I cheated again going from Raleigh to Fayetville. Well, I thought I was going to Fayetville. It turns out my friend Joseph lives in a town about 20 miles above Fayeteville. Anyway, my Raleigh friend Andrew was driving to Charleston for the weekend the same day I happened to be departing Raleigh. I could have gotten a ride the whole way down to the coast, but that would be too much cheating. Instead, I got off at some random exit in the middle of North Carolina. I was happy to turn my Raleigh to Fayetville-ish day from a 50 mile day into a 22 mile day.
But it was a tough 22 miles. We departed Raleigh at like 1:30 PM. I finally got on my bike at about 2:15 or so. I knew I only had 22 miles to do, but I still felt like I was in a time crunch. I was also on the most random country roads one could imagine. From the interstate to my friend’s house, I think I took one road with a number on it. All the other ones were named after things like churches and had approximately zero cars. If I had somehow fallen off my bike and severely injured myself, I suspected it would be days before any car drove by that would find me. It was also really strange staring so late in the day. I was so used to the routine. I get in the road around 8am everyday. Starting at 2PM just confused my mind and my body.
Plus, there was wind. I somehow made it 2/3 of the way through my trip without heavy wind. The ride to Fayetville had wind. It was just annoying. I knew my pedal strokes should be putting me at about 14MPH, but I was only going 11 MPH. Speed doesn’t really matter on a tour, but it was just frustrating to feel that my energy was being wasted. And my muscles tired out a lot sooner.
Eventually, I made it to Joseph’s house. We had a good night that was pretty low-key. We did go to a nice restaurant bar where I wowed the crowd with my karaoke rendition of “Twist and Shout.” Really, if you’ve never performed that one, you should try it out. Lots of energy. A real crowdpleaser. I brought the house down. It was the first time I’d been at karaoke since I’d been back, so it felt good to get back in front of a crowd.
The next morning I left on time and headed south. My destination was the town of Lumberton about 55 miles away. Leaving Joseph’s house, I headed toward Fayetville along Ft. Bragg Rd/Ave/Blvd (I don’t remember). It was populated mostly be pawn shops and used car lots, although I turned off it before it got to most of the strip clubs (I passed only two). I got lost near the mall because there was an unmarked road. Eventually, I found the way though and rewarded myself with some Burger King soft serve. Really, I’ve eaten way too much fast food during this trip. Plus, I see all these signs advertising that something is “new,” and I have to try it. Turns out, BK soft serve is just like every other place’s soft serve.
I was on some back roads for about fifteen miles, but I was worried I’d get lost again. I found a numbered state road, and I decided to just take that to another numbered road that would take me all the way to Lumberton. It took some of the fun out of the ride (wondering if Google was going to get me lost somewhere), but I was not looking for more adventure. I was just looking to make it to Lumberton. The wind was back. It wasn’t as bad as the previous day, but I could still feel its presence. I just wanted to end my ride as soon as I could.
The family I stayed with in Lumberton was awesome. The official couchsufer was Sara, but she was gone with her husband most of the night at a friend’s house for dinner. Really, her mother took care of me. I ate a terrific dinner and drink some great sweet tea. We watched Harry Potter together before I took over their den so I could sleep. I couldn’t have asked for nicer hosts. That night, I went to bed early in preparation for the next day.
The ride to Myrtle Beach was going to be long. Google Maps put it at exactly 80 miles. I decided to set off extra early at about 730am. I wanted to get on the road before the wind really kicked up. It worked. The first three hours or so of my ride were amazing. I have decided that I actually like Sunday morning rides. There is no one out on the roads. Really, once I left Lumberton, I don’t think I saw a car for an hour. It was just me, the road, and the surroundings around me. The beauty of that ride almost made up for NC’s then-so-far lack of anything worth looking at.
The day didn’t last that way though. Eventually, I crossed in South Carolina, and then I neared Myrtle Beach. There seems to be no good way to approach Myrtle Beach. Unlike many of the closely-located cities of New England, southern cities are far apart from one another. There is less of a grid to choose from. Approximately fifteen miles away from Myrtle Beach was a looping highway that connected the major communities along the coast. I took the road that intersected this arc and headed toward MB. This road was not fun. It was not scenic. It had way more traffic than that rest of the day, and at times, it was horribly narrow with no shoulder. I could not wait until I finished the ride.
I made it into my couchsurfer’s apartment complex at right about 79.1 miles. This was not acceptable. I had to do 80. Heck, if I had two more hours of daylight, I might have pushed for 100 miles. Anyway, I left the complex and biked for another miles. 80 miles. Done. New personal record that sounds pretty impressive to most non-cyclists.
I met my couchsurfer, and after I got cleaned up, we went to a Maryland Crab House a few miles from his house. For whatever reason, there were a ton of Baltimore Ravens fans there. The place was packed, and everyone was wearing purple and black. We ate some overpriced seafood and watched the Ravens play horribly against some team. I forget now. Once the game was over, we were still sitting and talking, but the places completely emptied out. If they only do business for four hours a week, sixteen weeks a year, I can’t really imagine how they stayed in business. It was fun to watch football with passionate fans though, and the unexpected motif of Baltimore Ravens games continued for a third week.