Posted by: robinson2000 | August 23, 2012

Redneckville!

22nd – 23rd August

After a much better night’s sleep in the tent, we woke to a grey bleak morning in the quiet RV Park on the outskirts of Statesboro. I’ve never understood the fascination of staying at an RV park for any length of time as they are usually on the city fringes, with not a lot around and very little to do. Chris spoke to a lady who resides permanently on the site and she spent most of the time hampering him from packing his pannier as she was clearly bored and it was only 8am. We left the site at 8.30am and cycled a short way down the highway to the only breakfast place around called the Chicken Barn. The name should have deterred us straight away, but we stupidly entered the fast food restaurant and ordered a breakfast platter, which consisted of a corn based muffin with sausage, scrambled eggs, and a portion of grits on the side. For those of you who haven’t heard of grits, it’s basically mashed up corn with water and looks like porridge. It’s an old age southern food that everyone eats in the Deep South. The problem is, it tastes absolutely horrendous and to make matters even worse, the kind restaurant owner noticed we were cyclists and gave us an extra-large portion. He also threw in some FREE brownies and homemade cake, which was incredibly nice of him except when I asked if they were nut-free, he replied “yeah…. I normally put lots of nuts in them but I ran out this time”. He then waivered picked one up and peered at it giving a puzzled expression. It didn’t fill me with confidence.

We left the Chicken Barn feeling a little sick from the grits and ploughed out 35 miles in the first two hours on good roads with a slight tailwind. We took a quick drink in Reidsville next to the gun and pawn shop before pedalling out another 30 miles in two hours. The roads were exceptionally good as we passed swamplands and loads of splattered armadillos being eaten by eagles. We stopped at the 65 mile mark at a small gas station, where we picked up our second chocolate milk drink of the day and sat next to an incomprehensible old chap who seemed to believe that Florida was only 300 miles away. We were soon back on the road as the incessant flies forced us back on the bikes as we pedalled towards the town of Jesup. The ACA’s route had stupidly failed to include any campsites for 130 miles so we had to find a hotel for the night on the outskirts of town. We finished the day at 3.30pm with 78 fast miles under our belt and relaxed in our hotel room with Chelsea defeating Reading on the TV. In the evening we found a real hole in the wall type of joint called the Oyster Shack. When I asked the tough looking waitress if any of the beers were brewed locally, she looked at me strangely and said she had no idea. It was a nice enough place but we weren’t in the drinking mood, so retired early to our room for some more trash TV.

We had a slightly shorter ride planned for the next day of only 63 miles, as it coincided with the final campsite in Georgia before we hit Florida. The skies were still overcast as they had been for the last 4 days, an ominous sign of the possible tropical storm that’s raging off the coast of southern Florida. We took Highway 301 that ran south out of Jesup and completed 30 miles easily inside the first two hours. We stopped for drinks in a small town, our usual chocolate milk, and got speaking to some real rednecks. They even admitted they were rednecks and wondered why on earth we were in their neck of the woods. The scruffy looking one wearing jean shorts, sleeveless t-shirt and a baseball cap said that the only things to do in town were to drink beer and swim in the river. They were great people though and wished us well on our ride as we pulled out of the gas station.

Just as we made the left turn back onto the highway, I looked round to see Chris peering at his pannier frame with a worried expression on his face. The brand new pannier frame had once again sheered away from the bike frame on one side, leaving it precariously balanced. Chris did his best to secure it using gaffer tape and string but once again we were in need of a bike shop, which was about 100 miles down the road. We carefully pedalled out the remaining 32 miles of the day to the town of Folkston and found a campground called Okefenokee RV Park. It a very bleak looking place situated next to a mobile home park and a railway line. As we pushed the bikes along the gravel track, a domestic broke out in one of the parked up RV’s and we heard a women scream “Get out of my f**k**g house” as a scruffy redneck got kicked out the door.  Technically it wasn’t a house but I wasn’t about to correct her.  Tomorrow we’ll reach our final state and with only 7 days left of riding, I can’t wait to reach the beaches of Miami.

Total Mileage: 1959

Posted by: robinson2000 | August 22, 2012

Entering the Peach State – Georgia

19th – 21st August

With a much needed night’s sleep behind us, we spent a leisurely morning pottering about the hotel, swimming in the pool and getting our laundry done. It doesn’t sound like much but to us it was heaven. Our plan for the day was simple, take it easy and recuperate. Our hotel was several miles away from Downtown Charleston so we unloaded everything from the bikes and took a slow ride into the city where we had a big lunch in a nice sports bar showing some NFL. Afterwards we went our separate ways as Chris hunted down some civil war sights and I browsed some shops and cycled around the harbour area. There wasn’t a huge amount to see but there were some lovely old houses and a couple of nice parks to go around. I ended up in the city’s aquarium, which was FREE for the day (otherwise $30), and tried my best to see the tanks with the least amount of children around. Thank goodness I didn’t pay an entrance fee as it wasn’t a very good aquarium, the highlight being an albino crocodile and a giant lobster. I met up with Chris later in the afternoon and we found a brewpub serving a number of ales and excellent food. I went for just the one rack of ribs that came up absolutely huge, but kind of regretted not going for the second for only 7 extra dollars.

Feeling much better after a second night of unbroken sleep, we left the relative luxuries of the Sleep Inn and turned back onto the busy Highway 17. We had a 65 mile ride ahead of us, which didn’t feel like much compared to the previous 2 days of 85 miles each, but nether less it still needed to be completed. The early parts of the ride were incredibly dull as we stuck of Highway 17 for about 40 miles before finally turning off and winding our way back to the ACA route, which we’d been away from for the last three rides. We went through a couple of run down looking towns, one which was called Yemassee, where lots of folks were just sitting around and waving at us. We didn’t ride at a spectacular speed but by 3pm we had finished the 65 miles and arrived at our KOA Campsite. It was situated right next to a Denny’s diner for breakfast and had a swimming pool and coffee house. Once the eccentric owner had settled us in and laughed at my request for a tent pitch with the least amount of insects, we had a swim in the pool and lounged around the campsite for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening they put on a small wine tasting session for the two of us as we did our best to sound like wine connoisseurs. We also bumped into tourers number 3 & 4 as a couple cycled in late in the evening and promptly rode off as it was too expensive.

With the lure of a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast to get out of bed for, we were both up early and packed away the wet tent in record time. I ordered 4 pancakes, toast, and a yogurt from the burly tattooed waitress but was surprisingly defeated by the forth pancake. The ride began with a two hour ride to the State border of Georgia, our 13th State of the ride. We took a couple of photos and plodded on along some of the worst roads we’d seen. One road was still being made as we slowly rode through 2 miles of sand. With a heavy bike it’s an absolute nightmare as the rear wheel kept skidding out to the side and almost toppling the bike. A few miles further on and we were stuck on a similar road except this time the sand got thicker and thicker to the point where we had to push the bikes. After ½ a mile on this silly road, it led us into a farmer’s field in the middle of nowhere. Thoroughly annoyed at the GPS device we turned around and trudged back to the tarmacked road a ½ mile back. The rest of the ride was fine as we rolled into the town of Statesboro and stopped at a restaurant for a late lunch. It was nice to be inside as every time we had stopped for a break on the road, we had been plagued and bitten by midges. So far the Peach State wasn’t being to kind with us. We ended the 75 mile day at Parkwood RV Park, where Chris discovered another broken spoke and I practised my back flips in the pool.

Total Mileage: 1818

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Posted by: robinson2000 | August 20, 2012

Charleston, Here We Come!

17th – 18th August

After the relative luxuries of the riverside motel with its double beds, a TV, wireless internet and hot shower, we left with great reluctance at 8.30am in order to tackle the 85 mile ride we’d set ourselves for the day. In fact, we were facing back to back 80 plus milers in order to get us into Charleston in 2 days’ time. I had a blueberry pancake breakfast in a friendly local café where the waitress listened intently to our accents as we went over the route ahead. Again, it was a scorching day with the temperatures hitting the early 90’s so it wasn’t going to be an easy day.

We rode west out of Southport, along a dead straight stretch of road towards the State line. We were both eager to reach it as it marked out 12th State and one we’d both been looking forward to. Unfortunately for Chris, the cycle Gods were out to get him as we hit a stretch of rough road, which punctured his front tire. We pulled over and found some shade in order to change the inner tube just as a weathered old tourer pulled up and offered his assistance. He was only the second one we’d seen and was heading in the opposite direction. We exchanged a couple of road stories and he mentioned that due to South Carolina being the poorer of the two states, the roads were in awful condition. We bode farewell as Chris finished fixing his bike and found that his brand new pannier frame had a crack in it! Out came the magic string again as I secured it to the main bike frame. Fingers crossed it holds for the remaining 800 miles.

By 1pm we had clocked up 35 miles and had crossed into our 12th State of the trip. It was the only real landmark we hit all day as not long after crossing the border, we turned onto highway 17, a huge road that carved its way along the South Carolina coastline and passing the tourist hotspot of Myrtle Beach. It wasn’t the best of roads as we had zero shoulder to ride on and our progress was made difficult by the constant traffic lights. It was also incredibly boring, as our view of the ocean was obscured by high-rise hotels, and on either side of the road were endless fast food outlets, gas stations, mini golf courses and gentlemen’s clubs.

Our average speed was good as the miles kept on ticking down and eventually, at 4.40pm, we turned into Huntington Beach State Park and rode past the big alligator that was bathing in the last of the sunshine. Feeling very happy with ourselves that we had completed the 85 miles in great time, we strode up to the registration office only to find they were fully booked. I argued with the lady for a few minutes that there must be a small space that we could pitch up, but she was adamant that there was nothing as it was high season. We trudged outside and sat down on a nearby bench to rest and regroup. We had very limited options as they were the last campground for some distance and all the hotels in the area would be very expensive. Using the State Parks Wi-Fi, we found a few places on the internet but nothing was suitable. Just as Chris was about to book a golf resort, I nipped back into the office on the half chance that there may have been a cancelation and bingo, there was.

The park was lovely and had perfect beach access as we quickly pitched up and headed for the sea. We were both looked pretty disgusting as we’d cycled next to heavy traffic all day and on very dirty roads making us look like a couple of chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins. As we wandered over to the beach the dark clouds miraculously formed overhead, quickly soaking us and giving the beach a very dreary feel. It didn’t dampen our spirits as we dove into the grey water and probably making the sea even saltier. We got speaking with an old Kentuckian who began recommending landmarks in Miami to mark the finish of our ride. He suggested South Miami Beach as it contained lots of topless bathers. It wasn’t quite what we were after but we thanked him anyhow.

By nightfall, as we were eating the last of our dinner (soup, bread, noodles and a blueberry muffin), when the blood sucking mosquito’s, which seem to have the run of the East Coast descended on our picnic and forced us into our tent. We were both tired anyway but the tent was its usual uncomfortably hot self, meaning we had the choice of sweating profusely all night or being joined by the pesky mosquitos who packed quite a bite. We compromised by having the tent slightly open but we were still stifling hot. Chris interrupted a small racoon as it went through our rubbish in the middle of the night but it didn’t matter as we both slept appallingly.

With the rest of the campsite still asleep, we crawled out of our sweaty canvas at 7am to begin preparations for our second 85 miler. Although we were both sleep deprived and achy, the thought of having a day off the bikes and a soft bed to sleep in for two nights drove us on. This day marked the 26th day of cycling out of the last 27 so we were both in top condition for the ride. It began with a couple mile stretch to Applebee’s Pancake House, a hive of activity and a wonderful smelling breakfast to kick start our day. Chris wore his charity t-shirt, which garnered some wide eyed expressions from some of the diners as they quizzed us about the ride. In fact, Americans are easily impressed as just saying you’re from England brings out a “that’s amazing” comment.

We left Applebee’s just before 10am and pedalled hard to the town of Georgetown down Highway 17. We cleared the 16 miles to Georgetown in just under an hour, cycling though the industrial town at a rapid pace. At the 2 hour mark we’d cleared 30 miles and continued to push ourselves as hard as we could, rotating the lead cyclist every 5 miles in order to increase the average speed. By 2pm, we had completed 60 miles under the intense heat and had to stop at a restaurant to recover from our exertions and take on more liquid. After a bite to eat we slowed the pace down a little before we gave ourselves a heart attack and cruised the final 20 miles into Charleston. As we neared the city, I took us off the big highway and led us down some quieter roads in order to get away from the heavy traffic. The ride became much more enjoyable but the drivers became more and more agitated as they tried to overtake us, one very narrowly missing my left handlebar and more importantly, me. I charged after the cretin that had nearly knocked me off to give him a mouthful of abuse but he turned off at the next set of lights.  

We crossed the impressive looking Ravenel Bridge and free-wheeled down the other side into Downtown Charleston, which was made up off a collection of old and new style buildings. Some of the streets looked pretty rough and derelict but these were interspersed with pockets of student areas. We found our Sleep-Inn Hotel about 5 miles out the other side of the city and crashed out on the beds, both feeling quite weary from the 170 miles in two days. It was a great feeling as we’d calculated that with 11 more riding days after our day off, averaging just 66 miles a day, will get us into Miami on schedule.

Total Mileage: 1676 miles

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Posted by: robinson2000 | August 17, 2012

Racing Through North Carolina

15th – 16th August

We were both awoken by a huge clap of thunder about 6am and dashed out of the tent, just wearing our boxers to gather up our clothes. The family next door were packing up for an early getaway and were quite startled to see our tan-line streaked bodies diving for cover. We left the campsite at 10am and spent a couple of boring hours plodding away on some back roads towards Jacksonville, North Carolina. The pace was very slow due to the winds that seemed to plague us all day. It didn’t seem to matter what direction we turned, there was always a strong headwind. At points, it felt like it was blowing directly down on top of us as we put our heads down and grinded away on the pedals. Although the terrain was nice and flat, the constant wind really took the enjoyment out of ride.

By early afternoon we reached the coastline, which was a welcome change of scenery, but if anything the wind was even stronger. Towards the end of our ride we were faced with an unnecessary high bridge that looked like Tower Bridge with the bascules open and the winds up there absolutely battered us from every angle. Eventually we rolled into our campsite in Surf City after 78 very painful miles. It had been a long day with a big mileage and I think we were both very relived to stop pedalling. On the plus side we were camped right next to the Atlantic Ocean, the first time in about a thousand miles since we saw it. We broke out the swim trunks and rolled around in the rough seas for half hour. It was a great way to finish the day and relax. In the evening we had a couple of drinks in a small time bar down the road, where I got refused alcohol as I only had a diving license for ID. We also watched a spectacular lightning storm light up the sky in the distance over the ocean.

Thankfully the winds had dropped the following day, making the day thoroughly enjoyable. For starters, we actually found a café that did a proper breakfast for the first time in days. After a leisurely few pancakes and a bagel, we setoff just before 10am and quickly covered 32 miles in the first two hours. Once we had cleared the town of Wilmington, the miles ticked by very quickly so by 4pm we were at the 60 mile mark and had a short ferry crossing to relax on. We pulled in Southport at the 66 mile mark and found a quaint motel on the riverside, just down the road from an excellent southern style restaurant serving fried fish. We’re now 14 cycling days away from Miami and are planning to have a rest day in Charleston, South Carolina. In order to do this we have to complete two huge days of pedalling totalling about 170 miles so wish us luck.

Total Mileage: 1506 miles

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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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Posted by: robinson2000 | August 14, 2012

Punctures Galore in Virginia

11th – 12th August

Our day began a little earlier than expected, when at 5am a huge clap of thunder woke us and signalled the start of a good downpour. We both bolted out of the tent as fresh as daisies in our underwear and gathered up our valuable clothes that had been drying through the night. The thunder and the rain seemed to be a running theme over the next 2 days as everyday brought a huge thunder storm and a deluge of rain. We snoozed until 8am before going through the usual monotonous routines of showering, dissembling the tent, and loading the bikes carefully with our dodgy panniers.

We found a good breakfast diner where a smiley chap took my order of pancakes, scrambled eggs, coffee, and a cream cheese bagel. We had planned a 75 miler that took us through Richmond, Virginia, then headed east along the James River and finishing with a short ferry crossing to our campsite. The day started brilliantly as the road down to Richmond was fast and we also managed to pick up some precious cooking fuel on the way. What made it better was the lady only charged me for one of my two fuel canisters and Chris got charged for both of his. Chris hadn’t had a particularly good day so far because when he went to load up his bike, he found that a crucial part of the pannier frame had sheared off, meaning that more string and gaffer tape was required to hold it all together.

Cycling through Richmond was nice as we passed lots of statues of Generals from the Civil War and beautiful boutique houses. It was also the last chance to grab some supplies for the next leg of the journey as we were entering the rural countryside and services were few and far between. Shortly after exiting Richmond we cycled through some battlefields that were fought over by Confederate and Union forces. At the 45 mile mark we pulled into a tiny dwelling called Charles City, which really wasn’t a city as it had about a dozen buildings. We found a bar/café called the Courthouse Grille where we filled up on food and chatted to the friendly locals about our ride. Virginia was turning into the best State that we’d ridden through thus far as the folks were so friendly.

Upon leaving the joint, as if it had been waiting for us around the corner, a huge thunder and lightning storm rolled through and turned the roads into rivers. We turned heel and strode back into the bar where we ordered a couple of coffees, which they gave us for FREE, and waited out the storm. By 5pm it was barely raining so we donned the waterproofs and ventured out. The skies were looking pretty aggressive and within 20 minutes of leaving we were soaked through but we made good speed.

They say bad things come along in three’s, and today was no different. At the 65 mile mark, whilst crossing a bridge over the Chickahominy River, Chris’s pannier frame decided to call it a day and sheared away from the bottom part of the bike leaving it hanging precariously to one side. We had to stop on the exposed bridge to secure it somehow just as a red pickup truck, flying the USA flag wheel spun from behind us and pulled over. Two white guys jumped out, one sporting a few tattoos, the other with crazy eyes, and came over to us. The smaller one was actually quite friendly and said he had a mate down the road who he would return with to help, but his buddy just stared at us, looking quite menacing. He then shook our hands and said “you will be here when we get back right?”, and off they went. As soon as they were driving away, I asked Chris if he trusted them and quick as a flash he said “No”. Something didn’t feel quite right about the whole situation so we both decided to head for the campsite just a short distance past the bridge to be on the safe side and to fix Chris’s bike. Within the first 10 metres of pushing off I realised something wasn’t right and looked down to see I’d blown out my rear tyre, which was now completely flat and I was just riding on my rims. We dragged our sorry looking bikes into the campsite and pitched up in the pouring rain. We both felt quite down about the situation with the rain compounding our frustration as we had to sit in the tent and wait out the storm, both starving hungry. Eventually it subsided, so at 9pm we were boiling up our soup and pasta under torchlight and discussing how we would continue with our journey.

The next day we got up early as we both needed to make repairs to our bikes. By 9.30am we were ready to leave the campsite and begin a short 7 mile ride to the ferry that took us across the River James. As we passed the campsite office I heard the unpleasant hissing of air as my rear tyre deflated within seconds. I had only replaced the tube an hour ago and it’s an absolute nightmare having to unload the bike to remove the wheel. After some chosen curse words and a bit of faffing around, I replaced the newly punctured inner with my last brand new inner tube and pumped it back up. I literally couldn’t believe my eyes as within seconds of fully inflating the wheel, I heard the rush off escaping air again! 3 punctured inner tubes in the space of 12 hours! Now I was really fuming and in a fit of anger, I frisbeed the entire wheel 20 ft. into a nearby meadow. It was obviously a completely pointless act, but it made me feel a lot better as I trudged around the fence to retrieve my wheel. I repaired both inner tubes under the scorching sun and waited patiently for the glue to set. Again, I carefully checked for any sharp edges inside of the tyre and then inflated the inner tube inside of the wheel to 110psi. Just as I was sliding the wheel back into its fittings, the same thing happened again. I was secretly livid at this point, but put on a calm exterior as I had already lost face with a number of onlookers who saw me hurl my wheel into a field. With reluctance I went through the whole procedure again and this time it actually worked. Success, only took 5 attempts!

The ride to the ferry terminal was lovely as we followed a bike path all the way to the terminal. We boarded in minutes as the ferry setoff for a short 20 minute crossing over a very picturesque river scene. Upon exiting the ferry, we rode a short way to a grocery store where we spoke to a true southerner with a wonderful accent. Chris still needed a bike shop and the nearest one was in a town called Suffolk, about 30 miles away down Highway 32. We pedalled furiously for a couple of hours and arrived outside the closed shop about 2.30pm. It was a Sunday so we expected as much, but the annoying thing was it didn’t reopen until Tuesday. After a bite to eat and throwing caution to the wind, we turned our wheels south as started pedalling towards our chosen campsite, a small State Park 25 miles down Highway 32, just into North Carolina. The road was terrific and we flew down it at an average speed of 15 – 17 mph through swamplands and old derelict houses. At just after 6pm and completing 75 miles, we rolled into our campsite just as the heavens opened and we were forced back inside the tent to wait out the rain.

Total Mileage : 1216

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Posted by: robinson2000 | August 11, 2012

Leaving Lovely Washington

9th – 10th

With much reluctance, we bid farewell to our dormitory and snuck out early whilst everyone else was still asleep, well almost as we’d made a bit of a racket on exit. A few blocks south of the hostel, we found a nice diner to enjoy our breakfast and plan a route for the day. The ACA route seemed to take us on an unnecessarily long loop out of Washington DC so with some fiddling, I managed to set a 60 mile ride that arrived at a campsite 85 miles away, had we followed ACA’s route. Riding out of Washington was incredible as we pedalled past the White House down to the Washington Monument, then east past the stunning Lincoln Memorial and over a bridge to Arlington Cemetery. It then bizarrely took us through the car park of the Pentagon before bringing us out on a lovely bike path that ran for 15 miles along the banks of the River Potomac and ending at George Washington’s birthplace, Mt Vernon. It was an excellent way to exit DC and with the sun hot above us, we crossed into our 10th State, Virginia.

After leaving the quiet and leafy bike path, we turned South on to Highway 1, which we would ride on for the rest of the day. Unfortunately this road was massive, with sometimes 4 lanes going each way, which made riding very tough as the shoulder was non-existent. The drivers were also quite impatient in some cases and didn’t bother giving you much space to ride. This coupled with the scorching temperatures and zero shade made for a challenging few hours, but on the plus side the road was smooth and the miles ticked by very quickly. By 2pm we had stopped for lunch at a restaurant where we met our first tourer of the trip. The guy pedalled over when he saw us and the first thing he said before he even introduced himself was “F**k the ACA man!” in a loud New Jersey accent. Once we told him where we were going he proclaimed that we were officially awesome and we all fist bumped. He was on a mammoth journey himself, starting in New Jersey and cycling across the country to California. As he pedalled into the distance he shouted “keep the rubber down”, whatever that meant, and left us to our sandwiches.

We finished the day with ten more miles to Fredericksburg and found our campsite that turned out to be an outdoor centre for scout groups. They kindly accepted us anyway and charged us only $7 each for a pitch by the river, which we swam in before cooking dinner. The heat of the day still hadn’t subsided by the time we’d gone to bed as the temperature inside the tent was extreme. Neither of us slept well as in desperation to get some air inside the tent we had opened the fly-sheet up but of course this meant that we were mauled by the mosquito’s all night.

At 7.20am the following morning, we were both dozing, listening to the rain come down outside of the tent when we heard this big voice yelling at us through the tent.

“Are you the bikers?” – he said.

“Yes” – we replied in our drowsy states.

“Then what the hell do you think you’re doing taking a shower in the office”- he boomed.

Without even a moment to reply he went on.

“Jesus Christ, you guys have caused so much trouble. That’s the last time I let bikers in to my site. I’ve almost fired the girl who let you in here. Get your shit together and get off my property.”

We were both completely confused by his angry rant as we lay there listening. Chris, who had experienced a dreadful night’s sleep, then jumped out of the tent in all his glory wearing only his boxers and exhibiting his pasty white body and deep tan lines and yelled at the guy to come back. He then gave him a mouthful back as yes, we had used the upstairs shower the previous evening as it was the only one in the visitors centre, but it was a completely honest mistake and the man was completely unreasonable. The guy stormed off and that was the last we saw of him as we packed away the tent and cycled to a coffee shop to catch breakfast.

The day only got better from there as the terrain was wonderfully flat and by 2pm we had done 50 miles along quiet back roads where we hardly saw a soul. At one point I got chased by two small dogs who tried to nip at my rear tyre and sadly we cycled past a small dead kitten that been hit by a car. We stopped for lunch at a Denny’s diner and consumed 2 milkshakes each and a burger. Afterwards, I found a good bike shop to repair a busted spoke that had popped out on the mornings ride and then we found a KOA Campground at the 65 mile mark, just short of Richmond. Satisfied with our efforts we pitched up and soaked our weary muscles in the swimming pool. An excellent way to end a day that had begun with an angry man shouting at us through our tent after the worst night’s sleep ever, and then having to leave our campsite without a shower or even a cuppa.

Total Mileage : 1081

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Posted by: robinson2000 | August 10, 2012

Resting In Washington DC

7th – 8th August

After a very broken and sweltering night’s sleep in the tent, we crawled to the shower room and blasted ourselves awake under the faucet. It didn’t matter though as we were only 50 miles short of Washington DC and the promise of a soft bed and an air-conditioned hostel were enough to raise our spirits. After two cereal bars and a quick cuppa, we set off back to Highway 40 that runs west out of Baltimore. With no breakfast diner in mind we pedalled out the early miles with stiff legs and aching muscles until we found the Trolley Stop, which served an expensive but filling breakfast.

Now the day could truly begin but not before I’d recalculated a route to take us directly in to DC, rather than expel valuable energy and time on the long dog-leg route that the ACA had marked out. Although my new route was shorter in mileage, it was still very tricky to navigate until we hit Highway 185, which was a big 6 lane road that ploughed straight into the heart of the capital. The road was very intimidating to ride on with a narrow shoulder and heavy traffic constantly coming past you but to be fair to the drivers they gave us space and we only received a couple of honks.

With ten miles left till until my GPS device told me I would be at the White House, I stopped for a break at the side of the road to wait for Chris who was feeling especially tired after the now 15 days of riding. I waited and waited for a long time, as car after car streamed by with no sign of Chris. Thoughts danced in my mind of had he got lost, had he fallen off, had he stopped for a break? After 30 minutes I turned heel and reluctantly began pedalling back the way I had come. A few miles back I found him repairing a puncture that he had picked up from a huge nail, left on the side of the road. He had actually fixed it by the time I showed up so we got under way again and began crossing off the miles as we followed the heavy stream of traffic in to the city.

It was a wonderful feeling to have reached our first major milestone and as we neared Downtown, we kept catching glimpses of the Washington Monument. I was absolutely starving by this time and before I could even contemplate finding our hostel, I dived in to my much loved Pot Belly Sandwiches food chain and devoured a tuna sandwich and a milkshake. We found our hostel, DC Lofty, over on 11th street, a few blocks North of where we had stayed the previous year. The place was nice enough but it was going through some serious renovations so everywhere seemed a bit dirty and there were piles of workman’s stuff everywhere. Still it was a roof over our heads and more importantly a place to rest and let our muscles recover. It also gave us the chance to wash our damp stinking clothing and feel accepted as a normal human being, instead of looking like these smelly, sweaty, lycra-clad excuses for humans that we had become. In the launderette the main language was Spanish, or in our case, Spanglish, as we fumbled around with the washing and drying machines as a group of bemused Hispanic women watched on. That evening, we treated ourselves to a visit to Capitol City Brewery, an excellent bar/restaurant that we had both visited the previous year and it was still as good as ever. Amber Waves beer flowed freely all evening as we ate like pigs at the bar and watched the American highlights of the Olympics.

The next morning, after be woken far too early by a noisy gaggle of girls in our dormitory who thought it would be a good idea to play Salsa tracks at 7am, we headed out to a breakfast diner and enjoyed a relaxing start to our day. The plan was to simply relax, but at the same time we were in Washington DC with a host of spectacular sights to see. We stripped the bikes down so they were carrying no extra weight and had a leisurely ride round all the main sights such as the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, The Jefferson Memorial, and Capitol Hill. We’d both seen and been inside all the sights before so it was great to leisurely cycle around and not have the pressure of having to see everything. We broke the cycling up with lunch at Pot Belly Sandwiches and I then took myself off for a quick visit to the Natural History Museum to see the new giant snake exhibition and also managed to catch an exhibition of award winning nature photography.

We both felt a lot more refreshed by the end of the day and ready to face the next set of cycling, moving out of Maryland and into Virginia.

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Posted by: robinson2000 | August 7, 2012

Within Touching Distance of Washington DC

5th – 6th August

Chris’s day didn’t begin particularly well as after a poor night’s sleep atop his ever deflating mattress, he was then harassed by jumping insects whilst in the shower, and then set upon by a gang of midges as he was sipping his tea. We were all packed up by 8.30am and set off in hope of a welcoming diner to serve us fresh coffee and hot pancakes. My GPS wasn’t giving anything away and basically plotted us in the arse end of nowhere. So in a hunger fuelled act of desperation, I headed off route and back to the main highway to seek out a proper breakfast. Thankfully at the 10 mile mark, a lovely little family diner popped up and gave our ravenous bodies an excellent breakfast.

Having taken a slightly off-the-route approach for breakfast meant that I had to plan a different route to get us back on track. Our new route took us through Amish territory and although the farmland countryside was spectacular, we were plagued with a strong headwind, big hill climbs, and an ever increasing temperature. It was slow going and we were constantly overtaken by gangs of motorcyclists, riding huge ear splitting bikes. We passed a number of Amish people, going about their business and riding horse drawn carriages, all of which were fitted with indicators and one that had the radio blaring out.

By lunchtime we had covered 34 miles and to get out of the sun, we found a proper real-American bar full of big burly tattooed bikers. I’m glad we hadn’t gestured to any of them when they rode past us as we’d of been in big trouble in this place. We quietly found a corner and ordered and BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich with Fries as we watched some highlights from the Olympics. After lunch it was back to the grindstone as the hills just kept on coming and the insane heat made it really tough going in places. By 4pm we had re-joined the Susquehanna River but had to double back on ourselves to a closer campsite. This meant another 4 mile slog up some vicious hills and with very little water left we were both eager to reach camp. At the 60 mile mark we found Tucquan Campground, down a gravelly track, where I almost came a cropper as my bike skidded away from me at low speed. Chris however was a little less fortunate as after signing in at the campsite office, a huge rain storm hit making us dash for the woods and out of the deluge. As he was riding towards the woods, he picked up a bit of speed on the downhill and lost control on the slippery grass, throwing him clear of the bike and sending him tumbling into the wet grass. He laid there for a second in a state of shock, with the rain pouring down onto his exhausted body before I reached him and dragged his bike into the cover of the trees. A fitting end for what was a very difficult day from start to finish. 

Waking at 7am the following morning, we were treated to a glorious misty scene as we packed up the campsite. Again, my GPS wasn’t giving us any places for breakfast so with an air of apprehension and rumbling bellies, we left the campground and headed back on route. There was no rest for the wicked as we were immediately faced with a couple of extreme gradients fresh off the mark with very little time to ease the stiff legs into the ride. This continued for the first 5 miles of the day before the road gave way to a lovely flat stretch, taking us to a diner at the 11 mile mark. Pancakes, coffee and a bagel made everything better and after the much needed stop, the miles ticked by nicely. A few miles on and we crossed into Maryland, our 9th State of the trip, and a major milestone as it meant the end of the crippling Pennsylvanian hills. This didn’t mean that the hills ended altogether, they were just far fewer between and easier to get up.

After another 20 miles of gentle rolling hills we were on the outskirts of Baltimore, a city that captured my interest and attention after watching the HBO show, The Wire. We approached Baltimore from the north, taking a straight road that ran all the way to the Downtown area and the Financial District. Most of the neighbourhoods along that stretch of road were quite nice, but as soon as we turned westwards and starting moving away from Downtown, the streets became very run down and looked very much from the set of The Wire in some instances. My average speed certainly increased as we really didn’t belong in some of the neighbourhoods and we were picking up plenty of strange looks from passer’s by. The ride was also becoming quite exhausting as the temperature was over 95 degrees Fahrenheit and we kept getting caught at the lights, which with heavy bikes is an absolute killer on the legs. Thankfully the grimy streets gave way to middle-class suburbia and at the 70 mile mark we arrived at out campsite, Patapsco Valley State Park.

Our 15th day on the bikes tomorrow will take our weary bodies straight to the heart of the nation’s capital, Washington DC, and for a much needed days’ rest.

Total Mileage : 906 miles

Top Speed : 44.9 mph (new top speed)

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Posted by: robinson2000 | August 5, 2012

Behind Schedule

3rd – 4th August

Leaving the Shady Acres Campground, we began pedalling South, following the course of the Delaware River, which also acts as the natural border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the local deli and ate our bacon, sausage & egg filled roll on the curb in the sunshine. Today was pencilled in as an easier ride as we’d left the hills of the Delaware Water Gap behind and could relax and enjoy some flattish terrain alongside the river. Within 2.5 hours we had devoured 35 miles and stopped for refreshments at a liquor store. The day was an absolute scorcher so fluid was essential. In fact, we were drinking so much fluid through the day that it was difficult to find a real appetite for lunch and dinner as our stomachs were bloated.

We sat outside of the back of the liquor store by the river to have lunch but didn’t stop for long as it felt even hotter when you weren’t riding. After another 2 hours of good riding we arrived at the quant town of Frenchtown and found a nice cool café to drink milkshake and generally cool the body down. Feeling pretty pleased that we had completed the majority of the ride for the day we consulted our maps to see how far from Washington DC we were. After much head-scratching, we were horrified to find we were still 250 miles away, which is about 4 days riding and a little behind schedule, even though we had been slogging our guts out on the road for 11 days straight. Digging deeper in to the mileages down to Miami, and working out the number of days left until we flew home, we calculated that with a day off in DC, two days off in Miami, and a day off in between DC and Miami, meant we needed to average 65 miles a day! This was a bit of a shock for us as we’d hoped to budget in more rest days, but even with so few days off, and hoping nothing went wrong with the bikes or us, left a pretty big chunk of cycling left to complete. Our only saving grace is that south of the nation’s capital, the terrain flattens out noticeably meaning we should be able to push 70 miles a day without too much bother.

We both felt very deflated on leaving the café but vowed not to let it worry us at this stage. We pedalled out the remaining 9 miles at breakneck speed to Bull Island State Park, which on arrival we found it closed. With no other campsites nearby, we were left with no option other than to cycle an extra 8 miles into Lambertville and find lodging there. As we entered Lambertville the heavens opened just as we found a nice looking B&B. The spinster-like lady offered us a room for $185 but soon brought it down to $100 upon seeing the desperate looks on our faces and our limited budget. The room was something out of the 1950’s, but sufficed and even had its own living room. 

Over breakfast the next morning, the cat loving owner served us eggs and sausages in her nightgown and began bleating about the weather whilst we were trying to prepare for our day. We had planned a 70-75 miler as we were leaving the Appalachian Mountains and had hopes for much flatter pastures. Upon leaving Lambertville, we got shouted at by an irate bridge controller because we were cycling our bikes over the wrong part of the bridge. It was hilarious as he bellowed at us from the sidewalk and we pedalled by waving. Unfortunately, the first 10 miles went by at a very slow pace as one after another, the hills sapped our much needed energy. Luckily the hills finally flattened out, and we were left to ride through more of an urban landscape. Rice managed to up his mileage for the day by getting lost behind me and leaving me to relax and regain my energy on the verge as he realised his mistake. By lunchtime we were on the outskirts of the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, but the cycling was hard going as the roads were heavily congested and we were held up by traffic lights every couple of blocks. We passed through the type of area where you really don’t want to get a puncture as shop windows were boarded up and a colourful scattering of unemployed layabouts littered the streets.

Once out of the urban chaos, we were treated to some excellent roads which ran along the top of a ridge and by 4.30 we were homing in on our campsite, French Creek State Park. Typically it was at the top of a massive hill but that wasn’t the most annoying part about it. The annoying part was the half mile long dirt track that the GPS directed us up, that at first seemed to go nowhere but after lugging our heavy bikes over the rocks, eventually took us to our campsite. With a good days riding behind us and hopefully only 3 more until we get a rest, we pitched up a cooked our soup and noddle’s for dinner and watched the glow flies sparkle around the campsite.

Total Mileage : 776

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