As readers of this post well know, I am sick of winter. So I jumped at the chance to go to coastal North Carolina for a three-day biking event with my long-time biking buddy Charmaine.
I had planned to ride The Mule on the ride but on the way to work on Wednesday, The Mule’s left crank arm fell off. I’m not a mechanical genius but even I know this is not a good thing, so I folded Little Nellie and plopped her into the trunk of my car. Charmaine’s bike rode solo on a Saris bones bike rack.
The nearly 6 hour drive seemed interminable. We, of course, were stuck for about 30 minutes in construction-related tie-ups on I-95 south of Occoquan. This construction will add more lanes to the highway. Just beyond the end of the construction, wooded areas are being cleared for more sprawl proving without a doubt that when it comes to land use, the Commonwealth of Virginia has its head up its posterior.
We were destined for the tiny (population 600) town of Oriental NC on the banks of the Neuse River. Occassionally, Oriental is in the Neuse River. Eleven years ago this area of NC became inundated after a hurricane. Somebody came up with the idea of using bicycle tourism to give the are a shot in the arm, and thus was born Cycle North Carolina’s Coastal Ride.
After checking in, we pulled into a parking space on a lawn next to a town street and unpacked. We were soon set up right along the rock wall on the river facing east. Life is good.
We took short spin around town and ended up at a local restaurant. It wasn’t fine dining (country fried steak isn’t exactly haute cuisine) but it sufficed. The diet coke I was served tasted nasty. I was later to learn that this was becasue the local water was pretty harsh. We rode back to camp and hit our sleeping bags soon thereafter letting sound of the river splashing against the rocks (along with a couple of NyQuil) lul me to sleep.
I awoke at sunrise and was happy I did. It was pretty pretty. We went back to the restaurant for breakfast and the place was packed. The wait staff was overwhelmed. We had a long wait. Charmaine had a ham and cheese sandwich that was supposed to be an omelet. She was lucky because the western omelet that I did have was cold. Oh, well. At least the coffee was weak.
Soon we were headed south on our 51-mile bike ride. The weather was perfect. I rode in a t-shirt and arm warmers. We rode over a bridge just outside of town and, with the exception of a slight dip in the road to cross a creek about five miles later, our climbing for the day was done. Somebody said that the route had 400 feet of climbing, but he must have ridden up a tree or something because the terrain rivaled northern Indiana for flatness. (Note to self: consider coming back with a faired recumbent!)
We rode straight stetches of flat road through stands of pine trees alternating with farmers’ fields in various stages of spring readiness. The full range of economic circumstances were in view. Some houses would have looked at home in the DC suburbs, many were mobile homes up on blocks, some were dilapidated shacks.
We took our time riding and hanging out at the well stocked rest stops. The nasty water I put in my water bottle was hard to get down so it was nice to see bottled water at the rest stops.
As we rode back into town we had a brief chat with a couple of riders. They wanted to know if there was “more stuff” in town. We pointed out them that they were standing in the heart of the central business district. You can’t expect stuff in a town without a traffic light. A few minutes later we found The Bean, a coffee shop with ice cream. Coffee and ice cream being two sides of the official Rootchopper food pyramid we could not deny ourselves a treat. The Bean serves pretty decent coffee so my central nervous system was pleased.
We partook of the post-ride shower trucks. As I exited the shower, I was congratulated by a woman for keeping the dressing on my right hand dry. (I had elective surgery on my middle finger on Monday.)
We ate at a different restaurant and my grilled tuna sammich was quite tasty, as were the two bottles of Fat Tire beer. After dinner we hung out at the marina for a bit before heading back to the tents. There were rumors of rain so we made sure our rain flies were staked down properly. This was a good thing. It didn’t rain but the winds howled all night.
Saturday was a bit grayer but warmish. We headed back to The Bean for bagels, brews and bananas (and a chocolate chip cookie) for breakfast. Saturday’s ride went north. About two miles outside of town a truck passed me uncomfortably close. It was pulling a house which I am happy to say missed me by a couple of feet. For the next half mile my mind kept seeing my obituary: “Husband, father of two, was killed by a passing house outside Oriental North Carolina.
We spent several miles looping through some relatively fancy riverside neighborhoods. The roads were flat and straight, perfect for the two velomobiles we saw coming our way.
We rode a little faster than Friday, perhaps realizing subconsciously that 51 miles here was about as challenging as my 30-mile bike commute. A couple of times we jumped onto a passing pack of cyclists to make the rolling even easier.
When we finished for the day, I felt like I could have ridden 20 or 30 more miles with ease. I am glad I didn’t because the winds really started to blow hard. Flags were sticking straight out. There was just one thing to do. Eat.
The main campground had free pork barbeque. I normally don’t like this sort of food but this was pretty darn tasty. After dinner we went back to The Bean and then sought shelter in skem Adirondack chairs next to some slips at the marina. We had a nice chat with some folks and I had the chance to replensh some fluids (Corona and Bass Ale).
Back at the campground I spotted the beer truck with a couple of guys standing next to it. It turns out that the beer was free. Sad face. But that there was one cup of beer left. So I did my civic duty. Wouldn’t want it to go to waste. Happy face.
After the sun set, a dragon came down the street. The dragon is something normally used for Chinese New Year (the town is called Oriental afterall) and Mardi Gras. It was a spirited end to a long fun day.
That night the wind blew and blew and the temperatures dropped. I barely slept. My left hip and knee were aching and the guy in the next tent over was sawing logs all night.
In the morning we realized that riding in shorts in 50 degree weather with strong winds was not going to be a whole lotta fun, so we had breakfast and packed up for the long ride home.
I’d say my first ride in the state of North Carolina was a success. Nice people. A well organized event,especially since we nearly tripled the size of the town. Good riding. Lots of good bike porn including several tandems (a Calfee with belt drive, a DaVinci, a Burley, and purple Santana), a Soma rando bike that I wanted to steal, several well appointed tadpole trikes, and the two velomobiles. Little Nellie may have been the only Bike Friday. She was given so many compliments that she will be impossible to be around or the next several weeks.
One word of warning: there was an epic amount of tree pollen in the air. If you pan on doing this ride, medicate accordingly.
I’ve only done one other event ride like this (Bike Virginia in 1991). I really should do more. They are quite a lot of fun.
Check put my pix of the ride on Flickr over here.