North Carolina, at least to start, yielded much of the same landscape and topography that Virginia had. However, I’m not there yet.
The previous day, on my way to Alberta, I was to stop at some point to purchase a lighter as I was out of matches, however, in typical fashion I forgot. This resulted in a cold dinner of granola, peanut butter, pecans, and pecan butter. Breakfast the next morning was actually worse since I ate all the granola; I stopped off at a gas station seeing as that was the only amenity or service anywhere in town. Clif bar (and another for the road), honey bun, and coffee in a delightful styrofoam cup.
Sitting outside with my back against a wall an old man mentioned that he had seen me earlier that morning breaking camp. That was about as far as that conversation went. What the point of the statement was I couldn’t say, but a lot of people out there seem to talk about nothing, or make offhand comments that lead down a blind alley. Talking for talk’s sake. Or sanity’s sake. Makes me wonder if everyone in these backwater places are bored out of their skulls for nothing to do. The soothing sound of one’s own voice must be like a panacea to them. Sweet, sweet ambrosia! One’s cup may overfloweth if only one never stops talking.
Departing the confines of the gas station asylum, I was to experience long stretches of reasonably semi-flat-ish road early on, if I remember correctly (and if that description of road is any indication, I don’t). Later on quite a few hills. Took a detour around the Dick Cross Wildlife Management Area that added some miles (and steep hills), but was quite pretty; an old man waved to me out of the window of his truck (the best gesture); and I got a lovely Instagram photo for my trouble, on the bridge crossing Robbins Creek. At that point the day was maybe half over and I was starting to feel fatigued. No matter! Rain!
As I crested the top of quite a long climb to the dam which I was to cross at John H. Kerr Reservoir it began. As well the wind picked up quite a bit as it was open water on one side and empty space on the other. I stopped for no photos. The following three hours were the most miserable of the trip to that point, though I was near the North Carolina border. However, that thought did little to stir what bit of cheer remained in the depths of my heart—wet misery.
Perhaps thirty minutes after crossing the Carolina border, rather damp, everything in my trailer soaked, peering out on a foreign world, a dead-gloom world, I came upon a small shop with the sign, “If we ain’t got it, you don’t need it” hung over the door. I thought I might ask the proprietor, or whoever might be behind the desk, if I could fill up my bidons at a sink, and, walking inside I did notice that they stocked quite a wide range of supplies, from electrical, to plumbing, to food, to ammunition… what have you. With an appraising eye he directed me towards a sink around a corner. A rather dirty, minuscule sink it turns out; I could’t fit the bidons under the spigot, but as luck would have it there was a coffee pot nestled amongst a pile of rubbish on a small table beside the sink. Coming back around the corner and approaching the front desk the man behind the counter, with a wry smile, asked me how I got water in my bottles, to which I explained about the coffee pot. He laughed, and smiling said “I wondered how yud fill ’em when I told you where it was.” Well, alright…
Two more shit hours to Henderson. I made it into town with the idea to camp on some soaking piece of earth, wherever I could find it, but as I came upon a cheap inn, the Budget Host Inn to be exact, I thought I might check it out. A bit of a luxury for sure, but why not? Why not a bit of luxury every so often? $50 worth of luxury. Perhaps not in the remotest sense luxury to most or many, but in my shoes any place with a shower and bed, no matter the state, would be a step up from a tent and sodden earth. Besides, if it were so bad I did have my tent I could pitch in the room, and a sleeping bag to sleep in. Thankfully this wasn’t necessary; there was even wifi, and included breakfast in the morning.
I attempted haggling with the receptionist behind the counter, but he wouldn’t budge. He was though, quite kind, and showed curiosity in my adventure, asking where I was from, where I was heading to, etc. I think he gave me a nicer room than the cost would indicate as an act of generosity. Fine by me. I had to lug everything up a flight of stairs to get to this fancy room anyhow. And dinner cooked with my camp stove in the bathroom.
The following day was spectacular. Not a bit of wind; the sky a crisp, electric blue, like a great, big, perfect paint chip floating overhead; warm, dry weather; and roads paved in the glossiest of blacks. Thus, despite my late, late start I was able to put in a decent amount of miles, and made it to Durham just before dark. I had to wait for Chad, the raddest dude and best WarmShowers host in all the land, to pick me up to head to Raleigh for a bike polo match, so I popped over to the Pinhook, a divey music venue and bar in the same vein as the Ottobar in Baltimore (or any other divey music venue/bar, because they’re basically all the same, which is to say, FANTASTIC). I was immediately in love; totally my kind of place. PBR on tap, Natty Boh’ in cans (surprised? yes), in addition to a bunch of craft brews, great music playing. And besides the bar there was also an area of couches, chairs and low tables for relaxing. Big owl on one wall. Nearly very overcharged for my PBR but didn’t really care. Bartender was cool. Didn’t really care much to talk to me, but whatevs. Shit, everyone doesn’t want to hear your story, and that’s just life. I’ve found a great appreciation for conversation after spending so much time alone on the bicycle though.
Chad, my fabulous host and wonderful friend, lives in Chapel Hill, very near to Carrboro, thus, after the bike polo shenanigans we drove there. I’ve now skipped about ten miles of cycling. Boohoo.
My stay was great. Chapel Hill seems nice, though aside from my time spent in the house I was mostly in Carrboro. There there is an excellent market/co-op (I love co-ops), a great bike shop, and a nice cafe that I spent a fair bit of time at. Chad and I (mostly Chad) cooked a delicious dinner for ourselves and his roommates, who are also very nice people and, in general, had a lovely time together. But eventually I had to leave, and he had to leave too. For Christmas fun times. Goodbye for now.