Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015
Mesa to OBX

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

May 10, 2016 Edenton, NC to Rodanthe, NC

105.16 miles in 8:38 average speed of 12.2 mph, which I will take, considering the last 85 miles were into a headwind. My first real headwind of the year. I had some headwind when I hit the dry line in Texas, but it wasn't for the whole day. I really got lucky with the wind on this trip. If I didn't have a full tailwind, at least it was hitting me in the side. My final mileage total for the entire trip was 2737.49 miles, in 34 days, for an average of 80.51 miles per day. Ascent.... 538 ft, for the entire trip, 68,682 ft. I would say that most of my ascent today was going over the six bridges that crossed rivers and waterways, each with a climb of 50-60 ft so boats could go under them. I figured that about 15 miles of my ride today was on a bridge, over water. One bridge was six miles long, and some others 2-3 miles long.
It was a relaxed start for me, as I figured I was only going to do about 70 miles into Wanchese, and then ride down to Rodanthe with my buddy, Bird Baldwin, who got me my job at the marina there, and who lives a few trailers away from me. I should have known better.
I thought I was going to have a headwind the entire way, but my first twenty miles headed south, and I had a surprising, and unforcasted tailwind. So, the ride down NC 32, and NC 94 was a pleasant surprise. The roads were shoulderless, but traffic just is not that bad there. The only reason anyone would have to drive these roads, would be to get to Edenton, and it was a Tuesday morning, so, no problem.
The rest of my trip was to be due east on US64, which is a boring trip, even on an exciting day. I got into 64, found rumble strips right down the middle of the shoulder, and knew I didn't want to deal with that. I gave Google girl a chance to find me a 'less traveled path,' and she did. So, at the next exit I got off US64,  and let Google girl find me a path for about 20 miles, very parallel to 64, but used by farmers and locals to get to their homesteads. The scenery was more interesting, the traffic almost nonexistent, and all I had to look at was the sky, waiting for the sun to burn through a heavy overcast, and turtles, both on the road, and jumping off their perches into the water, as I startled them, in the ditches that paralleled my roads.
Eventually, I came to the town of Columbia, where there was only one bridge, across the Scuppernong River, I believe. From there, all the way to Mann's Harbor, which was about another twenty miles, I was on US 64, but in another county, which didn't use rumble strips. The entire trip, since I had gotten on 64 the first time, was being run into a headwind, but I continued to make decent time. I figure my conditioning allowed me to beat through the wind, but I knew it would take a toll. But, hey...this was the end of the line.
My highlight of the day was spotting, and getting a really good, long look at a pileated woodpecker. He was circling from tree to tree as I went by. If you don't know, they are the world's largest woodpecker, and they are brightly colored in red, white, and black, with a very distinctly shaped head. I've only seen a few of them in my life, so it was really cool. Other than that, I spent my time yelling at the hundreds of turtles to jump into the water, off their perches on logs, rocks, and the shore as I drove by. Great fun was had by all. I didn't see any bears or red wolves, as the signs warned me about .
Then I came to the Alligator River, and one of my long bridges, which put me into more civilized land, but just barely, as I neared Mann's Harbor. This brought me to the six mile bridge that put me onto Roanoke Island, and officially onto the Outer Banks. I headed south four miles into Wanchese, met with Bird, the owner, and several acquaintances and co workers from last year, and firmed up my marina job for the summer.
Then, being earlier than I had anticipated arriving, I decided to make a run for the final 33 miles through the Hatteras Seashore, to my final destination. I had a headwind, of course. I,  always do on that ride, so it was just expected. I noticed alot of differences on the way, as there was no hurricane this year, so much maintenance was done to the damaged dunes on the ocean side, and bridge construction was beginning on the new Bonner Bridge, the bridge over Oregon Inlet. Much construction was underway all the way to the 'temporary' bridge over an inlet that opened a few years ago, but was filled in again by nature... and a few more miles south of that.
I got into Rodanthe and to my trailer, a few minutes before Bird arrived, who would have been my ride on that stretch if my legs and mind were too beat up to finish from Wanchese.
The trailer is in livable shape, after I do some mold and fungus remediation. But, that's why I'm here. 
So, I would like to finish by thanking God, and my family, for giving me their blessings, to do crazy things like these extended bike rides. I have the ability, the mental and physical wherewithal, to complete these adventures, which makes my life more interesting, and makes me feel alive. Maybe next year, I'll spend my downtime in a rocking chair. Maybe not.

My first bridge crossing across the Chowan River

A convenient resting place

A 1977 Chevy Nova, just like the one I have.  Same color, four doors, only it's a Concourse edition, an upgrade of mine, which I had never heard of or seen.
The cell tower was buried in a cloud at the top, on a cool, overcast start to my day

A metal mudbug at a seafood shop near Columbia

Entering the Outer Banks

My bike, resting at the OBX marina at Wanchese Harbor

A day of rest on the beach followed my trip

Some old friends dropped by........

The meal at Lisa's Pizza that I've been craving for awhile!

Monday, May 9, 2016

May 9, 2016....Wilson, NC to Edenton, NC

90.7 miles in 6:49...13.3 mph with no downhills and no tailwind! I'll take it. I must be getting in shape! (2632.33 miles for the trip in 33 days, for an average of 79.767 miles per day....ascent...( not much) 686 ft....68,144 ft for the trip.
I gave Google girl a shot at the route today, because she promised me a trip that was 12 miles shorter than Map Quest girl. The question is, why? I'm beginning to trust Map Quest girl alot more now, but she sucks so much energy out of my phone. When I use her, I keep my power pack very close by. She is more efficient, doesn't insult me by giving me every little twist like I'm a moron, and will take me through towns where you can find food and water. But, anyhow, I went with Google girl. She pulled her normal crap, and had me out in farm country for 40 miles or so. Between Wilson and a town called Bethel, there was all farm land. There was corn and lots of other stuff growing that was too small to identify. I did see some solar power projects, lots of family cemeteries, and lots of clothes hanging in the line. ( Monday is wash day). I talked to some horses, saw some longhorn cattle, saw some quail, and a ton, of squirrels, but the miles were crawling by. Mentally more than actual speed.
When I rolled into the Bethel town limits, I actually thought I saw my first store. I hadn't seen a gas station or anything for forty miles. Then Google girl said " turn right onto Cemetery Road, " and I said "ain't gonna happen", and I shut her down. Some GPS girls take so much more energy, but they are just worth it. After refilling my water bottles and grabbing a ice cream bar, I asked Map Quest girl her opinion. She put me on US64A, but instead of going on her long route, I took Google girl's shortcut on US 17.
Once I got on 64A, it was the old 64 not the four lane, which is the 'highway' through this area.
But, it took me through towns: Parmalee, then Robersonville, then Everetts, then Williamston. Small but interesting towns, and the miles began to melt on by.
When I got into Williamston, I picked up US17 and headed north. At this point, I did pick up a little tailwind, and some good slipstream from the traffic, and made real good time.
Traffic was sort of heavy, and there was no shoulder, and that's why Map Quest girl didn't want me to go that way. Google girl will keep me on ' dirt' roads, then throw me on that. She is out of control. Well, the excitement for the day happened on that busy stretch. It's the only road that goes through what they call the Roanoke River Wetlands. That means 'swamp.' There were turtles and snakes smashed all over the road. I almost hit a fish that a bird must have dropped. I saw one live black snake that didn't pay me much mind, but there was this other snake....
I was riding the white line because there was no shoulder, with two side by side trucks coming up on me fast, when I saw a snake right on the White line. His head popped up, his mouth opened wide, and I had to decide in a millisecond whether to go out in front of traffic,  or take the snake. He was about three-four feet long, stretched out, not coiled, and his mouth looked orange on the inside. I lifted the pedal closest to him high, because I didn't have time to unclip, and just missed him. Traffic was blowing by me, and by the time I looked back, he was coiled in a small coil. I don't know if he struck at me or not, but if he did, he missed me and may have gotten a mouth full of spoke from my back wheel. The road was bumpy anyhow, so I didn't feel whether I hit him, or he hit me. ..but the traffic missed me. That was priority number one. I wanted to go back, but it was busy and there was no shoulder at all, so who knows if he was wounded, pissed, dead, or just on guard. I had to look away at that one split second and check to see if I was gonna get hit by a truck. Hmmm. Snake or truck. You decide. In .5 seconds. At 16-18 mph on a bike.
After that, every ratchet strap, broken fan belt, tire scrap, and stick looked like a snake!
After 12 miles of US17 under those conditions, I came to the town of Windsor, and got off onto business 17. It got me away from traffic, and by the time I got back on the main 17, there was a nice shoulder, across the two miles Chowan River bridge and into Edenton. I stayed at the same motel where Pam and I and some neighbors evacuated after our failed attempt to ride out Hurricane Arthur over the fourth if July a few years back. I had chicken dinner at the Original Chicken House, then a DQ banana split for desert, before my final day, tomorrow, to finish up my trip.

The family graveyards all throughout North Carolina are what makes it unique to any other state.  This one looks like it ought to be in New Orleans, with the graves above ground.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

May 8 - Burlington NC to Wilson NC

May 8....103.93 miles in 7:49 (13.3 mph) 2541.63 miles for the trip over 32 days for an average of 79.42 miles per day..... Ascent...3392 ft...67,458 for the trip.
Burlington is a pretty big town. Nine miles after I began riding, I was just getting out of a suburb called Haw River. US 70 was anywhere from 4 to 7  lanes wide through that stretch. I found myself being happy it was a Sunday morning, because it looked like it gets really busy through there.  US 70 did a fine job getting me 20 some miles and through Durham. I went right past Duke University, and, once again, I pretty much had a very busy area to myself. Just a note... I went through a little town called Efland, and I remembered the little towns of Pleasant Union and Climax that I went through yesterday. It may just be my dirty mind, but what were those guys thinking about when they named these towns!???
Anyhow, back to the ride....I took a little detour off of 70 onto business 70 through the town of Hillsboro. With a name like Hillsboro, I should have known I was gonna have a climb in there somewhere. I did. It was a nice little town with sidewalk caf├ęs and a busy park. The climb I had out of there though, wasn't the only good climb I had. Today threw many more climbers at me than yesterday, even though my total ascent wasn't as much as yesterday. When I left Burlington this morning, I was over 600 ft above sea level. When I finished in Wilson, I was about 120 ft above sea level. So the descent is over. It was helpful today, along with a sometimes stiff tailwind, in helping me average 13.3  for the ride. My century was done in 7:31, which is OK for me, especially when I'm all loaded down with panniers. Also, I've noticed a huge difference in how I'm approached and passed by drivers in North Carolina. After such tentative drivers in Arkansas and Tennessee, these NC NASCAR drivers blew right by me like they've done it before, and I'm totally good with that. Except in the towns, strangely enough, US 70 was pretty busy, but not with  semis and working trucks, but cars. I think that every time a Baptist Church let out, I had a parade go by me. With all the Baptist churches, there was one parade after another!!!!
Out of Durham, I picked up NC 98 for about 25 miles into Wake Forest. That's a busy stretch of highway, even on a Sunday, but there was never a problem, because there was a shoulder, and people drove like they had seen a biker before.
I took the business route through Wake Forest, got some food, and barely skirted the college, before heading back out of town, picking up some NC roads, 96, and a little of 97, before picking up US 264 in Zebulon. 264A was the old road, as US 264 is now a four lane, that looked really busy. My 264A  started out rough, but it got really nice and smooth, passing through little towns like Bailey and Sims, before taking me across the I 95 corridor, and into Wilson. I noticed while I was on 264A that the creeks looked like tea water, and the elevation was 120-140 ft. Sure signs that I'm getting close to shore waters. The scenery was nondescript for a second day in a row, with a little more farm land as I got East. My favorite parts of today's trip were going through the town's. The relentlessly rolling country roads are all looking the same now. I checked into a motel next to a hospital in Wilson, and had the worst pizza I've ever had at a Pizza Hut. At least they had beer to wash it down.!!

This Popeye and Olive Oil sculpture is obviously referring to a house divided between the NC Tarheels, NC State Wolfpack and Duke

Looked like a beautiful campus

A sign in the downtown area

Saturday, May 7, 2016

May 7 - Statesville, NC to Burlington, NC

May 7, 2016....97.86 miles in 7:31 (13 mph) 2437.7 miles for the trip over 31 days for an average of 78.63 miles per day. Ascent.... 3517 ft (64,066 ft for the trip.)
It was back to US70 for the first 15 miles out the door, and North Carolina did a much better job with a shoulder, unlike in Tennessee. The rollers were also very gentle, which is nice. The sun was shining and I had a tailwind, so all was good. The next stretch was on NC 801, and that road traveled more to the north, had no shoulders, rolled a little more, but had little traffic.
Then it was a stretch of US 64, which ran East/West, has more traffic, and had rumble strips. I couldn't wait to get off of that road. There were lots of motorcycles out, being a Saturday afternoon, including a police escorted group of about 60 bikes.
I rolled into a town called Lexington, with a very busy downtown area with mom and pop storefronts, a farmer's market, and a ton of people. Out of Lexington was another very nice stretch of US 70 into High Point. I now know why they call it High Point. It was 100 ft higher in elevation than anywhere else in the entire ride. The ascent was adding up, but it was the  easy rollers and running starts. I was shocked for the second day in a row at the 3500 ft if climbing. I think I used my front granny gear once, and didn't have to double granny all day. That's the first time I could say that since Arkansas.
Out of High Point I picked up NC 62 for the rest of my ride into Burlington. I stopped and got a couple of hot dogs from a vendor in a street corner, and life was good.....until mile #69. I was riding down a hill towards a lake, at about 20 mph, and I hit a stone, I think, and my back tire immediately went flat, for my second flat of the trip. A flat is never good, but it's just not a problem that I have very often, because I'm pretty good at missing rocks, potholes, cracks, and other hazards. I got this stone just right, and ppfffft. That's all it takes. I stopped next to the lake, had to take panniers and everything else off the back end, and changed it out. My pump would only give me about 30-35 lbs, and I roll with about 80 psi in my tires, so I thought it was going to be a slow roll for the last 30 miles. But, alas, there was a gas station not even two miles up the road with an air pump. For $1.50, I had my 80 psi, and I was rolling again. The whole thing probably held me up a half an hour. But then it started to rain. There had been a big cloud over my head all day. I remember thinking that it was going to do the entire century with me. Finally, it dropped about ten minutes of light rain, and it finally left me alone. So, miles 69 to 77 sort of sucked, but the final 20, still on NC 62, into Burlington, was just fine. None of the scenery really is worth mentioning. Just the regular country side that you see on the  North Carolina Piedmont.
My room was right next to a Walmart, so I walked over and picked up two tubes to replenish my supply, and ate at a Golden Corral, with a restaurant full of Honey Boo Boos. The Kentucky Derby was run today, and the PENS had a playoff game against the Capitals, so that's how I spent my evening.

My bike taking a chili dog break!

Friday, May 6, 2016

May 6, 2016 - Boone, NC to Statesville, NC....

85.32 miles in 6:40 (2,339.84 miles for the trip over 30 days for an average of 77.99 miles a day). Ascent...3671 ft....60,549 ft for the trip.
It started raining about an hour after I pulled into the motel in Boone last night, and it didn't stop until 9:00 this morning. TV said that there was accumulated snow on Sugar Mountain, where I was yesterday. There was a good chance I was going to get wet today, but it never happened. Again, I have been sooo lucky with the precipitation in this trip. It was cold again. 43 degrees when I left the room, and it got as low as 40. I dressed better today than yesterday. Two pairs of socks, a long sleeved shirt under two jackets, and headgear that only had a face hole, to cover my neck and ears. I needed all that for about half of he trip, the second half of the trip was in the sixties, with sun.
When I left the room, I went a few miles out of my way to check out Appalachian State University. The campus was settled down into the very foggy mountains. There was no one out, because of the weather. Not only was it very wet, but there was a nasty cold wind blowing out of the north. It sucked at times, but fortunately I was headed south, towards Hickory, NC. I climbed out of Boone, as I left town on US 321, which I would follow all the way to Hickory. I racked up about 700 ft real quick, climbing back above 3700 ft as I got into Blowing Rock, a very upscale tourist area, with ski resorts, tubing and rafting, and ...what a view. Too bad I couldn't see it I has read some billboards talking about ' the edge of the mountain,' and that's exactly what I saw. To my right, was a sudden drop off, and if I could have seen through the fog, I probably could have seen Tennessee. US 321 was under construction all through town, but when I got out of town, I had my 'edge of the mountain' experience.
The Appalachians do nothing gradually. It's all very intense, as I mentioned yesterday. I came to a sign that said something about an eight mile downhill, and man, was it a downhill. Thank God I didn't have to climb it. I'm sure I could have broken 50 mph on another day ( that's always been a goal of mine on a bike. The fastest I've ever gone is a little over 47). But not today. My bags were loaded a little unevenly, the road had some bumps, which can be bad when you're on a bike going over 40, and the wind blasted me from every direction as I wrapped around the mountain on the descent. I didn't get the death wobbles, but I got blown pretty good, and I rode my brakes a good part of the way down. It was another white knuckle experience. And, it was freaking cold, with that wind and 40 degree temperature.
By the time I got to the bottom of the hill, I had descended 2500 ft in a half an hour, the sun came out, and the temperature went up into the sixties, and that was the end of the fog and drizzle. The scenery was beautiful on the way down, but it went by real fast.
At the end of the day, when I saw that I had climbed 3600 ft, I was shocked. It just didn't seem like it. I guess a lot of the hills, I used my accumulated speed to cruise right up 50-100 ft hills without much effort. The story of the day was the descent out of the Blue Ridge Mountains. My total drop was 6033 ft. My legs were pretty beat from the climbs yesterday, so I really appreciated the descent, but they really didn't notice the ascent until the last few if the day.
Once things started to level out a little bit, I went through town after town on US 321, the largest being Lenoir, and Hudson, previously the Capitals of North Carolina s furniture building industry. Then I got off of 321 for a while, as I went into Hickory. I stopped at the Blue Ridge Harley Davidson store, where I visited with Randy Cook, a friend from Mesa, AZ. He works as a supervisor in the beer vending business with the Cubs, and is in charge of work campers at Mesa Regal, one of the Cal Am properties where we  stay. We have become friends, and it was worth going 30 miles out of my way to say hi.
The trip to Hickory took me a little off my original trail, so I will miss the Winston Salem area, and get a little more country riding. After visiting for about a half hour, I got on US 70 (again), and headed east to Statesville. I went on some roads that paralleled 70, which paralleled I 40, so traffic was calm on shoulderless roads. I went through the town of Catawba, and crossed a lake that the Catawba River formed. That was one of the last hills, where I really felt my tired legs, climbing out of that river valley. The motel was on the west side of town, right next to a Camping World that Pam and I stopped at on our way from NC to the Keys two years ago. The only restaurant close by was a Waffle House, so that was dinner, and a fine dinner it was!!

Appalachian State University

The Mountaineers football stadium and track

Campus on a cold, dreary day

I never did see Blowing Rock itself, so I took a picture of the billboard!

What should have been a beautiful view

The eastern Continental Divide for the second time in two days

Just before the huge descent

Half way down.  Sun and a nice view

Randy Cook and I at the Harley Davidson dealership

I tripped upon some time trials going on at this famous race track.  I AM in North Carolina!

Ralph Earnhardt is the father of Dale Sr, and Grandpa to Dale Jr

The bike snuck in too!!!

A reminder of the good ol' days!  But the truck was loaded with pine straw, not mulch!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

May 5 - Erwin TN to Boone NC

May 5, 2016.... Happy cinco de froze Mayo butt off! 54.62 miles in 5:37.….2,254.52 miles for the trip over 29 days, for an average of 77.74 miles per day. Ascent... 4573 ft for a total of 56,878 ft for the trip. ( if you've been paying attention, that's the biggest climb of the trip, probably the most I've ever climbed with 40-50 lbs of ballast hanging from the bike. I know I've done much more in trips with Pam, when I wasn't carrying panniers full of gear. My legs are telling me that it makes a difference!!!
The Appalachians insult your quads with their steepness. They test your concentration with the narrow, winding roads. The scenery, like rivers, cliffs, rocks, trees, and other things are right on top of you. Climbing 4500 ft in the Western Mountains is not nearly as taxing, with wider roads and more gradual climbs. When I climbed 4400 ft into the Guadeloupe mountains early in my ride, I did it over 102 miles, with one major climb. I did 4500 in 54 miles today. That's in half the distance, meaning twice the intensity. This is for sure... The spine of the Appalachians is now in the rear view mirror, and there will be more descent than ascent, for the rest of the trip.
I used all of the cold weather gear that I've been dragging around the country, waiting for a day like today. It would have been okay if I never had to use it, but it was needed today. It was 44 when I rolled out the door in Erwin, and three hours later, as I gained elevation, it bottomed out at 39. Fortunately, most of the cold wind was at my back. And most fortunately, the rain, frozen rain, and snow, never materialized. I keep my luck alive, as far as not getting wet, even when there was a 60% chance all day, like today.
As far as the trip, TN 107 took me out of Erwin, and was shoulderless and narrow, as it was yesterday, from Greenville. As I rose above 2000 ft, the rhododendron started to control the forest floor. I was always following a stream, either uphill or down. It is beautiful here. I turned onto TN 173, and it took me along another stream, but at one point, as I changed watersheds, I had a quad screaming hill that took me over 2600 ft, and my quads almost to failure. Then it was down the other side, where the wind chill froze my sweat as I flew down the hill, to meet US 19.( Yep, the very same 19 that passes through Washington County in PA.) US 19 proceeded to have two huge, back to back climbs, but at least there was a shoulder most of the time, to protect me from the traffic.  Sometimes the shoulder would disappear because of rock formations or cliffs made the road narrow. I got a little breathing room from the climbing as I went through the flat out town of Roan Mountain. After departure from US19, TN roads took me along beautiful streams, including the Elk River, through areas of dense forests, and high end mountain cabins, including the town of Elk River and then, after another quad burner into Banner Elk, a high elevation tourist and college town. Then another descent, before the climb of climbs, over Sugar Mountain, a ski resort town that took me to 4200 ft. There was snow on the tops of some mountains, even as the sun finally decided to come out. As I left town, I crossed the Eastern Continental Divide, and proceeded to drop 1000 ft in four very quick miles. I'm really glad I didn't have to climb that! As I descended, the cold headwind was swirling and blowing me and my parachute bags all over the road. I hit 37 mph, and it was as white knuckle as any descent I've ever had. Of course, another good ascent got me into Boone, and man, was I glad to get there. The legs were toast, and I was cold and hungry. I didn't stop to eat like I usually do, because I wanted to beat any rain that might kick up. I showered, and as I went outside to walk to a grill, the rain had arrived, the wind was howling, and it was nasty cold. I made it to a grocery store, where I bought a rotisserie chicken, a bag of popcorn, and a beer, and retreated to the warmth of my room. I watched the weather, and it's going to be just as nasty tomorrow.

Rhododendron was everywhere above  2000 ft

A typical hollow that I traveled....a stream, some old cars, and an Appalachian style homestead

This National forest was all around me, with trails and picnic sites

I crossed the Appalachian Trail and talked to some end to end hikers that have already walked over 400 miles, from Stone Mountain, Georgia

Look closely, and you can see the snow on the tallest mountain in the May!!!

My seventh and final state on the trip

There were some fancy shacks in Elk River

The Elk River

A collection of real old trucks.  Appalachian lawn art!

A high ski, tourist, college town

Main Street, Banner Elk

My highest elevation

Grandfather Mountain was the one with the snow