By Ben |

[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