Wednesday, June 22, 2011

That's A Big Bird

MST - Day 50 - 3-11-11 – Newport River Parking Area to Monroe Gaskill Memorial Bridge – 38.6 miles

“It’s gotta be around here somewhere.” Using a not-very-detailed road map and Scot Ward’s MST book, Jim and I were searching for the start of today’s bike ride. Trouble was, I was following Scot’s directions in reverse (I am terrible at this) and searching for the southern terminus of the Neusiok Trail, a 22-mile trail through Croatan National Forest that I had not yet hiked. By the time I finished my mini-ride last night and we drove back towards New Bern, darkness had fallen and we couldn’t look for this starting point…so here we were early on Saturday morning. Jim drove as I peered out the window looking for Scot’s direction: “pass Alligator Tram Road on left (gravel road) no sign.” The “no sign” part had me a little concerned. How would I know…?

Up ahead on the right there’s a gravel road where a pickup truck is parked and people are standing around. Perhaps they would be helpful?

And that’s how we met Terry Smith and John Jaskolka, members of the Friends of the MST and trail builders/maintainers for this neck of the woods. As on most Saturdays, these “retired” guys were getting ready for a day of hard work on the trail. They gave us directions to our trailhead (I don’t know how else we would have found it) and Jim and I geared up for the day.

Today’s ride through the countryside called for watchful eyes and attention to details. After all, the point was not merely to cover the distance but to appreciate this part of North Carolina. Bridges span marshes and waterways and big birds are out there if you pay attention.  We crossed the Intracoastal Waterway. 

View from the bridge

Small roadside family cemeteries are worth a short but respectful visit. The Wilkinses are laid to rest here with their infant daughter.

Houses of worship abound, many with adjacent cemeteries. This one was unusual with its above ground graves, but I imagine they become more common as we get closer to the sea.

We stopped often today because of the variety of things to explore (and the key to my going the distance – resting a lot). We saw that we were not the first morning visitors at this “beach.”

These sweet ladies are mother and daughter, the proprietors of the Simpson farm stand and bakery. We got to enjoy a giant chocolate chip muffin just in time because the next day they were closing down for six weeks for mom’s knee replacement surgery.

Bikes taking a rest at the Finz Grill

Scot Ward mentioned this entrepreneur selling decorative gourds outside his home

My view for most of the day

Another view

At Davis Shore Provisions you can enjoy a cup of coffee and awesome homemade desserts (key lime pie is a must). If you want a cyclist style lunch, the Handy House convenience store across the road has hot dogs and chicken. The owners of Davis Shore Provisions let us eat lunch on their lawn, throw away our trash, and catch our breath before the last push.

I am still upright on the bike. Along this stretch we watched a great blue heron rise from the grasses and float for a long time above the water. No photos, just a great memory.

Bridge over Salters Creek

Marsh view

At the end of the ride I felt tired but my thighs were not aching – a good thing since I have tomorrow to go. This was a very enjoyable bike day, little traffic, breathtaking scenery and blue skies.

Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. ~ E. Y. Harburg

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