No Way So Hey – Day Nine

Wendy and I spent most of last night reminiscing about our days in Boston. Then we joined Brian for some TV, the Vietnam PBS program. At 10 I went to bed.

We met for breakfast at 6:30. Suffice it to say Wendy knows her way around a kitchen. Ham, cheese, scrambled eggs, an everything bagel with butter, and coffee. Before I left she prepared baggies full of pretzels and ginger snaps. I made myself a double decker PB&J. Hugs and a handshake and adios.

The day began with heavy traffic and no shoulder. For most of 13 miles. Then I turned off onto country roads but the heavy traffic persisted. New residential developments were interspersed with run down houses and beautiful saltwater marshes, streams, and ponds.

Near one marsh there were signs posted: Do Not Feed the Alligators. Brian warned me that I was headed into alligator country. 

My route angled me back to Ocean Island Beach. I missed a turn along the way but recovered without difficulty. 

My maps indicated that there was a bike shop on Beach Drive so I assumed it was along the beach. I climbed a steep bridge over the intercoastal waterway. A signed warned cyclists to walk across the bridge, but I said “Pshaw!” and pedaled onward. The edge of the bridge is a 2 1/2 foot high Jersey barrier. The view was great but one false move and you’d fall 50 or 60 feet into the water. Eek.

I crossed the barrier island. No Beach Drive. As the Google now told me, when I turned I was on Beach Drive. The bike shop was 1 mile ahead on my route. Argh!

Back over the waterway. Don’t look down. Breathe. 

I got to the bike shop and used a floor pump to top off my tires. Then on I rode. I was hot and I had been eating ginger snaps for an hour so why was I obsessing about ice cream? 

For the record, my bike gets 2 1/2 miles to the ginger snap.

Despite eating mucho ginger snaps I was bonking. I couldn’t figure out how on a hot day riding a 70 – 80 pound bike into a headwind might not be a ginger snappingly great idea. Also the heavy traffic had me fixated on my mirror instead of my water bottles. 

I entered South Carolina. State of the art road design is no paved shoulder and rumble strips. Are you kidding me? 

My route took me on US 17, a four lane bicycle death trap. I exited into the state visitor center. I filled my water bottles in the rest room. Then I downed my head with water. Next I found a water fountain with refrigerated water. It tasted amazing. I drank for 20 minutes until by belly sloshed. 

All better. Back on the bike I was soon on somewhat less heavily travelled country roads. The drivers were (mostly) taking care with passing me. They appeared to be preferring head on collisions to running me over. I’ll bet alcoholism is a problem around here. I do have evidence. I have never seen so much roadside trash. And so many blue beer cans and bottles. 

I found a convenience store and finally ate some ice cream, an ice cream chocolate cookie sandwich. Happy face. I also chugged a liter of cold water. Slosh.

The rumble strip romp continued another 20 miles to Conway. The only motels worth staying in were down a highway toward Myrtle Beach. The highway was like an interstate but it had a wide shoulder. Until it got to a bridge. I contemplated turning around until a big break in the traffic came and I went for it. There was a narrow sidewalk but the road seemed safer. The break ended but the cars gave me a wide berth. I sped down the far side to a Super 8 motel. It’s old but it’s clean and everything works. 

I check the temperature on my phone: 89 degrees. And muggy. The headwind disguised how hot it was. 

After cleaning my chain, I checked the route for tomorrow. I have three options. A 50 mile ride to Andrews, a 105 mile ride to Chaleston, or an 85 mile ride past the turn off to Charleston. The second option was my original plan but I think I’ll go to Andrews. Then ride to Charleston and the hostel there. 

My friend Mike Ross warned my about roads like the ones I was in today. He was right. 

78.5 miles today. 662.5 for the nine days.


No Way So Hey – Day Seven

The Nats did their part by beating the Dodgers 7-1 or 7-2. I fell asleep before the last 4 runs so I missed some baseball excitement. The delicious and potent craft beer that I drank in the afternoon caused me digestive distress all night. So not much sleep was had until about 4 am. 

I awoke at 7 a bit upset because a long day awaited. I took full advantage of the free breakfast (So much bacon! Sorry, Lily.)

The hotel was exactly on my route so I had no trouble finding my way to begin with. Mile after mile of the same thing. Fields of crops. Dilapidated houses with five cars out front. I wonder how many meth labs have I passed. There were from time to time clusters of actual nice houses. Do it wasn’t all poverty.

I forgot to mention that yesterday I saw my first hanging moss. Today there was more and some palm trees. 

I had a steady tailwind today so I was clipping along at a heathy pace. It induced a bike trance that was so deep that I missed a turn. This led to me getting all confused and going several miles off course. (Yes, Rachel, just like the 50 States!) 

I finally got re-oriented and back on course into Jacksonville NC. Jacksonville highway folks aren’t real big on street signs so I had to stop to check Google maps so that I wouldn’t miss another turn.

Once clear of town I had the joy of riding US 17, the main high speed highway toward the beach and around Camp Lejeune. I am so glad I put a mirror on my bike. Some of the drivers are a bit aggressive with their passing. I turned off 17 and the drivers got worse. At one point I bailed out into the grass along the shoulder of the road. 

I stopped at a tourist trap to buy a cotton t-shirt. I hate sleeping in technical fabrics. I thought briefly about buying a size 6x Large shirt. But I already have a tent. 

The road rose high on a bridge across the intercoastal waterway and there it was: the Atlantic Ocean. Yeah, baby!

I rode slowly past houses on stilts. Many are built right up next to the dunes. Hurricane fodder.

I stopped for some ice cream then rode highways, made more fun by rush hour to and from nearby Wilmington. 

I arrived after 94 miles at Ken and Dani’s charming little house. They are Warmshowers hosts. I was convinced to try this by Andrea from Friday Coffee Club. This has worked out really well. I don’t think either of my hosts are axe murderers. We sat outside until dark talking to their whacky neighbors. I felt like I was in a sit com. Every ten minutes another eccentric person would join the conversation.

Dani made Mexican food for dinner. I am proud to report that I did not make a pig of myself. Much.

I am now doing laundry, the annoyance of all bike tourists, while my hosts watch the telly next door. 

 I have 525.5 miles of bike touring in the can. 75 miles per day. Tomorrow will be less, a bit over 60. 

It seems strange that under normal circumstances 20 miles without a load is a long-ish bike ride, but on a tour carrying 40+ pounds of stuff, 60 miles seems like a short day. 

No Way So Hey – Day Eight

So my first Warmshowers experience was a resounding success. Thank you to Ken and Dani for being such amazing hosts. They finished off my stay with a filling breakfast and a banana for the road.

Off I went on US 17 in rush hour traffic – okay, it’s Wilmington so let’s keep things in perspective. When the wide paved shoulder went away life got very interesting and stressful. (Okay, Mike Ross, I see your point.)

I did see a movie studio which made me stop and do a spit take.

After 30 minutes of teeth grinding I hot some side roads which were a bit lower on the stress-o-meter. 

I was into Wilmington and rode through North Carolina A and T University. 

Then I started looking for a Rite Aid to get my glaucoma medicine re-upped. After 30 minutes of truck traffic I found one. Unfortunately my insurance won’t cover the refill until tomorrow. So an hour was wasted in the heat. 

After visiting the big container port, I headed out River Road along the Cape Fear River looking for Max Cady. 

I didn’t find Max but the ride was nice.  There are miles of residential developments going in and the road. The primary benefit of the ride was the pristine road surface. 

Then I climbed the bridge over the intercoastal waterway. An actual hill!

The bridge led to Carolina and Kure beaches and ultimately to Fort Fisher and the ferry to Southport. During the 20 minute ferry ride, I talked with three motorcyclists from Quebec. They were on their way to Orlando. They will put their bikes in storage and fly home. They’ll return in November and ride to Las Vegas. The bikes will go into storage until they return in the spring to ride home. 

The ride to my college friend Wendy’s house was stress free. Southport is a cute little town. I pulled up and Wendy was waiting. Big hugs and an intro to her husband Brian ensued. For the record, when I grow up I want Wendy’s house. 

Cold water, cold beer and fine foods were ingested. 

An easy day with a lovely finish. 58.5 miles for a trip total of 584 miles. 

Tomorrow it’s on to South Carolina. 

No Way So Hey -Day Six

Let’s begin at the end. 

I arrived in New Bern, NC with low expectations. I am happy to report that they were greatly exceeded. What a cute little town!

Getting here was pretty ho him, though.

I left the Chateau Monte Python at daybreak with a quick stop at a gas station Quikie Mart for breakfast. Boy, did that chicken and cheese on a biscuit taste yummy. NOT. But it was calories. I neglected to write down the departure times for today’s ferry so I hammered away across the level ground in hopes of catching an imagined 9:30 ferry. 

The crops were the same. There were dogs from time to time too. (They really need to up their game. None of them came close to The Mule and me – although we did manage to accelerate to nearly 18 mph.) 

The poverty is wearing me down. Poor people living in crummy mobile homes next to old homes that are falling apart. Every few miles a hoarder, with a shit ton of junk either inside the house, on the porch, or strewn about the yard.

People here spend a ridiculous amount of time mowing their lawns. The lawns look like fairways on golf courses. They are cut so low. I suppose there is not much else to do.

It is apparent to me that your express your masculinity in these parts by having several big pick up trucks. You prove your virility by having big noisy tires, especially the kind that stick out from the frame of your car. 

So many houses have derelict cars in the yard. They’re like monuments to economic frustration and global warming. 

About 6 miles short of the ferry I stopped at an eatery that had the ferry schedule displayed. The early ferry left at 8:45  It was after 9:00 so I ordered some food. A hot dog. It was apparently a meat based food product but it was so desiccated from the microwave that it achieved a culinary impossibility; it tasted worse than the neoprene vegan hot dog I had at Nats Park. (Katie Lee, you may convert me yet!)

The ride to the ferry was lackadaisical. Even so I still had a 30 minute wait. There were two trucks and me for the 40 minute voyage across the bonnie Pamlico River. 

The ferry dropped us off at the Aurora Potash mine. Gray dirt in piles that extended for miles. We’re having fun now. 

The potash gave way to phosphate. This went on for a few more miles before we were back to legumes and cotton.

Along the way I was startled by a loud buzzing sound coming from beneath me on the bike. Apparently I had intersected with a gigantic bug of done sort. It freaked me out until the bug disengaged. 

As I approached New Bern I looked for the KOA campground nestled between busy US 17 and the Neuse River. I never saw it because I was busy riding on the shoulder of a divided highway. This was no less stressful than riding around DC but the change from near zero traffic country roads to high speed mayhem was a shock.

I spent some time toddling around New Bern looking for a pharmacy so that I could get some toothpaste, earplugs, and a cotton t-shirt. It’s Sunday in bible country. Not gonna happen. But the pharmacy I did find is the birthplace of Pepsi Cola. (Being nearly a descendent of the Coca Cola inventor- a very long story – I decide to leave before being accused of spying.) 

So I checked out the replica of a Swiss estate, Tryon Palace,  Straight out of the Old World. 

Part of the reason I gave up on the campground was the fact that the Nats are playing on ESPN tonight. In order to explore options I decided to take a seat at The Bruin, a craft beer place. After two beers I contacted a Warmshowers host. My last minute communication was understandably not welcome so I checked into a hotel across the river from town. The ride there was admittedly a tad wobbly but the two pick up drivers who showed no kindness as they honked their horns did not float my boat.

The room is clean. I have a view of the river. There is a restaurant within walking distance. The game starts in 2 hours. 

And I rode another 70 miles. 431.5 miles so far.

I hope to find a clean shirt before I get to Wendy’s house.  Hope your washing machine works.