California dreaming…. and climbing

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Leggett is infamous among cyclists travelling the Pacific Coast Highway as the location of the highest climb of the route.

At around 2,000ft and 3.5 miles long, it inspires tales of abandoned panniers and broken cyclists lining the twisting road. So with some trepidation we packed up our tent at Standish Hickey State Park, which is a mile north of Leggett and pedalled to the start of the climb.

We’ve tackled some testing ascents on this journey but this was meant to be the ultimate test of a PCH rider. So it was with some surprise and more than a little pride that 45 minutes later we found ourselves at the top with all our panniers intact and not feeling particularly tired.

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The fact the climb is long is actually a benefit because this means it never gets too steep. Hairpin turns keep the road zig zagging up the hillside keeping it shallow enough to pedal a steady rhythm. And waking up at 5.30am to beat the heat from a scorching Californian sun helped keep us cool.

The hill about 10 miles south of Leggett actually proved more testing. The early start meant we got to camp at MacKerricher State Beach, about 40 miles away, in the early afternoon. We met up with a group of other PCH cyclists we’ve seen on and off throughout the ride and went to the beach, made a fire and drank some beer while toasting marshmellows.

What was supposed to have been one of the toughest days of this journey actually turned out to be one of the best. Pierre was especially pleased at finding a frisbee!

California has lived up to its reputation as being a beautiful and welcoming place to visit. For me (James) it’s my favourite state of the journey. Smooth ribbons of road meander around some of the most spectacular coastline I have ever seen.

We’ve lunched in small hippy towns, cycled through towering forests along the Avenue of the Giants and met fellow travellers, all with fascinating stories to tell and different motivations for doing this magical journey.

The funniest moment of the trip came yesterday when Jennifer, who we’ve been cycling with, complemented a fellow cyclist wearing Lycra on his lovely helmet. The joke was lost in translation into American English but Pierre and I couldn’t stop laughing.

We’re now over halfway down the USA and less than 200 miles from San Francisco and we’ve still got both our helmets!

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