Date: Sun, 10 Mar 96 00:13:00 UTC 0000
Copyright (c) 1995 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.
Chapter 9 - Nov 9 to Nov 23 Richmond, VA to Andrews, SC - 3467 miles cumulative
We stayed in Alexandria for about 2 1/2 weeks, and what a busy 2 1/2 weeks that was. Our first 3 days were spent seeing some of the sights on the National mall, wandering around the Smithsonian, visiting our Wyoming Congresswoman's and Senator's offices, and watching the Senate do its thing for a while. The rest of the time was spent reviewing our equipment, getting rid of some things, replacing others, cleaning the bikes, going to doctor and dentist appointments, and helping my folks with their new computer. Phew!!! We ended each and every day tired and wishing we were done. But the three months of riding thus far had taught us that even with all our ealier preparations, we still didn't have everything quite right.
Our primary objective with the equipment review was to reduce both volume and weight hopefully getting the weight of the bikes including water, fuel, and extra food down closer to 100 lbs. We boxed up clothing, cooking utensiles, our fry pan, bucket, fry pan cover, tupperware, candle lantern, shoes, etc. After that we went out and bought lighter replacements for several things. A lightweight fry pan with no handle, new riding shoes, a new stove, different clothes. We also bought a bunch of new plastic bags for waterproofing. We've discovered that using ziploc bags for a few weeks or a month is fine. But for the length of time we plan to spend touring they simply won't do. So we got waterproof canoing bags for our clothes, sleeping bags, and spare food. Also, plastic velcro closing bags for books, computer, wallets, and things like that. Now we should be able to withstand a good downpour and still keep our belongings nice and dry.
In all we spent a very full two weeks and a good $1000 getting our equipment up to snuff. It was exhausting and expensive, but hopefully we won't need to do that again. We were anxious and ready to be on the road again.
We got a ride with my Dad down to Richmond, VA where, my sister lives, so we could finish up the last few items, a Gyn annual check for me and the final bike loading and adjustment. Finally on a chilly 42 degree F morning we took off once again.
It quickly became apparent that we'd come ever so much closer to winter during our 2 week rest. The trees that were just barely changing color when we arrived were now almost completely barren. As we rode along the James River, brightly colored gold, orange, and red leaves swirled around. And no matter how I tried I just culdn't seem to get my feet warmed up. The temperatures hit a maximum of 52, 15 to 20 degrees lower than when we first hit Virginia.
Over the next week we were to experience several cold storms and continually decreasing temperatures, our first frost happening in Jamestown. Fortunately we found the campground owners to be extremely helpful. In Jamestown, they delivered a load of firewood right to our site. Some nice hot fires kept us warm those two nights. When we arrived at the Davis Lakes campground we'd been riding in a downpour for about an hour. Temperatures were in the mid 60's, but were dropping fast. The lady at the camp made us such a deal. She gave us the camp cabin for the price of a tent site. A deal we just couldn't pass up. She kept saying, "I feel so sorry for yall." It was durn chilly, but we managed. I just kept reminding myself that each day we were another 50 or so miles south and just that must closer to the warm Florida weather.
We spent just one day at Jamestown, approximately 50 miles east of Richmond along the James River. Getting there was actually a wonderful day ride along a tree lined, flat road having several of the old plantation mansions along the way. Unfortunately the admission to the mansions was a bit too steep for our budget, so we just satisfied our curiosity by looking at the outside. Jamestown, being a National Historic Site, was included on our Golden Eagle Pass.
Jamestown was the location of the first successful English speaking settlement in the New World. It was settled in 1607 by 140 men under the command of Capt. John Smith of Pocohantas fame. An earlier attempt to send English to the New World met with failure and to this day no one knows for certain what happen to the lost colony of Roanoke. Despite legends, Pocohantas and Smith never had any sort of romantic relationship. She was just 10 or 11 years old at the time. She did, according to Smith's journal, save his life by convincing her father, Chief Pohoton, to spare his life. Pocohantas actually married a Thomas Rolfe, had one son, and died when she was in England visiting all the royalty. She actually is still buried in England. We've heard there's quite a an organization of people all claiming ancestry to Pocohantas through this one son.
Well, the men in Jamestown had quite a time trying to tame this hostile environment. But, upon wandering around looking at the island you can tell why. The island is surrounded by swamp, the water is brackish and not good for drinking or crops. After the first winter only about 50 men were still alive. Yet despite all their initial problems, by about 1819 they actually had a reasonably thriving town, people had expanded to build houses and farms out on the river banks away from the island, and the town looked like it was here to stay.
With several fires in the late 1800s and the movement of the Virginia government to Williamsburg, Jamestown fell into ruin and neglect. Now there is nothing left of the town except one church tower and mounds from those early foundations and drainage ditches. They were doing one major excavation, what appears to be original Jamestown fort. They had thought the fort had been lost to the sea, but as fortune would have it, it may have been found. They're hoping to have it completely excavated in time for the 400th anniversary of the original landing, 2007.
One short ferry ride from Jamestown to Scotland, VA and we were again headed south and now we truly were in the south. I've never spent much time in the southern states, primarily just passing through on my way to and from Florida. But as soon as we started passing the cotton fields and hearing that very distinct southern twang, I knew we were south. We've been learning a little more about southern hospitality on this trip. Southern folk are just as nice as you'd imagine, but they seem to be a bit more reserved than I expected. It seems to take a little effort to break beneath the outer shell, but once you get to talking, it's so hard to stop. Fortunately for us the bikes usually provide a good ice breaker.
We decided to take the longer of two possible ACA routes and headed toward the Outer Banks of NC where we found some real interesting terrain. It's flat, flat, flat. In fact I don't think I've ever seen such flat country. Even the plains states have a few rolling hills. But not here. The Islands are all sand dunes and have trees that seem to be from a cross section of alpine meadows to desert. There are stunted pine trees looking just like what you'd find on a mountain. Yet there are also Beavertail Cactus and Yucca. Is this Southern California or what. The road is tucked between 6 to 8 ft sand dunes on both sides obscuring yur view of the ocean. We couldn't just ride along looking at the ocean, we had to climb sand hills. And we learned that you don't dare take the bike off the road. The short scrubby grasses are just loaded with sand spurs which take a good half hour of painful pulling to extract. We got them on our shoes, shoe laces, pants, socks, and even attached to the tires. We must have looked like some comedy duo going, "ouch, ooooh, eech, oh man, ouch" as we willed our fingers to be as slender as tweezers to get these things out. After that we stayed away from the grass.
The outerbanks of NC is home to one of the prime Meccas for Aerospace engineers, Kitty Hawk and the Kill Devil Hills. On Dec. 17, 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first four successful manned powered flights ranging in length from 120 ft to 853 ft. Markers at the monument show their take-off and landing locations. Looking back on it now you have to wonder whether the Wrights had any concept of what they were about to wrought. Now we hardly think twice about climbing on a plane to fly across the country or around the world for that matter. On a more personal note it just seemed highly appropriate for us to visit the site. The two Aerospace engineers turned world wide bike tourist stopped in to visit the site where two bike mechanics ignited the field of Aerospace engineering.
We rode the 150 miles of the Outer Banks in about 4 days, taking one day off in a cheap hotel to wait out what the NC folks call a "Noreaster." We heard about this storm even before we got to the islands. People would look at us and say with fear in their voices," I wouldn't camp out in that. I'd stay in a hotel if I were you." Some folks compared the storm's potential destructive force to that of a hurricane. But, as it turned out, the storm really didn't effect us all that much. In fact, you might say we felt more impact from the government shutdown. We found the facilities of the Hataras National Seashore totally shut down. Not even one person was at the visitor center to keep an eye on things.
At Cape Hataras Lighthouse we did get to walk around the lighthouse building and the lighthouse keepers building. At 208 ft, this is the country's tallest brick lighthouse. It's painted like a black and white barber's pole. Evidently each light house has its own paint scheme to allow for easy identification from the boats.
We stopped in the town of Ocrecoke for our final night on the islands prior to catching the morning ferry. The temperatures dropped below freezing before we even had the tent set up, so we headed into town for dinner at the Pony Island Restaurant. There we met Reed. An interesting man of 41 years of age. He is currently and always has been single, has no ties to a particular place or person, and has spent most of his adult life pursuing any sort of career that pleased him at the time. One career involved leading hunting parties in Montana, another was working as a chef in a local restaurant, and his current endevor is to captain a fishing charter boat. Although he's been impacted by the government shutdown also. Headed to Charleston, SC to take his captain's test he suddenly realised that the office would be closed. Reed brought home a rather poignent issue for us. He's only 41 years old and he already had one mild heart attack. Heart attacks run in his family. That just goes to show, you should strive to accomplish all your heart's desires early in life, because you never know how long you may have. To be in a position to say, I've done everything I ever wanted and the rest is just gravy is, to me, the most enviable.
We continued south along the N. Carolina coast for more than a week. To me the towns and villages of this region are the most representative of my ideal beach community. Certainly far more than the beaches of S. Calif. Houses, hotels, stores, and restaurants are scattered along the coastal drive placed more for convnience than to satisfy zoning regulations. Houses along the Outer Banks tend to have mostly gray, weather shingle siding. The coloring gives the impression that the houses are quite old when, in fact, the siding probably is desinged to gray quickly when exposed to the elements. Further down the coast the houses take on the colors of a pastel rainbow. Light blues, pinks, greens, yellows, oranges, white, and gray dot the seashore. Most are shaped like a box, yet a few octogon or A-frame shaped structures are sprinkled about to break the similarity. And all houses on the ocean side of the street are raised on tall platform stilts to allow the wind, water, and sand to pass underneath during a Noreaster or hurricane. Landscaping was virtually nonexistant, consisting primarily of keeping the sand grasses mowed to a reasonablly tollerant height. Oh and those spectacular porches, decks, and patios. To get that incredible array of decking, sometimes one, two, or even three stories of decks. On the ocean side the decks funneled into a long wooden, platform walkway leading directly to the beach with a covered bench for resting halfway down. You could get from the back door to the beach without once putting your feet in the sand. Just imagine the huge investment in decking materials at each of these houses. I'm sure many a large redwood tree was sacrificed for this cause.
Occasionally we'd happen across a more modern development consisting of 15 to 20 nearly identical houses laid out in very strict rows. Each house having its perfectly matched floorplan, paint scheme, and landscaping. Somehow these seemed totally inappropriate for this region of free spirited community development. We found them to be more an artificially contrived beach community rather than one that developed naturally. Perhaps our feelings toward these developments is just an overreaction from living in the development, "ticky-tacky" house kingdom of the world, Southern California. Then again, maybe not.
For nine days winter temperatures plagued our travels. During the day the highs would just barely break 50. At about 2:30 each afternoon we'd watch our thermometers drop by more than 20 degrees to reach the low 30s by night fall, 5 PM. I'd ride each day wearing my lycra tights, four layers of shirts, gloves, and a bandana around my neck. To make dinner at night I'd strip out of the sweaty clothes and put on every other stich of dry clothes I had left. Finally, just as soon as dinner was cooked, eaten, and dishes cleaned we'd climb into our two layers of sleeping bags shivering until the tent and bags finally warmed up. We'd then get up each morning to face the same ritual the next day.
Riding through this type of weather day after day really begins to wear on ones nerves and willpower and teaches a person a very important lesson about oneself. It's one thing to spend a few days in the freezing cold with the knowledge in the back of your mind that you will soon be back in a warm, cozy house. It's quite another to realize that this isn't just a few days, you will be in the cold until you managed to ride far enough south to get out of it, and there is no nice warm house at the end of the day. Unspoken doubts began to grow within both of us, finally expressed after 2 weeks. Should we continue on like this, or should we catch a bus.
This was a year of unusual weather. First the super highs in Nebraska meant riding through a furnace for more than 2 months. Now the northern jet stream was dipping far to the south resulting in temperatures 5 to 10 degrees below normal. We both wanted to finally get to a place with more mild temperatures. Yet, I couldn't help but feel that if we wait just a few more days we'll beyond these temperatures and the jet stream would return to a more normal pattern. So we decided to give it one more week, through Thanksgiving. By then we'd be about midway through S. Carolina. If temperatures were still intolerable, we'd do something to get further south fast.
Mercifully, as if mother nature had heard our cries, on Nov. 19 the temperatures of N. Carolina finally returned to normal. We finally were able to strip off some of the clothes we'd been wearing and enjoy the relative freedom of movement. It was wonderful. Just a few more days and we should be well beyond the region where cold weather can touch us. With a sigh of relief, we realized we may have made it to the south at last. There's still chance of cold fronts making their way to S. Carolina, but their effects should not be quite so noticible.
At a short stop in Sneads Ferry as we investigated places to stay for the night, a medium built African American man with a greying beard stopped to ask us the usual questions. With him was a tall slender man with close cropped hair and a severe need for major dental work. The tall man said almost nothing during our brief conversation, but the shorter man was full of great stories. He retired from the service about 8 years earlier. He had been a photographer in the military and upon his retirement he told his wife he wanted to take his camera and a backpack and walk across the country. He made it about two days before he concluded this was not for him He called his wife and went home. I really have to commend his wife for having the patience to let him try to pursue his dream. That way he won't spend the rest of his life kicking himself for not having at least given it a shot. Far too many people never even get that far.
Now he's a contractor in construction and has taken on the ultimate task of building his own house. We asked if he had much trouble getting his permits. "Have I had trouble. I'll tell you, it's been two years since I started this thing to get my permits." He told us how he had to have a porta john brought in at $75 per week even though he had a mobile home on the site that he had planned to use. He had to build a culvert across a small ditch and they requied that he have one 36 inch diameter pipe rather than being able to use two 24 inch ones. He already had the 24 inch pipes, but had to drive 50 miles, spend another $50 for three sections, and install the one pipe. He had rebar placed in his basement ready to pour the cement but a little rain washed some dirt down so he couldn't pass inspection. He, his wife, and son spent the weekend out with small hand trowels digging out the dirt. Then for another $50 the inspector came out, didn't even get out of the car, and said "OK, pour it." All of these horror stories sounded oh so familiar to us as we encountered the same nonsence when we built in San Diego. But as our acquaintance said, "I don't care where you're from, the government's the same everywhere." We had to agree.
We finally entered S. Carolina two days before Thanksgiving. The region we were riding through was called the "Low Country". This is the country east of the fall line (location where the land sunk creating a several hundred foot ridge along the east coast). The terrain continued to be quite flat even as we rode inland many miles. Swamps bordered most of the roads with occasional farms bearing peanuts, potatoes, soybeans, cotton, and trees for the paper industry. I was really taken by surprise when we started seeing logging trucks. I tend to think of logging as a north western industry. Not S. carolina. But, I suppose they've got to keep those paper mills fed somehow. We've heard that paper mills are generally so ineficient that in order to turn a profit they have to continuously be in operation despite whether there's a paper surplus or tree shortage. Seems to me that should be changed.
Swamps in S. Carolina don't seem to be used for anything these days. But we understand back in the days of slavery there used to be many rice fields. But, after slavery was abolished no one in his or her right mind would spend back breaking days slogging through the murkey swamps putting in the difficult labor needed to grow rice in these conditions. We've seen what the farmers in Korea and Japan go through to grow their rice and even with some modern mechanization it is still a difficult back breaking work. In Korea there are many old women who are literally bent over at the waist in a permenant picking position.
Idustry in S. Carolina today seems to be primarily textiles and paper. Burlington and International Paper have operations here. The town of Andrews sports the Oneita factory, makers of fine clothes.
Andrews is a small, factory town not having any attraction for tourists and definitly composed of low to mid income families. In this town of 3100 people there are more than three dollar, thrift type stores which gives a clear indication of the town's wealth. The population is probably 70% black, 29% white, and 1% something else. The owner of the small motel was from India. One of the things I found most fascinating were the hairstyles ported by the African American women. Even in this town where money is difficult to come by, the women sport the most creative and expensive looking hairstyles. Many have their hair knotted into hundreds of tiny braids which are then wrapped into small buns, twists, or some other array on the top, back, or side of the head. Others oil their hair and tie it into small pony tails, french buns, upward twists, and other forms of decoration. Often there are barrettes or small ivory pearls judiciously placed in the knots and twists. They were so creative and all so different I found them to be absolutely marvelous. Haistyles worn by whiite women are quite boring in comparison. It'd be tempting to give one of these wild hairstyles a try except I don't think I could stand sitting through the knotting session.
The town of Andrews seems to have a very distinct dividing line, both economically and racially. East of Morgan S. is the wealthier section of town and seems to be mostly white. The west, black and poorer. As we walked toward the west side of town we became more and more noticible since we were essentially the only whites around. Businesses in town seem to be owned and run by the whites while the blacks seem to work in the local textile factories. We were wondering if this socio-economic trend is common throughout the south or possibly just a feature of this and a few other small towns. I have a feeling it's fairly common.
After 7 days of hard riding we knew we needed a day off. My leg were screeming at me each and every turn of the crank and Brian developed a nasty saddle sore. Since it was Thanksgiving eve, we decided to had a little celebration. We took a hotel room for two nights and spent a day watching parades and football. Happy Thanksgiving to all this sunny day.
Appendix A - Route
Rt 5 East from Richmond, Rt 614 to Jamestown Ferry to Scotland South to Suffolk Rt 13/32 to Sunbury
N. Carolina 158 East to Morgans Corner 17 N to South Mills 343S, 34 E through Gregory, Shawboro, Sligo 158 S to Kitty Hawk 12 S to Ocrecoke Ferry to Ceder Island 70 S to Beaufort 101 to Harlow Back roads to Newport and Rt. 24 24 To Swansboro 172 Through Camp Lejeune Marine Base 210 S through Surf City 17 to Hampstead Back roads to Castle Hayne 117 to Wilmington 421 To Ft. Fisher St. Hist Site Ferry to Southport 211 to Supply 17 S to Calabash
905 to Conway 701, 261, 513, and 51 to Andrews
Appendix B - Camp sites, 5
Jamestown Beach Campsites 2 nights ($), Davis Lakes Campground ($)
Bells Island Campground ($), Colony IV Motel 2 nights ($), Camp Hataras ($), Beachcomber Campground ($), The Tides Motel ($), Carolina Beach St. Park ($), Captain Als Campground ($)
Conway Marina and Campgroung ($), Andrews Motel 2 nights ($)
($) indicates fee camping
Copyright © 1995-2011 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.