for food. But getting out of town and back on the road again was its own sense of relief.

Yesterday in Miranda, a couple checked into their lodging ahead of us. They made small talk with the desk clerk, talked about the fires, asked how late the cafe across the street stayed open.

“What’s the Wifi password?” the husband asked.

The clerk laughed. It was a “good-luck-with-that” kind of laugh. “It’s our phone number,” she said. “But the connection isn’t stable. But it’s your best bet out here.”

“Really?” The man said as he pulled out his phone. “Because I’m pretty sure I’ve got…”

He stopped short after he registered what was on his screen.

The girl smirked as he pocketed his phone.

Today, the wifi doesn’t even register on our phones or computers.

I thought the Wild West was long gone.

If anything, it was just an expression now--a way to convoy distaste for your company’s lack of rules, criticize the anything-goes attitude of a colleague or rival.

One of the friends we made in Trinidad grew up hunting. He still does it when he travels to the middle states, but he makes it a point not to hunt in California.

He’d heard a few too many stories about friends having dangerous run-ins, he said.

Hunters would sometimes happen upon illegal cannabis fields--usually on remote public land, sometimes in national forests.

Sometimes, those cannabis fields have guards--and the hunters get shot at. Other times, the illicit farmers employ guard dogs, and the hunters have to contend with them.

Still another scenario, our friend mentioned, the farmers would leave dogs to guard the fields, and not return for weeks or months. When they finally came back, they found a pack of wild animals. The dogs had gone feral, the cannabis fields of their old owners had become their territory.

The big cities may be tech-driven, over-developed, urban--but when we got beyond the buildings and concrete sprawl we found a different type of California. We found a California still rugged, people still living amongst that ruggedness.

At a certain point, we started to get used to it too. The silence, the distance, the trees and pavement and light streaming through the branches all became a comfort.

And after the first few days, the lack of wifi stopped surprising us too.


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