West Coast Road Trip – Day 9 
Tuesday, March 23, 2010, 12:55 AM
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We hit the road first thing today, anxious to see the redwoods. A visitor center ranger assisted us in finding a suitable trail and we ended up driving to Prairie Creek State Park for the 10-mile (roundtrip) hike/run on the James Irvine Trail.

What a difference from the trails in Tucson! The air was moist, everything was so green, and the trees were, as expected, enormous.

The water was flowing at Fern Canyon (the end point of the trail), but, during the summer, you can hike along the stream bed to view more of the moss-covered canyon walls above.

Not having had quite enough, we continued north to Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park and strolled for a short while on the Boy Scout Tree Trail and in Stout Grove.

People and guidebooks talk about certain redwood areas or parks being more spectacular than others, but that was difficult for us to judge. Everything we saw was extraordinary.

We continued north and drove just over the state line where we spent the night at the Harbor Inn Motel in Brookings, Oregon.

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 8 
Monday, March 22, 2010, 12:45 AM
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And week #2 begins!

We awoke to a chilly morning – probably in the low 40’s – and ran down to the water for a short-lived run on the beach. Between the wind, the soft sand and the steep camber of the beach, it was not ideal for running. But, we enjoyed the views and appreciated the start of another day in a beautiful place...instead of in an office.

After packing up camp, we spent much of the day driving along the gorgeous coastal highway. It was slow-going in many areas as the road was winding and there were lots of great scenic view points at which to stop.

However, we did make it to the southern end of redwood country. The Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile stretch of redwoods, was a disappointment. Sure, there were huge trees, but there was also a whole lot of kitsch – “tourist trap” type offerings.

We only made a few stops, knowing there were many more redwoods to come, and then continued on to Eureka for the night.

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 7 
Sunday, March 21, 2010, 12:24 AM
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It was a calm, beautiful morning for taking in the amazing coastal views at Bodega Head.

We had planned to kayak in the area, but found that we were a little early for the season. Someone referred us to Jenner, the next town up the coast, where we found an outfitter who set us up with a double kayak, dry bag and waterproof outerwear.

It was in the mid-50’s and, just as we were getting the kayak in the water, it began to rain. Although it wasn’t rain so much as the fog level had lowered and we were enveloped in its mist. I must say that, for a woman who hates the cold, I was feeling quite hardy for venturing out in a kayak in this weather.

We were at the mouth of the Russian River and we paddled upstream for about an hour, taking occasional rest breaks. Yesterday, I trashed my legs; today it would be my arms. But, just like on our tandem bike, Paul was patient with me and was always willing to pick up my slack.

We were thrilled to see some seals and a lone eagle, although were careful to keep our distance.

As we turned back, I looked forward to paddling with the current. However, the wind was now in our faces and, around this same time, I realized that the waterproof outwear was not quite waterproof. My arms, butt and the back of my legs were soaked through and I was beginning to get chilled.

It became not quite so fun anymore and so Paul dropped me off and went out for more on his own. I changed into dry clothes and had hot tea in a nice, warm café. Paul showed up an hour later looking wet, but happy.

We continued up the coast to Mendocino where we strolled around the quaint town and admired more coastal views.

For lunch, we enjoyed a delicious raw meal at the Living Light Café in Fort Bragg where they have a culinary school dedicated to raw cooking.

On the way out of town, we made a quick stop at Glass Beach, which used to be the town dump and, as a result, is now littered with beautiful sea glass. The rest of the trash was cleaned up years ago, but the glass was left and continues to wash up on the shore.

We tried our first KOA campground that night, in the town of Manchester. Our main motivation was getting laundry done as I was down to my last pair of underwear. There were many RV’s, as well as little cabins rented, but, as far as I could tell, we were the only tent campers around.

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 6 
Saturday, March 20, 2010, 10:25 AM
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The Pirate’s Cove 20K Trail Race was the only part of the road trip that we committed to in advance (with money, that is) as we were concerned the race would sell out. And it did.

There were also 8, 30 and 50K events and these races were part of the Pacific Coast Trail Run Series. It was so well organized that I wish we could have done more of these races, but this was the only one that fit into our schedule. I encourage Tucson trail runners to check out the series for some possible weekend trips.

We headed through the fog over the Golden Gate Bridge and easily found the race site next to Rodeo Beach in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The 50 and 30K runners went first, followed by the 20K runners about 15 minutes later. The race director was welcoming to all new trail runners and gave them some recognition and encouragement at the start.

The race started with a long, grueling climb, but the amazing views made the effort worthwhile.

I fell near the back of the pack, but made up a fair amount of ground on the screaming descent into the aid station at mile 4. Paul taught me how to be an aggressive downhill runner and it paid off as I passed a number of racers gingerly making their way down the hills. I was a little concerned that I was trashing quad muscles that I would need later in the race…but I decided to enjoy the speed while I could!

The aid station marked the beginning of the next big climb. A few people passed me back on this uphill (definitely an area in which I could use some improvement), but I blew by them again on the downs.

I was amazed when a volunteer at the next aid station informed me that I had just 3.7 miles to go. My GPS died recently and so I had no idea what my pace was during the race. As my legs were fatigued from yesterday’s San Fran activities, I was figuring for a 3 to 3.5-hour finish. Looking at my watch, I realized that I might break 2:45!

With an added spring in my step, I took off and tried to hang on to a couple that was running just ahead of me. I knew that the remainder of the race was downhill, and so I just kept pushing.

Paul looked stunned when I hollered to him as I approached the finish line with a time of 2:42. There’s no finish line photo as he hadn’t been expecting me so soon.

As a form of ice bath, Paul had essentially gone swimming in the ocean for about 10 minutes. The water was probably in the mid-50’s. I was concerned with being swept out to sea and so just waded in.

The pain of the cold soon turned to numbness, but I knew that the park had showers and was looking forward to a nice hot one. Then, Paul informed me that the shower water was freezing. And when I entered the shower, I discovered that it was also outdoors. But, I felt disgusting and so I sucked it up and took the coldest shower of my life. To top it off, the stream of water came out like a rocket and was actually painful. I felt like I was getting hit with a fire hose.

Next up – wine country! At the suggestion of a friend via Facebook, we headed to the Grundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma for a tasting. Then, we hit one of the mass-producers, Kendall Jackson. I can’t say that I really get all of the aromas and flavors claimed on the tasting menu (you know, dried rose petal with a hint of white pepper and a firm finish), but I definitely preferred the taste of the wine from the smaller, more exclusive winery.

Finally, we headed to Bodega Bay, ready to set up camp. We knew it will get colder as we headed north and so wanted to get as much camping in as we could now. Unfortunately, both campgrounds in the area were completely full – apparently, that happens on the weekends. We lucked out by getting the last reasonably-priced hotel room in the area at Bodega Harbor Inn.

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 5 
Friday, March 19, 2010, 12:32 AM
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This was another fantastic day! We started off with a 5-mile run along the gorgeous San Francisco Bay. Then, after showering up, we took a walk to a section of Lombard Street known as “The World’s Crookedest Street.”

Then, we took advantage of one of the city’s free walking tours. They offer a few hundred each month – it’s really a fabulous program. However, our guide was not exactly fabulous. Very sweet though, in a bumbling sort of way. In fact, the best part was when a member of the Dolphin Swim Club invited us inside and essentially hijacked the tour for about 20 minutes.

Their boats were beautiful, their history interesting and their members tough as nails. This elderly, but very fit, man explained that they discourage wetsuit use in the 50-degree ocean water “because you don’t need one.”

We were starving by this point and so headed to the pier for my first whole Dungeness Crab - delicious, but a lot of work.

Then, Paul and I split up to each explore our own interests – Paul went for history with a visit to a submarine, and I went for food with a tour of the Boudin Sourdough Bread Factory.

We met up a few hours later and headed to Chinatown and Nob Hill, followed by an amazing dinner at Thai Noodle which included the most delicious eggplant I have ever tasted. San Francisco is the perfect city for just strolling around – everywhere you go there are interesting sights, beautiful architecture and blooming flowers.

With that morning’s run and all of the walking we did around the city, I figure we put in at least 10 miles. And these were not flat miles. Upon arriving back at the hotel, I put on my compression socks, hoping they would work some magic before the morning’s race.

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