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Friday, December 10, 2010

Key West! We made it!

Guess where we are!!  We made it!  We got here on Thursday 12/9. We're enjoying a few well-deserved days off and will have a full post of what else we've been up to soon. Stay tuned!


Almost there!

Although we didn't plan to stay in a hotel, we weren't really complaining too much, because it was better than being outside freezing our butts of in a tent!  We rode the next day right into the start of the Florida Keys, not before stopping at Alabama Jack's for some delicious conch salad and a beer or two. We were sitting outside at a table on the deck, and we had fun trying to fend off the local seagulls, hungry for whatever they could get. Chunks of ice launched in the gulls' general direction seemed to work well!

Another picture from Miami, with Isabella and Sofia, our beautiful hostesses.


Lunch before we got into the Keys. Luckily there weren't any seagulls trying to steal our lunch at the moment.

We rode through the beginning of the keys and camped on Key Largo, pretty close to a shopping center with a 24-hour Kmart, which happened to be playing 24-hours of Christmas songs. It's quaint at first, but at 3am when all you want to do is sleep, it gets old.

Entering the keys!

The next day, we got a late start, then we stopped for coffee.  We were hoping to make it further than we did, but we had an epic bout of flat tires, brought on by Key Largo's copious amounts of careless drivers throwing glass bottles out the windows. I even got a 2 inch nail in one of my tires!  Even though we didn't get as far as we'd have liked, we found a really nice campsite near Layton on Long Key on a hiking trail.  Our neighbors, however, were noisy, obnoxious, and bigtime night owls. They were vultures, actually (literally), and they were flapping their huge wings, and landing and taking off all night, squawking, and trying pretty hard to keep us up.

One of the bike-only bridges through the keys. I could get used to this!


The next day, we hopped on our bikes, set on making the 70 miles remaining to Key West!!

I can't go to Miami without thinking of that Will Smith song.

In our last episode, your dashing heroes rode beachfront roadway past the houses of the rich and famous.

The houses along route A1A in the Ft. Lauderdale beach area are unlike anything I've ever seen. None of them looked like people actually lived there, and all of them looked like monuments enshrining their owner's monetary success. Regardless of my thoughts on domestic excess, the rows of beachfront mansions made that day's long ride seem rather short. We gawked. We stared. We had trouble keeping our eyes on the road.


Riding through banyan tree tunnel.

At some point later in the day, I got a flat tire on my trailer (one of many, many flat tires to come). As I changed the flat, a jovial old man rode up to us on a folding bike. He stopped in the parking lot to tell us that he is an author, and that his latest work revolved around some touring cyclists. He said that it was a pleasant coincidence that he saw us pedaling down the road. As the old man told us this, a car entered the parking lot, and pulled within a few inches of the old man. The driver proceeded to lay on his horn. The driver's strategy was effective in doing two things: 1) causing the old man to remove himself from the parking lot; 2) demonstrating that Miami drivers are rude. Miami drivers are, without a doubt, the rudest drivers we have come across in the past few months. They honk more than geese, ignore red lights, and have a misanthropic attitude towards everything else on the road. We never intended this blog to be a forum for negativity, so I'll end my description of Miami's roadways.


96 miles later, we were relieved from having to brave Miami traffic. My uncle met us for a beer, and then we piled our stuff inside and on top of his car for a ride to his house. We took two days off in Miami, and spent some great time with my uncle, aunt, and my two little cousins. That Saturday, we had a real breakfast, played the Nintendo Wii, burned some burgers and chorizo on the grill, and had a generally pleasant day. My cousins are learning to play guitar, so we played a couple of songs together. Isabella is going to be the next Eric Clapton!


After a much needed two day break, we hit the road again for our final leg of the trip. We crawled through Miami at a snail's pace because we hit almost every red light Miami had to offer. The stop-and-go feel of the ride was annoying, so we stopped for a lunch break on the beach. The beach was absolutely beautiful: snowy white sand, crystal clear waters, and gentle waves. There weren't many people on the beach, either. The reason for the beach's sparse population became evident a few moments later. Vanessa spotted an older gentleman walking down the beach, displaying himself in stark nudity. A ways further down the beach, a few more entirely naked (and older) beachgoers were laying out. Upon these observations, I concluded that we were walking on a nude beach. We quickly made our exit so as to avoid the remaining nudists and their very unflattering physiques.


Lunch break beach, sans nudity.


I wish we would have seen this sign earlier!

After our inadvertent visit to the nude beach, we looked forward to some 15 miles of bike paths. Unfortunately, Miami failure to properly sign and maintain these paths forced us to ride on the road, and ultimately to find a new route to Florida City. Fortunately, our new route involved some 20 miles of dedicated bike lanes that ran alongside a bus-only road. Unfortunately, the bike paths were littered with broken glass. Unfortunately, a piece of glass ripped through my tire just as the sun was setting, and we had no spare inner tubes. Most fortunately, we were a half mile from a hotel, and only a quarter mile from a bike shop. Fortunately, we would end up sleeping in a warm bed on what became a record breakingly cold night for the Miami area. Talk about luck!

Wind Blows.

After leaving our rental car behind, we got back on the road. It would have maybe been nice to have the car for the next day or two, considering we hit some pretty gnarly crosswind and headwind the next couple of days. It's amazing how much it affects you when you're biking vs. when you're in a car.  We had a hard couple of days into Daytona Beach, a town full of big hotels and condos.  Every year in Daytona, they have National Bike Week, although these particular bikers are clad in leather, and their bikes have a lot more chrome (and horsepower) than ours.  We wondered how many of these hotels have sprung up over the years solely for the Bike Week. The Bike Week wasn't happening while we were there, though, so things were pretty calm around town.

Ed's uncle had some extra Hilton points and generously put us up in the Hilton in Daytona. (Thanks Uncle Chris!) We felt a little out of place walking into their lobby sweaty and smelly in our spandex, but the friendly front desk folks didn't even flinch.  The guys outside even offered to valet our bikes! We laughed a little, then took our bikes up the elevator and into the room instead. We may or may not have been seen riding through the hallways! The room was great, and gave us a really nice view of the city as well.

View from the balcony. Not bad!!
We had some delicious barbecue for dinner, which didn't even register on the Hilton's in-room scale, which may or may not have been totally accurate.

According to the Hilton, I weigh 100 lbs. I may actually weigh slightly more than 100 lbs. Also, I'm not sure why the picture ended up sideways. Sorry.

 
Clean and well-fed, we got on the road the next day, and had a big day into Melbourne, FL (even with Ed's flat tires). We stayed at a state park that was planning to open up a trail of Christmas lights that evening. We rode our bikes through the beautiful lights (the best way to see them!) and we even ran into Santa Claus himself as we checked in!


Bok!

Ed riding through the tunnel of lights.

It was cold, but not that cold (thankfully)

The next couple days we had a change of fate in terms of wind - we actually had a tailwind! A cold front had blown in (yes, we had a few nights into the low 40s, even though we're in south Florida. Come on, weatherman! Help us out here!), and the wind was a great help in getting us through West Palm Beach (the houses there were ridiculous!) into the Miami area, where Ed's uncle, Tio Fede, lives. We met him for a couple of drinks and some delicious food near Fort Lauderdale. We stayed in Miami for a great couple of days - filled with food, beer, music, and video games. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Have car, will travel.

In our last episode, your mobile heroes indulged the deadly sin of gluttony and found themselves cruising at the breakneck speed of 70 mph...in a car.

After spending two months traveling at 15mph, car travel is almost surreal. Bestowed upon us was the power to actually pass other cars, to ignore hills, and to actually enjoy a slight breeze. Cycling forces an acute awareness of traffic, hills, wind, visibility, and debris on the shoulder of the road. As our trip has progressed, the acuity of that awareness has gradually slipped into a subconscious resignation of our powerlessness in the face of those elements. A car removes the need for that subconscious resignation, which leaves a strange void in our daily modus operandi. All philosophical waxing aside, exchanging the bicycle pedal for a gas pedal makes life happen at a faster and more convenient pace. However, I am sure that our dear reader doesn't need to be told that cars are convenient machines. This is just a long winded way of saying that I like driving.

We used the rental car to carry us to the movies, where we vegetated in front of the silver screen for nearly 6 hours. We saw Due Date and The Next Three Days, which were thoroughly entertaining even if they weren't Oscar winners. We emerged from the theater after dark, which would normally be a bad thing on a bike. Don't ride at night, kids. Unlike our bikes, our rental car had some blazing headlights, so night travel was no problem. We cruised to a campsite near Jacksonville Beach, where we were greeted by the sounds of dozens of (possibly drunk) neighbors trying to sing a campfire song.

The next day, the rental car took us to St. Augustine. We spent some time crawling around the oldest city in the U.S. St. Augustine is home to a fort made entirely of coquina shells and populated by men dressed in 17th century costumes, which was, for lack of a better word, pretty cool. The fort has stood in its present condition for more than 400 years, despite periods of inclement weather and mortar shells. After touring the fort, we returned to the campsite and made s'mores (a great recovery food).


In an antique shop in St. Augustine

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine

Sentinel's tower

Sentinel's tower. Again.

One of the cannons in the fort, from the 1750s.

That night, we accidentally left the marshmallows out. A raccoon discovered our marshmallows, ate a few, and slobbered all over the rest. The raccoon also carried Vanessa's bag into the woods, which was impressive because the bag weighed almost 10 pounds. The coon couldn't get inside the bag, though, so the rest of our food was free from the raccoon drool, but he left a few chomp marks.

Unfortunately, our time with the rental car came to an end. We shared our farewells, parted ways with the rental, and began pedaling once again.

In our next episode, your heroes discover headwind, and land at the Hilton on Daytona Beach! Stay tuned!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thanksgiving break!

After crossing into Florida, we had a nice ride into a state park near Jacksonville.  Florida has a pretty nice set of state parks; we've been impressed with what we've seen so far.  This particular state park, Huguenot Memorial Park, was situated right across a bay from a naval air station, which made for some interesting sights (ships and helicopters), but also for unpleasant and early morning wake-up calls (cannon exercises?).


Sunset over the naval air station, complete with a helicopter.

We rode an easy 20 or so miles into Jacksonville to pick up a rental car to drive to Tampa for Thanksgiving with Ed's mom and stepdad.  We had a nice bike lane on the way there; Florida seems to be adding a lot of bike lanes to their roads, which is great to see!

We had a great week in Tampa - maybe a little more time than we would have liked to take off - just in the interest of finishing the trip - but it was well-needed rest. We ate tons of food, drank lots of beer, and visited with lots of friends and family.  Ed's stepdad promptly enlisted Ed's help in deep-frying 5 turkeys (yes, five!).

Ed, telling an epic story while injecting 'flavor' into a turkey (To my former co-workers: this thing was a cheap version of a cannula. Seriously!)

This is how we fry a turkey

Ed's mom brought us to visit one of her hospice patients (she's a volunteer at a nursing home), a wonderful woman named Twyla, who gave Ed some good advice on military life and Army bases. She said that you'll have a ball wherever you go, which goes along with some other advice we've heard, which was that the service is what you make of it. Hello Twyla! We'll send you a postcard from Key West when we get there.

We also got to see Ed's sister's new house, complete with a big-screen tv, a kegerator, and a gator in the lake in the back! (it's Florida) No really... they're getting  a fence soon. Despite the lack of fence, we discovered that the kitchen works quite well, and stuffed ourselves with a delicious chicken dinner.

We went out the day after Thanksgiving to visit with some family friends and celebrate Ed's passing the bar exam. We went to the Hard Rock Cafe and Casino, and had a few drinks and a delicious dinner at their fancy steakhouse. I had escargot for the first time (yum!) and we were also impressed with the lobster bisque, steak tartare, the lobster mac and cheese, and the long-bone steaks. Tasty!

We headed back to Jacksonville to return the rental, but unfortunately got back about 10 minutes after the rental car place closed for the weekend. We were left with a nice little dilemma - an extra 2 days off and a car at our disposal!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


In our last episode, your intrepid heroes were being chased by dogs through an otherwise boring Georgia ride. Due to time constraints, your heroes were unable to enjoy Savannah, GA, opting instead to ride through the parts of Georgia inhabited only by stretches of lonely road.

US 301 in southern Georgia is long, straight, and unremarkable. So went our day for about 6 hours. Then, our day became more exciting when we stopped at a gas station to refuel with coffee and hot dogs. We were loitering outside by our bikes when a couple of camouflaged hunters approached us to inquire just what in God's name we were doing clad in spandex with funny lookin' bikes. We told them about the trip, and they broke out into laughter. "That's just plum crazy. Say, y'all have a place to cook meat?" We were a bit confused by their question, but then one of the camouflaged gentlemen explained that they had some fresh ground venison. We told them that we have a camp stove, so the hunters made us a gift of the venison.

An hour later, we were crossing the border into Florida. The moment was rather poignant, because it meant that the trip was definitely coming to an end. We had no more state border crossings to anticipate. We had officially ridden bicycles from Maine to Florida. So, we took some pictures and videos, and stopped for a minute to reminisce. Our reminiscence was interrupted by two gentlemen who were walking two horses across the road.

The two gentlemen looked like a cross between gypsies and rednecks. They had a manner about them similar to that of carnival folk. They asked us what we were up to, so we told them. In turn, we asked them what they were up to, and they told us that they were riding their horses from Florida to Pennsylvania. We chatted for a while, and the gentlemen turned out to be some of the nicest folks we had met along the way. They made a point of telling us that they hoped we would arrive in Key West safely.

As we parted ways with the men on horseback, we proceeded on to a great campsite. A few states have public hunting land euphemistically labelled "wildlife management areas." Normally, these wildlife management areas are just fenced off pieces of land without any amenities. Fortunately for us, the WMA that we found had a free campsite with showers, leftover firewood, and fire pits. Vanessa used one of the trailers to collect firewood and then played as a pyromaniac to make a huge fire. Soon thereafter, we had 4 venison burger sizzling away on a makeshift griddle. It was definitely a tasty and nutritious way to end the first day of the rest of our trip.

Who let the dogs out?

In our last episode, your brave and handsome heroes outsmarted delicious crustaceans.

The next day, we bid farewell to Mike, thanked him and his folks for their kind generosity, and hit the road once again. The route suggested by our Adventure Cycling maps required some 50 miles of backtracking, and we had still planned on making it from Charleston to Orlando in 7 days. Backtracking was not an attractive option, so we decided to take a more direct route as suggested by the almighty iPhone.

At this time, I must point out that the iPhone's current software cannot predict the existence of dogs on a particular route. Man's best friend becomes man's barking, foamy-mouthed nightmare when man is perched upon a bike. Being obedient Apple customers, we followed iPhone's directions and turned left on a small backroad. A few seconds later, three medium sized dogs come tearing around a corner at breakneck speed, barking as if we stole something from them. Vanessa and I mashed on the pedals as hard as we could, pushing our bikes and trailers to 25mph, and outrunning the canines before they could chomp at us. After we were well away from the mutts, I felt that unmistakable afterglow of adrenaline and fear. It was the same feeling as when you narrowly miss crashing your car, or when you almost get into a fight. (Editor's note: Ed does not feel fear. This account is merely a poetic attempt to describe what it would be like if Ed in fact felt fear of any kind.) We rounded a curve in the road, and we saw that we were riding down a dead-end road. At that point, numerous profanities escaped our lips, because we knew that we would have to ride past those dogs again. We armed ourselves with the flag poles from our trailers, hoping that they would be stout enough to beat away an angry dog. High adrenaline levels: check.

We punched our bikes to top speed, and got ready to beat away the three barking pooches as we sped past their house. Sure enough, the three furies came tearing around the corner again, and we got ready to beat them away with our flimsy flag poles. Thankfully, the mutts were a step too slow for your speedy heroes, and we outran them within a few hundred yards. The moral of the story: carry pepper spray when you ride.

The remainder of the next few days' ride was moderately uneventful. We coasted into Georgia, which greeted us with miles of cotton fields. If you squint your eyes a tad, and indulge a daydream, it felt like we were riding in snow.



The remainder of Georgia was flat, isolated, and, I dare say, boring. Desirous of a short, direct route, we rode US 301 for about 150 miles, and the following two pictures encapsulate what we saw during those miles. The reader may decide for themselves the which of the two pictures was most exciting:



Chicken Neckin'

We decided to take a day off in Charleston, so we headed to a local bike shop for a few minor repairs on my bike. While it was being worked on, we wandered around the town, caught lunch at Jestine’s kitchen, which is apparently something of a Charleston icon. The coffee, meatloaf, fried chicken, and the sweet chicken with lima beans… oh my! Don’t forget dessert, of course. Banana pudding and coca-cola cake. Magnificent!

We headed back to the house to pick up some nets and bait because Mike wanted to take us crabbing. The blue crabs in Charleston have quite a fondness for chicken necks, so we picked up a few, tied them to a line with a weight, and tossed them into the water at a salt marsh near Mike’s dad’s house. Wait a minute or two, and reel them in slowly, catch them with your net, and you’ve got yourself quite a tasty dinner, my friend! We had a blast pulling in the crabs and trying to net them before they caught wind of our sinister plans. In 3 hours we caught about 15. If I’m ever back in blue crab country, you’ll know where to find me.




Monday, November 29, 2010

Welcome to Charleston!


Shortly after meeting Mike (see my previous post), we met a nice fellow named Don, a carpenter and the owner of Don’s Cabinet Shop in Conway, SC. He showed us his workshop, his super cool and one of a kind three-wheeled motorcycle, and his bicycle-converted-hand bike. He also pointed us towards a good camp spot in a cemetery behind a local church. It was a nice camp spot, and Mike, ever the Alaskan at heart, decided to sleep under the stars, sans tent. Sounds like a good idea, except when the temperature gets down to a balmy 35 degrees (Fahrenheit) and you wake up to a blanket of frost!

The modified foot- and hand-bike

Pile of ice/frost on our rain fly. Brrr!

We had a cup of coffee on the way out of town to try to warm up (riding when it’s that cold just plain hurts!). We were also excited to use our HotHands, those little chemical packets you put into your gloves to keep you warm. They work so well! Luckily, the day warmed up to about 70..it’s amazing how the temperature can change so much in just a few hours.

The three of us camped in Francis Marion National Forest about 50-60 miles out of Charleston. Mike was kind enough to share some chocolate and Nutella with us, and definitely inspired us to buy some as soon as possible!

The next morning, we met a nice older couple on our way out of the National Forest - they talked to us about military service, since he had been in the Air Force. Basically, their advice for Ed, a soon-to-be Army lawyer was that the military is what you make of it. If you put a lot in, you’ll get a lot in return. Great advice!
We ran into a couple of trains, and of course Ed got excited. He loves trains. We also ran into a farmer with a huge pig, who seemed to be excited to see us. He waddled over to the fence, grunting and oinking, and looked at us with curious little eyes (the pig, not the farmer). We couldn’t help but laugh.

Oink!

Heading into Charleston, we were enjoying a nice paceline, when POP! Another flat tire for me. This time it was my trailer tire. My trailer was used when we got it, so the tire had completely worn through. Luckily, we had a spare, and Ed and Mike talked up a local aspiring marathoner while I finished changing the tire. I think the flat tire count is about even for Ed and myself now!

No life left for this tire.

We stopped and had some delicious boiled peanuts, a local delicacy, before heading over a super cool double suspension bridge that had just been built over the Ashley river (or was it the Cooper river?), heading into Charleston. It had a dedicated bike/pedestrian pathway, too! Way to go, Charleston!

Boiled peanuts - the local favorite

Bridges are awesome

Mike, contemplating the end of his ride

We stopped at a local restaurant, the Noisy Oyster, for some chow and to celebrate the end of Mike’s ride. The oyster and bacon po-boy was delicious, as was the generous helping of collard greens. Perhaps even more delicious (if that’s possible!) was the 5-layer chocolate cake that was dessert (I'll keep an eye out for this picture... I think it's on my phone). The glorious thing about riding your bike for several months at a time is that you can eat whatever you want. Cake. Donuts. Brownies. Fried chicken. Bring it on!

We headed over to meet Mike’s dad, Mick, who is a caretaker/gardener/jack-of-all-trades at a local Charleston mansion (that old style of architecture that you picture when you think of Southern homes) for a super nice couple, Mr. and Mrs. B. Mick gave us a ride in a car (cars go super fast!) to their house, where we met his wife Shawnee, and had a most excellent dinner of broccoli cheese soup and chicken and some beer. We also got to meet the local wildlife: the dog, the birds, and the crazy neighbors, who materialized out of the woods after an evening deer hunt went stale. Thanks to Mick and Shawnee and Mike for the hospitality; you guys are fantastic!!

Ed making friends with the birds (they pooped on him)

This little guy reminds me of one of the birds I used to have, except not evil

Halford, the sweetest dog ever

New post! Flat tires and new friends

Sorry for the delay! We took a detour (via car) to Tampa for Thanksgiving. Now we're back on the road (we biked from the same spot we hopped in the car, so we're not cheating, Dad!) I'll try to catch you up on what's been going on since Ed's last post.

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Also while in Wilmington, we happened upon the Front Street Brewery, where we had some delicious bratwurst, shrimp and grits, IPA, brown ale, and Baltic porter. Yum! Speaking of good food, we happened upon a BBQ place as we were riding out of Wilmington, and had some delicious fried chicken, hush puppies, and homemade chicken soup. We had a nice quiet ride past Fort Fisher , a civil war era fort that was used to protect blockade runners. Ed and I have both been surprised by the amount of history we’ve run across on this little trip.

We hopped on a short ferry to Southport, NC, a cute little tourist town with a decent amount of traffic around 4pm. We were pedaling furiously away from all the cars when, POP! I got a flat tire. I had actually worn out my back tire completely (always a great feeling!) so we stopped for some quick maintenance.

The next day we made it into South Carolina, where we met a wonderful addition to our little bicycle group. Enter Mike, a fellow touring cyclist (only the third touring cyclist we’ve seen for the past 2000 miles!). Mike is a park ranger in Katmai National Wilderness in Alaska and his bicycle has been all over the country (with him in tow, of course). On this trip, Mike was heading from Pittsburgh, PA to Charleston to have Thanksgiving with his dad. We all decided to ride the next few days together into Charleston. What a great decision!

Welcome to South Carolina

Us with Mike

Sunday, November 21, 2010

We made it to Florida, baby! And we've surpassed 2400 miles for the trip. Bring on the orange juice!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wilmington, and its mojo

In our last episode, your heroic heroes brushed elbows with America’s fighting forces and possibly suffered the side effects of America’s fighting all-beef gas station frankfurter.


Enter: Wilmington, NC.

About 6 months ago, Vanessa and I spent 23 hours in Wilmington for a dear friend’s wedding before I had to get back to Texas to study for the bar exam. 23 hours well spent, because I saw my friend enter the life matrimonial and I also passed the bar. However, 23 hours spent in Wilmington is about a week too short.

Wilmington is a town with moxie, and deserves more than 23 short hours. We also selected the proper weekend for a visit to Wilmington, because the city was hosting an Ironman triathlon the next day. 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a full marathon…all in the same day. When the locals spied me and Vanessa clad in bicycles and spandex, they assumed that we were Iron-people about to try an athalon. (Editor‘s note: the author refused to omit this unsuccessful attempt at humor. Our apologies.) Unfortunately, cherished readership, Vanessa and I are not Iron-people. We did, however, meet some Ironman triathlon participants. In a battle of perspective, the Ironmen tried to convince Vanessa and myself that they could never do what we are doing, and Vanessa and myself tried to convince the Ironmen that they were invincible endurance-psychotics. In all seriousness, the Ironman participants are inspirational folks, with mettle made of steel.

Thankfully, Vanessa and I didn’t have a crazy race for which to prepare, so we found a pub/Laundromat where we drank a few beers and made clean clothes. Wilmington was particularly vibrant that night because of the Cucalorus Film Festival, which attracted swarms of “folks interested in film,” otherwise known as hipsters and rich people. The film festival meant that most nightspots would be showing films that night, with a sizeable cover charge. In lieu of crowds and steep covers, your heroes ducked into Fat Tony’s for great all-you-can-stuff-into-your-face pizza and…….drum roll……WEEPING RADISH BEER! Our ride through North Carolina has come full circle! Brian, your beer keeps following us (or maybe we follow it)!

Wilmington, thank your for the clean clothes, the full bellies, and the quenched thirst.

Any day above ground is a good day.

Back on the road, and onto the condo-lined beaches. There are certain beach communities whose waterfront looks like an advanced game of Monopoly. Fortunately for your humble heroes, the tenants of said condominiums were elsewhere during their visit. This made for clear roads and an empty beach.

We made (a most excellent) camp at a public beach access, and enjoyed a clear sky on a deserted beach that night. As corny or lame as it may sound, we stared up at the clear sky for a few hours. We didn’t say much to each other, but we didn’t really need to. Oceanfront skylines are talkative, especially with the Milky Way cameos and the Cape Lookout lighthouse blinking miles and miles away. The next morning we had breakfast on the beach, which had come alive with fishermen and seagulls. This is the kind of life that you could get used to.

Get used to it we could not, as the road beckoned. That day we rode long. We passed Camp Lejeune, which boasts probably the highest concentration of badass fighting man-machines per square mile anywhere in the world. Our cycling landscape was populated that day with humvees, armored personnel carriers, and signs warning us of impending military training exercises.

A few miles removed from Camp Lejeune, I began to feel the effects of the (inedible, yet delicious) gas station hot dogs I had wolfed down earlier. As I struggled to mash down on the pedals, and I saw Vanessa pulling further and further ahead of me. I was utterly unable to make up the distance between us. Reasonable mind may differ, but I don’t think I bonked. I attribute my lack of muscular enthusiasm to the “all beef” hot dogs. (Editor’s note: Vanessa also ate a hot dog, and suffered no ill side effects. Ergo, Ed must be some kind of ninny.)
In our last episode, your wandering heroes discovered a side of North Carolina dotted with lighthouses and traversed by the ever-friendly Wimp and Midge.


The morning after the long ferry ride, we woke up at dawn to see the sun peeking its head over the Pamlico Sound, which made up the front yard of our campsite that day. Vanessa and I are typically slow risers, but that morning, a gaggle of ducks passed by our tent, which caused Vanessa to open the tent flap so she could greet the gaggle. As Vanessa kibitzed with the ducks, an ornery gander bit her finger. Don’t worry, though, kind reader. The bite was nothing more than a pinch, and didn’t so much as leave a mark.
Wimp and Midge poked their heads out of their camper and invited us to coffee, which the caffeine dependent authors graciously accepted.

We then decided to go ride bikes for the rest of the day. The first few hours into the ride off of Cedar Island were rather picturesque. Marshland and reeds went on for miles in every direction--the kind of scenery that makes you feel like you're the only person in the world. Once Wimp and Midge passed us in their truck, we didn’t have a single car’s worth of traffic coming from behind because the ferry had not yet arrived. It was desolate….almost.


The sense of isolation was broken by the sound of jets roaring overhead. Try as we might, we couldn’t see the responsible jets. We almost decided to become confused when a pair of fighter jets screamed overhead. As we would soon learn, isolated marsh is a fantastic place for Marine Corps pilots to practice sky ballet. Alongside the marsh ran a Marine Corps auxiliary landing strip, which provided me and Vanessa some entertainment as we pedaled down the road. The jets would bank and turn and roll in a most cinematic manner, and then provide us with a delayed and deafening audio track. One word encapsulates our fighter jet entertainers: cool.

PRO-TIP: When ogling supersonic fighter jets, keeping your eyes on the road keeps you upright!

As our isolated marsh broke into small towns, we decided to stop at the first coffee opportunity available. The first available coffee opportunity also happened to be the best available coffee opportunity on the eastern seaboard. The Davis Shore Provisions general store served coffee in all varieties, and employs the services of a Most Talented Baker Indeed. Pumpkin whoopee pies. Sourdough cinnamon rolls. Most talented baker? Indeed.

While inside the store, Ian strolls in. Ian, adventurer extraordinaire, had been strolling for quite a while. He was finishing up a hike from the mountains in western North Carolina to the Outer Banks. He had been hiking for a month or two with nothing but his backpack and a friendly disposition. Absent was the distinctive odor of someone who had been hiking for two months! What was supposed to be a quick coffee stop became a story-trading session between hiker and bikers. Another round of whoopee pies, please!