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Touted as California’s toughest “century” (a 100-mile bicycle ride), the Tour of the Unknown Coast lives up to its appellation. Held annually in early May, the TUC attracts both sightseeing tourists and serious cyclists who relish the challenge.

The event starts in Ferndale, located in the heart of Northern California’s redwood country. Rolling just after sunrise, riders wind their way through small picturesque valleys before diving into the redwoods. Twenty-five miles later, they enjoy a rest stop at Immortal Tree Gift Shop in the Avenue of the Giants.

Climbing westward over 2,700 feet, Panther Gap awaits the riders before the plunge down to the Pacific. Post-lunch at A.W. Way Park (mile 63), the confines of the forest give way to panoramic vistas of the breezy coast.

Riding north along the coast into a prevailing 20-mph northwest wind makes the flat road feel hilly. At the 80-mile mark, the Wall (a 22% grade) is negotiated and the route turns back inland over the coastal mountains. The grand finale is a welcome four-mile downhill swoop back to Ferndale.

While the masochistic riders are toiling throughout the day, more intelligent visitors can relax and sightsee in Ferndale, a turn-of-the-century Victorian village. Replete with antique shops and art galleries, Ferndale is an ideal base from which to tour the historical sites of Humboldt County.

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