Willie and Jonathan

Festive 500 in Humboldt County

Some Heroes Travel to Humboldt County to finish the last 300K of a 500K Week

Everything you think you know about Humboldt County is probably true, yet there is more to Humboldt than what you already know. For instance, not everything in Humboldt is sticky, green and for sale. Go to Arcata, California for a couple days and its beauty and charm will make you say, “No wonder the hippies live here.” And if you go an inch or two out of town you will say, “No wonder the rednecks live here.”

Fun facts:

Humboldt County is arguably the prettiest county in the world. Sorry County Cork.

Humboldt County is home to the tallest species of tree in the world, the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), as well as the second tallest tree species, the Douglas fir (Psuedotsuga menzieslii), known to people in the western United States as lumber.

On December 27, we headed west to avoid an epic Chicago Festive 500 because the only thing better than bragging to the world about the sub zero temps, the wind chill, the frozen snot in your mustache, is just about anything. For the record, only one of us was attempting the Festive 500 and he was four days in when we arrived in Humboldt.

More fun facts:

We recently learned this tidbit on NPR: scissor drifters and trimmigrants are synonyms for pot trimmers. They travel to marijuana meccas like Garberville and look for work. Some, a small number, even find it.

Day 1

The first day of our Humboldt adventure took us south from McKinleyville to the North Jetty in Samoa. We wended our way through the busy streets of McKinleyville across highway 101 to the Hammond trail. The Hammond trail was just a baby when Tenspeed Hero Jonathan used to ride from Arcata, passing Farah Fawcett’s house along the way, and on to Trinidad. Traveling south, the trail ends at a bridge that spans the Mad River to the Arcata Bottoms: flat dairy farmland dotted with old moss-covered farmhouses and barns. The roads are beautiful but you have to convince your nose that the smell of sour milk and manure isn’t so bad.

Yet more facts:

Mushrooms thrive in the damp Humboldt climate. With the help of local friends, we have been known to collect and eat Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), Hedgehogs (Hydnum repandum) and occasionally false chanterelles and Amanita muscaria. Kidding about that last one you mushroom maniacs.

The Arcata Bottoms dumped us out onto highway 255 that leads through the towns of Manila and Samoa. The prize at the end is the North Jetty, an imposing spit of concrete and asphalt that sticks out into the Pacific Ocean. The ocean end of the jetty is made of piles of dolosse. A dolos (the singular does indeed end with the letter s) is a reinforced concrete form created to protect harbors. They were invented by South African Eric Mowbray Merrifield. Yes, they were invented in South Africa but they are usually built near their final resting place because they are huge, heavy, big and they weigh a lot. A favorite thing to do on a stormy Humboldt day is to walk out to the end of the jetty and (attempt to) avoid getting slammed by the giant waves.

Day 2

Day 2 rained hard but hard rain never stopped a hard man. Obviously we took the day off and went antiquing. We found a great shop in Eureka with an excellent stock of 80s era stereo equipment. Note to self: go back with money.

Day 3

Day 3 was spent riding north on the broken and muddy road known as Scenic Drive to Trinidad.

Yet another fact:

The mud on Scenic Drive is known as blue goo, the clay-rich and often fossil-rich soil that flows across Scenic Drive during particularly wet weather, in other words, all to often. It is sticky and tenacious and best to circumnavigate.

We continued through Trinidad on Patrick’s Point Drive, which is actually the same road as Scenic Drive but farther from the sea cliff that the barely paved Scenic Drive follows and thus perfectly smooth by comparison. That lovely, tree-lined road ends at Patrick’s Point State Park where we stopped at Wedding Rock to stare at the ocean.

Day 4

On our last day in Humboldt we found ourselves in Ferndale. We followed Centerville Road out of the quaint Victorian town toward the Lost Coast. Grades hovering around 17% graced the descents and plagued the ascents. It was some of the best riding anywhere; steep, scenic and sometimes scary. The road turned to gravel and that made for slippery up hills and nail biting down hills.

When we returned to Ferndale, after a fast, tailwind-aided detour through the Ferndale Bottoms, Jonathan, our Festive 500 hopeful, realized he had a few more kilometers to go in order to reach 500. He and a local rider who called himself “Willie” continued south passing ancient cemeteries and hundred year old farms, and through chilly forests. Willie gave Jonathan a ride in his 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit, or maybe it was a 1986 Ford Fiesta – it was a car for sure – to Eureka where he pounded out the last 14 k of this year’s Festive 500 alone.

We rang in the New Year with old and new friends at our host’s house in McKinleyville. Have your heard of Prosecco? That was served. Also beer and whiskey were popular choices. Great food too! Happy New Year!