Posted by: robinson2000 | August 15, 2012

From the Brink of Disaster!

13th – 14th August

We woke up bright and early at our Merchants Mill Pond State Park campsite after experiencing a heavy downpour for most of the night. The tent was doing sterling work on keeping out the water, but it had acted as a refuge for countless insects including 2 sizable spiders, a few moths, and a couple of crickets. We were in the swamplands of the deep South so a few critters were the least of our worries. Some of the road kill will were passing was far more worrying as shortly after leaving our campsite we found a thick bloody tail of a snake lying at the side of the road. We didn’t stop to find the rest of the snake as the thing was probably massive and not in the best of moods after having his tail run over.

We really were in the middle of nowhere as we found out later on in the day that the internet was only installed 6 months ago. This meant there was no welcoming diner or café to carb-up so we settled for a convenience store which had a couple of table’s setup at the back. We ordered a couple of egg and bacon biscuits from the slack jawed cashier as I asked her where the nearest town was. She answered “I don’t know, I just go this way and then that way” pointing to the road. We sat down and painfully chewed away at our foil wrapped breakfast that had probably sat there for a few days. It tasted horrendous but it was the only thing to eat. In the toilets the printed signs said “Cut-off lights when leaving” and “Make sure your waste go down toilet”.

The mornings ride was excellent with the sun shining through and excellent roads to pedal down. We hit the 20 mile mark very quickly and were cruising towards our destination when disaster struck as Chris’s pannier frame really decided to call it a day and broke to the point where it was resting on the back wheel, making the bike impossible to ride. It really needed a professional eye this time so whilst Chris was desperately trying to fix it, I attempted to flag down a pickup in hope of a ride into the next town, 40 miles away. I tried for an hour with only a handful of folks stopping, but none of them were going as far as Plymouth, where the nearest bike shop was. Realising that we could be there all afternoon, Chris decided to limp on a few more miles, but it really was painful to watch.

We stopped again outside of a fertiliser plant where I nipped inside and asked the kind lady in the office if she had any ideas on how to get to Plymouth. She gave me a taxi number and let me call from her office and within 30 minutes we had a white pickup collect Chris and take him 40 miles down the road. We agreed to meet at the bike shop, so with headphones plugged in, I began to pedal out the miles. It really was an excellent ride through the pretty swamplands and within 2.5 hours, I had cleared the 40 miles and found Chris and his bike, waiting outside Inner Banks Cycle works. The shop was closed, of course, and didn’t reopen until 11am the following morning. Whilst waiting outside the shop and finding nearby motels using my GPS, a friendly passer-by asked if we needed any help. We explained the situation to which he gave us the shop owner’s phone number and advised us not to go to the motel that we had just chosen as it was a crack house. We found a nice motel about a mile away and spent the evening in a dodgy pizzeria and a couple of beers in the motel room.

The following day brought us better luck as the bike shop opened up promptly at 11am and was run by an excellent guy from California, called Roger. He was a bike specialist having designed bikes in China and Taiwan, run countless bike shops, and also completed a far few tours around the globe. I think he was overjoyed to work on Chris’s bike as it seemed most of his cliental just wanted punctures mended. Within 2 hours he had fashioned a pannier rack to the bike and tuned up the brakes. He really was a top guy and charged only $10 for the labour, plus the cost of the rack. Chris gave him a big tip just as I asked for a spare inner tube, which he generously chucked in for FREE.

We left Plymouth feeling overjoyed and optimistic about the rest of the journey. The last 3 days had been plagued with maintenance problems and neither of us being very practically minded with repairs had struggled to keep the bikes running. We turned south out of Plymouth and pedalled out 40 tough miles into a stiff headwind down to Bayview, for a short ferry hop across the Pimlico River. It would have been a short crossing but we had just missed the previous ferry and had to wait an hour and a half for the next one. Still it was pleasant as there were cold drinks to buy and a nice ferry man chatted to us for most of the time.

We departed the ferry at 6pm with still 30 miles to get through before we could find camp. The sun was setting as we put our heads down and thrashed out the miles as quickly as we could. We rode hard and fast as we didn’t want to be pedalling in darkness but we still had plenty of light to guide us. We were becoming increasingly alarmed by the dogs that kept charging out of their property and chasing us down the road. With only a few miles left, we spotted two huge Rottweiler’s pacing their backyard. They spotted us immediately and came tearing out of the garden for us, narrowly missing Chris’s right foot as we hastily rode past.

At 8pm and after 73 miles, we found New Barn KOA campsite and thankfully the store was open. We were famished and grabbed a load of food from the shelves to devour and some chocolate milk that was becoming an everyday treat at the end of the ride. We pitched up next to a lovely family who invited us to join them for dinner. We quickly showered and joined the family from Maryland, who offered us pork and vegetables with bread and S’mores, which are basically a piece of chocolate with a warm marshmallow, sandwiched between 2 biscuits. They were great people and so generous with their food. So far the people we’ve met in Virginia and North Carolina are some of the friendliest folks we’ve ever met. Well worth a visit.

p.s thank you again for all the donations that keep flooding in. Total raised so far is £1411.

Total Mileage: 1361 miles

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  1. Hi Ben,
    I suppose that the bike shop man and other freindly people make up for broken panniers, spiders, tail-less snakes and Rottweilers. Specially gratefull for the man who advised against the crack house!
    Good going Ben, what experiences, amazing.
    Love Carolyn and Colin. xx

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