<Originally posted on BMWBMW.org - Aug, 2008>
The LOOOOONNNG Way to the Beach
Short version: (Will add the few photos I have, once home - I'm at "The Flying Pig" coffeehouse, in Oak Island).
Family vacation at Oak Island, NC this week. Daughter wants to attend Otakon, the Anime Convention at the B'more Convention Center - last bash with her high school friends - coming up Friday, 8/8-8/10.
With gas prices as they are, it seemed prudent NOT to take two cars that get 22 mpg, when she's got gear, and I've got a motorcycle that gets 45 mpg. So, I volunteered to ride down... and try to catch a few distant scavenger hunt pics.
Routed the long way down... 569 miles by GPS calc. Hitting Geo Wash birthplace, Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown and then The Great Dismal Swamp.
Departed at 3:30 am... just as I pass Liberty Rd on the Beltway, I get blasted by a heavy thunderstorm with driving rain. I manage to pull off at the Windsor Mill Rd overpass to put on the raingear. By the time I'm back underway, I'm standing in 2 inches of water in the gutter. GRRRR.
The really great part is that by the time I reach the Frederick Road exit, the roads are DRY, never a drop fell here.
I take 97 to 3 to 301... No traffic and I make the turn off 301 at VA Rt 3 at about 5:30am. wHAve an eggwich at the Sheetz and get underway again as the sun begins to rise.
The turn to the GW birthplace is a lovely narrow lane... Up ahead I spy what looks like turkey vultures, but turns out to be wild turkeys... a family! 2 adults and 3-4 chicken size younsters. Before I can get slowed down to get a photo, they scatter into the brush. Ah well.
Just enough light for a decent photo of the obelisk and sign.
Pack up and get underway.
GPS routing was set to make a fast but not highway heavy route. I take the turn off 3 at Flat Iron Rd.. FUN!! winding thru farmland. I follow country etiquette and wave at folks going the other way. A road closure detours me along waterways... Ospreys nesting, crab shacks. I'm not as good as others at choosing when to stop and take a pic. I guess I need to be more flexible. When the pic I want doesn't work out... I'm too quick to focus on moving on.
>>>Family is anxious to get back to beach house, so I'll continue later.
Sorry about the abbreviated first taste... I was sitting at "The Flying Pig" coffeehouse on Oak Island. Very good coffee, and Free Internet! But using Chaz's laptop is like working in fog. The setup is different enough (I hate the scroll pad thingy!) that it is too frustrating to do much finagling.
Anywhooo. My low fuel light came on as I approached Jamestown. My comfort zone extends to about 30 miles more AFTER that light comes on. Well, I was pushing 35 miles, then 40 miles, as I tried to find the proper "historic" shot. And of course, like Columbia, MD, all the commercial signage in the Historic Triangle is "tastefully understated" - read: INVISIBLE to folks who aren't from there. GRRRR.
Find a cool shot. (I manage to do the typical dumb/lost tourist maneuver: Slow waaay down, looking, then finally make a decision to turn. Oops! There was a car behind me. At least I don't take up much of a lane.) The entry sign for the settlement is a stick structure, partially wattled(?) with pinkish clay:
Now, GET GAS!!! The GPS (aka "Mrs Peal" after the character in The Avengers, she gives directions in British English) isn't much help, but I figure that heading on to Williamsburg should take me past SOME source of fuel. YAY!! There's a 7-eleven just a couple miles down the road. Some dork pulls his boat and trailer thru one (of the TWO) pump stations, gets out... goes inside. Grrr. I hate locals sometimes.
Gryndl needs just over 4.5 gallons. Not as low as I feared (capacity is 5.4 gal).
Now, Williamsburg. I make the choice to bypass the "Visitors' Center" in favor of getting a shot of some distinctive colonial building. I completely forgot that vehiclular traffic is restricted within the historic area. DUH!! If I'd gotten there before 8:30am I could have gotten a photo of the front Governors Mansion or The Kings Arms Tavern (a personal favorite of mine), but Nooooo, I'm stuck circling, and circling. Briefly consider a shot of William and Mary College. Nah.
Then I take another go 'round and spy the squatty shape of the Powder Magazine, complete with wooden stake fencing around the outside of the 7" high brick wall. This will have to do. From the corner of W/E Francis Street and S England Street:
I discovered a cool feature of Google Maps. You can get street views within areas. I searched "Governor's Palace" then you can click on 'street view' and outlines show up of streets that you can get a 360 degree view from. I found a view that includes the crosswalk where I too this pic from:
Click the photo and then find my way onto Colonial Parkway to get to Yorktown. Circle around once more... As I find Colonial Parkway, I spot the Windmill, AND about 4 people in colonial garb ... I wish I'd stopped. I wish I'd stopped. I wish I'd stopped. Would have been SO cool to have a pic of one of them holding my sign with the Windmill in the background.
Unfortunately, I've still got 5-7 hours of riding to do (at least), into the HEAT and humidity of an August day... On to Yorktown, and the Great Dismal Swamp.
The Colonial Parkway is much like the George Washington Parkway, up here. But, its three lanes wide, with no line marks. Traffic is expected to stay to the outer lanes, swinging around bicyclists only as needed. Pretty, thru trees and along the York River. I need this break from the general abuse of highway riding.
Pass some early rising motorcyclists. Pretty much all of them on cruisers wearing tank tops or t shirts, and half helmets. One VStrom rider in full gear. Must be a commuter.
At last, there's the sign for Yorktown. The pull off is a small lot overlooking the river. To one side I spy two tremendous cannons pointing at the mouth of the river. The sign doesn't say "Yorktown" but describes battle fortification and some generals' names. I take a pic of the cannons and my bike, anyhow. As I put my number away, I realize that across the road is the Victory Center. It's about 10 am. I'm starting to get a bit hungry, but have some water and decide I'll look for food later.
After Yorktown, my next/last goal is The Great Dismal Swamp. I continue along the Colonial Parkway and on to Hampton Roads/Newport News. Traffic is getting heavier. Truly amazing how many full size SUVs I see that are towing trailers or have hitch carriers loaded with more stuff than I can imagine needing for a month, let alone a week, at the beach.
The GPS is kind of vague on my destination (MapSource has its shortfalls), so I opt to read and follow signs as I get closer. I want the Headquarters/Main building or site. I've got no clue what I might find. I pass signs for the Jerico Ditch and Hudnell Ditch. Muse over what a "ditch" might refer to. Then I see a sign for GDS headquarters a couple miles ahead.
Note my scavenger hunt number taped on the back of my bike... I rode off with it still taped there. Didn't remember until I was in NC. <sigh>
Due to road closures (probably due to the fires, I didn't even NOTICE any smoke) I circled around a time or two before finally finding my way onto sr32. Then into North Carolina, and what I forget is a WASTELAND. Nothing but farm fields (tobacco! something we don't see often up this way anymore), farmhouses, barns and tired, sad gas station. The temperature is rising, my Camelback by now contains WARM water, and I'm getting hungry. I keep holding out that I'll encounter SOME little hamlet with a quick mart, or something.
Nope. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Finally, I see signs of civilization. But not even town names I recognize. At last, at a turning point, I spy a Food Lion in a strip center, with a couple fast food places out front. Windsor, NC.
It is after 1pm and I'm FAMISHED. There's a newly opened Bojangle's (fried chicken) restaurant. Hmmm. I could use some fried chicken and some SuhWEET tea about now.
No shade to park the bike in. No shade, period. Ick. But at least there's food. I slide off the seat and try to decide what to take inside and what can stay on the bike. Bring in the helmet, gloves. Everything else stays. Ah, its cool inside. But the line is long. Fine, I can set down my stuff and use the restroom.
Ah, Carolina Style Sweet Tea, with free refills. I opt for two thighs, and fries. Comes with a biscuit. I can't find any ketchup for the fries, but I'm too hungry to care. The chicken is GOOD. And so is the biscuit. While I'm finishing up, my father in law calls my cell phone (this is an extended family vacation) from the road. He doesn't know that I'm not in the car with everybody. . . It seems he got a late start, and has run into a bit of a back up somewhere in Virginia. He was just checking in. I tell him I've been keeping in touch with hubby via text message, he should call his phone.
I hang out in the cool for a bit longer have some more sweet tea. Then I can't delay the inevitable any longer. I gather my stuff and get back underway. The Camelbak is starting to make me crazy. My back hurts and I can't seem to get comfortable. I want to NOT be wearing it. However, it won't fit in either of the sidecases (yes, I over packed them), and I did not bring any straps. Stupid.
Now, I begin focusing on just getting there. Unfortunately, since I've headed so far east, I don't have easy access to the 70 mph highways. I take Rt13 on to Rt 11 S. Not bad. Not memorable, either. I make decent time. Thru Greenville, then Kinston, Hargetts Store, and Beulaville before connecting with Rt 40 at around 4pm, heading toward Wilmington. Rt 40 traffic is quick. I make good time, but it is getting late in the afternoon and beach traffic is building. Grrr. So is the heat.
My original route included taking the Ft Fisher Ferry, but had discounted it as probably slower. Then, after sitting in stop and go traffic for about 20 minutes on the "faster" route, I decide that the ferry would probably be smarter for me, given my growing fatigue.
The ride to the ferry terminus is not bad. Traffic is thick, but mostly moving. The Fort is big and old, from the Civil War. There is more there than I expected. But I'm too tired to care much. I make the turn for the ferry with about 10 minutes to spare. There's another bike already waiting, and I can bypass the waiting cars and go to the front of the line with them. Small favors.
I park and pull off my helmet, intending to get a soda before boarding the ferry. But I forget to take my wallet with me, and when I turn around I run into the other bikers. Get to talking... Now, there is NOT enough time for me to go and get a cold drink from the vending machines. Its 5:15pm. I've been on the bike for over 12 hours. As the ferry is ready to load, the doofus guy directing traffic (in a Coast Guard (?) uniform) gets distracted with saluting and chatting up fellow military folks, and fails to load the motorcycles first. We end up loading somewhere in the middle of the pack of cars. I'm not happy, but nothing I can do. I'm just grateful for a break that will actually get me closer to my destination.
I'm hot and sweaty. I desperatetly want to take off the Olympia suit, but realize that putting it back on will be worse after brief freedom. There is no way to carry it on the bike, except to wear it. Instead, I unzip it to my waist and let it hang.
The guy on the other bike is with his son. Dad has a flip face helmet, son's is 3/4, sneakers, t shirts. The bike is a nice looking Nighthawk 750. They make the usual comments about my "space suit." Not much I can say... Yes, its hot when I'm not moving. But the mesh is nice on the road. I'm sure my face is red from the heat (curse my fair complexion), so there is certainly no point in arguing. I leave Gryndl and go to the cabin to get a cold drink from the vending machines there. An Orange Crush. Its icy cold and sweet. It occurs to me I ought to get out my camera. But it just seems like too much effort.
The GPS draws some attention. An older gentleman wanders by eyeing the bike. He tells me its nice looking. According to Mrs Peal, the ferry takes about 10 minutes to get up to 10 miles per hour. My exhaustion starts to settle in and I briefly try to come up with a way to leave the bike at the ferry terminal and go to the cottage for a recharge. Not practical. I finish my soda and focus on relaxing. The trip takes just over 20 minutes. I actually feel a bit better for the break. Finally we offload. I wave good bye to the father and son, and get back underway.
Just a few miles more. I head out thru Southport and around the bend. Traffic is thicker here. My gas light came on sometime before the Ferry, but I'm close enough now, that I don't even worry about it. Gas can be had tomorrow.
Nearing the turn for Oak Island, I pass a school of squids on scooters - 5 of them on yellow scooters, 20 somethings, t shirts, shorts, flip flops, half helmets. One guy has his legs stuck out with the flip flops dangling off his toes. He waves jauntily at me as they go by.
I can smell the beach. Finally across the Intracoastal Waterway and onto Oak Island. Most things look the same as two years ago. Turn at the Eagle's Beach outlet. Hmm, which house? As I try to identify it, I pass where our Saturn is parked under one of the houses. Got to go around again. Wow, right across the street from the beach. No house between us and the sand. Fifth house from the corner - the one with a palm tree in front.
The GPS says it is 6:29pm. Thats almost 15 hours on the road. Criminy. 580 miles. All I can think about is getting out of the suit and off my feet.
My hands hurt. My hips ache. My back hurts. My ears hurt from the helmet.