Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bike Finale

MST – 8-14-11 – Day 69 – Strickland Road to US-13, Shine, NC – 43 Miles

Our hotel was packed with families in town for a big soccer tournament.  We all gathered at the breakfast bar and peered out the windows at the pouring rain.  Thank goodness for radar –  it showed the storm moving through and a window of a few hours, then rain again possibly passing north of our bike route.  This was my last day of biking on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and nothing short of thunder and lightning would deter me.  Sure would be nice to not get drenched, though.

Jim and I got a move on, drove to the beginning point and he dropped me off.  Since today’s route was 43 miles I didn’t want to be solo the entire way, so rather than just drive slightly ahead, the plan called for Jim to drive to the halfway point and backtrack on his bike to meet me.  Together we would ride to the car and then he would drive to the end, repeat. 

So…I got chased by a posse within the first half-mile, two dogs who also alerted the one next door – a very disconcerting way to start the day.  I do believe I could become a road cycling enthusiast if not for the dog issue.  How can they bother me so much when I’ve hiked in the woods with bears?  Well, because bears are not aggressive unless extremely provoked.  The speed of the bike seems to trigger a dog’s instinct to chase – to bite also?  Animals do what animals do and I am just not fast enough to outrun them.  So with that early burst of speed juice in my veins I was on my way, but now I didn’t trust any house possibly harboring a crazy canine. 

Part of the charm of riding on the back roads is local country stores.  Early on this Sunday morning I stopped at Hornes Church Road Convenience Mart where some good old boys were gathered for a “pre-church” conference.  The owner apparently didn’t have a no-smoking rule.  I asked them if I was late for the meeting but they didn’t seem to get the joke – maybe they were thrown off by the bike shorts and helmet. 

Beautiful stretches of morning glories in purples and pinks

What did we do before cell phones?  Jim called to say he had gotten turned around and was worried about missing me while straightening out his detour.  Even the car’s GPS plus written directions plus Map My Ride are not enough to stay updated with current conditions “on the ground”.  In this case, Highway 795 had interrupted a road.

We met up before the detour that Jim had figured out.  “Road Closed” signs for cars mean nothing to cyclists.  We watched as work vehicles passed and then crossed the RR tracks and kept on going. 

The halfway point in the town of Black Creek was sleepy on Sunday morning.  I stayed for a little break while Jim drove on to the end point to repeat step 1.  Black Creek boasts a lovely little town park with a community hall, playground, gazebo and (most important) unlocked bathrooms. 

Black Creek police station

Small town pride – the local museum

No more dog chases today and I had a very pleasant ride.  I saw different types of tobacco, burley and Bright leaf.  There were also some lovely homes out here in the country, white picket fences, huge flowerbeds in the front yards.  Most importantly, no rain appeared, just cloudy and overcast, actually great conditions although still muggy and warm.  During the last hour the sun came out and the temperature rose and I got sunburned.

Tobacco harvest – the bottom leaves from each plant in the field are pulled at one time, then the harvesters go through again and pull the next bottom set. 

Cotton bolls

Cemetery and red barn – right after I snapped the photo here I saw a large male deer go into the woods

Once Jim caught up to me again, though, I began complaining (when I’m alone there is no one to hear me) as I was becoming tired and the heat was increasing – poor guy, don’t you know he’s glad this is the last day?   Although I knew I would make it, I appreciated having him as my coach counting down the last miles. 

What a great feeling!  My longest day (43 miles) and my last on the bike for the MST.  Just one short hike to go.

“Life is a road and I want to keep going…in the end I want to be standing at the beginning with you.”  ~Donna Lewis, At The Beginning

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