Saturday, August 23, 2014
Bicycling from Newport News to Chesapeake, VA via the Jamestown Ferry July 2
July 2..... 77 miles in 6:37.......Thank God I didn't ride deeper into Newport News, like I had originally planned. I thought I would stay close to the James River Bridge, and just ride across it and follow US 17 through Portsmouth and Chesapeake, like I did when I did this trip several years ago. Newport News, Portsmouth, and Chesapeake are basically one big metro area, and I rode through on a Sunday, so traffic wasn't bad, but it was in civilization at all times. Not so this time!!! Last time I didn't have GPS, therefore I had no one inform me that it was illegal for bicyclists to ride on the James River Bridge until I was halfway across. It is just a huge, long bridge, with metal grate surface, and as I struggled across it last time, I had a motorist slow down and offer me a ride. I thought that was weird until he informed me that I wasn't allowed there. Well, I was half way, and I just kept on pedaling, and in made it without the bicycle police giving me life in front of the firing squad. That stayed in the back of my mind I guess, because I looked on the Internet and got the official word, while I rested at the motel: NO BICYCLES. It was also a weekday, and I knew what traffic could be like, so I decided to take the ONLY route a cyclist could ride. I headed three miles north, back the way I came, to pick up US 60, which took me right through historical Williamsburg, and west on Jamestown Rd, right past the Jamestown Settlement Historical Area, to the ferry. I left the motel at 7:30 AM to beat what was going to be stifling heat, and tourist traffic. I rode through Williamsburg before any tourists were in the street, beat traffic, the heat wasn't terrible yet, so all was going well. The ferry was scheduled to leave at 9:00 AM. I got there at 9:00:30, and missed the damn thing, because I stopped at a 7-11 for a water refill. The ride to the ferry was about 13 miles. As I stood at the ramp for a half an hour, waiting for the next ferry, and then took the 25 minute ferry ride across the water, the temperature soared.
Instead of the traffic filled adventure through the metro area, I got a pretty boring ride through the Virginia countryside, passing no stores, no water, and no civilization. There were homes, but no people anywhere. They were working, or locked up inside their air conditioned homes, because it was HOT. My GPS @$itch, took me on sand packed forest trails, and state roads that all looked alike. I had one detour for bridge construction, and the trip took me a few miles out if the way, but I figured it out, despite GPS girl not being able to comprehend that there was a detour, and constantly trying to turn me around. That is a major problem with her. There are also other problems, which I will detail later. At some point, I passed a lake, Prince Lake I believe, and I stopped at the boat ramp to cool off. It didn't really work because the water was so warm, it was not refreshing. I take cooler showers. A contributing factor to the intense heat, was the crazy humidity. I had been told that the weather before and after a hurricane was usually unbearable, and Hurricane Arthur was just two days away, which caused a multitude of problems in itself, but more on that later. After the refreshment failure at the lake, I began to feel like the rest of the ride could be very uncomfortable. It wasn't uncomfortable, it downright sucked. I knew not where I was, my water bottles were empty, and fatigue was accumulating from days of pretty significant mileage. I finally stopped at a house with a hose bib, and at least got some warm water, which would help physiologically, but was about as refreshing as a warm beer. I like my water at least cool, or it just doesn't quench my thirst, at least psychologically.
Eventually, after way too many miles, I came to a sign that told me I was in Suffolk, which really wasn't where I expected to be. I had ridden 50 heat seeking miles, to hardly go anywhere, compared to the real estate I would have covered if I had just taken the bus across the bridge. Now I know. Now you know. Take the bus. Even with traffic. At least you can get food and water. Fortunately I had packed some Clif Bars, an energy bar that is my favorite ( chocolate chip!) the only other saving grace was the shade of the tall trees that shaded much of the country roads in Virginia. Whenever there was a home or something besides farming fields, Virginians of 100 years ago liked to leave a buffer of trees between their yards and the roads, hence, really tall, old, stands of trees next to the road. I could usually find some relief, even when the sun was directly overhead.
The outskirts of Suffolk became busier and busier as I got closer to town, and after all that solitude in the name of safety, GPS girl put me on US 13, 460, and 58, a divided six lane highway with New York City like traffic, and very dirty, dangerous ( even though they were wide ) shoulders. I rode that for about ten miles, towards Portsmouth, which really made me realize how little actual distance I had traveled. Very frustrating. Very hot. Very humid.
I finally was taken off off the main road, so I stopped to contact Pam. We had made arrangements for her to pick me up at the Wawa Store in Great Bridge, which is a southern suburb of Chesapeake, near the North Carolina state line ( sort of). This development was necessitated by the previously mentioned by the name of Hurricane Arthur. We felt that they would probably shut down Hatteras Island sometime Thursday, and if I rode tomorrow ( Thursday), we might not be able to get back on the island if there was an evacuation. I was not close enough to make it to Hatteras by bike until Friday, and the hurricane was predicted to hit Thursday night. Also, complicating matters, is that there are virtually zero motels in North Carolina until you get to the Outer Banks. I solved that problem last time by taking a different route through the Dismal Swamp, to Elizabeth City, and staying there. I did not want to do that again because it was longer, just as boring and desolate, plus, everyone being evacuated from the Outer Banks would take all the hotel rooms. Knowing what we knew, and guessing the rest, we decided that she would come and get me, drive back to our trailer, ride out the storm like locals, and enjoy the experience of 6 inches of rain, 75 mph winds, no power, flooding, and everything else that comes with an Outer Banks hurricane. A once in a lifetime experience. I was shocked that Pam wanted to do this, but she was committed with a group of friends, and I was game. Anyhow, back to contacting Pam. When I stopped, GPS said I had 18 miles left, which would make my trip 92 miles. When I plugged it in to the GPS, it was supposed to be an 84 mile trip. GPS was doing it to me again. My 99 mile trip to Jamie's turned out to be 132 miles. My short ride to Andi's turned into a nightmare. This damn thing is adding mileage to my rides, or not calculating them properly to start. I had never heard of such a thing, or had not had a problem like this, ever, till last week. In the past, I sucked it up and did the mileage, but this is getting out of control. I can no longer trust what it tells me, but okay, I would do 92 miles on a 92 degree day with 92% humidity. Cool. Once in a lifetime. I can do it.
I rode for about 4-5 miles before I came to a little gas station type convenience store, and I saw an opportunity to get an ice cream bar before the last 14-15 miles. I checked the GPS again, and it had changed again. I was now 21 miles from the destination that I was 18 miles from a half an hour ago!! It also said it was 95 degrees with a heat index of 105. Traffic was getting worse as quitting time approached. ENOUGH. I called Pam and told her I was done. She had to drive an extra 25 minutes from the original Wawa pickup point to get me. She did. We got back onto the island to ride out the storm.