I realize that I promised the complete trip diary several months ago; and although I expect absolutely no one to read this post now, here it is nonetheless:
Day 1 - Nick and I woke up about 6:45 AM and proceeded to pack up our belongings. It was my first time riding a loaded bike ever and so, after taking a few pictures of the scenic beach at Currituck, we rode precariously out of the campsite. The ground was still wet from the previous night's rain and since I was without fenders, within a few minutes my legs were already speckled brown from all the kicked up mud specks. Nevertheless, it felt great to be on a bike again and the two of us felt as though we were unstoppable.
About fifteen miles in, however, my front tire (not even my back one!) fell victim to a shard of glass in the road. After spending about fifteen minutes cursing, we were riding once again. After another five miles, a headwind slowly started to develop; and as Nick and I were both out of shape, we struggled to go 9 miles per hour. Suddenly aware of how dubious an 85 mile day was, Nick and I rode on, frustrated and worried. To sum the day's events, we rode through the Great Dismal Swamp, past Elizabeth City and eventually set up in a side field off the bike route. We had only done 60 miles.
Day 2 - We woke up in a puddle. Somehow (for the life of me, I can't figure it out) the water from the night's downpour seeped through the floor of our seemingly "waterproof tent." Now, I hate the rain more than anything. My friend Alex says that wind is worse; but, for me, nothing feels worse than being wet, especially when it takes forever to get dry. Frustrated once again, Nick and I passed through Gatesville, and eventually made our way into Murfreesboro where I met up with my friend Thomas. He kindly offered us asylum for a few hours which we spent gorging ourselves on his mother's wonderful cooking and laying our sleeping bags and tent out to dry. By this time the sun was shining brightly and, after a quick shower (we were filthy the entire time, really), we were off again. We passed through myriad cotton fields and saw our first hills, however small they were.
The roads were surrounded by verdant green fields and, although we almost passed into Virginia several times, we finally made it into Gaston, where we set up camp behind a high school. Hungry for more hot food, Nick and I rode into town and, consistent to our gluttonous natures, we ordered chili cheese fries smothered with bacon bits and four footlong subs. Let's just say that we had to open the vestibule that night.
Day 3 - After eating breakfast at Hardee's and grabbing some power snacks from Piggly Wiggly, we started riding towards Gaston Lake. As the terrain began to change we knew that we were leaving the coastal region and entering the Piedmont. Finally, we had to stand up to climb some hills and finally, we had the opportunity to kick it in the highest gear, speeding down descents long enough for us to remember that biking didn't suck completely. We took a break at Gaston Lake, where Nick said, "North Carolina is a pretty cool place." For some reason I suddenly felt all fuzzy inside and I was happy to finally be exploring the state that I had, for so long, known and yet not known.
Near Vaughn, North Carolina we got a little off from the bike route; thankfully, however, a nice man (I divined his accent to be one of Caribbean origin) put us back on track and after just a little more riding, we were on our way again. Some of you may know this about me: my mood is completely situational-dependent. Since the sun was shining and we were going fast, you might guess that I couldn't have been happier. For the last bit of the ride I felt as though I was in Wisconsin, riding at the top of a large and ever-reaching plateau.
As the sun began to set, Nick and I started looking for side fields to camp in. We ended up knocking on an old lady's door just to ask her if we could stay in her front yard. I can only imagine what fools we must have looked like - young boys with shaggy, unkempt hair, wearing tight shorts and riding bikes with 50 pounds of gear strapped on the back. Still though, she kindly acquiesced and Nick and I spent the rest of the night discussing Asperger's Syndrome.
Day 4 - Unbeknowst to both of us, this would be our last day of riding. Nick's ankle began to twerk and since I wanted him alive for the sacrifice (just kidding), we ended up turning south in Stovall. After passing through the beautiful small town of Oxford, we sped through Creedmoore and onto the Jefferson Davis Highway. After passing through farmland familiar to me (I trained for the Big Ride out here), we made it into Wake Country. Shortly thereafter, we were within Raleigh city limits and ultimately back at my house in good 'ole North Raleigh.
Total Count: 260 miles, 4 nights, 4 days
Riding a loaded touring bike is something everyone should experience. The ability to move over 100 miles in a day and at a slow enough pace to enjoy the surrounding scenery is a profound, moving and unique experience. Completely self sufficient, the bicycle tourist is the perfect vagabond. Seriously, go out and do it, you'll love it.
Oh, and do it in North Carolina, the best damn state in the entire Union. I've never encountered more friendly and helpful people in the entire world. Although we didn't make it all the way west to Piney Creek, it was beautiful nonetheless. Next time I tour North Carolina I'll make it all the way to the mountains and then I'll have even more to brag about. So until then, check back - I might have some more interesting weekend trips to write about.