RAPHA RANDONNÉE - DAY 6

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Ferndale to Garberville

97 miles - 11,250 feet

Trip notes: We went off the map and headed through some of the most secluded regions in California, deep in the wild lands that surround the famed Lost Coast Road. After spending nearly 65 miles in this isolated region, we finally emerged into the remarkable Humboldt Redwoods and the Avenue of the Giants, a scenic route aptly named for the towering Redwood trees along this historical road.

It was by far the hardest (but most rewarding) day of riding we experienced. We began with a hour-plus climb and a harrowing decent with a false plateau. At one point, I was flying on what I thought was a level stretch, when the mail man passed me, rolled down his window, gave me the hang loose sign and yelled, "You're going 58 miles an hour, man!"

After winding down switchback after switchback, we were presented with a another climb, almost as high as the first but in a third of the distance. Just as I was starting to run out of steam, I smelled the ocean and caught the first taste of cool ocean air. Thinking I was catching my stride, my hopes were deflated when I heard the "psssssssss" that signaled my first flat tire of the trip.

I pulled off the road and began changing the tire. Some full-time travelers pulled up next to me in their Jeep Cherokee and offered me a bike pump to save my CO2 carton. They blessed me with some fresh plumbs and some great conversation. 

In the time it took to change my tire, my legs had completely cooled down. I walked my bike to the summit about 50 feet away and almost lost my mind. Sprawling in front of me was the Lost Coast—one of the most remote and isolated stretches of Northern California coast line. I saddled up and dropped in on the 19-percent grade, which acted like a chute and funneled me into the road below. The rush helped us forget about the nearly 3,000 feet of fully exposed climbing we had waiting for us 30 miles ahead.

On these rides, it's essential to separate your thinking into stages. Enjoy the small victories, and don't worry about the entire day. The truth is that you're going to be tired, you're going to get more energy, and at the end of the day you are going to pass out. So don't stress.

The ride continued inland, and as we began to climb Panther Gap, the heat climbed right along with us. The gap is a completely exposed 15-mile climb that peaks out over 3,000 feet in the first 7 miles. After climbing the same elevation in the first part of the day (but spread over 25 miles), I didn't think I was going to make it. Almost out of water, and running dangerously low on motivation, I continued to traverse back and forth on the winding ascent and finally broke through to the top of the Gap. The major celebration after most hard climbs is the opportunity to fly like the wind down, yet Panther Gap would not give us this reward. The entire decent is spotted with potholes as if it was a WWII minefield.  The concrete was rough, broken, and loose beneath our tires. Our forearms screamed with tingling pain and numbness from holding on through the constant vibrations.

At long last, we found the bottom of the ascent and rode towards Redwood National Forest. Cruising through the Redwoods is like entering a cathedral. Cool air fills your lungs, and the silent song of these ancient beings fills your ears. It was a time to recharge and reflect about our place on earth. — Jesse Lenz


Classic routes and inspiring journeys. 

 

Inspired by the classic brevets of Europe, Randonnées are point-to-point rides run over seven days. This season, Rapha's journeys pass through Europe, the U.S., and Japan. Averaging 130km of mountainous riding per day, Randonnées are fully supported by soigneurs, mechanics, guides and drivers. Rapha Randonneurs will explore the landscape and culture of their host region, ride challenging terrain and experience the camaraderie of these exceptional adventures.

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