No Way So Hey – Day 13

I awoke before most of the mosquitos and made a hasty exit from the campground. I was tired, smelled of bug spray, sweat, and sunscreen and just not really feeling very spunky.

It was a lovely morning despite my disagreeable nature. And so I rode. Much more of the same. Tunnels of trees. Farms. The blight of rural poverty sprinkled around truly lovely estates.

About 7 miles into the ride I passed the Horseshoe Lake Farm which according to my maps has a free bunkhouse for bike tourists. I couldn’t get ahold of the people by phone so I decided on Mosquito State Park instead. Maybe for free you get more mosquitos. I am not sure that is physically possible though.

The only difference between today and the last five days was the fact that the roads, at least for the first three hours, had very little traffic. Everyone was either at church or, from the looks of all the beer cans on the side of the road, home sleeping off a night of partying. The only thing more depressing than the trash was the sight of so many road kill armadillos. One of them was fresh and being enjoyed by a vulture when I rolled by. Nature is icky.

 

Riding through a long stretch of woods I was surprised when four steer (steers?) emerged from the trees as if preparing to cross the road in front of me. Maybe they were sprung from captivity by vigilante vegans. In any case, when the spotted me, the three smaller ones turned and fled into the woods. The biggest one, closest to the road, just looked at me with ennui.

The road I was on ran through some pretty impressive swamps. Still no sight of a gator though. After the swamps came some gently rolling hills. For the first time in hundreds of miles.


I ate convenience store food. A day old tuna salad sandwich, a banana, an ice cream cooking sandwich. I was riding with shade and a tailwind. I was bonking nonetheless, probably because of lack of sleep.


I came to Points South, an actual town, with an actual Waffle House (with two “f”s). I ate all the things. The food did nothing for my energy level. I was faced with a choice of five hotels (since the road I was on intersected with I-95) and a KOA campground. I decided to treat myself and stay at the best of the lot, a Hampton Inn.

As I was riding the 200 yards to the hotel I met two Dutch cyclists who were rolling into town on a trip from New York City to Key West. They didn’t seem the least bit chatty but I could see they were using the same maps as I. Like me, they are bound for Statesboro, Georgia tomorrow.

I rode 48 miles so my total is 917.5, still a tad over 70 miles per day. Also, it’s the farthest I’ve ever ridden on a bike tour.

Advertisements

No Way So Hey – Day 12

The hostel was not such a great idea as it turned out. One of my roommates decided to listen to hippety hop music at 2 am, after I left the room to use the rest room. Maybe I should have started singing I’m Still Here or some other Crowded House obscurity to change his ways. Fortunately, the other six roommates came in shortly after and calmly talked him into being a decent human being and turning the crap off.

The promised breakfast was coffee and oatmeal, make you own of course. No thanks.

I rolled out at daybreak taking a winding course through Charleston. I came to the Fort Sumter National Monument. Fort Sumter wasn’t there. (I know, it’s on an island in the middle of the river.) So I checked out the sunrise.

 

Speaking of Civil War things, I have seen four houses or cars with confederate flags so far. Many fewer than I expected. The Ravenel bridge out of Charleston was packed with runners enjoying the early morning humidity before the late morning heat. This looks like a running town to me, so many obviously fast runners.

I retraced my route from yesterday for about 35 miles. I stopped for one of those sausage on a biscuit things at a gas station. It was disgusting but it was portable and kept me from bonking. I turned off one road through the Frances Marion National Forest onto another. This area is also an Indian reservation. Other than a roadside sign it appears no different than the rest of the rural, wooded, swampy environs. Also, the roadkill now includes armadillos.

 

My turn put me on a halfway decent road with light traffic nearly all the way to metropolitan Moncks Corner. It was 50 miles into the day so I stopped at an Arbys (the first restaurant I came upon – selectivity is all important in bike touring) and ate mass quantities topped off with a vavilla shake. All the food gave me a massive surge of energy and I headed out at 11 miles per hour because The Mule is in charge of speed.

My route maps are pretty good but there have been many changes to the roads around here so I am stopping to check the Google whenever I am in doubt. I often do this to make sure I haven’t fallen into a trance and missed another turn.

Not knowing where I’d stay for the night, I kept buying food at every convenience store. The roads had now lost their rumble strips and their traffic so the riding was pretty joyous. Level, shaded, puffy clouds blocking the sun. Sweet!

I came to Givhans Ferry State Park and called it a night in one of the tent sights reserved for hikers and bikers. The site came with sand, electric hookup, water, and 10 billion goddamned mosquitos. My head was in a cloud of the pests. Setting up camp was insane. I used the bug spray Mrs. Rootchopper had provided. If I am going to camp again I need a can of Off that I can tow behind my bike.

 

After I was all set up I headed off for a shower. It was outdoors next to a playground. With a spring loaded faucet that you had to hold in the on position to get any water. I rinsed off as well as I could without getting charged with exposing myself to the little kids on the swings. I headed back to the tent for an evening of repose. I stayed up until the sun set then closed my eyes and rolled around for about 8 hours. My left knee was shrieking at me all night. (For me this is not abnormal, just an old volleyball injury reminded me that I am an old fool.)

I did manage to get about 2 hours of sleep at about 4:30.

Even with the mosquitos, this was a pretty successful day on the bike. 85 more miles for a total of 869.5.

 

 

No Way So Hey – Day 11

The motel turned out to be a wise choice. Thunderstorms raged for 3 hours in the evening. I’d have been in deep doo doo if I’d have continued on to Charleston. There was no shelter for miles.

The route to Charleston was a straight shot on Highway 41 through the Frances Marion Forest. Marion led rebels in the Revolutionary War. He was known as the Swamp Fox for good reason. Most of the area in and around the forest is swamp. The forest is very dense with trees and underbrush. I can see how Marion could flummox the British military with his knowledge of the area. 


The truck traffic was mercifully light so I bombed along mindlessly. I stopped at a country store for breakfast but the store was filled with cigarette smoke and not much else. Gross. 

A few miles later I found a Subway and bought a foot long breakfast sandwich that was so big it ended up providing me with two meals. 

Back on the road I fell into my trance and somehow missed a turn. There was no cell service so I didn’t know where I was. I gambled that my mistake would be a short cut. And it was. 

As I neared the northern suburbs of Charleston, traffic intensified. The route took me through a new residential development where there were no trucks.

Despite a lack of decent road signs I managed to find the Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River.  This bridge is a work of art. And it has a side path that is divided into pedestrian and bicyclist lanes. 


Near the top I looked over to my left and saw a small island with a US flag flying. It was Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began. It’s a tiny place by comparison to the mass of the bridge. 

The ride into Charleston featured a few expansion joints but they were covered by mostly wide strips that looked like some sort of mat. Much better than the Wilson Bridge back home. 

I headed off to a drug store to pick up a prescription. Then to a bank to play with the magic money machine.

On the way to the hostel I cruised back streets. Lovely old buildings, many with porches on both levels and huge shade trees. I crossed the old part of the College of Charleston. Gorgeous. 


The hostel appears to be a series of old frame houses. I haven’t check in yet but it looks clean enough. I rode past a camp ground earlier. It’s right on the ocean. Really nice. I felt stupid for booking the hostel until the afternoon monsoon came. 

I’m checking in at 5, showering, then going to eat all the things. I am a little concerned about the bike parking which seems not to exist. Maybe I should put a sign on my bike: “43,800 miles. Old. You can do better.”

Today was 67 miles. 784.5 so far.

Tomorrow I have multiple lodging options including an intriguing bicycle bunkhouse on a farm, two state camp grounds, and hotels. 

No Way So Hey – Random Thoughts after Ten Days

Bike touring makes your clothes grow. 

Without having a back to work deadline I can take short mileage days if I want. On day ten, I stopped after 55 miles. In the evening violent thunderstorms hit the area.

I have serious FOMO for all the events going on at home while I am away. 

It took about a week but my brain finally clicked into “I’m on tour mode.” 

When I’m riding, I am not breathing hard at all. My legs were dead at the start of the tour. Now they just spin. No effort. No achiness. My body reaches a level of constant effort and locks in. 

I ate salad for a late lunch today at 2:30. My body craved plant food. Then I bought a huge sub sandwich for dinner and breakfast. I inhaled it at 5:30 pm. 

Lodging so far: Cabin. Hostel. Motel. Tent. Motel. Motel. Warmshowers. Friend’s house. Motel. Motel. Tomorrow is a hostel. Then a bunkhouse at a farm or tent camping depending on my stamina.

The roads in SC tend to have trees on the left side. I envy the northbound riders who have shade.


No Way So Hey – Day Ten

If I were a bike riding stud, I’d be writing this from Charleston WV. But I eat quiche so I am about 70 miles away in Andrews SC. It’s hot and humid and I found a motel with AC. End of discussion. 

I cobbled together a breakfast of sorts in the motel lobby and headed out. The bridge of doom beckoned. First I had to cross to the oppposite side of an extremely busy 4 lane highway. I rode away from the bridge. Traffic on my side stopped for some reason. I ran my bike to the center turn lane and started riding further away from the bridge until a break in the bridge bound traffic occurred. Then I rode to the far shoulder and did a 180. 

Bridge bound! Alive! Then the shoulder gave out. Luckily so did the traffic. I made it across the span and darted back to the shoulder. Whew!

In town I bought some peanuts and pop tarts for the road and headed out. The relative humidity was absolute. So was the truck traffic. Good thing the rumble strips were there at the edge of the road to make my misery complete. 

I stopped to take a picture that the Friday Coffee Club will enjoy. 

 

My road bound stress was occasionally relieved by crossings of streams and wetlands. The water is black with tannins from the trees. I’d have stopped to take a picture but the dump truck drivers would have disapproved. 

After going through Yauhannah, I saw a truck approaching on the two lane road I was on. A sedan pulled out to pass the truck. It kept coming in my lane without the slightest recognition of me. I calmly pulled off the road and looked at the driver. She had a calm expression that suggested this was her normal way of driving. 

To be honest the drivers here have nearly all been patient. I’ve been honked at 3 times in 10 days. My worry is the 1 in 1,000 driver who doesn’t care or can’t drive worth a crap. 

Outside Pleasant Hill I stopped at a roadside grocery store. A large gray haired man came out and started chatting with me about my tour. I went inside and there were three more men solving the world’s problems. (Andrea, I swear it’s the same four men. They move around the US to amuse bicycle tourists.)

The next five miles were actually pleasant. Light traffic allowed me to ride down the middle of the country road. 

Until the next stressway appeared. This time with a mile long construction zone. After I cleared it, I pulled over to let the cars and trucks go by. 

At this point the humidity had given way to a blast furnace. I was totally comfortable in the shade but I fried without it. 

I arrived in Andrews and checked out the only motel within miles. Bed, AC, shower, TV, WiFi. Home for the night. 

After doing some personal business on the phone, I rode back into town and a a chef said and a gallon of Diet Pepsi. 

Next up, I’m going to scout out some dinner to bring back to the motel.

So about 55 miles on Day Ten. My total is now 717.5. As the old Bubba at the roadside grocery noted I’m not even half way. 

That noted, even with the traffic stress and the heat and humidity, I’m now getting into this tour in a big way. 

On to Charleston.

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.

Further. 

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.