• Cory Howell

Day 20: Beautiful and Challenging and Wonderful and Tragic

Anchor Bay → Bodega Bay

52.2 miles

↑ 2320 feet ↓ 2405 feet



I leaned my elbows onto my bike horns, my left foot on the pavement, my right still clipped in. Lilly stood there in front of me, her hands gripped so she could work her brakes.


A line of cars built steadily behind us. In front, the Caltrans worker kept one hand on their stop sign, one hand on the walkie talkie clipped to their belt. A tractor and orange cones and piles of dirt blocked the south-bound lane, scorched cliff and sharp blue ocean stretched to the horizon.


This was a familiar routine by now.


The Caltrans worker side-stepped into the shoulder. Still standing with our bikes, we turned and waved the cars ahead of us. After the last of the line, we clipped in, nodded acknowledgement to the construction crew, and peddled hard. We breathed a thankful prayer that we didn’t have to ride next to the cliff this time.


On the other end, a line of north-bound cars had already formed. A few gave us impatient looks. Oh, it’s the bikers that kept us waiting. A few flashed thumbs ups or honked and smiled.


But most of them just looked surprised. Bikers? All the way out here?



I like the stretch of road just after construction zones; you know what to expect. You’ll get a line of twenty or thirty cars blowing by, then ten minutes of open road. Another line of cars, another peaceful stretch.


That peaceful stretch is glorious.


We zipped down a sharp zigzag towards Russian Gulch. The warm, the breeze, the sun against the water couldn’t have been more perfect.


From so high up, the road at the bottom of the gulch looked flat. But when we got there, it turned into another fight straight uphill.


It still felt so remote when we started this morning. Anchor Bay a tiny community, Gualala a cute little coastal town, Fort Ross the only place for miles with a store where we could buy lunch. The hillsides burned by the fires far from anything seemingly worth mention.


But it changed so quickly.


The crowd in Jenner was no longer the North Coast community--it was day trippers from SF. Well-dressed families crowded the beach, couples drinking mimosas packed into the restaurants with sit-down dining.


It hit me when we saw a couple biking on the other side of the road. No gear, no touring bikes, no packs. They didn’t wave to us, they were out on a casual ride.


And suddenly, we were back.



Some days, I just wanted to be in a routine at home. Some days, I felt so tired and relieved when the ride was done and we were able to get dinner and a shower.


Other days, I reveled in the challenge, the glory of the outdoors, the feeling of being hungry and using my body, working for my food, working to get from place to place.


Bodega Bay stretched cold and dark and beautiful to our west. We recognized the beaches, that ice plant-heavy cliff where we’d stopped years ago to take photos, the restaurant where we got shrimp spring rolls.


Our tires crunched the white gravel of the motel parking lot, cars continued to whizz by on the 1 below. The motel was on a hill, and seemed particularly exposed to the salt breeze.


The room was so small, we could barely fit our bikes--we had to climb over the bed to move around the room. Lilly shut the door behind us, and flicked on the lights, and there we were, out of the cold, out of the wind.