photo tour version
The theme for 2015 was riding new routes and new places, so when this e-mail came on the SFR list..
I recently got approved permanent # 2761 – Humboldt Express 400k and would like to invite you for an inaugural ride on August 15. I am very excited about this ride, I believe it is a great showcase of what is like to ride in Humboldt and will also ease some pain of not going to Paris this time around 🙂 (Note: 2015 was a PBP year.)
The route is a challenging mixed-terrain 400k that goes through most of Humboldt beautiful scenery. It starts in Arcata and quickly climbs through redwoods into pasture land. After that you get back to the Eel River plain, pass Ferndale and start your way along the Lost Coast. Tail winds should be your friends. You then go through Kings Range and by sunset most of the climbing and all the gravel will be done. It is similar to Kings Ridge 400k in terms of climbing and gravel sections, and similarly, the last 90 miles or so are a quite pleasant ride back home through the Avenue of the Giants.
There is also its little sister (or brother) #2762 – Centerville Express 200k. But you really want to do the 400k 😉
I hope to see many SFRs up in Humboldt and please feel free to share the word to other random groups.
Let me know if you have any questions.
… I couldn’t resist. I’d never ridden in the Humboldt area, although I’d heard good things about the Tour of the Unknown Coast. In fact, it had been years since I’d been to that part of the world even in a car, so I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but at least I had some company – Sherry gamely joined me, and we had a pleasant drive up on the Friday afternoon before the ride.
We met Andrea and the three other locals, who were doing the 200k, and Brian and Roy, SFRians doing the 400k, at a brewpub for a bit of a pre-ride briefing. I had been wondering about the use of “Express” and “400k” in the route title – and by Andrea, who has a ridiculous, bordering on criminal power to weight ratio. The fact that the locals were doing the 200k made me ask whether I should be worried that they knew something that we didn’t. (Knew better?) Andrea’s response, in his lovely Italian accent, “the locals are a bunch of wusses.” Well alrighty then! (I really shouldn’t get suckered in by those accents…) (Max, of the SFR Adventure Series, is also Italian.) (Must be something in the water.)
That soon had competition for quote of the ride when another local came over to chat. He asked about the ride, Grant (one of the locals doing the 200k) described that route, then mentioned the 400k and translated that to miles. The other fellow asked, “Really? They’re riding 250 miles?” (pause) “On purpose????”
Saturday morning we rolled out at ohdarkhundred from Safeway on the first loop to the east. After a few flat miles and start of ride chit-chat got to the first climb of the day, which was never to steep but did seem to go on for quite a while. The sun rose, there was a bit of a ridge run with splendid views, and we eventually reached the first control at Kneeland School. There was a lovely swoopy descent off the ridge, another climb and descent, and another – some of it gravel, all very quiet roads and beautiful scenery. At one point the lead riders spooked some cows, who ran along the road but they didn’t seem to get mixed up, so that was good, although a bit dusty for those of us coming behind.
Eventually we dropped bad into so-called civilization in Bridgeville, where they were having their annual UFO Fest. From there it was a less climby section along Highway 36 to Hydesville. Rollery and overall downhill back toward the coast, much of this was in redwoods and along a river, very pretty.
From the stop at Hydesville we continued on to Fortuna, a brief jaunt on 101 and out to Ferndale for the second loop. Here the 200k route returned to Arcata, the 400k had a burly climb out the Mattole Road, eventually zooming down the Wall to the Lost Coast, where we enjoyed a flat stretch along the ocean with a screaming tailwind which pushed us to Petrolia, where there is a restroomless store.
After Petrolia was a slightly upwardly trending rollery bit headed slightly inland through coastal farm land. There was some concern about getting to the Honeydew store while it was still open, so the guys zoomed ahead. It was getting on in the day and there was still a burly gravel section ahead, with a part that Andrea said made him want to cry whenever he rode it, which made the minute voice of reason I actually do have in a small corner of my mind start to wonder if the 24 hours I’d budgeted for the ride – to give time to shower and nap at the hotel before checkout time and the drive home – was anything resembling realistic.
Fortunately, in Honeydew there was an option to foreshorten the ride! It was still another climb, but on pavement, and it also cut off some of the “flat” run along the 101 corridor back to Arcata. This option went over Panther Gap, so we got to ride through Humboldt Redwoods Park at dusk. In a day filled with varied and amazing scenery, that was truly magical, and an excellent way to cap the daylight hours. That brought us on to the Avenue of the Giants, which we followed to the end, then rode 101 back to Arcata.
The actual route takes more back roads, but neither of us were feeling like navigating, and it was after dark at that point, so I don’t feel like I missed seeing anything. The shoulder was quite ample and in good condition almost the whole way. In some places we even rode 2-up and felt there was still plenty of room to the traffic lane. Also there was not much traffic, and what did pass us was generally very courteous. Almost everyone moved over to the left lane when going by. Which reminds me! – during the day most of the roads we traveled were very quiet, but it felt like I got more friendly waves from motorists than I had the whole rest of the year riding in the Bay Area.
The day of the ride also had the benefits of pleasant riding temperatures – turned out to be an excellent weekend to be away from the Bay Area! (100+ degrees temperatures) – and any winds for the most part in the favorable direction. It was a bit hazy from fires, but I didn’t seem to notice smoke smell or anything causing breathing problems (besides the hills). And there were tasty roadside blackberries!
With the detour at Honeydew we ended up with a solid 200 miles, definitely got our money’s worth! I was totally happy with my decision for the shorter loop, especially when we were back to Arcata just after midnight. It was still plenty challenging, but left me super stoked about riding in the area again, without having to have a randonesia period. I’d definitely recommend checking it out.
In fact – part of what reminded me that I’d never written this up – Andrea is RBA, starting a new Humboldt region this year. He is hosting 2 brevets, one of them a 200k this weekend, April 29. Bear River Ridge 200k – Starts and ends at Mad River Brewery! and the Unknown Coast 300k on June 10.
Ride date: August 15, 2015