Mar. 27: Virginia

Mar. 27: Virginia

[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo group on March 27, 2005]

Happy Easter! Just a quick update since I have Internet access tonight.

Friday's plan was simple enough: I would bike from Durham to a shopping center on the near side of Raleigh, meet my sister's childhood friend Amber for lunch at 11, and then ride north to Falls Lake Recreation Area in the afternoon. But about a mile from the rendezvous, I got a flat on my left trailer tire -- the first one it's had in the whole trip. I went to patch the tire and found that I was out of patches. I tried using a scrap of an old inner tube, as I remembered doing when I was a kid, but it didn't stick; evidently I have the wrong kind of cement for that old trick. So I got out a new tube, and for the occasion a new tire as well. Pumped it up to within 10 pounds of the recommended pressure. A few seconds later, it exploded, just as its partner had done a few days before. I had no other tube.

When I called Amber to say I couldn't make it, she offered to pick me up in her SUV. I was skeptical, but she routinely hauls a double bass, among other orchestral instruments, and lo and behold my entire rig fit in there! So we had lunch after all. Amber graduated from the same Oklahoma high school as my sister and I and moved to Raleigh right after college in Indiana, so she's been here ten years now. She teaches every kindergartner at a private school to play the violin, and the older kids she teaches any stringed instrument in the orchestra. In her spare time she gives private lessons, plays in various ensembles, and sings in her church choir. She invited me to stay the night at her townhouse, and since the day was drizzling and threatening thunderstorms, I accepted. Naturally it cleared up as soon as I got settled, but we were grateful for the chance to talk some more.

She left me there and went off to work. I called Erik because I had left my trailer flag at his house that morning, and he obligingly brought it over, then drove me to a bike shop where I got a new tube and patches. Amber came home for a snack and was then gone again to sing in the Good Friday service at her church. I spent the afternoon and evening researching my route through Virginia, and I cooked dinner for the two of us: a "Gullah gumbo" mix I had bought at the Lowcountry Visitor Center in South Carolina. It was very tasty and simple to make, and Amber was glad to have a meal waiting for her.

My decision to stay there instead of at Falls Lake meant that I rode almost the whole day on Saturday. After a drizzly morning I stopped for lunch in Louisburg, home of the International Whistlers' Convention, which must not be very big, since the town has only two hotels. The afternoon was dry but cloudy; I didn't see the sun all day. Saturday was the first and only day that North Carolinians yelled and honked at me. There was a car race near where I was headed; maybe that raised the testosterone level of drivers for 50 miles around!

When I got to Medoc Mountain State Park I warmed and ate the other MRE I got last week. It was a vegetarian pasta dish with essentially no protein, so I added pepperonis. I was puzzled about Medoc Mountain, since I couldn't see it above the treetops, but according to my map it's only 100 feet high! A park staff member dropped by to tell me that my site would be free of charge because the ranger had "had an emergency" and wouldn't be available to take my money.

Sunday was another gray and sunless day with occasional drizzle. As I rode through Roanoke Rapids, NC, a man and two boys rode alongside me on their bicycles. They asked me half a dozen times where I was going and where I'd been before they were willing to believe my answers. They had more trouble believing I was bicycling to DC than that I had already ridden thousands of miles... it's the Florida Effect all over again: DC is Far Far Away, and going there is a big event that calls for big vehicles.

I was feeling really tired at the start of the day, but by early afternoon I was feeling great, so I buzzed right by my Plan B stopping place, although it looked nice enough. The Plan A place, north of Emporia, VA, was a Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camping Resort. You may remember that in September, on my way into Indianapolis, I was going to stay at a Jellystone Park but found that the truck stop next door would let me camp for half the price. When I got to this campground, located between a highway and a railroad track, with thunderstorms threatening, I found that the motel next door was a few dollars cheaper. I wonder if all Jellystone Park Camping Resorts are so conveniently located next to cheaper accommodations!

So here I am in Virginia. Unless something delays me, I'll roll into DC Friday evening, so I may or may not write again before then. --Ben

Ben Sun, 03/27/2005 - 09:30

to Jordan Lake SRA

to Jordan Lake SRA

Today was gorgeous!  The weather couldn't have been more perfect.

I stopped for groceries in the morning and met a man in the parking lot who was riding his grandson's bicycle, though he said he had many bikes of his own.  He asked a bunch of questions and then offered me some military Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) that he gets from Fort Bragg and gives to homeless people and other folks who could use them.  I accepted two.  They're much bulkier than my usual food, since about half of their volume is packaging.

The day was so nice I decided to go farther than I had to, in order to make tomorrow a shorter day.  I arrived at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area at sundown and fired up one of the self-heating MREs. The "escallopped" potatoes were pretty good once I added mayonnaise.  I feel a new sense of solidarity with my cousin in Iraq; maybe I can find a way to send him some mayo!

Ben Sat, 03/19/2005 - 16:31

To Durham

To Durham

I slept well in the warm, quiet night of the spring equinox and woke to another beautiful day.  No one ever showed up to register me as they were supposed to, so I got the campsite for free!  I was the only one there, so they may not have bothered making the rounds.

I rode into town without incident and stopped at REI to upgrade some of my gear and spend my membership dividend.  Among other things, I got a larger (when inflated) but more compact (when deflated) sleeping pad and a higher-pressure tire pump with a built-in pressure gauge.  The staff also helped me track down a bicycle shop that has the parts necessary to replace my drivetrain.

I took my loot outside and pumped up my tires to their recommended pressure.  As I was trying to fit the new pump into the space inside the bike frame where I kept the old pump, the tube in one of the trailer tires decided it just couldn't take the pressure and exploded like a gunshot right beside me!  I got my hearing back after a minute or so.

As I left REI, I pulled alongside another cyclist who looked like he knew where he was going, and I asked if that was the best road to take into town.  He said a paved portion of the American Tobacco Trail started just two blocks away, and he led me there.  He turned out to be from Minneapolis, visiting his son and future daughter-in-law, for whom he had just bought a new bike.  I asked if she needed a pump ... and so passed on my old pump and pressure gauge to a new owner less than an hour after buying their replacement!

I followed the Tobacco Trail, which is also part of the East Coast Greenway (http://www.greenway.org) all the way into downtown Durham and then found my way to the home of my friends Tami and Erik.  Tami is a lichenologist who just returned this morning from a worldwide conference in fungal genetics with a suitcase full of specimens fresh from California.  Erik is working on a doctoral thesis on Russian poetry.

Ben Sun, 03/20/2005 - 16:41

Picnic at Duke

Picnic at Duke

I spent the morning tinkering with my bike, undoing the damage the mechanic had inadvertantly done.  Erik packed us a picnic lunch, and we met Tami for lunch near her lab on the Duke University campus.  We strolled through the extensive Sarah P. Duke Gardens and toured the chapel, which is as large and ornate as any cathedral I've seen.

Later, we walked to dinner at an excellent Indian restaurant.

Ben Mon, 03/21/2005 - 16:43

to Raleigh, NC

to Raleigh, NC

Today's plan was simple enough: I would bike from Durham to a shopping center on the near side of Raleigh, meet my sister's old friend Amber for lunch at 11, and then ride north to Falls Lake in the afternoon.  But about a mile from the rendezvous, I got a flat on my left trailer tire -- the first one it's had in the whole trip.

I went to patch the tire and found that I was out of patches.  I tried using a scrap of an old inner tube, as I remembered doing when I was a kid, but it didn't stick; evidently I have the wrong kind of cement for that old trick.  So I got out a new tube, and for the occasion a new tire as well.  Pumped it up to within 10 pounds of the recommended pressure.  A few seconds later, it exploded.  I had no other tube.

When I called Amber to say I couldn't make it, she offered to pick me up in her SUV.  I was skeptical, but she routinely hauls a double bass, among other orchestral instruments, and lo and behold my entire rig fit in there!  So we had lunch after all.

Amber graduated from the same Oklahoma high school as my sister and I, and moved to Raleigh right after college in Indiana, so she's been here ten years now.  She teaches every kindergartner at a private school to play the violin, and the older kids she teaches any stringed instrument in the orchestra.  In her spare time she gives private lessons, plays in various ensembles, and sings in her church choir.

She invited me to stay the night at her townhouse, and since the day was drizzling and threatening thunderstorms, I accepted.  Naturally it cleared up as soon as I got settled, but it gave us a chance to talk some more.  She left me there and went off to work. 

I called Erik because I had left my trailer flag at his house that morning, and he obligingly brought it over, then drove me to a bike shop where I got a new tube and patches.  Amber came home for a snack and was then gone again to sing in the Good Friday service at her church.  I spent the afternoon and evening researching my route through Virginia, and I cooked dinner for the two of us: a "Gullah gumbo" mix I had bought at the Lowcountry Visitor Center in South Carolina.

Ben Fri, 03/25/2005 - 00:00

To Medoc Mountain State Park

To Medoc Mountain State Park

Today's ride was about an hour and a half longer than it would have been had I not stayed at Amber's last night, but I certainly have no regrets about that!  After a drizzly morning I stopped for lunch in Louisburg, home of the International Whistlers' Convention.  The afternoon was dry but cloudy; I didn't see the sun all day.  Today for the first and only time in North Carolina, people yelled and honked at me; otherwise it was a very polite state!

At Medoc Mountain State Park I warmed and ate the other MRE, a vegetarian dinner, with pepperonis for protein.

Ben Sat, 03/26/2005 - 16:46

To Emporia, VA

To Emporia, VA

Today was gray and sunless, but aside from a little drizzle it stayed dry.  As I rode through Roanoke Rapids, NC, a man and two boys rode alongside me on their bicycles.  They asked me where I was going and where I'd been about 5 times before they were willing to believe my answers.  They had more trouble believing I was bicycling to DC than that I had already ridden thousands of miles... it's the Florida Effect all over again: DC is Far Far Away.

I was feeling really tired at the start of the day, but by early afternoon I was feeling great, so I buzzed right by my Plan B stopping place, although it looked nice enough.  The Plan A place, north of Emporia, VA, was a Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camping Resort.  You may remember that in September, east of Indianapolis, I was going to stay at a Jellystone Park but found that the truck stop next door would let me camp for half the price.  When I got to this campground, I found that the motel next door was cheaper... since there's a railroad nearby and thunderstorms are threatening, it was an easy call to make!

Ben Sun, 03/27/2005 - 16:48