When picking routes, often I start by opening a map and looking for nearby geographical features or land masses, especially new ones. North Carolina's map revealed a series of long, narrow islands flung far to the east of the main body of land. I would discover later they're called the Outer Banks, a string of barrier islands and peninsulas connected by ferries, promising a very different view of the state than the mountainous Blue Ridge Parkway.
The recent rain in Richmond let up to reveal crisp cobalt skies, so Davide rode alongside me as far as the Jamestown Ferry. He'd take the loop back to Richmond, the same route we'd ridden before for BBQ. On the boat he mentioned sadly that it would probably be his last ride out of town for the season, and he really had 'rally withdrawal' now. I feel you, Davide, which is why I gotta go south. It's like every year I flee the winter or something...
The ride was short, clear and brilliant, accentuated by some mutant bugs that ricocheted off my helmet like rocks, and one gregarious veteran who was very interested in my leftover lunch. "Is that Chinese food? Indian food? Are you Indian? Are they doing anything for Veteran's day? Were you in the military? You can stay with me, I live with my mom so you don't have to worry about no hanky panky." Before he moved on, he foisted upon me his number and suggested the place on the corner that was giving pizza to those who served. Another slice of another person's life by the roadside. I'm terrible at keeping track of holidays.
Tim had invited me to stay with him and Dottie in Hertford for a few days, then continue to tour the Banks as far as Don's home in Oak Island (I believe I met them both at Amerivespa, possibly separately, and kept in touch on the MV forums). I arrived just in time for a classy dinner reservation in town with friends. At home, he impressed me with the plan for the Banks:
Apparently, Tim usually paddles miles of this pond, but I was so taken by the cypress that I just poked around one corner for hours. It seems even on a kayak I poke around and move slow.
Dottie met us for a fried southern dinner feast, and in the morning Tim fixed yet another hearty breakfast – poached eggs last time, leftover catfish and fried eggs this time. Over coffee I watched the squirrels on the porch gorging themselves on seeds, and wondered if they thought they'd hit the jackpot by finding this endless buffet, a squirrel heaven. It crossed my mind how many people spend decades of effort trying to shape their lives into what boils down to an endless buffet – secure, plenty, and always available of whatever they desire. But what would one do once you've achieved squirrel heaven? Surely this is how neurosis is born. Or is it already a deviation to thrive on adversity?
On that note, it was time Tim and I packed for the road. Dottie said she would miss us, and bid me to take care of Tim. "The weather is always fair for the sailor with time," he responded. Tim and Dottie once lived on a 36ft sailboat, before finding their current home. It makes scooting seem downright tame by comparison.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial was on my destination list, and I was not disappointed. They have a small but great museum, and it's pretty awe inspiring to take in the scope of their achievement and innovation.
|Ms. Agnes is Tim's copilot...after he skinned her mom for his seat.|
That sheepskin has an Airhawk under it too. It's like sitting on a cloud.
Tim spoiled me with a stay in an actual bed and breakfast, Edwards of Ocracoke. The interior was a time capsule of midcentury island decor; I didn't know wicker even lasted that long.
|Ocracoke Coffee Co for morning fill up.|
|Scoot by the British Cemetery. They're everywhere!|
|Resting in Beaufort after a grueling day of riding around small island towns and sitting on a ferry.|
I must thank Tim especially for this leg of the trip, because the touristy towns along the Banks are prohibitively expensive for me to stick around. I would have motored right through, seeking a cheaper campground inland. With Tim, we could take the late ferry, arrive in Beaufort at a leisurely pace, and spend the evening poking around the marina, chatting over dinner, and walking into live music (Nova Scotian folk guitar – he totally had a song about hockey).
Tim was ready to turn in for the evening when I got a ping from Fred: Would I be watching UFC 193 tonight, Rousey versus Holm? Damn, that's tonight?! A quick check revealed the closest venue would be Hooters of Morehead City. It was a 9 mile ride, over a windy bridge in 7 C and falling. But... Rousey versus Holm! I conferred with Tim, who was far too much of a refined English gentleman to have gone to watch a fight before. I might have also had to explain the concept of a Hooters.
"Well," he conceded reluctantly, casting a longing look at the soft armchair and warm bed, "I may as well go to keep you out of trouble." I was already pulling on my warmest riding layers.
The place was packed when we arrived, but I managed to befriend a table where we could stand and set our drinks while watching. Tim took in the scene quietly while Hooters patrons Ooohed and winced at blows exchanged, or cheered when they went to the ground, loudly making bets as to whether there would be a next round. Occasionally, he asked questions, "Is this one of the lead up games?" or simply, in response to the weight of fighters, "I was a lot at 190lbs." Some part of me was slightly pleased I managed to pull Tim out of his comfort zone in our short travels together, and I think he had a decent time.
And of course, the place exploded at Holm's knockout win. I exchanged excited texts with Fred, who'd watched from a townie bar in Boston, and scooted back feeling like I witnessed a small piece of history.
|A passerby suggested visiting Fort Macon, and I do like clambering around old forts, so here we are.|
Don and Linda welcomed us into their spacious and comfortable home, and we talked rides by the gas fire until it was time to pile into a car for a fantastic dinner with an ocean view. Perhaps it was being up late the night before, but I disappeared in the big fluffy towels and pillow top mattress that night.
|Scoot by another lighthouse, this one is the Oak Island Lighthouse.|
|Wrap up at Flying Pig Coffee House, the spot to be to read the paper, chat with friends, play board games, or assemble puzzles.|
But Tim has to get home. Safe journeys!
|I got to borrow the 946 for a ride to the coffeehouse! It's zippy for a 150, nice weight and tight handling.|
Not that I'd been pushing hard, but I had one more rest day to steep in the island pace. We rode to Southport to walk by the sea, stopping for lunch at Fishy Fish. In the evening, Don and Linda invited me along to their clubhouse's Tuesday DJ night. I might have been one of the few people less than half a century old and Don and Linda admitted that the de facto country music wasn't quite their taste either, but they still got up to dance and it was adorable. Don mentioned that he liked the community for being diverse and active, and after all the summer season towns I could see his point.
I savored my last night on the pillow top before packing up to continue south.
|One more stop to add a few jigsaw puzzle pieces at Flying Pig before farewell.|
Thank you so much, Tim, Dottie, Don, and Linda, for sharing the Banks with me. I couldn't have wished for better hosts and guides.