Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spring 15 Tour Day 9 - Biscoe to Oakboro NC

The great Spring 15 Tour is over. It was a grand total of approximately 645 miles over 9 days.

It was only 43 miles today, and it was another beautiful spring day. Even more hills, but no biggie. Most of the day was riding through a national forest.

I've found Google Maps on Android to be very effective at plotting bike routes. You tell it where you want to go on your bike, and it gives you two or three choices, with an elevation profile and total climb for each. What's interesting down here is the slightly longer routes tend to be the better choice. The more direct routes are newer roads that have more traffic, and the older roads follow the contour of the land better, which means you are doing less climbing in and out of valleys. I spent a lot of the day on meandering roads with no traffic that follow ridge lines.

Breakfast was at the Waffle House across the street from the Days Inn.

Lunch was the Wayside Family Restaurant in Oakboro, two miles from the bluegrass festival site. It was fantastic. Jim and Suzanne ventured forth from bluegrass for dinner, and it was closed, so they went to the Italian-Chinese place up the street. I think I made a better choice...

Here is the bluegrass festival, which is at an old farm which is now a campground/auction house/festival site. It was very low key, and comfortable, with great music.

There was a rooster hanging out in the barn my bike is leaning against. I wonder if anyone knows he lives up there?

One of my favorite performers was the Bass Mountain Boys. They spent most of their time on stage telling bad jokes and talking about how old and fat they are. They would do a song once in awhile, while claiming they couldn't remember how it goes because they haven't played more than 10 shows in the last 10 years.

So that's it, it was a great week and a half. Here is the track on Strava:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Spring 15 Tour Day 8 - Cary to Biscoe, NC

Yep, 80 more miles today with hills and headwinds, and I'm still handsome. That yellowish tinge to my skin is pollen. The air is so thick with pine pollen it looks foggy sometimes.

I rode by myself today, since Jim is now doing the family vacation thing since he has ridden 502 miles already and that's enough he says. I feel like I'm just getting started.

It was a pretty grueling day. Mostly nonstop hills. Big headwinds in the afternoon.  Temperature in the mid 80s. I had to go 80 miles to get to this Days Inn I'm at, which is the only motel for 20 miles in any direction. The online reviews for this place (two stars) are quite humorously bad. I was giving the highlights of them to Suzanne at dinner last night, who is amused by where Jim and I will stay when we are on our own, because she isn't there.

"I'm pretty sure something bit me"
"There are footprints on the walls"
"There are more pubic hairs than I can count with my fingers and toes."

Honestly. THIS MOTEL IS JUST FINE THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH IT. None of those things are true. RDOQ. Those reviews are probably all from people who are sad they can't spend $100 more on the Hampton Inn or something and have it come with a blow dryer and clothes iron.

It's right off the exit to I-73, behind the Food Lion and the Family Dollar. It's on the opposite side of the street from the giant sawmill. There is a Bojangles, Hardees, Waffle House, and Chinese place across the parking lot. I did the Chinese, and washed it down with a Mello Yello from the vending machine in front of the Food Lion. It hit the spot.

The real highlight was Mrs. Wegner's Restaurant back in Sanford. Tasty homestyle Southern cooking, and dirt cheap. Lunch was $7!

Just don't make them mad.

It's mostly "forests" now, which are really tree farms. There are lots of log trucks on the road, and saw mills. Occasional big ugly clearcuts. And incredible amounts of pine pollen. Giant yellow clouds everywhere.

I was on US Bicycle Route 1 for most of the morning. This route is the East Coast Greenway, which runs right by my house on the BWI trail and the Grist Mill Trail. Yesterday's trails through Raleigh were part of it. This section southwest of Raleigh was once US 1. The current US 1 runs parallel to the old road here, and is a freeway.

Despite the hills and headwinds, today was magnificent. I feel great, the scenery is great, and springtime is in full force down here.

Here is the track on Strava:

Spring 15 Tour Day 7 - Rocky Mount to Cary NC

I made my after-ride picture today extra big because I am so handsome.

We did 68 miles today. There are hills now, and the high was around 80. It was a very scenic ride, with back roads for the first half, and bike trails through Raleigh.

For the most part, the bike trails were really nice, although the trail through Raleigh was a bit of a mud pit in places, and we had to walk through a construction site at one point. I think they build the trail on top of the main sewer line in town, which is a clever thing to do if you are going to need an access road for maintenance anyway.

Jim's bike looks really tough after the ride today.

We are in Cary, a planned community which will suck your soul and leave you a lifeless husk. However, they do have an REI here, where I borrowed a floor pump and a staff member to pump up my tires, and got some electrolyte powder and some oil for the bike.

They also have a nice microbrew pub across the way. Suzanne asked what the rating was on the Internet. I pointed out that it is in between a Panera Bread, Red Robin, and Golden Corral. That tells you more than any Internet reviews, in my opinion.

We are staying at a fancy Holiday Inn. It has a pool for the girls. It also has a sad little bar, but that is better than nothing. They could not make a margarita, but they could manage a double Jack and Coke.

Lunch was at a Mexican place next to the Wal-Mart in Zebulon. It was yummy.

After the bike trail, we rode through the campus of NC State, which could have been a road through any office park. There was the humongous hill final hill of the day on that road.

Jim is now done riding, after doing 502 miles in one week. This is the RAGBRAI equivalent. I'm going to continue on, and meet them at the bluegrass festival on Saturday afternoon.

Here is the Strava track for today:

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Spring 15 Tour Day 6 - Plymouth to Rocky Mount NC

Hello from the fancy Country Inn and Suites in Rocky Mount, NC.

We are staying here because Suzanne and the girls have left Virginia Beach, and now traveling with us in the van. I think they are here, they had not shown up yet when I fell asleep last night.

These fancy places have all the special touches that you wouldn't expect. Jim figured out that the nightstand where the bible is has a drawer handle that works as a beer bottle opener.

Anyway, yesterday was 72 miles. It was hot out! I didn't expect that! It was in the mid 80s all afternoon, mostly sunny, wind from the south, which was not a big deal since we are headed west.

We started with 20 miles on US 64, which was a divided 4 lane road with a very narrow shoulder. This was not great, but there wasn't much traffic. On the other hand, what traffic there was was mostly log trucks. After that it was all two lane roads with no shoulder until Rocky Mount.

The terrain is not completely dead flat any more, there are easy rolling hills sometimes. I have shifted gears today, but no need to shift the chainring yet.

Since it was threatening rain all morning, we did the "If it's not raining, we should be riding" rule, and did 20 miles before breakfast, which turned out to be an early lunch. Delicious North Carolina Bar-B-Q in Williamston.

I was negligent about taking pictures today. This is because the phone was back in the trunk rack, and I would have to get off the bike. It was mostly agricultural fields. Cotton mostly.

Here is the diner where we had dinner up the street from the hotel. This is nothing special, just food off the exit ramp.

Here is the Strava track for today:

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Spring 15 Tour Day 5 - Nags Head to Plymouth NC

Hello from Plymouth, North Carolina, Plymouth is 76 miles from Nags Head. The wind was a cross wind from the south, which is why we got in two hours earlier than yesterday, which had tough headwinds. Temperatures were in the 70. All in all, a beautiful day.

It's been sunny out, so I've got that bike tourist tan going. You can tell I always wear my helmet.

There isn't much on Nags Head compared with our Maryland and Delaware beach towns. You can tell there used to be even less, and they've built lots of big houses along the beach in recent years. You can still feel the little bungalow and bait shop vibe sometimes.

Here's the approach to Roanoke Island, you can see a bunch of new townhouses in the distance. Roanoke is the site of Capt. John Smith's lost colony, Pocahontas, and all that.

 Here is a picture of my leg that I took by mistake. I decided I like this picture, so I'm keeping it and putting in on the blog. If I meant to take this picture of my leg, there would be a "No cell phone use while driving" sign in the background.

Breakfast was on the mainland, 10 miles down the road and over two long bridges, at this country store. Nothing was open in Nags Head. There was a diner on Roanoke, but I was ahead of Jim when I turned off the main road to get to it, and Jim kept riding.

The route today was way better than I thought it would be. We were more or less following US 64. I expected to spend most of the day riding the shoulder of 64, or on frontage roads, but it turned out 64 has little traffic and goes through crazy wild swamps for the first 30 miles. There is a progression of ever more alarming warning signs:


Jim does not like signs about dangerous wildlife, which I learned when we rode across the Everglades where there are signs about panthers. I found some news articles about mountain lions in Iowa to reassure him before RAGBRAI after that.

There were lots of pileated woodpeckers flying over.

We had lunch at the Good Times Tavern and Restaurant in Columbia, NC. Barbecue, corn nuggets, and fried okra, just like you would hope.

After Columbia, we had 30 miles of back roads. This was your classic rural south in the springtime. Lots of decaying buildings, collapsing barns, flowers, and trees in blossom. There were tractors tilling cotton fields.

We are staying at the immaculately clean and spacious Sportmans' Inn, a classic old roadside motel. RDOQ at it's best. There is a Holiday Inn Express next door, where you can spend more money for no reason. There is also a Bojangles, so we ate tasty chicken while watching the Orioles game in our room. Cable systems in North Carolina have MASN, so you can chalk one up in the WIN COLUMN for that!

Here is the track on Strava:

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Spring 15 Tour Day 4 - Virginia Beach to Nags Head, NC

Hello from Nags Head North Carolina! At the fabulous Rodeway Inn!

It was a tough day today. 83 miles of stiff headwinds. It was slow going, on narrow shoulders of four lane roads. It was a beautiful sunny day, temperatures in the low 70s.

We started with Breakfast at Java Surf, in Virginia Beach.

They have art you can buy on the walls at Java Surf.

I can't even begin to figure out what's going on with that painting.

The plan for the day was to go south into North Carolina to Knotts Island, then take the Currituck Ferry back to the mainland, then go south and over a bridge to the Outer Banks. We rode through Kitty Hawk, and end at Nags Head.

For this to work we would have to make the 12:00 ferry, which Google Maps says is 32.5 miles from the start. We left at 9:00, which you would think would be no problem. But there were bad headwinds, and mostly all salt marsh with no trees to block the wind.

We made it with 10 minutes to spare. We had a scare when the sign 10 miles from the ferry said it was 12 miles to the ferry.

Here is an osprey. It had it's nest on a piling right next to the ferry landing.

To get out to the island, you take the Wright Memorial Bridge. It is two two-lane spans. It is two miles long. Minimal shoulder. One span was closed for construction. So it was one span each way, with posts between the lanes. After a few cars passed us, the next vehicle behind us was a big truck pulling a giant RV. It was two wide to pass us. So we created a massive backup as we rode across.

And here is the ocean at Kitty Hawk.

Lunch was at the Pass the Salt Cafe, right by the ferry landing. It was great. Dinner was next door at Sam and Omie's, where Abbie the bartender makes very strong margaritas.

Today was opening day, I listened to the Orioles game while riding. If I stick my phone in the front of the trunk rack it's right behind my head, and I can hear it great. The O's won 6-2 and it sounds like they were very sharp.

Here are the tracks for today.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Spring 15 Tour Day 3 - Exmore to Virginia Beach, VA

It was a wonderful short ride today. We went 32 miles down to the lower tip of the Virginia Eastern Shore, then I did another 12 across Virginia Beach to meet Debra, Max, and Jim's family for lunch.

Riding the lower Eastern Shore is terrific. You really never have to go on US 13. You can do scenic back roads that parallel the highway the whole way. We were really happy with this route.

Here I am at the end of the first leg, waiting for Debra to come shuttle us over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

Check out the shoulder on the Bridge-Tunnel. I could ride that. I could even ride that for 22 miles, which is how long the Bridge-Tunnel is.

Riding the tunnel sections might be a problem though.

I went across Virginia Beach on the Cape Henry Trail. It looks pretty nice here, and it's really scenic the whole way.

Still looking good here, too. But just after this it becomes not paved for four miles, with lots of sandy patches. This is not enjoyable on a recumbent with skinny racing tires. At all.

Amazingly, I got the KOM on Strava for the full trail...

Here is the end of day at Doc Taylor's in Virginia Beach. This was a bit of an adventure, because Jim kept calling it "Doc Martin's", which made me wonder what kind of place it was, and I couldn't find it on the map anywhere.

Everybody is happy because of food. Also Bloody Marys.

Here are the Strava tracks.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Spring 15 Tour Day 2 - Salisbury, MD to Exmore, VA

Howdy from Exmore, Virginia!


I'm sure happy because this was about the easiest 70 mile day of bike touring ever. Temperature around 60, dead flat terrain all day, and a roaring 20 mph tailwind.

You might be wondering how come we only went 70 miles if it was flat and there was a roaring 20 mph tailwind. The answer is because Jim was only managing 12 mph at best despite the tailwind, and generally had the demeanor of someone enduring a death march rather than enjoying bike touring.

I think he rode more miles yesterday than he had in the entire year to date.

So we decided to adjust our plans, and not attempt to ride 100 miles today to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Despite the roaring 20 mph tailwind. We decided to ride until we decided to stop, somewhere where there was a motel with food nearby, especially if there was a bar.

Yep, right next door. Electrolyte Replenishment Therapy, and steak and cake (although they don't know it's called that). No 6, it's (Red Dot of) Quality night.

So tomorrow will be a short day (30 miles) to the bridge-tunnel, then we will proceed at an enjoyable pace until wherever we wind up on Thursday night. Then Suzanne will pick up Jim, and they will go listen to banjo music, and I will continue to ride and get to banjo music whenever I get there, or Suzanne will fetch me on Sunday morning on the way home.

The scenery today was quite nice. There were way less stinky chicken farms, and way more nice forests.

 Much of the morning was on the Seagull Century route from Salisbury to Pokomoke City Maryland. It was sad to leave the spray painted seagulls behind.
Here is my bike leaning on something by Pokomoke City. I spend a lot of time standing around waiting for Jim to catch up, so I might as well take pictures.

Lunch was in the middle of nowhere at the awesome 4 Shore Mart. You might think it looks sketchy, but the delicious smell of burgers cooking on the grill when you walk in totally overcomes the impression left by the plexiglass and unfinished 2x4 cage around the cashier. The bacon cheeseburger sub totally had the required 30 miles in it.

Breakfast this morning was at Bob next to the 6. Nothing interesting to report on that.

But here is a good story from the Golden Corral experience last night. I'm in the line to the cashier, where you pay in advance and get your drink and a tray.

Bored cashier girl: "You have any special discounts, active military, retired, stuff like that?"
Me: "Nope, I'm just handsome. Do I get anything for that?"
Bored cashier girl: "You sure do! $17.40."
Dim cashier guy from the other register looking over her shoulder: "You didn't give him any discount!"
Now indignant cashier girl: "He was joking."
Me: "Maybe I should have said I was modest. Would that get me anything?"
Rest of people in line: laughter.

Here's the track on Strava. Note the massive 66 feet of climb over 73 miles.

Spring 15 Tour Day 1 - Home to Salisbury, MD

Hello from the Motel 6 in Salisbury, MD! It's the end of the first day of the Spring 2015 bike tour, in which JIm and I ride to North Carolina to hear banjo music.

Today was warm, up to 70 outside, and mostly light rain all day, with some heavy showers in the late afternoon.

Suzanne is driving along more or less with us with a minivan, so we are traveling light. I'm riding the Z-Bone, and I only have 20 lbs. of stuff. That is the lightest I've ever toured.

The first leg of today's ride was from home to the west end of the Bay Bridge. Jim rode with me. He says he can't remember when ridden more than an hour and a half. He is slow, especially on hills. And he was 40 minutes late getting started. We got to my favorite deli, Caroline's Gourmet, at noon, where I ate. Jim met Suzanne at the McDonalds. Suzanne ferried us over the Bay Bridge.

Jim decided to shorten his day by starting at 404 and 50. So they dropped me off at the Valero in Stevensville, and continued on. I headed out on the Kent Island bike trail. At the end of the trail there was a big problem.

The old Kent Narrows bridge is closed and under construction. I was completely unsuccessful trying to talk the construction workers into letting me go through the construction site on my bike. The only other way off the island is US 50, which is a limited access freeway. Here is what it looks like from the east end of the new Kent Narrows bridge.

Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I had to pretend not to notice two different "No Bicycles Allowed" signs. 50 has a nice shoulder, but it still was horrible.

The thing about the Eastern Shore most people don't realize is it's all chicken farms. It's 50 miles of stinking chicken manure. I like to think of this as the "Larry Hogan Bike Route", after our new governor who has made Maryland "Open For Business". Every single new pro-business policy he has come up with can be described as "Let Polluters Pollute".

I hammered it out and caught up with Jim around Federalsburg. Somehow I passed him without seeing him and got to the Woodland Ferry first. I had to wait here for about 20 minutes. Luckily there was a gap between rain showers.

18 miles later, we are in to the Motel 6, just after sundown. Dinner was the Golden Corral next door. You don't get many choices by the 6 in Salisbury.

It was 106 miles for me, and 87 heroic miles for Jim.

Here are the tracks on Strava: