Day Seventeen: An Unexpected Mid-Afternoon Race
Distance: 52 mi.
Song of the Day: Black Sabbath — War Pigs (In honor of Danny ‘Dancin’ Grjonko)
7:30AM: Arise in Diane & Ken’s guestroom midst lighthouse decor. Lizzie asleep, I soundlessly glide (hyperbole — no coffee yet) to gather panniers constituting my ‘four room’ mobile home: the camper, the clothes bag, the electro-office, and the food bag. Shake bag of Cafe Stella beans into Cuisinart drip machine and boot Google Maps: ~40 miles to North Wilson today, cycle friendly back roads add another ten:
Lizzie bounds down shortly after, finds Diane and I watching local 12 news and mulling in kitchen drinking coffee. We’re talking about Trump and how Diane negotiates an informed political existence in intimate neighborhood and ideologically segmented school systems. North Carolina houses a small confluence of starkly divergent cultures, all converging in the education system. Diane’s learned to insinuate to marginalized students that it’s OK to feel how they do, that is, differently from others around them, without direct political espousal, so as not to breach of teacherly codes of conduct and risk institutional estrangement affording her influence in the first place.
9:30 weather report confirms another 80 degree day, move for the door but Ken returns from week-long Cycle North Carolina Coastal Ride, we squeeze in enough dialogue before departing to appreciate Ken’s sunny, spirited character. We trade our farmstand strawberry preserves for Ken’s jar of homemade banana pepper basil & onion jam preserve (upgrade in my book but Lizzie frowns at me — can you imagine!)
A few miles in Lizzie signals stop to confirm directions against map, but I reject the signal and press ahead. Not too hot yet and I just want to ride. I’ll go in circles, I don’t care. We’ll learn something. We’ll meet someone. But don’t stop me just yet.
Blindly and fortuitously, I navigate onto Old Tar then Davenport roads, dropping us at intersection to “Alt 264" our low traffic and fair-shouldered highway to Wilson. Suburban hedges thin out to farm pastures and thickets; good thing I’m frontrunning today because there are lots of snakes in roadside debris, and let me tell you some of ‘em aren’t dead yet! I don’t say anything to Lizzie until later.
Surmount four or five small bridges, shoulders always narrow, takes effort to mark a straight bead on road with onyx-black marsh water pooled beneath, seducing my gaze in vain hopes of spotting our first gator or a really big snake.
Will Hollywood make film about dystopian future where Soylent canisters line derelict roadways instead of soda cans?
I’m listening to Black Sabbath — Paranoid in honor of Daniel Grjonko. I turning it down when approaching black churches — no disrespect.
3PM: Gas station near Saratoga, slog back lemon-line gatorade and munch energy bar. To hell with the North Wilson campground, I declare, I want some beer! Enter “beer” into Yelp, predestined for Brewmasters, it’s 11.2 miles away.
Lizzie: “Did you even check to see if they are open?”
Kyle: “I know they’re open…”
Lizzie phones ‘em up, turns out kitchen closes at four! It’s 2:54 — eek! Toss gatorade, sling leg exaggeratedly over saddle and panniers a-la horse mount maneuver from old Western. ‘Race’ off, but energy is hosed from the heat and we manage 3 miles in 15 minutes. 3:15 and ~8 to go. Must. Pedal. Faster! On big straight downhill I rig up iPhone screen-side up in the fanny pack I’ve lashed to my waterproof roll bag as a makeshift handlebar bag. Now I’ve got Google Maps navigation in the cockpit.
Pleased with my innovativeness I kick it faster down Alt 264 which soon after morphs into a proper highway. We zig under I-95 overpass, mammoth concrete pillar support the expressway, zag around truck fenders, bolts and other clutter, hit the occasional strip mall stop lights green green green, ding ding ding! WHAT, a detour?! Swerve right and keep up the pace, box out sad old silver truck, sorry bucko you’re stuck behind us until road straightens out, we ain’t missing a hot meal meal on your behalf!
3:50PM coast onto Forest Hills Road into Brewmasters; 87 degrees, drenched in sweat, stop bikes cli-cli-cli-cli-cluuu and in we go!
Order some eats: veggie pizza w/ avocado, fried chicken finger salad, veggie wrap, two Mikkeller pale ales please! Meet Ethan, who Lizzie spoke to earlier. Knowledgable about beer and curious about our trip, we relay details of the past few days since Okracoke, including the race that brought us into Brewmasters. Flurry of questions, “where are you going to stay tonight?” asks Ethan, he’s not pleased with our choice of campground, “I can get you something better that that!” He texts Morkos, his boss and Brewmasters owner, moments later confirms we’re all set to stay on farm 6 miles southwest of Wilson, Molly, Morkos’ wife won’t be leaving farm all day.
Lizzie rightly self-proud, she made it all happen. Her charm and buoyant laughter bestow levity on those around her — I simply observe as she brightens place after place. I’m the beast of burden figure carrying heavy bags.
Beers like anchors, we dawdle 6.3 more miles through afternoon lagging humidity southwest on Route 301, past rickety motels “Room phones and color TV here!” Out to the farms, turn on Glory lane, BRI-I-I-ING! BRI-I-I-ING! We advise Molly of our arrival with bike bells, 7 year-old Landon has a playmate over, they’re eating cantaloupe and pizza at the table. Thankful to stow bikes for the day, we hang out and get to know Molly, a wonderfully intelligent nutritionist, sports coach, and health teacher.
THANK YOU Molly, Morkos & Landon for bringing us into your farmhouse, feeding us cantaloupe and giving us your AirB&B bedroom.
8PM: Drift into cat nap as Lizzie plays transformers with Landon (mostly consists of Landon berating her for knowing nothing about transformers, she can’t even ID Optimus Prime.) Phone buzzes me awake, it’s brother Nate, he’s held his “Ottercation” teacher’s workshop yesterday, was booming success, 18 eager attendees and positive feedback aplenty. Nate will incorporate some learnings and launch another workshop within a single school in June. Congrats, Nate, I’m proud of you, keep going! 💫⭐️☄️
Nate encourages me to keep blogging. Good timing as I’d contemplated backing off after a lull in inspiration. Lending fresh expression to experience is challenging as I’m naive to travel writing and Carolinian landscapes and culture. Nate convinces me writing down my experiences will impart a more perduring memory of this adventure, in opposition to transient glimpses I would inevitably impact into mental remembrance, only to be clouded out as time passed.
Older brothers sure are encouraging. I’ll keep writing.