on the morning of wednesday, 12 may, as i pretended to pack up to start this trip, jon wisely called up the swan quarter / ocracoke ferry to find out when it runs ... turns out there are just two per day, so we had to hop in the car and jet with a swiftness down 264 to catch the 4:00 boat. This also meant that jon couldn't join me all the way to cape hatteras, so i would go it alone by riding first 25 miles east from ocracoke, and then starting the actual bike trip west to cape flattery.
so as i stood there on the deck of the ferry, among a host of cars filled with drivers, i watched the shore pull away from the boat. this unbelievable sense of fear swung down upon me : what am i doing ? i'm all alone on a boat with only my bicycle and four panniers ...
but three long days later i made it back to raleigh, where i've once again been couch surfing and relaxing, restocking supplies and storing up mental and physical stamina for the next leg of the journey : 4 days of riding from raleigh to blowing rock, and my first encounter with mountains.
mother nature has smiled on the ride so far, providing three beautiful (but rather hot) days of relatively low winds and no major storms. in fact, the only storms i've seen so far were two large thunderheads just outside belhaven ; luckily the stretch of 264 i was on led directly between them, so i got only 5 minutes of light rain. the storms, i later found out, had drenched washington, bath, and most of the surrounding areas, so for the following days, there was a veritable fleet of riding lawnmowers humming outside, tending to the grass as i rode past.
dogs have been one of the least pleasant parts of the trip to date—the ones you really have to watch out for are the houses without any “beware of the dog” signs, because those dogs will actually run out into the road after you. luckily, though, i can bike faster than the dogs can run, so they've mostly been amusing sources of motivation.
one classic worry that i've actually found to be quite helpful is those huge 18-wheeler transfer trucks : i keep my ears perked up for the sound of one approaching, because (a) most of them have been quite nice in terms of passing distance, and (b) a large draft of air follows those things, sometimes raising my speed by 10 km/hr. to a tired cyclist, this boost is quite the spirit-lifter. all hail the transfer truck !
being a breakfast lover, i've been looking forward to sampling north carolina's breakfast offerings ... and north carolina has not disappointed at all ! in wilson i stopped for breakfast at puddin’ jac's, where for $ 7.10 i ate a three-egg breakfast (scrambled eggs, grits, biscuit, 2 sausage patties) a sausage biscuit, a sausage cheese biscuit, and a small orange juice. the waitress said, “you must be in for the long haul !”
in belhaven i stopped at farm boys, a tiny burger place with a reputation for beef barbecue sandwiches. i only had a few dollars on me, so i got a sweet tea and two cheeseburgers ... for $ 3.
just outside of bath, i stayed with some really nice folks along highway 99, and they graciously made breakfast with country ham (the saltiest substance on earth), grits (georgia ice cream, as merle called it), and eggs. barbecue sandwiches and coleslaw also await. i don't think i could do this trip as a vegetarian, at least not in the south.