I’m in Knoxville TN once again! Shelagh and I rolled into town Friday evening around 5:30. 81 miles from Hot Springs, NC to Knoxville, TN. The first half of the day was fast and pleasant, but when the temperatures started to creep into the 90’s we started slowing down a bit. Whew! But I’m back in Knoxville and well rested. Tomorrow I head out again in the direction of our neighbor to the north, Kentucky!
Since I have a little bit of time, my camera cord, and a computer, I can write decent blog post with photos! So to recap the past 12 days, here’s what happened:
Day 1 – Ocracoke Island to Little Washington, NC
First thing in the morning Shelagh and I rode to the beach to perform the ceremonial bike wheel dip. Afterwards we got coffee and bagels and headed to the ferry terminal to catch the 9:30 am ferry to Swan Quarter. On the ferry, Shelagh and I met the coolest, bike riding-est family from Saxapahaw. For the duration of the ferry, we chatted with Jeramey and Hannah about cycling, touring, and possible routes to take through North Carolina. We ended up exchanging contact information and a few days later we were camping in their back yard! They were so helpful and friendly – truly, great people.
From Swan quarter we rode 61 miles to Little Washington. We had a little tail wind at first and hauled ass – it’s pretty flat in that part of the world. We arrived in Little Washington around 6pm and Mike and Celeste (my lovely grandparents) greeted us with beverages and hors d’oeuvres. After we took showers and got setteled in for the night we ordered take out Italian food. We ate all of it. I guess we were pretty hungry.
Day 2 -Little Washington, NC to Kinston, NC
The next day it took us a little while to get going. We had to rearrange our gear and bags on the bike because we just came from the beach. And Mike and Celeste followed up the family tradition of water balloon farewells! If you want to check out this post, you’ll get a good recap of Day Two!
Day 3 – Kinston, NC to Smithfield, NC
This ride might have been one of my favorites. It was a 63 mile day, averaging about 13 miles per hour on gently rolling flatland. We passed through a lot of subsidized corn, soybean, cotton, and turkey farm land. Yes… Turkey. We found out soon enough that eastern North Carolina has a lot of ButterBall Turkey Farms. And it just so happened, that a couple of days before we left Kinston, that one of the turkey farms caught on fire and burnt down, killling 7,000 turkeys. YES. SEVEN THOUSAND TURKEYS. There were downy feathers on the side of the road for miles and miles. It was pretty strange. But that’s not why I liked riding that day. I just enjoyed the pace, the distance, and the scenery – once we passed the turkey farms. We stayed at a KOA that night, and fell a sleep with no problem.
Day 4 – Smithfield, NC to Lake Jordan State Park
Wow. This was another scenic and really enjoyable ride. Even though it was on par with our daily mileage of 60ish miles (we rode 65), it felt so long! We rode through a lot of really cool small towns and we started to ride up and down small hills. We stopped and ate lunch in Angier, NC and they had a really cool cycling road symbol. They were beer bottles! Oooh the power of suggestion. We made friends with a family enjoying a meal at a local restaurant. They were incredibly interested in our exercise vacation and tried to give us as much help as possible. After Angier we past long the outskirts of Fuquay-Varina (pronounced “Few-Quay” … not fuckway.) When 5:00 traffic hit we stopped for a couple of hours for drinks and food in Apex. It’s a really chic suburb of Raleigh. We finally made it to Lake Jordan around 8:30, set up camp, and fell asleep.
Day 5 – Lake Jordan to Saxapahaw!
Since it was fathers day weekend, the campground was PACKED. And we awoke to many happy, loud babies around 6:30 am. This was one of our “rest days” meaning, a day with mileage under 40 miles. We arrived in Saxapahaw in the early afternoon and had a lovely evening hanging out with Jeramey, Hannah, baby Sam, and Bobbi the grandmother. For more on Saxapahaw, visit this post.
Day 6 – Sxapahaw, NC to a little campground near the Zoo in Asheboro
Another relatively short day, 47 miles. At this point we’ve traveled 323 miles. Wahoo! This was the first day of legit hills. They kind of kicked our butts. The campground we stayed in was in was on top of a small mountain/large hill in the Uwharies. The Uwharies are a little bitty mountain chain (think baby Ozarks) that nobody really talks about unless you’re from North Carolina and ride bikes near them. We avoided them – sort of. We tried to go a little north so that we weren’t caught riding through the middle of them. They are supposed to be gorgeous, and I bet they are, but I have plenty of other mountains to get over. So we went around them instead of through them.
Day 7 – Asheboro, NC to Statesville, NC
This was a looonggg day. We rode 81 miles to a hotel in Statesville. Not much to talk about because I don’t really remember a lot of that ride. We started boozencruisin for the last 25 miles or so. I think my brain tried to block those last miles out of memory because I was using all of the oxygen in my blood on my muscles and not brain energy. We eventually got to the hotel at 9:30 at night.
Day 8 – Statesville, NC to Morganton, NC
We left the hotel REALLY late. I guess it was worth it since we had a long ride the day before. We rode only 40 miles or so to a spot between Hickory and Morganton NC. Hickory was such a shit hole and the roads were so unavagatable we ended up calling our hosts to drive us into town the last 15 miles. I felt like I cheated a little bit, but then realized that our side trip to Saxapahaw added an extra day… so I don’t really feel so bad about hitching a ride 🙂 Our hosts Gwen and Doug Veazey cooked us an amazing dinner! There was grilled chicken, corn on the cob, an array of steamed veggies, and a curry-yogurt sauce. Yumm!
Day 9 – Morganton, NC to Asheville, NC
So we cheated a little more… Gwen drove us a ways down the road to get us out of the Morganton area. The ride to Asheville was really fun and really scenic. We were actually in the mountains at this point! There was this one stretch of road near Old Fort that is closed to cars. It’s about a 4 mile, gradual climb…. kind of like foothills but not as long or steep. It was awesome! We had a bread, cheese, and avocado lunch in Black Mountain. We continued on towards Asheville and had to battle some 4:00 clock traffic and steep hills once we got into town. We got to our next host’s house around 5:00, just in time to catch Jean before she had to go teach a book binding class. (A side note, Jean – our Asheville host and friend of Shelagh’s from college – is an amazing artists and makes all sorts of cool prints and bound books.) While Jean was working, Shelagh and I walked to downtown and had cocktails. We got back and Jean had prepared fried chicken, chili, cornbread, and squash casserole. We have eaten SO WELL on this trip.
Day 10 – Asheville to Hot Springs
It was short, dirty, and mostly up an 8% grade. The first 20 miles was really flat and cool along the French Broad River. After Marshall, we climb a ton and had to take a lot of rests. One of our rests was really amazing – we happened to run into Kevin and Johnathan (Shelagh’s roommates) touring from the opposite direction! It was definintely an uplifting moment. And going town those hill to Hot Springs was really awesome as well! What wasn’t so awesome was the Harley Davidson rally that occupied the entire camp ground. It was fine, we found a lovely spot on the opposite side of the river along the AT – and it was FREE! And as always, the hot tubs were great!
Day 11 – Hot Springs to Knoxville
Another long, hot day. And we made it! Not too much to say about it other than we had to take a lot of water breaks in the late afternoon heat. All I really remember was my double gin and tonic when I rolled into town!
Now it’s time to socialize with my friends one last time before I continue on my travels! I will try to get photos uploaded to flickr soon, but it might be a few days.