CYCLING UP AMERICA 1993
Florida - Virginia.
13-14 Apr 1993
Dorset (ENGLAND)-Orlando (FLORIDA)
We happily left our car firmly in its garage for five weeks. Cycled down the hill to Poole station, changed at Southampton, then on to Gatwick Airport. Bed and Breakfast at Gatwick (Logans, Mrs Pittaway's), then next day got ourselves fine cardboard bike boxes from the Delta Desk. Deflated tyres, turned handlebars through 90°, and took off pedals. Taped boxes, but left them open for inspection "They are too big to go through the X-ray machine!" Boarded a Lockheed L-1011-500 (only 3 engines, do we get a refund?). Hostesses were not bimbos, but mature ladies with "power dressing". First stop Miami, 8 hours 37 minutes, all over the sea. Landed in one piece, then took off again for Orlando. The Immigration man frightened us considerably by saying that our motel was in a very dangerous part of S.Orange Blossom Trail and recommended another in a different direction. He said I should carry money in my pocket, not in a bag. Rosie was frightened by now, so I booked a Transit van and we were driven to Howard Johnson motel by a chatty, almost globular, 280 lb, short, boz-eyed man. Were happy to get a good night's sleep, with our bikes safe in the room with us. Hello America
01J. Orlando - a typical American street scene. Field glasses are useful to find a restaurant.
In Orlando (FLORIDA)
Woke about 2.45am (time shifted) but then drowsed. Heard 3 trains going by in the night. Our TV says "Warm, windy, thunderstorms coming in late afternoon". It gets light about 6.45am. Had breakfast in the motel restaurant, free! As much as we could eat!! I had: scrambled egg, sausage, bacon, strawberries, bananas, tiny doughnuts, all x2. The weather is very overcast, I think we'll stay here and ride out the storm rather than ride to Oakland and look for a motel there. Walked half a mile to Florida Mall and looked round the dozens of shops there. The quality and range of goods is astonishing. How different from the slopes of Kanchenjunga (where we trekked in 1991). There are lots of young girls (who are attractive) here and a lot of Spanish speakers, but few Negroes in the Mall. I'm now sat watching people walk by. Everyone casually dressed, colourful shorts and expensive trainers. Kids, especially black, with reversed long-peak baseball hats, long baggy shorts, high-rise trainers. Older men and women fat, not hiding the wobbling pounds. Young people have good bodies on them. We've seen no dogs so far. Outside a shop called "Exposure" saw a young Hispanic girl in black knee-length boots, green shorts, black sun-top and bright red lipstick. Wish I dared take photos of these people. Later, walking back to the motel, we found some Texas-Tack grass growing in the front lawn of the Forestry Dept. Went in to ask and was told it is called "Crab Grass". The spiky seeds are green and soft at this season, but there may be some "class of '92" around! Called in at Denny's for a meal. I had coke, veg.soup, turkey sandwiches and hot fudge cake ("Death by chocolate", requires 10 Hail Marys in repentance!). Rosie had Nachos Supreme, Apple Juice and coffee. All for $13.64 (about £9). Back to the motel, Rosie had a swim in the pool. About 7.30pm, great fingers of dark cloud extended from a line of black cloud along the West horizon, with ribs of cloud between. The wind sprang up and became gusty. Sheet lightning began as darkness fell, about 8pm. From 8 to 9pm, great flashes of lightning every 30 seconds, heavy rain bouncing off the road. It became cooler, muggy changed to fresh air. By 9pm it was over, still raining but the main activity was past and heading East. Shower and bed. What will tomorrow bring?
02J. Orlando - Thunderstorm approaching Florida, that made us stay an extra day. It was spectacular when it came.
- 16 Apr
56 miles-Orlando-Oakland-Monteverde-Astatula-Lake Jem-Mount Dora (FLORIDA) 61 miles
The rain has stopped, its warm and cloudy. TV forcast looks good. The Shuttle landing at Kennedy Space centre has been put back 24 hours, we might miss it. At breakfast chatted to 3 policemen and thanked them for last year's hospitality. It was a bit hairy getting out of Orlando, but once beyond the I-4 the roads are small and little traffic. We used a lot of sidewalks as cycle paths. Orange orchards around, with heavy sweet scent of white blossom. Hi dollar houses set back from the road. It started raining a bit, so we took shelter in a gas station, and filled up with Mountain Dew! Then the wind shifted to NW, the sun came out and it got hot. There were a few short hills, the scenery was green with big trees. We saw a girl cycle tourer go by, later saw her bike outside a store and went in for a chat. She was alone, perhaps 30, a nurse from Montreal. She had cycled San Diego to Montreal (3,300 miles) and across a lot of Australia. Signed in to a motel in Mount Dora, showered, washed clothes and did the 101 things a cycle tourist has to do when not cycling. The went to the Italian restaurant next door, had 2 helpings of salad (delicious), a 12" pizza and 2 Budweisers. I was full! Back in the room, the forcast on the Weather Channel was very good.
01R. Lake Kathryn, Florida - A cypress swamp with lilies
- 17 Apr
31 miles-Paisley-Forest Hills-DeLand (FLORIDA) 92 miles
Washing dried thanks to liberal use of air conditioning. Didn't hear the Shuttle bang about 7am. Quite a lot of headwind, temperature increased rapidly. Very green, trees and woods, egrets, lots of vultures round a dead racoon on the road. Large, black, white feet and wingtip, vulture-like head. At Thrill Hill, steep down for 50 ft, then steep up again, its a sink hole! Otherwise, very flat. Met a man out cycling, about 75, flag on a whippy pole, front hub brake, mechanical speedo, bottle of mace in tube fixed to front of his top tube, spokes with flat centre section, an Avocet saddle. Stopped to look at a "yard sale", got chatting to 3 folk, who invited us to look at their home "Deets", back garden sloping down to Lake Kathryn. Bungalow house on Pennsylvania Avenue, bit larger than ours in England, for sale at $90,000, idyllic lake with large lily pads. Husband and wife, maybe late 60's, and older man with tracheotomy, 2 acres covered in trees of various kinds. They were moving to a smaller place in Florida. Nearby was a huge National Forest, very dense. Crossed St. John's River and along Old New York Avenue, between "mangrove swamps" into DeLand. At the station we phoned Ed Fletcher, a very good friend of my family when my brother was living in Massachusetts. Chatted for some time before he asked were we in England, the sound quality was unusually good. When told him at DeLand station, close to Ed's home, he jumped in his pick-up and in 15 minutes we loaded our bikes and got to Ed's home to meet his wife Sunny. That's friendship!. After long pleasant chat with our good friends, we drove to American Legion where, for $5, we ate as much catfish as we could eat, plus trimmings. There were 4 other people at our table, Rebecca from America (a teacher), Connie from England, Tony from Italy and Jack from Australia. My jaw was sore from talking when we got to bed.
06J. Florida - Southern Pine Plantations each side of a lonely road.
- 18 Apr
62 miles-DeLeon Springs-Pierson-Seville-Korona-Kings Road-Ormand Beach (FLORIDA) 154 miles
Woke early to sound of strange birds in the trees around. Sunny went off to Church while Ed drove us back to our route. We were very sorry to leave them, they are very nice people. Cycled down lovely Grand Avenue, straight, flat and surrounded by delightful woods with big trees, under a blue sky with a few fluffy clouds. Had lunch at a gas station, my elbows are very sunburned (from cycling North). Crossed 25 miles of "wild country", straight road with "mirage pool" under a very warm blue sky. Crossed a lovely creek, lined with mangroves, water sides covered with thick lily pads among which several turtles, heads raised with yellow bars. Entered Ormond Beach along old Dixie Highway, a lovely parkway-type road, dense semi-tropical woodlands on each side of the road, with occasional glimpses of the Halifax River beyond. This went on for ever, ending in a lovely "high dollar" housing area. The bridge was huge, steep, ultra-modern, we walked over along the pedestrian route. The motels lining the beach were modern, hi-rise and I feared a vast expense, but we soon got a good room for $35. We walked out for a good meal under a red sky, $14 for 2, how do they do it?
02R. Near Ormond Beach, Florida - A Natural forest, part of Tomoka State Park.
- 19 Apr
36 miles-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach-I95 Junction (FLORIDA) 190 miles
Beautiful day, super view from our 6th floor. Battalions of pelicans gliding past our motel going North along the beach (we saw them gliding South last night!). seems to be a strong wind blowing from North. I went onto the huge Beach, and enquired about the possibility of cycling along it. Southwards there is good hard sand cycling for 23 miles, but Northwards it quickly becomes too soft. We started over the bridge, along Beach road and Old Dixie Highway. Lovely weather, lovely scenery. Stopped to look at Tomoka State Park. Nice, but the view from the road is just as good. Birds of all sorts around, big buzzards circling, saw a red-headed woodpecker. Chatted to a senior couple unloading their bikes from a van. Easy cycling, flat, bit of a headwind but it cools. The sun is very hot and I got burned. We got a cheap room at "Charlie T's motel". I strung a washing line outside in the sun, and my laundry dried in 2.5 hours. Walked in nearby woods, fascinating ant mounds, each ant moving one grain of sand. Vicious small prickly pear cactus, its spines went straight through my trainers. Six black buzzards circling above the woods in a thermal. The restaurant part of our motel is surrounded by over 20 huge trucks. We had a reasonable meal with the truckdrivers, and went to bed early. There was no air-conditioning, the room was hot but it got cooler. The Weather channel predicted rain on Wednesday, but OK Thursday.
03J. Florida - Old oaks straddle our road.
- 20 Apr
51 miles- St Augustine Beach-St Augustine-Vilano Beach-Ponte Vedra Beach-Jacksonville Beach(FLORIDA) 241 miles
At breakfast, the restaurant was still surrounded by trucks, the drivers must sleep in them, not enough room in the motel. Last night the Davidian sect, besieged at Waco Texas for 8 weeks, burned their farmhouse down, maybe 80 adults and children dead, this could only happen in America. Started early while cool, but quickly warmed up. Cycling ridiculously easy, flat, little wind, wide roads. St Augustine Beach, lots of motels, like a "super Mablethorpe", slightly Spanish, established 1565. Between Vilano Beach and Vedra Beach no motels but a lot of wooden houses, built of grey wood and a bit like those in Massachusetts. Continued on, past Ponte Vedra to Jacksonville Beach, a couple of big motels costing $55 (without tax) for a room, then we found a grubby shack called "The In Place" for $35 all in. Smallish double bed, rough TV, but I liked it. Large flat sandy beach over the road, shelving gradually, some surf. Beach Guard on a tall chair under a flag, with two little flotation boards just like "Baywatch" on TV. The water was 67°F, about as warm as it ever gets back home. Not much of a swim, sand all over clothes, need a shower to get rid of it all. Had a big meal in "Miss Judy's", soup and steak. Waitresses were all young, nubile girls in white shoes and socks, jean shorts and tight low-cut blouses. They were all smiling and enthusiastic, what a sight!
04J. Florida - A cypress swamp, with lilies on each side of a river.
05J. Dixie Highway, Florida - A delightful road leading to the town of Ormand Beach.
- 21 Apr
48 miles-Neptune Beach-Atlantic Beach-Jacksonville-Callahan (FLORIDA) 289 miles
The rain still hasn't come, good weather outside, some high cloud. Got slightly lost in Neptune Beach, soon back on track. Quickly got quite warm. We crossed St Johns River on a ferry called Blackbeard, where a man took our photo, impressed by our mode of travel. We saw several pelicans close-up (delightful birds), and passed a large power station. Worked our way round Jacksonville, along an attractive green route. Got to Callahan in hot weather, but some dark clouds building up. Found one motel, run by an Indian, friendly, got very large room with 3 beds for only $29, where we checked our bikes and watched TV with good reception. The town is very small, and only here because several roads cross at this point. Steak, baked potato, cheesecake with blueberry topping. The front has passed over without raining. On channel 2 we watched an excellent TV program called "The Longest Hatred", about prosecution of the Jews. Amazingly, it went on for maybe 3 hours, and no adverts, except for a break every hour advertising the channel itself. Very informative.
07J. Folkston, Georgia - Our motel room provided: a shower, a good night's sleep and security for our bikes.
- 22 Apr
42 miles-St George-Folkston (GEORGIA) 331 miles
Clear, sunny but colder with head wind. Hardee's for breakfast but it was a fast food joint. The TV news is saying the catastrophic fire at Waco, Texas may have been started accidently by tanks besieging the site! Shielded from head wind by trees part of the way. A chase car waved us off the road as two houses went by on wheels. Saw a huge Hawk Moth at a gas station. Accents here are now "deep South", lovely blue sky, trees and woods everywhere. St George is just a cross road with 2 gas stations and a school. We turned North into the headwind and cycled 23 miles along a dead straight road lined with Southern Pine plantations. There were a large number of logging trucks and few cars. Met a cycle touring couple from Colorado going the other way (you only meet people going the other way!). Both good figures and in their 60's. They lived near Hoosier Pass in the Summer and Florida in the winter. The woman said she could average 80 mpd, and had done a lot of touring in USA, Denmark and France. We decided not to go 3 miles off route to see the Okefenoke Wildlife Refuge [14 years later I'm still trying to live this decision down!]. Found a motel in Folkston, the owner used to work in Greenford, London, like I did. Had a shower, then strolled out for a good meal at the Okefenoke Restaurant, soup+salad+ribeye steak+baked potatoes+2 orange juices for $10 each. This is the best part of cycletouring! Like last night, the memorable sound of Folkston is the numerous freight trains passing through, which all seem to sound their two-tone hooters several times, a marvellous noise if you haven't heard it too often.
08J. Georgia - A small tobacco barn gave us shelter from a thunderstorm, but snakes were also sheltering!
- 23 Apr
46 miles-Nahunta (GEORGIA) 377 miles
No trains hooting till 6.03am, are they quiet from 11 to 6? Weather channel says record low temperatures in S.E. At Okefenoke Restaurant, Western omelette + potatoes for breakfast, fat white mammy with child next to us with lovely Southern drawl. Headed for Atkinson, lined with woods and trees, mostly natural. Met 2 cycle tourers going in our direction, both had done XAmerica going West with a group in 90 days, both camping. Then met Tommy Harris, he hailed us as we rode by, "Like a drink? Like to just talk?". We sat in his lounge in a little wooden house set back in the woods. He gave us drinks, a cup of excellent soup and chatted. He had 3 children, maybe 4, had just got divorced ("wife had a boyfriend"). Worked as an electrician in a paper mill. Living free in someone else's house, was repairing it and was lonely. Worked in Air Force Helicopters in Europe, and was interested in planes. Another American turned up, and Tommy invited us to stay a couple of nights and see the sights, but we declined and set out again for Atkinson. We reached Nahunta and found a motel. Ate at the Gold House next door, and laughed with the waitress at our accents. She said "There's lots of us and only two of you." I said "That's why we keep a low profile". The waitress told us the smell of the water here was due to sulphur, she'd been drinking it so long she couldn't taste it. Another woman said the water came from an artesian well, "Its the purest water there is".Dad, Mum and two boys came in, the whole family probably weighed 1,000 lbs. We walked to the town centre and back, its very easy to get lost at night, all the streets seem the same and at right angles.
- 24 Apr
41 miles-Atkinson-Hortense-Patterson-Odum (GEORGIA) 418 miles
On breakfast TV I saw yesterday's Russian Evening News, translated into English, there were even primitive adverts, amazing. Russia is preparing itself for a Referendum (results May 5th). The Pacific Fleet is short of spares. Good coverage of non-Russian news, even the Holocaust memorial in USA, they talked about the concentration camps being for Jews (no mention of this when I was in East Germany). One advert said "We sell for Roubles". Good sports coverage. The motel next to ours was even more dilapidated. Cycled along quiet SR23 into Hortense, then quiet SR32 into Patterson. Early lunch, blue sky, high cloud, getting quite warm. Countryside to Patterson green, but people poor, mostly mobile homes, old cars outside, some yard sales. Patterson has some posh houses, big ditches or small lakes on roadside have flowering lilies. Saw a pair of white storks. Poor area reminiscent of E.Kentucky, 50% blacks, all seem friendly. Continued pedalling in a kind of dream. Breeze behind, flat road, rural scenery, pretty hot, deciduous green woods and fields, newly planted tobacco and maize, old wood houses with brick chimneys and corrugated iron roof, flowers by the wayside, red clover, egrets and song birds, cows in fields. And so we reached "Happy Acres Resort" near Odum, a family owned camp site and RV site, but with 4 mobile homes, one of which we had for $26. The land (1,834 acres) was taken from the Cherokee and Creek Indians and given to Isham Reddish in 1819 by the Governor of Georgia. The land has stayed in the family since. The old lady who served us in the "laundry and store" was Cleo Harris Foreland, born 1919, inherited 147 acres, 150 bushels of corn and forage and two mules when her father died of a ruptured appendix in 1928 aged 47 and the land was distributed among the 7 children. At evening meal, met Georges and Anita Marchand from Quebec. He's 64, worked 36 years on the CPR. Later we walked down to their RV (no 24) and talked about the World, Politics, Religion, Crop Circles, Code Napoleon, Inca Empire and a lot more. Anita was trained by nuns, but Georges is quite anti-clerical. They wanted us to take a huge salami, and gave us beer and things to eat, very hospitable. Bed at midnight.
- 25 Apr
43 miles-Reidsville (GEORGIA) 461 miles
Lovely day, but I was dehydrated from too much beer last night and have a slight headache. A Preacher on TV was persuading viewers to vote against President Clinton giving Gay and Lesbians civil rights. Said goodbye to Georges and Anita (they took our picture and gave us their card). Breakfasted at Odum. Chatted to several people, there and on the way, everyone is pleasant. North bank of the Altahama River has Everglades-like swamps. On the road we saw a large black snake, it moved very quickly into the vergeside grass and disappeared. Near Reidsville we sat by a roadside swamp area, and through my excellent field glasses watched swamp snakes swimming to and fro, they were yellow underneath, dark blue on top and swam with their heads stuck out of the water. We also saw a bluebird, and a woodpecker with bright red head. Also saw peach groves, tobacco plants just planted and extensive "sweet onion" fields. Several areas of poor housing (mobile homes) seemed to be largely black, but they all waved as we passed. Clouds are building up, but we found a cheap motel and got the TV on to see the Weather channel. Strolled to Huddle House for dinner, walked round a bit, then by dark back to the motel to watch the Discovery channel about Post War years, the Atom Bomb and a Gay and Lesbian March in Washington. I don't know how we survived the Cold War without using The Bomb. God Bless America!
- 26 Apr
38 miles-Collins-Register-Statesboro (GEORGIA) 499 miles
A weather front is approaching our area with showers and maybe thunderstorms. The idea is to have a very early breakfast and reach Statesboro before the rain. The Weather channel is excellent and shows exactly where the rain has reached. Yesterday the front produced tornadoes that killed 10 people in Oklahoma. No luck, just beyond Collins a few drops rapidly developed into a spectacular thunderstorm. We dived into a dilapidated wooden barn, and watched the flashes approach from the West, then disappear into the East. A kind of fog approached, rain bounced off the road, flash and crack were almost together, but we were cosy and safe beneath a corrugated roof. The rain stopped and we cycled on. It became very pleasant, green, warm, high clouds, even some blue sky. I've never seen a thunderstorm pass over so quickly. Pleasant green wooded country to Register. Nearby is New Hope, Baptist, poor, maybe black. They have a Landfill problem, they need a new on, was given a leaflet all about it. Saw a marvellous sight, a large black bird with a red head on top of a tree with wings spread out, drying them after the rain. Reminded me of the Indian "Thunderbird" in this posture, on top of a totem pole. Carried on into Statesboro, went through lovely high-dollar area just before the town, Golf Club, Country Club, mansions set among trees. At the Pine trace Inn, we got a $52 room for $28. Then walked round the centre of the town in the heat of the day (3pm), but its dead, all roads, cars, gas stations and public buildings. Very few interesting shops to walk round. The car has killed American towns. Treated ourselves to a big meal at an Italian restaurant, Pizza and Chianti for £9 each.
09J. Georgia - Cotton, the plant that changed the world. Arkwright spun by machine in Cromford, England in 1771 and introduced the Industrial system
- 27 Apr
72 miles-Oliver-Kildare-Clyo (GEORGIA)-Garnett-Robertville-Pineland-Gillisonville-Pocotaligo (SOUTH CAROLINA) 571 miles
Cold and clear, got up at 6am. Today's forcast is upper 70's, clear but NE wind 10-15 mph (a headwind). Walked 4 blocks a got a huge breakfast for £6 each of Raisin bran, fruit cocktail, Western omelette, toast and jam, and large milk. As I ate I saw a line of 15 yellow school buses go past the window. Today we have about 70 miles to do into South Carolina to the next motel at Pocataligo. Set off 8.50am, unfortunately a head wind all the way to Oliver, where we turned slightly out of the wind to Kildare. Just beyond I saw cotton for the first time, left over from last year. I put a sample in a plastic bag. Quick lunch at Clyo then headwind to Garnett. In between we crossed the big Savannah River ("all set about with fever trees"). Goodbye Georgia (green, treed, rural, poor and very nice cycling). The North bank area of the river was the "Black Swamp", a dense forest sticking out of the water, probably crawling with 'gators, snakes and worse, though we didn't actually see anything. Crossed the railway, turned right and headed for Robertville. Then left and followed the long straight 462 through Pineland to Gillisonville. The sun was hot, the sky clear, the wind tiring though cooling and reaching Gillisonville we expected a gas station with drinks and maybe some buns or cakes, but the three stores were all closed down! This was the low point of Rosie's day. She was tired, thirsty, hungry and her bum hurt. However, 4 miles further on, just before the I-95, we found a nice little grocery shop, run by 2 old folk, under a huge oak tree, and near another that spanned the road. Rosie stretched out in the sun for 5 minutes, then a Negro man came across to find out what we were up to. He was amazed at our cycling, and said I was a "A good man". Then along the Interstate frontage to Junction 33 where, thank goodness, we found 3 motels, cafes, restaurants all together. So Rosie's longest ride ended well when we got a cheap ($30) room, showered, checked bikes and ate at a restaurant. Good meal for £7 each (carafe of nice white wine). Wrote some postcards, bed 11pm, Rosie is very tired.
- 28 Apr
28 miles-Yemassee-Hendersonville-Walterboro (SOUTH CAROLINA) 599 miles
Dreamed I was walking round a BikeCentennial Museum, and found dates and times of my University exams! Left late at 11am, no cloud but a good headwind again. Got a bit lost, then went through nonexistent Pocotaligo and on to Yemassee. Next to a river, we stopped at a little fishing shop and saw two boxes full of chirping crickets used for bait to catch "redbreasts", fish with a red chest. In the shop I met Clayburn Russel, 53, who lives just down the road and looks after his poorly Mum. He had a Southern drawl, talked a lot, and was drunk. He invited us to stay with him, but we declined. He was very proud of his XL Ford Classic car, but had lost his licence and it would cost $1,000 to regain so he was going to have to sell the car. On the way we stopped to look at the car and chatted to his crippled Mum living in a nearby mobile home, who said "He's the best son in the world when he's not drunk". Later, we stopped by a lake to watch a large white heron with fan-like tail, and smaller white birds walking over floating vegetation. Also saw a smaller blue heron. Stopped at a little grocery store for lunch, run by a black. Pleasant man, gave us cups and Kleenex tissues, said he was a Baptist, what were we? The roof of his Baptist church got damaged during March's storm, $80,000 but covered by insurance. Lunch was Milk and bun with icing. Continued on, hot sun but strong headwind as we approached Walterboro. There's a Holiday Inn on the nearby I-95 junction, but we cycled into town hoping to find something more central. We found the "Friendly Motor Court" run by an Indian couple. The smell of curry means a cheap motel! The room was only $19. She came from Coventry, but had been here since 1975 and didn't like it, preferred Coventry (perhaps because there are no Hindus here). Our room was in a bad state of repair, the WC cistern kept filling, a shower leak had eroded the plaster, but we liked it because of the price! We walked round the centre of the town, looking for somewhere to eat. The Centre is a disaster, all fast food joints, car dealers, tyre sales, lawyers offices and so on. By chance we walked some way and found a Buffet. What you do is pay $13 for 2 and sit down. There are 6 buffet tables, each with about 10 different sorts of food. You just eat till you drop. Rosie called it the "Anorexic's Nightmare"! Caroline Chicken, Santee Catfish, Salad and fruit, Country Cooking, Island Produce, and Coastal Bakery. I had vegetable soup, a heaped plate of salad items, vegetables, beef and ham, fruit and sweet items, finished off by a big sticky bun. I just can't resist this sort of temptation, I'd be 20 stone quickly
03R. South Carolina - A lovely lake.
- 29 Apr
55 miles-Ridgeville-Moncks Corner (SOUTH CAROLINA) 654 miles
Weather outlook good for next 5 days, best weather on the Continent is here! On the outskirts of the town, we called in at "Henderson Enterprises", which is a bicycle shop. The old man who runs it used to be a milkman, he started a bike shop to give himself something to do. He opens when he feels like it. We chatted for 1 hour. He was on a merchant man in the war, went from Liverpool to Antwerp. He gave Rosie some "bottie cream" free, but I insisted on paying for a dog spray for Rosie. He seemed interested in us. Set off again at 10.30am in steadily increasing heat but little headwind. We saw two similar recently dead dogs, one on the road which I removed with the aid of a handy tail. The route was mostly traffic light, wooded and pleasant. We reached Monck's Corner about 4pm and booked into the first motel saw called "Swamp Fox Inn". After a hot day a shower is delightful. Then went looking for somewhere to eat. Town architecture is a disaster here, straight wide roads lined with car parks, gas stations and fast food joints. A pair of field glasses is useful to save a long fruitless walk. Everything is designed for driving, few pavements or entrances to walk in. Its disgraceful. We made the best of a bad lot and went into a "Taco Bell", fast Mexican food. It was cheap and better than I expected. Back in our room, we watched two English TV programs, "Inspector Morse" and "Waiting for God". The channel screening them advertised itself as broadcasting that "Teach and Inspire". After seeing American TV, maybe that's right!
10J. South Carolina - Spanish Moss hangs down from big trees and looks delightful.
- 30 Apr
41 miles-Witherbee-Jamestown-Andrews (SOUTH CAROLINA) 695 miles
A lovely day again, blue sky, no wind, forcast 85°F. The TV is analysing President Clinton's first 100 days in office Consensus: he's finding it more difficult than expected. Taco Bell shut, so we breakfasted at Burger King. After eating, we threw away: plate, knife, fork, cup and assorted wrappings. The food tasted like plastic too. The adverts brainwash you into not noticing: "Great Mornings start at Burger King". If china plates were washed and re-used, thousands of people who make plastic plates might lose their jobs. God help us. Off at 9.30am, got pretty hot, through pinewoods along small roads. Stopped to get stamps at Bethera Post Office and had a long chat with the post lady. Then a friend came up and chatted to her. She then drove off and came back with a camera, took 2 photos of us and gave us 4 pieces lovely cake. We ate it by the side of Railroad where 48 meets 125. Continued on a long road, a lot of pinewoods but also some nice swamp with yellow flowers growing, just beyond Jamestown. We got into Andrews about 3pm, very warm, run by an Indian (I noticed curry immediately) but not very cheap. He seemed very interested in our cycling. Cycled to town centre and chatted to lady in dry cleaners, who seemed amazed at our exploits. Got established then walked to town centre, did some shopping then had early dinner at an almost empty Kentucky Fried Chicken (its all fast food round here). Rosie has a cold and feels rather miserable. Back in the room, I worked out that the BikeCentennial "TransAmerica" and "Florida to Virginia" routes have 7 miles in common close to Richmond Airport. The TA route goes within 2 miles of the Airport. I also decided it would take 4 days cycling to reach Afton and see the Cookie Lady, and of course 4 days back, so using all our spare days. I saw the Cookie Lady last year, and as I remember, Afton-Richmond would not be particularly attractive at this time of year, so recommended to Rosie we do not visit the Cookie Lady.
11J. South Carolina - A Planter Style American house.
- 01 May
51 miles-Rhems-Pleasant Hill-Yauhannah-Conway (SOUTH CAROLINA) 746 miles
Nice English day, high cloud, warm and dry. Breakfast at Hardee's, chatted to "Jewel Cool, Hospitality Manager". Her ex-husband had worked at Alconbury Air force Base, England. She tried to see as much of Europe as possible (unlike a lot of American wives). She thought France dirty, Ireland nice, liked best the Cotswolds, Lake District and the "little tea shops". Set off under a cool and cloudy sky, but warmed up rapidly and a blue sky returned. The section from Rhems to Yauhannah was traffic free and very pleasant. The early 41 had traffic and the 701 was hot, narrow with a lot of traffic. Somewhere we stopped to look at a roadside lake and a large black snake swam under our noses! It seemed to have a flattish cross-section, which helped it to swim. Chatted to people on the way, everyone seems pleasant and interested. We saw a lot of cars towing motor-boats (its the weekend). The Americans show little evidence of knowing how to amuse themselves without using a petrol engine. I think we were both glad to see the end of the long, straight, hot, narrow, busy 701 and almost immediately found and booked into the Delta Motel at Conway. As before, we went for a meal early (about 5pm) to Western Steakhouse, where for £5 each we ate as much as we wanted. I had lots of salad, followed by a meat dish and sweet and lots of drink. The atmosphere is air conditioned and much more pleasant than outside anyway. By the time we emerged well fed, it was cooler outside and still light. We walked round the centre of Conway. The shops were more European layout, and we went into "Piggly Wigglies". Rosie still has some painful spots on her rear end, poor girl.
- 02 May
52 miles-Wampee-Brooksville-Little River (SOUTH CAROLINA)-Calabash-Sunset Beach-Seaside-Shalotte (NORTH CAROLINA) 798 miles
Sun beaming through the window but a lot of high cloud. We pack our bikes first and leave, then stopped at J+J, 4th Avenue for breakfast, its on our way along 90S. Tasty but small. Nice chat to middle aged waitress, she'd like to travel too. Like yesterday, it warmed up, clouds burned away and it stayed hot. The 90S was busy, lots of people driving to Church? Crossed big river Waccamow, slow black and muddy. Still very flat. 90S busy again, we stopped short of Wampee at a little grocery store for lunch. Very tasty "Danish" cakes (made in USA), Apple pie and milk shared with Rosie. Chatted to 58 year old wall paper salesman about travel. Told him about Bangladesh (which we've just visited). Brookesville, Little River route pleasant but once on main 179 again, felt the presence of North Myrtle Beach and its traffic. Could see high rise hotels and linear abodes in the distance. Rosie is suffering from her cold and seems to have weak legs and we are not going very quickly. Finally got into Shalotte about 4pm, very hot and thirsty, and found the "Twilight Motel" at junction of Main St and the 130. Bit expensive again ($37) but reasonable room. Turned on air-conditioning, drink of iced water, had shower and watched TV. Weather channel said same weather tomorrow. Channel 12 had a film called "Time Bandit" with John Cleese, Michael Palin, Ralph Richardson and Sean Connery, and "All Creatures Great and Small" (a popular British serial, set in Yorkshire in 1947). Also a Rowan Atkinson comedy. We walked 1 mile down Main Street when it was cooler, and ate at Kerby's Family Steakhouse, where we had a good meal of salad + steak for £6 each. The waitress pestered us with "Is everything OK?" every 10 minutes, you just have to leave a tip. Walked back in the dark.
12J. North Carolina - Rosie cycling. I took this bicycle from my bike on the move.
- 03 May
33 miles-Supply-Southport-Ferry-Fort Fisher-Kure Beach (NORTH CAROLINA) 831 miles
Yet another lovely morning, blue sky and warm. Some strange bird (related to a magpie says Rosie) is cursing us from a big pine). Good breakfast at Joe's Barbecue Kitchen a few yards away. Chatted to 72 year old man from N.Carolina in office while handing in my key. Very friendly, stuck his hand out "I'm Joe E Bloggs". From hilly part of NC Hills up to 3,000 ft he said. Clouds built up, we took a side road to Supply but the 211 was dangerous. Busy, straight, rough and glossy hard shoulder. After a near miss by a truck we decided to cycle on the wrong side of the road ie the left side. Traffic comes straight at you, but moves over, maybe they are puzzled. It takes a strong nerve but you can see whats coming plainly. If it won't give you space, the hard shoulder is available at the last moment. Rosie has a streaming nose and eye driving her crazy. I think she has a form of hay-fever. Then short of Southport it started to rain but then stopped. A lot of the vehicles had headlights on and it looks black with hanging fingers of rain. But it cleared up rapidly, to blue sky and we pressed on. The traffic seemed to vanish in Southport. We caught the nice Ferry 2 miles outside Southport. It cost $1 for each bike, took 32 cars, 24 minutes and left every 50 minutes. We saw pelicans again, darker ones this time. Strong wind from the sea on the other side, we stopped at Fort Fisher for a lunch of pop and buns on the beach, then got ourselves a room in one of the many motels in Kure Beach. The beach is nice here, soft sand, sloping, good surf and the gulls seem very tame. Had posh meal, steak and wine in "Big Daddy's Restaurant", walked along beach in the dark, then returned to our room and wrote postcards.
13J. North Carolina - He was cycling the other way, from Washington to Florida. Camping gear, plastic bags instead of panniers, and a dynamo working through his rear mudguard. His worldly goods were with him!
- 04 May
42 miles-Carolina Beach-Wilmington-Hampstead (NORTH CAROLINA) 873 miles
Clouds and strong winds from the sea. Breakfast across the road, its expensive eating here. The waitress has an astonishing manner, like a wind-up toy from a stage show. She had wide eyes, and told us last week they had 100 cyclists and the week before 200, but only weekend and cycling 50 miles for the American Lung Association or something. Through Carolina Beach on the 421, lots of motels, not posh as we expected. Once over the bridge and turn left, the traffic disappeared and BikeCentennial came up with an excellent quiet and attractive route into Wilmington, namely the River Road. Quite easy into the centre of Wilmington, but then difficult, narrow and busy leaving the city centre on the other side. Eventually we turned onto the quiet Blue Clay Road. We should have got lunch at the gas station there - there was nothing else before Hampstead. The clouds cleared away and it got very hot with a lot of sun. A very large Hercules was doing circuit and bump training and I got in position to take a real close up of it just before landing. Followed a railroad, small freight train going slowly, some road crossings had no barriers and the loco had to hoot continuously. Pressed on, very hungry and thirsty by the time we reached Hampstead about 2pm. Bought ½ gallon of cold milk and lots of cakes at the first food store we saw and had lunch in the shadow of the building. Then up the hill and signed in at Spirella's Motel, where they offered me a water bed. Nipped down to the shops and got maps 10 and 11 photocopied ( free 'cos I'm a cyclist!). Somehow I'd forgotten them when preparing the navigation sheets at home. Then went to sleep in my water bed, while Rosie did some shopping and washed all our clothes, bless her! Went next door to eat, I had only salad, not hungry, they overcharged us $8, got the total wrong, good job I checked it. Went for a walk through the centre of the town, disgraceful, no sidewalk, all designed round cars. The only interesting shop was called "Carnivorous Plants" selling Venus Fly Traps, Sundews and Pitcher plants. Later watched a movie on TV with Nigel Havers, Jeremy Fox and other British stars. Broken by "no warning" adverts every 10 minutes. Disgraceful. Went to sleep on my water bed.
19J. North Carolina - What does it mean? Who payed for this? Is it brainwashing the reader?
- 05 May
39 miles-Surf City-Sneads Ferry (NORTH CAROLINA) 912 miles
Last night Rosie found Kermit, a green frog, on our dressing table and looking at himself in the mirror. I got up and took a photo. Later I heard a "plop" and realised he had jumped onto my water bed. Then I felt a wet presence on my back, Rosie put the light on, I grabbed him from the floor and Rosie put him in a bag but this morning he was long gone! Weather looks good, but Weather Channel says 40% chance of rain. I slept well, but no better than usual on the water bed. Set of along the busy and rather unpleasant 17, but after 8 miles turned towards the sea and Surf City. SC not much but the coast road interesting, lined with wooden holiday chalets, mostly large and on stilts (presumably to protect against incursions by the sea and to park under). Inland the weather is dark and stormy looking, so we decided to head for Snead's Farm and get a motel, rather than press on another 30 miles to Swansboro. After Swansboro we will have to do 2 days of 45 miles each, so the best decision this Wednesday morning is to stop at Snead's Ferry. We met a lone American cycletourer going the other way on the 17. His bike was very loaded, he was using his tent frame as pannier frame, home made pannier bags. He was camping, seemed short of sleep, going on mechanically, didn't notice us till we shouted. Coming from Washington, he was headed for Myrtle Beach today.
The motel wasn't cheap, but we had no alternative. Dumped our stuff and rode to look at the area. As usual spread out to the dictates of the car, few if any "central points". Had a bite for lunch at "Jim's Restaurant". Later went to Captain Jim's for an early dinner (Rosie was hungry). Chatted to a couple, on way back, who were hanging out a hummingbird feeder. Back to room, washed and watched TV.
- 06 May
42 miles-Camp Lejeune-Hubert-Swansboro-Cedar Point-Cape Carteret-Bogue (NORTH CAROLINA) 954 miles
Had a long complicated dream about cycle touring at a camp-motel, being overcharged, my saddle coming lose, shouting at Rosie etc etc. Happy birthday, I'm 53 today. Heavy rain, very localised, when it was over we hurtled 1½ miles to Captain Jim's for breakfast. Back at motel, chatted to cleaning lady for some time, then left at 10am. Black clouds have gone, now blue sky and tail wind. Over bridge and into Camp Lejeune check point, where they gave us a 1 hour pass for Highway 172. This took us straight through about 14 miles of Marine Corps Training Area lined with trees, beyond which we could see Helicopters and maybe heard tanks. Saw various military vehicles, and eventually had lunch sat in a Shell gas station where 172 meets 24 just outside Hubert. I had 32oz cup of Mountain Dew, 4 pecan whirls and an apple pie for about $2. Just beyond, we made the decision to go for the Outer Banks Alternate Route. Set off along 24 and reached Swansboro, a very spread out place, but could find no motel, by sight or asking though someone said there was a Bear Motel, owned by an 80 year old, which was grotty and decaying. Were told by a girl in a restaurant about the Rusty Pelican Motel, but misunderstood and cycled as far as Bogue before we turned back, went over by big new bridge to Emerald Isles and found it at 3rd set of lights on the left. At Bogue, affable young man in "Rustic Inn" let me phone Rusty Pelican and book. Motel is not cheap, but whole area is probably expensive. Between Emerald Isles and Bogie is a Marine Corps Flying Base, and the American version of the Harrier comes over occasionally, making the devil of a din. The attractive young lady running the motel is married to someone in the military. He speaks fluent Arabic, she fluent Mandarin. She listened to Chinese pilots and translated their radio talk. When the storm was over, we walked through a huge RV park to the beach. Lovely sand, stretching into the distance each way, lively surf, large gulls, smaller blackheaded gulls, and little birds that dig on the edge of the surf and run like mad when the white water approaches. There are car tracks on the beach, only a couple of people fishing or playing ball. Not many access points to the beach and Americans won't or can't walk any distance, so they must drive even on the beach. Had a 12" pizza and milk at a "Joe's Caff" type of place (but not cheap). Chatted to the proprietor and motel people about my travels. Nobody gave me a birthday card today. I feel like King John: "...not from my near and dear, but mostly from myself."
14J. North Carolina - The ferry from the mainland to the Outer Banks.
- 07 May
51 miles-Newport-Morehead city-Beaufort-Bettie-Ottway-Smyrna-Williston-Davies-Stacy-Sea level (NORTH CAROLINA) 1005 miles
Its going to be a hot sunny day. Chatted to a huge fat man stuffing his face at breakfast while he talked to me about the Outer Banks. Also a large well-built African waitress from S.Africa, here 6 months, father sold US cars in SA. Along US 58, pleasant fast cycling till we reached Morehead City and Beaufort which were very busy and narrow. Bridges are bad. Lunched at a gas station where we met the BikeCentennial route again. Near Atlantic Beach, found I had mislaid my copied & reduced maps, but found a shop immediately which copied the original map and all was soon back to normal. Warm & sunny but some headwind. Stopped and chatted to a lady in a shop who said there was a motel at Sea Level. Traffic gradually got less. We got the ferry times off a board by the road. The motel turned out to be very posh and the most expensive yet, had to cash two travellers cheques at a bank called "Wachovia"! Chatted to a truck driver from Texas who had a very "laid-back" drawl. He said Yankees spoke too fast, "like they're trying to spit words out". He was intrigued by our accent, "Do they all talk like that in England?". He aimed to get back to Texas. Rosie was being eaten by mosquitoes so we returned to our room. They rarely bite me, too much respect.
16J. Cape Hatteras lighthouse - The first (and last) view of the New World for many ships. Many were wrecked on the sandbanks.
- 08 May
28 miles-Atlantic-Cedar Island-Ferry-Ocracoke-Ferry-Hatteras (NORTH CAROLINA) 1033 miles
Lovely weather, off early, we must catch the 10am ferry some 13 miles away. Chatted to couple at next table who had arrived with bikes on back of a car. He had cycled 44 days up to Newfoundland when he was 23. We set off along route 12 (Americans say "rowt"). Very flat and bleak until we reached pine woods around Cedar Island. Lovely weather, bit of a headwind. Road very long straight flat sections, waterway each side, reeds to the horizon. Met a couple cycle touring South from Virginia Beach. They thought the Outer Banks were great. On the ferry, about 40 cars, we are the only cyclists. Soon no land visible anywhere, boat completely steady, no swell to make it rock. Nice ferry trip, 2¼ hours. At Ocracoke, sat on a pier watching fishing boats, then off into a head wind towards the next ferry. The first part of Ocracoke Island quite heavily wooded, but in a bit the road became flat, straight, sandy scrub on each side, with views of both the Atlantic and Pamlico Sound. Just caught the next ferry to Hatteras. Rosie thought we'd caught the ferry going back to Ocracoke! Chatted to 3 ladies from Quebec, the younger two said they cycled and ran, I could tell from their legs. Landed at Hatteras, an amazing place, so decided to book Burrus Motor Court motel here, a bit cheaper than last night. Forgot to pocket the room key, and locked myself out. Walked round the Marina in brilliant sunshine. Lines of Tuna sports fishing boats tied up, others coming in and tying up. Hosing the quayside, opening refrigerator boxes at the stern, pulling out up to 17 tuna caught during the day, throwing them in a heap on the quayside, to oohs and aahs of the watching crowd, wheeled away in "dustbins" with streamlined tails sticking out, filets cut out of the tunas by aproned men with curvy sharp knives, the rest of the fine fish thrown aside, fishing rods on the boats sticking up like 4 huge lightning conductors. Later we had a good meal at Sonney's, served by Sonney himself (slightly oriental?). Walked along the road towards the ferry, but no public way to the sea shore. Another nice marina near the ferry, full of tuna boats. Back in our room we watched a harrowing film called "Deliverance" with Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight. Rosie did her usual excellent job of washing all our clothes. Earlier I went into a clothes shop at Hatteras and managed to buy myself a pair of Khaki shorts, light and 100% cotton, which fitted very well, in which I can cycle while my main shorts are being washed.
04R. Hatteras Island, North Carolina - Holiday developement on the Outer Banks.
17J. Rodanthe on the Outer Banks - All wood, on stilts and 4 stories high. It must have survived a few hurricanes.
- 09 May
36 miles-Frisco-Buxton-Avon-Salvo-Waves-Rodanthe (NORTH CAROLINA) 1069 miles
Lovely day outside. Walked a few yards and had breakfast at Sunny's again. Set off against a headwind for Frisco. Phoned Delta, found advancing our return flight would cost £45 each. At Buxton, island gets wider, very attractive, quite dense vegetation, all wood houses. Went to see the famous Cape Hatteras lighthouse with spiral black and white decor. Collected some scallop shells for a friend back home. Saw 6 Amish girls innocently frolicking on the beach. Their swimming costume was a "mop" cap and dress to neck, wrist and calf. After Buxton, the island becomes only 300 yards wide. Slowly on to Avon, where we had lunch of milk and Cinnamon Twirls. Met a couple on bikes, girl in skin tight costume. Then long run to Salvo, the island is very narrow, can see water both sides at same time. Large wooden houses again. At Rodenthe found one motel closed for repairs after the big March Storm, when water crossed the island in 80mph SW winds. Booked in Hatteras Island motel, nice but expensive. Lovely weather now, a dozen young men surfing in large rollers on east Beach. Groups of birds on the beach, like snipe with very long delicate down-turning beaks. Saw one yawn through field glasses! Had expensive meal at nearby restaurant, then met the cycling couple we had seen earlier. They invited us to her parent's place tomorrow, giving me a map on a serviette. We knew they were here, we saw their bikes. They knew we were here, they saw our washing on the line, including my shorts!
99 The WRIGHT FLYER 1903 - The first flight, 17 Dec 1903, at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Wilbur watches as Orville Wright lifts off to fly 120 feet in 12 seconds. We saw the remnants of the rail and walked along the line of flight to the stones marking the ends of flights 1,2,3 and 4. The area is now covered with grass and there are trees in the background. To the right now there is a museum, and behind, on top of a large grassed-over sand dune, there is a monument to the two brothers, cycle repairers by trade.
18J. Outer Banks - Orville Wright made the first powered flight here that changed the world.
- 10 May
40 miles-Oregon Inlet-Nags Head-Kill Devil Hills (NORTH CAROLINA) 1109 miles
Beautiful day, tail wind. My shorts had dried, and was able to wear them. Good view onto the ocean at breakfast. There was "something big" in the sea, several hundred yards offshore, several people were watching. Might have been a very large log or something more sinister. Saw something jump several times, others said it was "an amberjack"The island is still narrow, and vegetation gives way to sand. Many trucks were moving 600,000 tons of sand 2 miles to restore the east Beach, blown away by the great storm in March. Stopped to chat to a friendly chap in the Tourist info station at Pea Island, he said the traffic was a bit dangerous on Oregon Inlet Bridge, 2½ miles long, taking the road to the next island, Bodie Island. We managed to find our way to the cycling couples parent's wooden house (Bodie Island Court, off Sea Gull Drive, Nags head). The house is called "The Fisch Bowl". Father called Herbert, mother called Polly, son-in-law was James, but can't remember the daughter's name, great great grandmother was called "GG", aged 92, with a bad cough. We chatted and had light cold lunch on the verandah of their wooden house on stilts, 3 rows back from the beach. The first row was in the process of being washed away, a sand hill removed to expose most of the stilts. We promised to write when we got back. Left at 3pm, tail wind and hot blue sky. Stopped for liquid
at Exxon station, got chatting to a character in yellow car called "Governor". He recommended a motel in Kill Devil Hills, name he couldn't remember, but just beyond posh "Sea Ranch" and run by a friend "Lord" Franciesco. We found it, checked in, could have been cheaper, but has kitchen and separate bedroom (we were not allowed to use the kitchen). Cycled 1½ miles to look round the Wright Memorial (the museum was closed, open 9-5). Walked round area where 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th powered flights were made, an historic place, with S wind stirring the grass between the monument stones. In bottom gear I cycled up to the great monument, on top of Kill Devil Hill, in bottom gear to honour the two great bicycle makers Orville and Wilbur Wright. Its the first real hill we've met in 1,100 miles! Then to the Jolly Roger for a dinner after glancing at the beach. We had a Margharita (drink), Fajitas ("tender marinated strips of chicken breast served on a sizzling platter with green peppers, red onions, lettuce, tomatoes, red hot guacamole, sour cream and salapenos, served with three warm flour tortillas"). Also pinto beans and Mexican sauteed vegetables. Really good! Back to motel, and I tried to work out a route around Richmond. Looks best to cycle Hopewell-Mechicsville (38 miles, both have motels) looking at Byrd airport on the way. Next day, cycle back to the airport (only about 15 miles) and check in.
15J. North Carolina - The game fish which bring rich fishermen to the outer Banks.
- 11 May
39 miles-Kitty Hawk-Point Harbour-Harbinger-Powells Point-Jarvisburg-Grandy-Poplar Branch-Aydlett-Coinjock (NORTH CAROLINA) 1148 miles
Another beautiful day, wind from SW. Breakfast at the Jolly Roger. Chatted to wife of motel owner, Mrs Francisco, is very interested in England, may visit in 2 years, gave her my address. Cycled back to Wright Memorial, looked round museum, very good, kept simple but very inspiring. Long line of paintings of aviation heroes, brought tears to my eyes as usual. In front of the seated audience is a full scale replica of the Wright's flying machine. Good lecture. Lecturer demonstrated controls of the replica, using wing warping principle, you realise how fragile the thing was, how bloody dangerous the whole attempt was. 17 Dec 1903, Orville Wright won the coin toss. 120ft, 12 seconds. 3 more flights same day. We set off again about noon. Housing gets denser and denser as we approached the bridge. The bridge is 2.82 miles long, joining the Outer Banks with Point Harbour. Its bloody dangerous because trucks just will not slow down. If the gap is narrow, they barge through missing a cyclist by inches, a frightening experience. We agreed a practical solution would be to phone local police and ask for an escort. If the police car drove behind the cyclist with lights flashing, trucks would only overtake when room. Cyclists might have to wait 30 minutes for a police car to turn up, but its worth it - you're a long time dead. Continued along 158 Northwards, safer because its very wide. Turned onto quieter road at Jarvisburg, very pleasant, through Grandy, Poplar Branch and Aydlett to Coinjock. Here we realised the motel was 4 miles South along 158, so we bombed back against wind. When we found it, it was full, 3 rooms being decorated, but owner took pity on me, offered half decorated room, no curtains, for $20. So we settled in, nice bed, shower and b/w TV. Went to look at a "canal" just behind motel, in fact its an arm of the Intracoastal Waterway, 3,000 miles long from Texas to New Jersey, quite something. Watched an old man drive his motorboat out of the water at a ramp onto his trailer and drive off with it behind his 4 wheel drive vehicle. He showed me a small shotgun in the boat, for use against "cotton mouths", some kind of poisonous snake found in water and on banks. Rosie was not pleased. A man with a really laid-back drawl said Them cottonmouths is bad news". Also moccasins (a type of snake) here, and copperheads. If they've got an arrow-shaped head, they're poisonous. Even if they look dead, don't take a chance. Motel owner said there was real bad weather at Durham, it might get here 1am tonight.
- 12 May
73 miles-Barco-Maple-Currituck-Sligo-Shawboro-Hastings Corner-Elizabeth City-South Mills-Morgans Corner-
Holly Grove-Corapeake (NORTH CAROLINA)-Suffolk (VIRGINIA) 1221 miles
Woke at 6 when a thoughtful person left his huge pick-up engine running outside our window. Chatted to our next door neighbour, a retired carpenter, worked 50 years, his wife 49 years, in the same Woolworths. Set off at 9, lovely day but getting very humid. It was better when we got off the 158 and went through small villages of Barco, Maple, Currituck, Sligo and Shawboro. On the 158 we met 2 brothers cycling our route in reverse. One had typed route sheet (but A4 size), they wore radio intercom units so they could talk to each other, they had camping gear. We swapped addresses. Stopped for lunch near Hastings Corner, then along the 343 to South Mills, along the edge of "Great Dismal Swamp", but saw little real swamp, most of it seemed to be under cultivation (maize and potatoes) or had mobile homes. At Morgans Corner met 158 again, narrow and lots of bloody trucks, including more logging lorries. Not much fun when they just miss you. But at the end of the 158, just before we turned right onto the 1002, we finally saw real swamp - a Wildlife Refuge. Lots of water following the edge of the road, lots of trees sticking out, things plopping into the water as we passed (turtles), saw a musk rat run from the road edge into the water, there were "bird boxes" every 50 yards sticking out of the water, with a metal "skirt" below, presumably to stop snakes climbing up the pole from out the water to eat eggs and fledglings. The swamp wildlife refuge was very interesting while it lasted. NearHolly Grove we stopped for a drink and learned the bad news. No motels till Suffolk, which was about 15 miles further away than we expected. A 70 mile ride was on the cards. But the conditions were pretty good, except for humidity which was very high. Rosie kept plugging away and we eventually reached the motel we'd been told about just beyond the city centre after 73 miles ride, the furthest Rosie has ever cycled. Well done little girl! Walked along to a steak house, and for $7 each ate and drank all I could. Had 4 glasses of Mountain Dew, soup, salad, liver, then felt I was going to burst. Have got very dehydrated indeed today because of the humidity. At 11pm a coloured girl in reception helped me locate motels at Waverley and Wakefield for tomorrow. Invaluable information. Bed gone midnight.
05R. Near Wakefield, Virginia - a swamp.
- 13 May
44 miles-Central Hill-Dendron-Wakefield (VIRGINIA) 1265 miles
An extra hour in bed for Rosie, after yesterday's long ride! Breakfast at McDonalds. Throw away knife, fork, cup, plate, plate cover, cup cover, knife cover, fork cover, jam cover, butter cover. Where do all these get buried? Had scrambled egg (small heap), sausage (in shape of a disc), biscuit (American, looks like unsweetened scone) and orange juice (good). It all cost $3, about £2 Back at motel, used the phone, discovered the true number of Wakefield Inn and booked us for 1 night. A couple of miles down the busy and unpleasant 460, turned right into lovely green rural lanes. A real pleasure. Weather stayed good till we reached Central Hill and had lunch. Met a couple cycle touring our route the other way. Warren and Lucy. They were camping, started at Washington DC and had met the Lippert brothers. They said the first 20 miles from Washington were grim, then it suddenly turned into green lanes. Just beyond Central Hill we were caught in a 20 minute thunderstorm and sheltered under our capes in a wood. Cycled on through delightful countryside. About 3.30pm and just before we met the 31 into Dendron, another thunderstorm and we managed to shelter in a big wellmade barn full of tractors and machinery. This lasted about ¾ hour, and was just about the most violent thunderstorm I've experienced. Maybe 50 close flashes of lightening, one very close with a terrific flash and deafening bang. Torrential rain, in 3 torrents. Afterwards very noticeably cooler, dull sky, the odd drop of rain. Fields almost became paddy fields and steam or fog drifting about. I picked up a sloughed-off snake skin, even the eyes can be seen, I brought it home. After the storm, saw a dead tree full of vultures drying their wings. They flew off but I photoed one. Immediately it had stopped, we set off again and got in to Wakefield about 5.30pm. The waitress in the restaurant, part of the motel, seemed mad on English and the Royal Family. Had simple and good meal plus 2 beers. That evening, another terrific thunderstorm began, lightning like day, rain in torrents, but it only lasted 20 minutes.
- 14 May
0 miles- (VIRGINIA) 1265 miles
Woke to find I had a headache (probably from the 2 beers last night) and it was raining steadily and continuously, we'll have to stay here another night. Rosie went to breakfast herself while I tried to sleep. The lorry traffic along the 460 here is very heavy, I don't fancy cycling along it to Waverley. It kept raining and we decided to stay here another night and have our first cycle-free day. Thought I might be dehydrated, had a drink of water, and was sick. Only clear fluid came up, colourless at first then slightly green. No solid food at all. About noon the weather cleared, it got warmer and the sun came out. Walked ½ mile towards Richmond and had a large ice-cream and changed $300 of Travellers cheques into small denominations notes for use in holiday in 2 months to Moscow and Siberia. Chatted to man in antique shop, he used to fly reconnaissance fights to just off borders of Russia, had seen Siberia from the air. Roads to N of 460 seem entirely black (in houses and cars), roads to south are entirely white. Back in room, watched a spectacular on TV for Bob Hope who is 90 this year. Two weeks ago they had "Elizabeth Taylor, the first 60 years". George Burns has just turned up on the show, he's 97! "Each morning I read the obituaries. If I'm not there, I have breakfast. I won't leave on an empty stomach!"
- 15 May
40 miles-Laurel Springs Crossroad-Disputanta-Hopewell (VIRGINIA) 1305 miles
Slept solid, woke late, feel great, perfect day outside. Chatted to man after breakfast about the Irish problem and British history, of which he seemed to know a lot. Cycled through idyllic scenery up, to then along BikeCentennial route. Lunch in Disputanta. Away from SR460, the scenery is idyllic, like a memory from childhood. Little roads, green fields and woods and trees everywhere, completely blue sky, practically no traffic at all, narrow road winds and ups and downs a bit, birds sing, butterflies flap around. Gorgeous. Continued like this till we met the 106/156 (busier) then the 10 (much busier but dual carriageway). Quickly got into Hopewell, stopped at the Tourist information centre, got a town map, located the nearest 5 motels, signed in about 3pm. Run by an Indian family. Near Tourist Office, a man got out of his car and waved at us. It turned out he had cycled all round the US (it took 14 months over 10,000 miles) and was writing a book. I gave him my able-label, said I would buy his book when it was published. Walked into town centre, did some shopping, then walked to City Point, overlooking the confluence of the Appotomax and James Rivers, strategically important in the Civil war. Stopped in a fast food joint (Subway) and were accosted by two young men involved in Pyramid Selling for "Amway". The usual geometrically increasing sales of toiletries etc as you persuade other people to get involved and they persuade other people and they ----. Had a nice meal in a seafood restaurant just behind the motel (I had steak). The waitress came from Avon on the outer Banks near Hatteras. Outside, as dark fell, they lit gas torches for show. Wasting the world's resources. Mum would lose her temper at the sight. Back to the room, checked tomorrow's route, Rosie dhobied my clothes bless her, I showered and watched some TV.
20J. Richmond Airport, Virginia. Porsche power, a fine car and a great plate, reading VRMMMM....
- 16 May
33 miles-Richmond Airport (VIRGINIA) 1338 miles
Turned the telly on at 7am, its Sunday and all religious programs. Cycled to our breakfast at Hardees. The over the James River Bridge, thank goodness its Sunday morning with very little traffic. I wouldn't like to cross this bridge in weekday rush hour. Once we turned onto the 156, the route was delightfully green and rural, surprising so near a large city (Richmond). Through Glendale and Elko, very pleasant riding. Stopped for a drink at a gas station somewhere, chatted to a big American very knowledgeable about snakes and wild life round here. He said no poisonous snakes North of the James River. He said the "bird-boxes" in the Great Dismal Swamp were for the almost vanished "Wood Duck". The skirts were to stop rodents and snakes from climbing up. He mentioned garter snakes and others that dropped from trees or lived in barn roofs! Eventually turned down the 60, very wide but not much traffic today, through Silver Pines and on to Sandston. Went into the airport and quickly got our altered ticket fixed, only $47 each. Richmond Airport seems very posh and relaxed. Almost opposite are lots of motels, fixed ourselves up in Motel 6 for $32, £11 each. Then we went to look round the Virginia Aviation Museum (I saw this last October), small but very interesting. Shown round by an old flyer (Moss Hargan, 201 Jackson Avenue, Sandston VA 23150 USA). He had flown interesting planes pre- and post-war and had RAF wings. Showed us an interesting film about Oshkosh 87, a yearly meeting of Experimental planes. Later walked along the road looking for somewhere decent to eat, eventually being forced to Pizza Hut. Then back to motel to shower and repack our flight tomorrow. After dark, another big thunderstorm and it rained very hard. Rosie complained we'd get no sleep, what with the rolls of thunder and big jet airliners taking off, but I slept well.
- 17 May
Richmond Airport (VIRGINIA)-Atlantic Ocean
Clouds but high. Pools of water drying. Walked to "Ma & Pa's" for breakfast, then cycled to Richmond Airport Terminal, only about 1 mile away, but we still got lost! Were given free Delta bike boxes, taped and loaded them without rush, then checked our hold luggage in and left our hand luggage in a left-luggage locker for $6, all by noon. Now what? We walked for about 1½ hours round the huge carpark in front of the terminal, getting some exercise and photographing humorous American Car registration plates. Their system allows much more interesting combos than in the UK. American plates belong to the driver, not the car, are state-wide, and you can have any combination of 7 letters or numbers (or some symbols) if: 1 No one else has it and 2 Its not offensive. I photoed the following plates, which amused us greatly:
Our plane took off at 4.40pm. While waiting Moss Hargan turned up again. He has been invited to board a large nuclear carrier, says he will send us pictures. He was interested in Omaha Beach and St Mere de L'eglise, doodlebugs, Anderson shelters and wartime Dorset radar stations. Our plane landed at 6.10pm at Cincinnati, a big hub airport. We've 2½ hours to wait with little to do. Bought myself a toy AV-8b Harrier (vertical take-off and landing plane, I used to work on its prototype the P1127 in 61-64 with Hawkers). Asked for, and got, a seat with more leg room. Plane took of on time, 9pm local. Lockheed L-1011-500. Pretty full. We flew over land for a long time, must be going over Canada. Pity its dark outside. Tried to snooze, but then dinner came round and I woke quickly. Nothing proper to eat since breakfast. Afterwards, put my mask on, plugs in ears and had a couple of hours of fitful sleep. When I woke, Rosie was asleep but bright sunshine was streaming through the window. Goodbye America.
(on a Porsche)