Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Day 2: Bell's Island to Kitty Hawk/Kill Devil Hills

We woke before dawn, hearing a couple men down the way getting their boat ready to go out crabbing. One of their dogs came wandering over to greet us as we came out of the tent. In the most nonchalant way, he said hello, sniffed around, then wandered into the water and swam back over to the boatmen.

We broke camp down as the sun rose, and were on the road by 7am.

Of course, within 20 minutes we were ready to eat. (Didn't eat too much the night before, heh.) Because of the learning experience from the night before, we didn't want to take our chances. So, the first area we came to that had more than one business, we started looking but were kinda worried. The only restaurant in the area was a BBQ joint, with the neon sign shining *open,* but ain't nobody there.
I decided to stop in at a gas station and ask where the closest breakfast joint was. The man behind the counter gruffly said *right here.* There was a big ole kitchen area back there by him, but I didn't see anyone cooking. But, we decided to play it safe, anyway.
Everything to choose from was already made, but it was homemade... not some stupid microwaved egg breakfast. Homemade biscuit with fried egg, cheese and bacon. (Ethan had the sausage... must say, it was even better.) And tho, yes, it was probably 10 times better than anything because of the previous meal and the work made to get to it, it was a really tasty breakfast... and amazing for a gas station.

Back onto Hwy 168... sigh. (Note: eventually Hwy 168 merged onto Hwy 158. This was not an improvement.)
As it was Sunday morning, the southbound traffic seemed a little thinner, but as the day passed and we moved further south, it seemed to be fairly busy. Of course, we were fortunate that we were headed the way we were, because the northbound traffic -those leaving the OBX to go home to their workweek- was nonstop insane.

We took a photo op of the (apparently) world famous Grave Digger Monster Truck.

Ummm... yeah. There. Moving on...

We kept on keeping on, tho for some reason this day was just miserable for me. About thirty minutes after leaving the monster truck place, I had to stop and take a couple Advil. Of course, stopping was not something Ethan wanted to do, but too bad.
In doing so, we lucked out. While we were stopped, less than a mile away, there was a northbound accident that was being cleaned up. Some man in an SUV, also moving northbound, was paying attention to his GPS and swerved across the southbound lane to avoid the traffic that was stopped due to the accident, smashed into a minivan, sending it spinning off the road. The SUV flipped multiple times in such high speed that it flipped over a giant ditch and landed on its side (the bottom facing the road) in a parking lot.
I like to think, had we not stopped, that we would have gotten past that spot before that happened, but taking into consideration I was so miserable I was definitely riding slower... so who knows. Coulda been involved in that. But, it didn't happen. Sigh of relief.

After about ten miles we stopped at Grandy Greenhouse & Farm Market. A man and his family suggested we get the peach soft serve, so... tasty dessert we had.

After feeling relaxed and refreshed, we hopped back on the bikes for the last 18 miles on this evil highway and landing in the Outer Banks. The best thing of those last miles was going over the 3 mile long Wright Memorial Bridge into Kitty Hawk. Cars were almost nonexistent on our side, and it was just so nice and free to be surrounded by water... not to mention it meant we finally made it to the Outer Banks and close to the end of our trek for the day.

We stopped, of course, for a photo op at the Welcome sign after coming off the bridge.

While getting our bearings and figuring out the next stage, Ethan ran across the street to help a southern poster boy: shirtless, mini-mullet (not hipster-style by any means), southern boy with a stalled, 1980s pick-up truck on the outgoing side. Poor guy couldn't have weighed more than 120 lbs, and was trying to push the truck to the side of the road.

Good deed of the day.

We hopped back on the bikes and made the quick decision to get off of Hwy 158. Oh joy, how wonderful a decision this was! We took a right onto The Woods Rd, onto a lovely, little, winding, off-the-road bike path that was nearly always in the shade of these beautiful green trees. (The colors of trees are so much prettier up close!)
While on the path, we stopped to read a landmark sign, and figure out our camping options. There had been an older couple who we passed earlier on the path, who caught up with stopped to talk to us. After giving them our brief lowdown about our trek, they started telling us about how to get where, what to see, where to eat and the general idea of directions.

We took their advice, and headed to the Black Pelican for lunch. Oh what great advice it was! Fish fritters, mixed greens salad with a lemon vinegarette dressing and spicy shrimp & grits. Best part - BLUE MOON BEER!

We ate while looking over the dune at the Atlantic Ocean with a nice breeze blowing, which topped it all over.
Our waitress, we'll call her Daisy, was a transplant who now considers herself a local. We struck up small talk conversation about living in the area year round, particularly curious about passing the time during the off season. Her answer... *Drugs.* It wasn't too far fetched a response, and we absolutely believed her. Two words: Meth Mouth. Heh. The teeth just... just... yeah. Not pretty.

After taking a nice amount of time relaxing, we hit the road and headed South down the N Virginia Dare trail, which basically runs right along the beach. It was around 2pm, and we needed to make the decision on where to camp. We really wanted to be close to the ocean, if not right on it, but the only official camp grounds in the Kitty Hawk/Kill Devil Kills area was in the national park, which was pretty much smack dab in the middle of the island.
I guess in passing all these amazing beach houses, not to mention the hotels, and just wanted so badly to be in the ocean, it got in our heads that maaaaaaaybe we could find ourselves a hotel room and get a good night sleep in a bed. I mean... we did have a 65+ ride to reckon with the next day. So, a good night sleep would benefit us. Right? Heh
We explored and toured the trail for a few miles, stopping at various hotels and motels to see what they had available. The first place we stopped at, Kill Devil Hills Days Inn, had a smaller motel they run just up the way that we could have for 80$. Hmmm... more shopping around, but nothing was as good a deal. So, back to the hotel, booked, then dumped all out stuff in the motel room and headed to the Wright Brothers Memorial.

View from atop the Memorial hill:

Following wandering the hill, the giant monument, bronze sculpture of their take off and the museum, we headed -briefly- up Hwy 158 to a grocery store for food and beer. We decided we wanted more fish, and I was dying for some crab, so we got a couple fillets, a container of fresh lump crab meat, and some asparagus. We also decided to play it safe and get a few staples for the road: lil container of peanut butter (we had tortillas from the first night, still), oreos (we needed them!), and dried apple rings.

After having a beer at the room, we headed to the beach (with a couple more) and splashed around for an hour or so. Ethan, it should be said, mentioned his concern of sharks and riptides at least 2 dozen times. Needless to say, neither a shark nor a riptide got either of us.

Back to the room for a nice shower, nice beer and lovely dinner - made on the *porch* on the propane camp cooking kit.

In looking back upon the day, the opportunity to actually do some true sigh seeing (not to mention actually have something interesting to actually see... ummm, the Memorial. Not the monster truck. Heh) was pretty great, but the absolute best part of the day was ending it in the ocean. I always liked swimming in the ocean. But, to do so after biking as far as we did... wow.

So ends Day 2, August 16, 2009
51 miles (41 to destination, 10 roaming the area)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Day 1: Brooklyn NY to Chesapeake VA to Bell's Island NC

Saturday, Aug 15, 2009

2am: Up and at 'em!

We had packed everything up and prepared ourselves to just throw everything into the car and go as quickly as possible so we could get on the road.
The list:
- (2) Surly Long Haul Trucker bikes
- (2) front bags (for power bars, sunblock, cameras, iphones, etc)
- (4) Ortlieb Panniers (2 orange for Ethan, 2 yellow for myself) containing clothes, swim suits and flip flops
- (2) sleeping bags
- (2) air mattresses
- (1) Marmot tent
- (1) first air kit
- (1) MSR cooking set & mini propane tank
- (2) Kryptonite cables & locks
- (2) helmets
- (2) cycling shoes

...and two people ready to go.

3am: On the road
FB Update: "and we're off!!! 3am... Yawn"
Anyso, we set out before light, with a quick stop at a Brooklyn gas station/Dunkin Donuts for some coffee and extremely stale donuts. (Note to self: 3am is not a good time for fresh donuts.)

Ethan drove, I entertained. We passed thru Manhattan to go thru the Holland Tunnel, tho E first intended to go thru Staten Island. We should gone thru SI... the Port Authority's been working late night/early morning weekends. Great.
We only got thrown off by about 15 minutes, but we left a lil earlier than we actually thought (we intended for a 4am leave). We jumped onto the NJ Turnpike, and took it all the way to I-95 South, then down to Chesapeake.

FB Update: "We're in Delaware! (5:08am)"

FB Update: "half way thru at 7:36am. MD is boring."

FB Update: "coulda gone into Dixieland or Bonnie's Box... But noooo, instead it's the old aluminum siding ugly BP Ocean Way for us!" (8:57am)

The Chesapeake "Bridge" is something crazy. You cross a bridge, then go into a tunnel, then come back out onto another bright, then back into a tunnel, then finally back onto a bridge that brought us intil Chesapeake VA around 11am.

After a quick stop at a bike shop for my front bag (the original one I ordered never made it to me... thanks ebikeshop... jerks), and a run to the post office to mail our clothes for the wedding and our second half of our vacation in Emerald Isle, we zipped over to drop off the car JUST in time. The Hertz employee was amazed to see how much stuff we pulled out of the (not-so) midsize sedan.
We put our bikes back together again, organized and loaded up everything onto the bikes, then had a quick sammich and change.

Bike & gear weight:
Ethan - approx. 70 lb.
Allison - approx. 50 lb.

1:30pm: On the road, again...
...but this time, by bicycles.

Side note: Throughout the trek, we averaged our "real" breaks (getting off the bike, heh) every hour and/or ten miles. Other than stopping for breakfast and lunch, most stops were 5-15 minutes long.

FB Update: "Loaded up and ready to haul on down to stop 1: Bell Island NC" (1:32pm)

We had about 35 miles to do on this first day, and nearly all of it was on what we would eventually despise:
Hwy 168
This was a hell-on-earth 5-lane road with a shoulder averaging 1.5 feet in width. The automobiles didn't care to slow down at all on the 55 mph, and about 50% of them didn't even bother moving over a lil to be on the safe side.

FB Update: North Carolina! We made it!!! (3:39pm)

We made it into NC (which was actually nearly dead-on at the halfway mark) around our ETA. About 18 miles done, 18 miles to go... ok, well, maybe add a few.

After stopping in NC, we stopped off at the Visitor's Center. There, we learned what to be looking out for to get to the Bell's Island Campgrounds. Unfortunately, we didn't think to ask what kind of stores were in the area, and we didn't bother grabbing anything then and there since we still had 18-ish miles to go.
About an hour and a half later, we made it to the turn off to get to the campgrounds. Yay! We'd finally be getting off of 168 for a while!!! Nope... we stopped off at a thrift store that was at the turn off onto Bell's Island Road, and asked the self proclaimed handy man where we could find a grocery store or something.
Well, sad to say, there was nothing nearby. Fortunately, there was a "store" -he said- about a mile to a mile and a half up 168. So, back onto the highway for us... only, it was more like 3 miles... each way.
Now, mind you, 6 miles isn't that far when you're in a car. But, on a bike, especially after you've already done 30 miles, it is... and it's even more when it's out of your way and you still have another 5 miles to go to get to your destination.

Nonetheless, on we went and after worrying the last mile of if he was lying to us, if we'd ever see it and just being utterly miserable, there it was. Classic wooden redneck store (not redneck store where the city folk would pass thru and think "oh how charming, or find a souvenir), with two old dogs hanging out in your way.

At this point, everything sounded good to eat, and we were looking to be creative... but, we were limited. A six-pack of Miller Lite was a must. Flour tortillas, a can of refried beans, Rotel tomatoes and box of frozen corn... we get dinner!

Back onto the bikes and on to our first campsite. I was utterly exhausted, we were both cranky and hungry, and Ethan had his second wind. Off he went, leaving me to trudge on my own thru marsh land that seemed never ending.

We made it to the Bell's Island Campgrounds (252) 232-2590 ~ 769 Bells Island Rd
~ Currituck, NC 27929) a lil less than an hour before sunset. Tho the owner of the property had passed by us on the road to it, and talked with Ethan, we got there and he wasn't around at all. Some lady was wandering down a lil gravel road of the grounds with an empty wine glass, and immediately approached us. She gave us the breakdown of what's where, and told us it was pretty much open choice for us wherever we wanted to set up camp.

We found a lovely, dry spot right on the sound's waterfront off to the side from the rest of the grounds.

After a beer and a toast to completing Day 1, Ethan set up the tent and I started on dinner. Oh dear... ummm... yeah, that frozen corn we got... I think it's kinda old... and frost bitten. Sigh. I tried to use some of it, tho, which I shouldn't have. Just cuz it all didn't look all that bad, it was pretty nasty. Edible... but really chewy and... just not a good addition.
After camp was set up and we ate what we could (we worked around the corn bits as best we could, heh), we waded into the water and wandered the waterfront of the campgrounds. We didn't do any swimming, and Ethan was a bit turned off by the water because there was all this crazy long grass floating in it and rolling up onto the lil beach.

By dark, we were done for the day. We showered (separately!) in near darkness in an outdoor cinder block shower with a lil frog hanging out with us. For me, he was in a crack between the shower wall and the building wall. The only reason I knew he was there at all was because he scared the bajeebus out of me when he started calling out to his friends. After I left, tho, he moved. Ethan first found him in the soap dip, but later he crawled up the wall and onto the shower head, looking down at Ethan while he did what he had to do.

So ended Day 1.
41.5 miles