Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day 3 Finale

Another long night. It rained on and off until about midnight. The wind didn't lay down. And the temperature dropped. I couldn't stay comfortable; hips hurt again, but not quite as bad as the night before. I had let a little air out of the Thermarest and I believe that helped some. But I tossed and turned all night. Not a restful night.

At about 6:30am, I had been awake for a while and decided to get up and find breakfast. Hungry again! Got up, put on riding clothes, and got on the bike about 7:00 (time of sunrise on Easter Sunday). Rode up Beach Road towards an interesting-looking restaurant I had seen earlier, but found that it was closed. I knew a McDonalds was not far, so I rode to it. It was open and warm.

Had breakfast and talked with some older men who frequent the place, and went back to the campsite to break camp. Tore everything down and packed it away. Again, it gets easier with practice. Temperature as I got on the bike was 35degrees.

Got on the bike and had to decide whether to continue the ride north and then west and back down the east side of the Chesapeake Bay area or whether to ride back south, take advantage of the discount for 2-way passage price break on the CBBT.

I had listened to NOAA weather on the radio, and the forecast for the area north and west was not too good. Cloudy, windy, and cold, with an overnight low of 34 degrees. Also, some chance of snow showers in the area. Not great riding and camping conditions.

So, I chickened out and went south. But before going south, I rode 5 miles north on Hwy 13 into Maryland, just so I could say I went into Maryland, too. Uneventful, but I did it.

Then U-turned to go south on Hwy 13 and do the CBBT again. Got to the toll plaza, paid the $5 for the return trip, and rode it again. It was sunny, cold, and breezy.

Decided to stop for an early lunch at the Seagull Pier Restaurant near the southern terminus. Gary had recommended the flounder there, so I decided to try it.

In a few minutes, the waitress brought out the biggest piece of flounder I've ever seen! It was on an oval platter (not a smal platter; a big one) and was longer than the plate! And a huge helping of french fries and slaw. Way too much for one person to eat! I tore into it; it was delicious! I ate most, but not all the flounder and some of the fries and slaw. A huge meal.

Got back on the bike and rode home, taking some Interstate road and some back roads. Nothing eventful or interesting to report; a good ride under clear, cool and breezy conditions.

Total miles for Day 3 was 313 for a total of 645 miles on the trip.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Day 2

Well, the night was not a nightmare, but it was painful. Was in the tent for the night about 8:30pm. It got pretty cool, both inside and outside the tent, but I kept warm. The problem was my hips. I was sleeping on the Thermorest, and as had been the case sometimes before, I woke up multiple times during the night (about every hour) with the hip on which I was laying hurting like a toothache. And I can't sleep on my back. So, the sleep was fitful. I finally balled up the Roadcrafter and placed it under the sleeping bag under my knees to relieve some pressures and slept a little better.

At 6:30am, I had had enough tossing and turning and decided to get up. It was light outside, but the sun wasn't up until about 7:00. Tearing down the camp was not bad; all in all, it took about an hour to pack everything up and get it in and on the bike.

Since I had not explored the park the day before, I decided to see what else was there before hitting the road. I quickly discovered that I had already seen everything at this access. I had noted a sign pointing to another access off another road the day before, so I rode to the intersection and saw the signs pointing to a picnic area and a canoe rental area.

About a mile down that road I came to the picnic area access. Rode into it, and turned around at the dead end and rode out again. Not much to see. Continuing down the road, I finally could see some of Merchant's Millpond and the canoe rental area.

Rode to the parking lot, got off the bike, took a few pictures, talked to the young lady operating the rental facility, and headed out. It was now about 8:00am and I was hungry; the beenie weenies and cheese and crackers were getting pretty thin.

I had asked the park ranger who collected my money where I could find a good breakfast. He paused and told me that the service station just up the road had good biscuits, but that was all. He then said there was a barbecue place at Tar Heel, about 9 miles back to the west, and another barbecue place about 5 miles to the east. However, he wasn't sure if the one to the east served breakfast.

Since I wanted more than a biscuit, I decided to go to the barbecue place in Tar Heel. I had passed through Tar Heel the day before and had not seen a place to eat; it's a very small community. But I guessed that I had overlooked it and headed in that direction.

Got to Tar Heel, and could find nothing that resembled a place to eat. There were only 3 or 4 buildings that weren't homes, and none of them were open. I rode on past the area to make sure it wasn't a little further down the road. No barbecue to be seen!

Turned around to make sure I hadn't simply overlooked it, but alas, I couldn't find the place he had mentioned.

Getting low on fuel for the bike and my stomach, I decided to head north towards Suffolk, VA. There would be food and gas there.

The ride to Suffolk was easy; did back roads northeast to Hwy 13. Just in the edge of town, found a Red Apple restaurant with a gas station beside it. Filled the bike's tank and then filled my own with a cheese and bacon omelet. It was very good.

Headed north into the edge of Norfolk and then Virginia Beach, taking the Interstates to the toll plaza to do the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Paid the $12 to enter, and headed north towards the DelMarVa penninsula.

Rode slow; about 50-52mph intentionally, to safely see as much as possible. In truth, nothing was spectacular about the ride, but it is a great experience to ride the bike with nothing but road and water all around you. There was a pretty stiff wind out of the west, and the bike wanted to move as the gusts hit. Not as bad as a ride in South Dakota several years ago, but nonetheless a bit unsettling with nowhere to go but guardrail and water!

Route 13 is the main artery through the Delmarva Penninsula. Several places along the way, Old Hwy 13 would veer off to the left or right of current 13, taking you to old communities that founded the area many years ago. I took several of the Old Hwy 13 routes, just to ride through the old towns.

Nearing where Hwy 175 would take me to Chincoteague, I decided to do some back roads and told the GPS to go the shortest route. It directed me to VA 692, a delightful, narrow road through farming areas. Actually, much of what I had ridden through was used for farming operations. Looked like wheat, but I'm no farmer, but it was green and pretty!

VA 692 changed to VA 679, now north, and more of the same. Narrow, lots of heaves in the road, working the suspension pretty hard. It changed again to VA 798, continuing north to it's juncture with Hwy 175.

Along the way, I had decided to go to Chincateague, an interesting-looking community on Chincateague Island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. I wanted to see what was there and decided en-route to camp there if possible.

Chincateague is reached via Hwy 175, which winds around to a 3+ mile causeway/bridge complex that ends on the island. As I rode the causeway, the wind had changed directions more from the northwest, blowing even harder than earlier. A cold wind, at that. And blowing pretty hard, pushing the bike all over my lane.

Once on the island, I looked for a campground and found Pine Grove Campground. Went to the office, learned that it had opened just the day before, and rented a space for the night for $16.50, including tax. Found the site that seemed best and set up the camp. Easier this time; I had left the ropes for the fly stays attached, so that saved time. Setting up was quicker by probably 30% this time.

Since I did not take a shower at Merchant's Millpond, I felt grungy and decided to take a shower and change clothes. While the shower/restrooms was old, everything worked and it had plenty of hot water, which helped stave off the chill in the air. A good shower! I did forget to bring soap, so I had to make a run to the office/store before going to the shower to buy some soap and a lighter to light a fire.

After the shower, I was beginning to feel hungry, so I asked at the office where was a good place to eat. The operator said that Bills Seafood on Main street was very good, so I went there. I agree! I had a small bowl of Clam chowder that was excellent, a small basket of popcorn shrimp, french fries, cole slaw and a good beer. Reasonable prices, too! Very good.

After lunch/dinner, I went riding around the community to see what was there. It appears to be a fishing community and a tourist attraction primarily. Reminded me of Beaufort, NC, in that there's no “beach”, but lots of water and water-related activities. Lots of police with radar, so I watched the posted speed limit very carefully. No problems.

Found a “Beach” road, and decided to see the beach. After a few miles, it turned into the Assateague National Seashore (I think that's the name), operated by the National Park Service. Since there was a fee to ride further, and I had not brought my National Park Service Annual Pass with me, I turned around. Didn't want to spend $5 just to ride a couple of miles to see beaches on Assateague Island.

Rode to the south end of the island, then to the north end, seeing what was there (not much!), and decided to go back to the campground for the evening. It was about 5:00pm.

Got to my site and gathered some twigs and branches for a fire. Used some newspaper for starter, and got it lit fairly easy. Then spent the next almost an hour picking up twigs and limbs to feed the fire. It felt good because it was getting colder and the wind was still blowing pretty hard. Actually, I had to stomp out the fire twice when it blew out of the fire ring and ignited pine straw nearby. I was actually surprised that they were allowing fires, but I had asked and they said it was ok. So, I watched it pretty closely.

When I had a small stock of things to burn, I went to the computer to start this entry, only to find the battery dead. I managed to see that somehow when the computer shut down the day before, it didn't completely shut down, draining the battery. Damn! So, I couldn't write if I wanted to! So much for that idea.

After a short while sitting at the fire, I felt a drop of rain, looked around, only to see black clouds nearby. So, I put up the computer, covered the bike, and battened down the hatches (whatever that is??). Got in the tent around 7:30pm. Much too early, but it was black outside, the wind was blowing hard,it was intermittently showering, and it was getting cold. So, I read a magazine until the light got too dim.

When it got too dim to read, I changed into sleeping stuff and got in the sleeping bag.

Mileage for Day 2 was 196, another short day.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Day 1

Well, it was a beautiful day for a ride. Beautiful! Sunny, temperatures in the mid 60s, no wind. Beautiful.

Got the bike packed and hit the road at about 3:00 pm. Worked my way through the country to Wendell and then Zebulon to Hwy 64, headed east. Traffic was light, and the speed limit graciously set at 65 to 70 for about 45 miles or so.

Just east of I-95, I took Hwy 301 North for a couple miles and then turned east on NC 97. Stayed on it until I turned north on Hwy 258. Went through Scotland Neck, a little town that I really like. It's got the neatest parking in downtown area. The street is very wide, wide enough for cars to park in the middle of the road, perpendicular to traffic. NEAT. Also, lots of gorgeous homes just north of downtown.

At Rich Square (a town I had always wanted to see but never visited), I turned east on Hwy 305, then to Hwy 561 to Hwy 461 all heading northeast to Hwy 13. North on 13 to Hwy 137, again northeast. Turned right on Hwy 158 at Tar Heel and on to the park about 7 miles east. An easy ride with no problems but the one car that stopped suddenly in front of me, making me hit the brakes hard enough that I could hear the antilock brakes working on the rear of the bike. Not a close call, but the RT's excellent brakes made it an easy situation. Had I been on the Vstrom, it might have been more dificult. Otherwise, a very easy ride.

Got to the campground around 5:30pm. Rode around the campground twice to pick out the site I wanted to use. There were a surprising number of campers already set up. I'd say about 40 percent were taken! I expected it to be empty on the Friday night of Easter weekend.

Found a site that was relatively open; I don't like feeling closed in and dark, so the site fit my needs well. Started unpacking the camping equipment in the new Seattle dry bag. It contained the tent, the sleeping pad, and the Kermit Chair. All but the Thermarest were new things.

Opened the tent bag and got out the ground cloth, the tent, rain fly, poles and stakes. Laid out the ground cloth and tent on top of it. Unfolded the poles and matched the ends of the poles to the tent and ground cloth holes. Then put the rain fly on top and fastened it down to the poles. Then staked the corners, the rain fly vestibules and the stays on the fly. Took longer than I thought it would, but this was my first full assembly in the real world.

When finished, it looked good! No sags and it seemed to be fine.

Got out the Thermarest, put it in the tent and allowed it to inflate. Took the sleeping bag out of the side case and laid it on top of the Thermarest. Put the empty bags in the tent and got the bike ready for the night (put cover on it).

Walked to the showers just to see how to get there; found a trail through the woods; maybe a couple hundred yards away.

Came back to the site, got out a can of beenie weenies, cheese, and crackers and ate supper while sitting in the chair, reading the newspaper, and listening to the UNC/St Marys game. Reception was not good, but I could hear it over the earphones.

As it got dark and started cooling off, I moved the Kermit chair inside the tent, placed it on folded pads of newspaper and am now writing this blog. Neat! Hope the legs don't put too much pressure on the ground cloth, tent bottom, or Thermarest! Hopefully it will be okay.

Guess I'll sign off for tonight and get comfortable for the night.

Rode 136 miles today; a short, but good ride!

Prelude to the Adventure

Friday, March 21 2008

This blog will not be long; should be only 3 days and probably will all be posted after the actual ride is finished. The plan is to leave home near Raleigh NC mid afternoon and ride to Merchant's Millpond State Park to camp that night. The next morning, Saturday, break up camp early and head northeast to ride the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge-Tunnel on the bike. I've never ridden it on the bike, so that should be fun. Then continue north on the DelMarVa Penninsula into Delaware a bit. Then west into Maryland to cross the Potomac River, and south into Virginia to Westmoreland State Park, where I'll camp Saturday night. Then Sunday morning, head southwest to home.

I'm trying out a new tent to see how I like it. I have a good Sierra Designs tent that I've used several years, but have not been totally pleased with the waterproofness and overall layout of the tent. While rated as two person, I don't know where the second pair of legs would go because it narrows considerably at the foot. And I've woken up a few mornings with a small pool of water from rain.

So, I've gotten a new tent from REI, a Half-Dome HC. Also rated for 2, but it seems much more spacious than the SD. The charts say the SD has 2 more square feet, but I don't see how they can say that because the REI feels much larger. We'll see.

Also will be a test of temperature. It's supposed to get pretty chilly Saturday night, with a possibility of rain and temperatures around 34 degrees. I'll be in the Coleman Xterra sleeping bag rated at 20 degrees, so I should be fine. But I've never camped at temperatures below about 40 degrees or so. To be safe, I've included a pair of heavy fleece long pants and a sweatshirt in case I get cold.

All this is in preparation for THE BIG TRIP TO ALASKA! Gary and I will be heading out on or around June 24 for Alaska and returning on August 4. And we'll camp out about half the time we're on the road. So, this trip is a prelude to THE BIG TRIP.

I plan to write a blog each evening, logging my experiences and observations for the day. If I happen by a motel that has wireless, I may try to borrow a signal long enough to post the blog, but that may or may not actually happen. Somehow I always seem to be pushed for time.