Thursday, June 23, 2011

That's A Big Bridge

MST - Day 51 - 3-13-11 - Highway 55, Pleasant Hill AME Zion Church to Minnesott Ferry - 33 Miles
Despite a good workout yesterday, I spent a restless night worrying if we would get an early enough start for today’s ride.  Why so concerned?  Today takes us through the town of New Bern and across the Neuse River Bridge.  It’s a Sunday morning and we are hoping for the lightest possible traffic.  (Note:  We took very few photos today.)
The morning was pleasantly warm for March, surely good karma.  We started off west of New Bern on Highway 55 (four lanes) and made it about six miles into town before traffic increased.  The architecture of some of the old downtown buildings is amazing.  I wish we had had time for more photos – one of the few drawbacks of biking instead of walking.  It feels so good pedaling that you don't want to stop.
Craven County Courthouse

Tryon Palace is the big historic attraction for New Bern but we passed by too early in the morning to check it out.  Danny visited it when she passed through on her MST hike. 

Front Street was deserted, but still ahead was the Neuse River Bridge.  We drove across it yesterday and it seemed a little insane, but we determined it was doable.  Scot Ward’s directions are written for hikers to walk up the off-ramp, on the left-hand side facing traffic, but as cyclists we had to find and then follow the correct on-ramp.  (I pedaled like a demon up that ramp.)  Once we got onto the bridge there was no stopping, but our wishes for no cars and no wind were granted and it was actually a fun experience.  At the end our route deviated again from Scot’s directions for hikers – we simply got off at the exit and continued on Highway 55. 
My photo of the bridge before we began

Aerial view of the bridge – we approached from the middle left, across the short horizontal bridge, around the spaghetti loop and up over the wide bridge on the right

Highway 55 is nothing to write home about, a four-lane divided highway with a very wide shoulder.  I was glad not to walk those eight miles.  A highlight:  we stopped at an ABC store for a rest and snack break.
Turning onto SR 1005, we entered the countryside once again, passing swampy areas.  These are cypress knees but it’s hard to tell because of the reflections.
In this rural area on a Sunday morning there was so little traffic that we could relax and ride side by side, checking out homes and yards.  We saw abandoned houses peeking through overgrowth.  At one pasture a horse stood up and lazily walked over to the fence to greet us.  We passed several white churches, one in particular on SR 1005 at five minutes to 11:00 a.m. as people were going in.  Should we have stopped?  Hopefully they would have welcomed visitors, although perhaps not smelly ones in cycling clothes. 

Like I said, roadside cemeteries yield some interesting pieces of information.
We biked 33 miles in 3 hours and 10 minutes, ending at the north parking area for the Minnesott Ferry where we had left a car the previous night.  The key to a fabulous bike ride:  flat, flat and more flat road.
But our day was far from over.  We drove back into New Bern, strolled around the downtown historic area and had a lovely lunch al fresco, returned the rental car…and then began that long, long, long drive back home.  BUT I had completed 80 miles of the MST – not bad for a weekend’s work.

A bicycle does get you there and more.... And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive.  Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat. Potholes become personal.  And getting there is all the fun.  ~Bill Emerson

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