warm, clean and dry. Enjoying a nice glass of wine.
Long day today, we're pretty tired and sore.
I'll write more later, after steaks and potatoes, perhaps.
After spending the last day and a half painfully storing up potential
energy, we spent it all in 8 hair raising miles.
Our route brushed us against the Mexican border and through a border
patrol checkpoint. Here, the two lane road ends, and all bicycle traffic
must merge onto the interstate.
Finally, after two days of grinding up miles-
long slopes at Four or five miles an hour, we found ourselves bombing
down the freeway, not much slower than some of the trucks trying not
to burn out their brakes.
The veiw was breathtaking, it was hard to take my eyes off the
scenery, as we descended around the last hills, and the valley spread
out below us.
But I did tear my gaze away, as it required full attention to navigate
the debris-strewn shoulder at high speed while watching out for
interstate traffic and dealing with strong cross-winds.
We're now camping in the desert in what I assume is BLM land. We even
have a little fire to keep us warm.
Tomorrow we have to find a bike shop, as the ride down the mountain
seems to have shredded my rear tire!
We got out of San Diego, through Alpine, and are cooking dinner at
camp in Cleveland National Forest. We are going to sleep under stars
(clouds) because we are too tired to set up the tent.
The hills are big, and they will get bigger tomorrow and the next day.
After that, I'm pretty sure it's all downhill to Raleigh.
Never does nature seem more present, more immediate. There is no warmth, no shelter, no concession to humanity.
It is desolate, forbidding. I have found no place more beautiful.
I would have like to set up camp right there. At the very least, it would have been nice to break for a few minutes to soak in the view. As it was, traffic started catching up to us, and we had to continue down the bridge on to Pea Island.
We took this picture just south of the bridge:
Not sure where this spur of road used to go, or if it was perhaps a boat ramp at some point. Unless I'm mistaken, the Bonner Bridge was the first bridge to span the Oregon Inlet, so maybe this is where the old local road used to end.
What I found interesting was the make of the car pictured on the warning sign. It seems this sign cautions agianst driving your El Camino into the sound. Good advice, I think. Only Volkswagons float.
A dozen or so miles further down the road, we stopped at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. They have some nice telescopes set up for viewing the birds that forage in the fresh water ponds maintained by the USFWS. We picked up a few post cards, checked out the maps and some of the bird ID sheets, and headed out on our way.
The rest of the trip south was pretty monotonous. The two lane road runs straight, and has a narrow shoulder. A man-made line of dunes, constructed to protect the road, blocked our view of the ocean to the west, while the view to the east was of expanses of marsh and low sandy dunes. The power lines overhead streched into the distance, fading into the salty air well short of any turn or deviation from their course.
These long expanses were broken by a few developed areas, little towns indistinguishable from each other. Old, smaller cottages side up to huge 20 room beach mansions, with small shops and numerous restraunts.
One of these towns, Chicamacomico, while unremarkable in appearance now has a small claim to fame. It was home to the first all African-American Life Saving Station in the US. This service eventually evolved into the US Coast Guard.
These were brave men. Brave, or insane. They would row out to wrecked ships to pull sailors to the safety of shore before their ships broke up and they drowned in the surf. Since the ships didn't often run aground in nice, clear weather, this feat was most often performed in highly dangerous situations. When the waves and wind made it impossible to row out, many of the members of the service would swim out in hurricane conditions to drag back survivors. It was dangerous and deadly work, and they lived out here at a time when they were often the only inhabitants for miles around. And since the Chicamacomico station was all African-American, these particular servcie members often found their thanks chilly and reluctant.
We passed Buxton and had a distant look at the tallest brick lighthouse on the east coast, the Hatteras Light. In Hatteras village, we caught the free ferry to Ocracoke, which was a nice, warm break.
Ocracoke was a nice ride. Since the ferry only runs every hour this time of year, and the ferry is the only thing to drive to on the east end of the island.
We pulled into Ocrocoke village just before sunset, and scoped out our camping spot near the Springer's Point, part of the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust. Springer's Point used to be a hangout of Blackbeard the pirate.
There is more than just pirates to worry about at Springer's Point. If you are not careful, the turtles will drop from the trees and ambush you:
We watched the sun set over Springer's Point. It was one of those rare sunsets, when you can see the last sliver of sun as it dissapears below the horizon, unobscured by land, trees, or clouds. Watching that last bit of light wink out is the perfect way to end a day.
We ate dinner out at Daijo, and were one of only two groups there that evening. Daijo was one of only two places open for dinner in Ocracoke this time of year.
After dinner we turned on our lights, rode back past Springer's Point and set up camp. I was fast asleep in no time, and slept well until our alarm went off well before dawn.
It was cold and dark as we broke camp and brought our bikes out of the woods. We warmed up in the ferry office with coffee and trail mix while we waited for our final leg of the journey to begin. The sun rose over the Pamlico Sound as we rode the Swan Quarter ferry back to our car.
We had a great shakedown ride. Our gear (and our legs and lungs and bums) held up admirably. The cold was penetrating, but not miserable. As long as it doesn't get much colder during our long trip, we should be OK.
The hardest part now is waiting for the real trip to begin. Our tickets are purchased, our gear is ready, and the open road beckons.