Denis Kertz, ©2011
Mark offered to
lead me out of
Then Mark led the
way out of the city pointing out some interesting facts along the way. Despite the rush hour traffic riding was
pretty good. After 13 miles Mark left me
Riding was good
A short while later
I rode into Old Fort and then the riding changed. First, the traffic increased on a road with
no shoulder and the terrain became rolling.
This section between Old Fort and Marion was not particularly pleasant
because of the traffic and no shoulder.
Riding continued less than great on my way to Morganton where I did have the luxury of stopping at a couple of food marts for a cold drink, something that was a rarity on the Parkway. I stopped again in Morganton at 4:00 for a cold drink and then picked up US64/NC18 to Lenoir, another 15 miles. Traffic was pretty heavy in the rush hour but the road had a reasonable shoulder and little truck traffic so the main issue was just traffic noise. There were some long rollers in this stretch.
As I rode through
town I looked for motels since I had previously found there was no camping
nearby. I found a Day's
Then the fun began. It was almost dark when I got back to my room. Usually, turning on lights in a room is pretty straight forward – flick a single switch – but not this one. There was a switch right by the door that I assumed was the main light switch but there was a lamp on the left and one on the right walking into the room that wouldn't light up. There was also a bank of 3 switches in the far corner by the bed that seemed to be an odd arrangement. After trying several combinations of switches without success I asked the front desk if there was some secret I was missing. The attendant worked on getting the maintenance guy to my room while I did some more investigation. First I discovered the lamp on the right was not plugged in and it worked when I plugged it in.
I figured that at least gave me adequate lighting so I plugged in my PC adapter where the other lamp that didn't work was plugged in and my adapter's power on light didn't come on. So I realized the outlet wasn't working. The other outlet option was using the bathroom outlet but the counter outside the bathroom had no chair so I borrowed a chair from the front desk. As I was returning with the chair I ran into the maintenance guy who wondered what I was doing with the chair. After explaining the outlet problem he explained there was the main switch by the door but the bank of 3 switches also had to be set right. So he flipped one of the secondary switches and I found I could get the final lamp to light jiggling the light.
Assuming everything was finally set I powered on my PC and discovered I had essentially no WiFi signal. At that point I was about to blow a gasket but the front desk attendant restarted the WiFi transmitter and I got enough signal to be able to connect. But I was not a happy customer since I had wasted about an hour fiddling with lights and WiFi when I could have been doing useful work.
The motel had a continental breakfast so I had cereal, some mini-waffles, and a bagel for breakfast. I dawdled around and didn't leave until 8:30.
NC18 was the main road north to Wilkesboro so there was a fair amount of traffic on the road and a minimal shoulder but traffic was very accommodating as I rode through the country side. I had hoped I could get breakfast in Wilkesboro but it was 28 miles and I didn't arrive until after 11am. I stopped at a food mart just south of town for a bite to eat although they didn't have much selection.
By the time I got on the road again it was close to noon. I picked up 421 east which was a 4-lane expressway. It would have been okay except it had rumble strips in the shoulder. Sometimes I could ride to the right of the rumble strips and sometime I rode along the white line. Neither was appealing even though the traffic was accommodating when I was riding the white line.
studying the route last night I noticed that I could pick up Old US 421 not too
far out of Wilkesboro. After 10 miles, I
exited the expressway and took the
I could have switched to Old US 421 shortly but the road I was riding was so good I didn't want to change. I rode it until it terminated at a 421 entrance/exit and then rode across the freeway and picked up Old US 421 which was not quite as nice due to more traffic but still far more preferable than the expressway.
When I reached
Yadkinville I had a decision to make. It
was only 3:00 but it was about another 25 miles to the next place with
accommodations and that was a little inside the
So I made the decision to stay and got a motel room for $35 for which I had to pay cash. It was pretty much a dive but it had a bed and a shower and it also had one thing last night's more expensive room didn't have – a chair in the room.
I cleaned up and walked a couple blocks where I found the public library which had WiFi access. Then I had a pretty good meal at a Mexican restaurant.
I slept well, about 10 hours, and apparently that's what I needed as I was back to normal today. When I ate at the Mexican restaurant last night I asked about breakfast places and the guy identified two possibilities, one heading south and the other heading east on my route. I had difficulty understanding his accent. He seemed to say the one south was about a quarter of a mile but I couldn't see anything down that way other than a descent down a hill and back up again so I wasn't about to try that. So I headed east and looked for a breakfast place. I stopped at a cafe that was really a coffee shop and I smelled bacon. So I followed my nose across the street to a place labeled as a Seafood Restaurant. It never occurred to me that this would be a place offering breakfast but it did. I just didn't understand why the Mexican guy didn't simply say it was essentially just across the street from his place or next to the library. Anyway it was a good breakfast with pancakes and bacon and the elderly waitress was a delight. She was fascinated that I was doing such a long ride.
I was on the road a
little after 8. There was some traffic
initially but that went away as I got out of town. This was good riding in the country
side. After 14 miles I passed a nice
park by a river where I probably could have camped yesterday if I had continued
on. When I reached Pfafftown I turned
I left on
When I reached Reidsville I could have continued on another 20+ miles to Yanceyville but that would have been a near century and I probably wouldn't have arrive until 6:30 or so and I didn't know what services were available. The good thing was I felt strong enough to continue if I had wanted to. Instead I turned north on US158 and stopped at the first motel, the Royal Inn, for a room for $42, which was the motel value of the trip. This was a nice room with WiFi and close to eating facilities. I walked to a Golden Corral Buffet for dinner and spent the evening familiarizing myself with tomorrow's route.
It was great to be back on the road with good cycling and good legs, which I attribute mostly to a good night's sleep.
There wasn't a real breakfast place around so I stopped at a Hardees for breakfast for something acceptable. There was a lot of traffic on US158 and essentially no shoulder so it wasn't a great start for riding. However, after 158 bent around the top of Reidsville the traffic dropped off and there was a decent shoulder and it was good riding. With the light traffic a shoulder really wasn't necessary but it was nice, until the shoulder disappeared about 8 miles from Yanceyville.
I got in Yanceyville right at 10:30 and was hoping I might find a breakfast place so I took the business route through town but there was nothing. Yanceyville did have a large courthouse in the middle of town and I would have thought there would be a breakfast place to accommodate the folks working there. Instead I stopped at a food mart for my standard second breakfast.
When I left 158 joined with 62 and became a high speed road with a great shoulder. However, 158 split off after a couple of miles and it reverted to its low traffic, good riding road. Another 20 miles brought me to Roxboro which was a mess to get through. I was looking for a food mart that might have a sandwich or burrito but the two I found had neither. So I made do with some food from my own supplies.
US158 was a little
rough with some patches for a while before becoming the same as before. I continued to ride through a country side
with occasional houses lining the road and some farms. When I arrived in the
There were a bunch of fast food places on the other side of I85 that were within reasonable walking distance. I ate at a Subway for the first time in a long time. Then back at the motel I had to fiddle with the WiFi. The attendant was clueless about WiFi and didn't even know the password. Then I had to hassle with my PC to get it up on the WiFi.
I stopped at a McDonalds because there was no real breakfast place in the area and had their big breakfast with hot cakes. Not a bad substitute for a real breakfast. However, the place was crowded and it took a while to get food. There was also a grocery store in the mall area so I grabbed a box of cereal.
It was easy to get back on route. I took Industrial that ran into 158 Bypass. But the Bypass led me onto the Interstate which I took until the next exit. As luck would have it, there was a Waffle House at the exit so I had to stop for a second breakfast even though it was barely an hour later. I had my usual double pecan waffles but service was slow.
As I worked my way
The route took me
across the Kerr Dam where I stopped at a restroom since it was convenient. A guy was just getting out of the portable
and appeared to be eyeing my bike. When I
exited he was looking my bike over, intrigued because it appeared to be a
single speed. I let him think that for a
bit until I pointed out that the rear hub was fat because it had 14 gears. Turns out he had also bicycled the
Just after I passed
the dam I hooked up with 4 and saw my first USBR1 sign. I would see these consistently for the rest
of the day, noting when turns were necessary except for one instance. It was great cycling on these low traffic
roads through rural
Just south of Burkeville USBR1 took the west leg of a Y and I followed it although I suspected the other leg was probably a better bet for services. I ended up riding around town as it was getting dark and had to ask at a hospital where the motels were. I got directions but the half mile down the road direction I got turned out to be somewhat longer. I asked again and got better directions when I got closer to the Comfort Inn. It was dark as I rode to the motel so I had my blinkie on and my portable head light. The motel would have cost $110 but it was sold out for the night and I was stuck.
Given the luck I had in Buchanan with eating at a restaurant and getting a spot to throw up my tent I tried that at 3 different places with no luck. At the last one, I decided to eat and wait for the owner to show up and had an awful chicken sandwich. I expected a typical chicken sandwich and got a fried piece of chicken with bread slapped around it. But since I had no way of knowing when the owner would show up and how he would respond I finally asked the waitress about a town park. She noted there was an athletic complex just down the road so I decided to try that.
I pulled into the complex and was set to set up behind a picnic building when a police car showed up with a spot light. The officer had seen me earlier and fortunately was agreeable to letting me camp for the night. So I set up and crashed after taking care of this report.
A long and tiring day made difficult by no accommodations.
I slept fine in my camp spot but there was condensation on my tent so I had to pack it up wet. There were several good things about not getting a motel last night. First, the Comfort Inn would have cost as much as the last 3 days combined so I saved some money. Next, I found the little restaurant right next door to the motel that had a breakfast buffet where I ate. It was a simple buffet without all the bells and whistles but I had bacon, eggs, potatoes, waffles, and pancakes. That was all I needed for a decent price.
The last good thing
was that I found the road to the motel was part of the USBR1 route so when I
left the little restaurant all I had to do was head north and I was on
track. The big problem today was going
to be getting through the
The one downside to the USBR1 route is that it often passes through rural areas with few services such as food marts. Around 11:30 I gave up on finding a food mart so I stopped at an old abandoned house to use the front doorsteps for a comfortable place to sit.
The big problem as
I neared the
As soon as I
reached US1 there was a motel but I road a little further north to get as much
It would have been
nice to see what the USBR1 route was like through
easy. Just pack up and ride less than a
block down the street to Waffle House where I had a double pecan waffle. What wasn't easy was finding USBR1
again. I searched Google trying to find
a map or cue sheet that would allow me to get back on the trail but no luck. I found one map for the
So I ended heading back to US1 and taking that. After 5 or so miles traffic dropped off and US1 was okay as a 4-lane route. There wasn't enough traffic for a 4-lane road with the parallel I95 so traffic had room to move to the side to accommodate me. US1 was a continuing series of rolling hills.
US1 was okay until
The real challenge
for the day was how to get to motels after
I left US1 about 3
Surprisingly, for roads that looked like rural roads there was a lot of traffic, more traffic than the 4-lane US1. I was really thinking there was no way I could make it to a motel because I would run out of daylight. So I was thinking about looking for a camping spot at Independent Hill. But when I got to Independent Hill it was 5:30 and that gave me hope that I could get close enough before darkness set in that it was worth a try.
So I took off on a mad dash hoping that I would get far enough before darkness that I would have little riding in the dark. That worked out pretty well and I turned on my rear blinkie as I was mixed in with some fairly heavy traffic heading towards I85. When it really got dark I put on my front light and started riding the sidewalk. At a foodmart I asked about getting to motels and was told I only needed to ride a little further on Old Bridge Road where it ended and turn right on 123 and within a mile or so I would find some motels.
Then I noticed my rear blinkie wasn't blinking and I didn't know how long that had been the case. It could have just been a case of weak batteries but I decided not to try to change batteries in poor light. That forced me to stay on the sidewalk which was probably a good thing. That is, until the sidewalk ended at the I85 entrance/exit ramps. At that point I started walking with my bike until I got past the ramps and then traffic died off. There I rode just a short distance and found an Econo Lodge with a room for $72. I ate next door at a Taco Bell and then settled in to figure out how to complete my route tomorrow.
Econo Lodge had a continental breakfast but it was virtually useless. I got a small bagel and a small muffin and I figured that would get me going. I backtracked on 123, seeing what I couldn't see last night. When I got to the river I reverted to the Adventure Cycling route which used a pedestrian bridge to cross the river but it came back to 123 on the other side so I would have been better off if I had stayed on 123.
After turning off
greatly once I started riding through
Near the end of the
trail it was an easy turn off to
Directly across the
cemetery was a bridge across the
viewed the major things I wanted to see, it was time to head to my niece's
through the congestion I stopped at a restaurant and asked how to get to
But what a shock to the system. I was in a home with 3 young, rambunctious boys. The youngest was masquerading as a ninja and threatening me with bodily harm. It’s hard to understand the energy of these young tykes until you are immersed in it. Fortunately, this house had a mother-in-law apartment which provided some insulation from further shock.
Today was a tourist day before my Amtrak train tomorrow. I rode downtown with Emily on her daily commute, after she dropped off the oldest boy for school, and made her commute faster with my mere presence. Since I was a second person in the car Emily was able to use the HOV lane. Still it was aggravatingly slow but I was in no particular hurry, just wondering what commuting like this every day must be like.
I had Emily drop me
off at a breakfast place close to where her office was and enjoyed a leisurely
breakfast. I had seen all the major
sights I wanted to yesterday and today’s focus was on museums. One thing I didn’t
get to do yesterday was ride to the top of the
After that I spent
a couple hours each at the
My original plan
was to ride by bike from
At first I thought I would just get dropped off close to where Emily dropped me off yesterday but Marc said he didn't have anything pressing until 11am so he took me to Pete's Diner for breakfast, near the Capital Hill Club, just southeast of the US Congress. After a leisurely breakfast it was still raining so it made sense to just have Marc drop me off at Union Station since conditions weren't conducive to doing anything else. So in the end I didn't ride my bicycle anywhere. I just pushed it around Union Station.
My train wasn't until 4:05 pm but there wasn't any point to hanging onto my bicycle and baggage so I strapped my two rear panniers together to form a luggage unit and filled my duffel bag with sleeping bag and tent and the contents of one of my front panniers. I used the other front pannier as a carryon for my sensitive items and valuables and whatever else I would need/want on the train.
I paid $20 for a bike box and shipping and waited by the baggage station for someone to bring up a bike box. At first no one showed up so I had to get the checkin attendant to re-page the baggage guys to bring a bike box. Then it was a simple matter to remove the pedals and turn the handlebars sideways and roll the bike in the bike box.
While removing the
pedals I got my hands dirty so I stopped at the men's washroom to clean my
hands and as I was washing someone came up from behind and said “Hi
Denis.” I was astonished since I had no
idea who would know me in DC but it turned out to be Ross, one of the 3 guys I
met the other day who had ridden down from
Meeting Ross was nice also because it was a good way to kill time while waiting for my train. Union Station had an impressive arrangement of various eating possibilities and I took advantage of a buffet bar to eat before the train. As it turned out I had more time than I thought. The train was almost an hour late and our 4:05 train didn't leave until around 5pm.
As soon as the
train departed and the conductor collected my ticket I moved to the observation
car which was conveniently the next car down.
The train pretty much followed the Potomac River on its way to Harpers Ferry
At 10pm quiet time was in effect and cell phone usage was not allowed in the coach cars. So I retired back to my seat to do my best to sleep in my reclining seat.
It's always a challenge to try to sleep in a coach seat on an Amtrak train. In my previous overnight experiences I always had two seats to myself and could somewhat lay across them. However, this time I had a seat mate so I could only use my own seat. The best I could do was to sleep for an hour or two at a time but I managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep.
Since we had
started an hour late yesterday the hope was that some of that time could be
made up but that was not the case. We
lost more time and were about 2 hours late getting to
was a little slow but I collected my two pieces and was lead downstairs to my
bike. Restoring the bike was
straightforward but I had to repack my panniers somewhat. By the time I got on the road it was about
12:30 which still gave me plenty of time to make the 30+ miles to
At one point along
the way I met another cyclist on the Illinois Prairie Path who was curious
about my trip. He suggested taking the
Illinois Prairie Path all the way to
I made it home just before 5pm and pretty tired, partly due to the windy conditions but probably also because my body was still tired from the stress of the tour.
Copyright Denis Kertz, 2011. All rights reserved.