So there we were, stranded again, in an even more remote location than we were before, our camp stove was out of fuel, there was no grocery store around and not much to do other hike, which was out of the question, and check out the park's visitor center, in which we studied every exhibit like we were cramming for an exam. Fortunately, I was able to ride to the nearest town and find a market (maybe the most pathetic market I've ever been in) and pick up some food items to last us for a few days. Now for the fuel. Well, the market was out of white gas and the town didn't have a gas station (which are the two types of fuel our stove uses). The next nearest town was another 8 miles down the road, but they were out of gas the day before and no one knew if they had any today. After visiting several businesses in town looking for gas, I finally ended up at a garden supply store where a few polite “pleases” and friendly smiles won the heart of some nice fella who was willing to give us a liter of gasoline.
Lots of stretching!
Back at camp we found ourselves trying desperately to be patient, stretching a ton, reading books, playing games, making friends with other campers and I even whipped up an experimental desert dish resembling apple crisp which, aside from the crunchy, slightly burnt outer edges, was surprisingly delicious. We had a great evening with our new friends, Brittany and Jordan, and we somewhat forgot that we were stuck here for an undetermined amount of time...but then morning arrived. We slept in as late as we could trying to pass some time and when we couldn't lay around anymore, I rolled over and jokingly asked, “so what should we do today?” Mike, not so jokingly replied, “I guess we keep waiting.”
The sign from Brittany & Jordan to remind
Mike to keep smiling even though he's frustrated.
We shouldn't start out a day as miserably as we did, so we came up with a different plan. Waiting around was getting us no where but irritated and maybe it would do some good to have someone look at Mike's bike fit to see if there was something that could be adjusted that's perhaps causing his pain. The couple we met last night was planning on heading north and maybe they'd have room in their car to give us a lift to Arcata. Unfortunately, there was room for a passenger or two, but definitely not for our bikes and gear as well. This is an adventure, right? Looks like we're hitchhiking!
We quickly packed up camp, I put on my cycling gear fully prepared to ride the 50 miles to Arcata, rent a car and come back to get Mike if the hitchhiking fell through, and we made our way out to the road to test our luck. The Avenue of the Giants is a tourist road and not many tourists are willing to pick up a couple of hikers. Fortunately there was an on ramp to the freeway a few miles up the road. Mike gimpily rode in his street clothes, pedaling mostly with his good leg and with his bad leg hanging off the side of his bike, up to the freeway. We laughed as we passed the “pedestrians prohibited” sign and parked our bikes on the side of the freeway. I wasn't sure if I should have a look of misery on my face or be smiling as we waved our thumbs at passersby. It turns out I had no choice but to smile – we were laughing too hard at the comedy of our situation to wear a false frown.
No more than 10 minutes passed before a big, white panel van (you know, the kind of van we all picture kidnappers to drive) came rolling to a stop just in front of us. A hefty, gray-haired man wearing baggy pants and a black t-shirt with a sequined Ernie on the front hopped out of the driver's seat, asked us where we were going and happily offered to take us to Arcata, since he and his Old Man were on their way there anyway. He opened the back doors of his van, Mike jumped in and spent several minutes rearranging the disaster of stuff he had strewn about (blankets, moving dollies, a jug of milk, a carton of orange juice, a piece of plywood, foam padding, and a grocery bag full of empty Bud Light cans) to make room for our bikes, our panniers and us. It would be a tight ride, but it was only an hour, so we crammed ourselves in, trying to hold back our giggles.
Our ride to Arcata.
Ben was his name, and although he was a bit of a scatterbrain and an inattentive and easily distracted driver, was very friendly. He talked our ears off about many of the roads around here and up through Oregon that we'll be riding, about how we shouldn't push through the pain because it'll only come back to haunt us and about his cabin on the Smith River (which he claims is the most beautiful place in the world). Our favorite line from Ben was, “People come up here, fall in love with this place and unless they're addicted to food, coffee, friends or a job...they stay.” I'd have to agree. We watched some of the most heavenly countryside pass by from the back windows of a dirty old van.
About 45 minutes into the drive, he held up his iPhone, asked if we knew how to use it (yes, I somewhat lied), threw it back to us and asked us to look up bakeries in Eureka. Yesterday was his daughter's birthday and he wanted to stop by her workplace to say hello and drop off a card. I looked them up and found one that sounded remotely like the name he was saying. We wrote down the address and soon thereafter our hour-long tour of Eureka in search for “Velluchi's” began. That wasn't the actual name of the bakery, but Ben was convinced that was how it was pronounced regardless of how many times we corrected him, so we let him run with it. Numerous times, he pulled up to someone and hollered out the window asking if they knew where Velluchi's was or where 502 Henderson was. Of course no one had a clue, so he eventually gave up and decided he'd try again on his way back through town on Sunday.
After a couple of hours of being tossed around in the back of the van, Ben safely and cheerily dropped us off at a bike shop in Arcata. He left us with his phone numbers, both his cell and the number for his cabin, just in case we got stuck up here for a while and needed a place to stay. He also offered us a ride back to the Bay area on Tuesday because he'll be dropping some stuff off down there. Honestly, I'm not sure I could handle 7 hours of his driving even if we did want to go back home, but that's not even an option so we just shook his hand and thanked him for the offer and for the lift.
Mike, Ben & Cari
We now find ourselves stuck in a city waiting for a knee to heal. I never would have imagined we'd say we'd rather be stuck in a city instead of the forest, but after a week of major boredom, we sadly came to that conclusion. I guess if we can't be biking or hiking or doing something active that we like, we can at least be entertained for a few days with shops and movies and such until we're ready to go again.