Day 16: How Remote It Was
Leggett → Westport
↑ 2175 feet ↓ 2966 feet
Cory pulled the chicken pot pie out of the Leggett’s Market microwave. This was our last and only option for food until we hit the coast in 25 miles.
“We need the carbs,” he said matter-of-factly.
I nodded and smiled tentatively. I’d never had a chicken pot pie before.
We stepped outside, sat at the bench next to our bikes. He put the pot pie down and tossed a basket of cherry tomatoes into the Caesar salad kit we’d just bought.
Bag salad and frozen food. Our lunch for the day.
The uphill didn’t seem impossible, but the downhill did.
As we merged onto highway 1, we passed a single yellow road sign. The warm sun greeted us from the spaces between the trees.
“What does it say?” I was starting to pant from the growing incline.
“Winding roads for the next 22 miles.”
A single car accelerated past us, the sound of its engine a rhythmic crescendo, decrescendo.
And then silence.
It was strange, unfamiliar. We were so accustomed to semi-continuous traffic, silence followed by an orchestra of revving, roaring, humming engines. To experience the landscape for this long without vehicles made us realize just how remote this road was and just how far we were into the wilderness.
“This should be an interesting ride, huh?” Cory said.
“This should be an interesting ride,” I repeated smiling, “not for the faint of heart.”
By the time we reached the summit, thick fog covered the forest, drifting gently from an ocean we could smell but not see. I began to shiver, and quickly changed shirts and threw on my beanie.
From there, the downhill began. A long, steep, 2200 feet decline to the coastline.
“I would not want to do this the other way around,” Cory said, as we rounded what felt like the 50th switchback. The end was nowhere in sight. A bottomless downhill swallowed by infinite forest.
“Yeah, no thanks,” I responded. I gripped the brakes with a fear-driven ferocity, releasing every few seconds just so the blood could flow back to my thumbs and the brakes could stop screeching.
At some point, the elevation plateaued, and we began to ride side-by-side. There were no cars, no crazy downhills, just a pleasant strip of road.
All of a sudden, a group of dogs charged around a corner at us.
My body went limp.
“Go! Go!” Cory yelled. He stuck his leg out to lure the dogs away. “Go!”
I couldn’t ride away--I didn't want to leave him behind.
“Go!” he said again.
The dog at the head of the pack diverted his attention from Cory and ran at me, its muscular body only shades lighter than the cement. Cory threw his bike to the ground. The dog snarled, white teeth baring, and jumped to bite me.
I lifted my leg from the pedal, centimeters from where the dog’s jaw snapped the air, and pedaled my bike forward.
Cory appeared, blocking me from the dogs.
The dog came for me again, but this time Cory kicked it in the throat. As I rode away, I heard Cory yelling a barrage of profanities. I kept turning to see him, to make sure he was okay. Moments later, he caught up with me.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Am I okay?” I said disbelievingly. “Are YOU okay?”
The barking stopped, the dogs were lost to the foggy gray.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he said. He looked totally unfazed, as if our earlier conversation had never been interrupted.
I couldn’t feel my fingers. My legs were shaking. The road continued its descent down the mountain.
I saw it first.
“Cory!” I yelled excitedly, “the ocean!”
We broke out of the redwoods to embrace the Californian coast--a wide expanse of blue stretching to the horizon. The sun glittered on the ocean’s surface. The smell of thick seaweed flooded our noses. I couldn’t stop smiling.
“It’s hard to conceptualize how remote it was,” Cory said, pointing to the trees we left behind. “It was 22 miles of that.”
“Just trees,” I said.
“Basically,” he said with a laugh.
Now only six more miles to the next market.