Day 1 FRI SEP 24 – 54 mi
Myrtle Beach SC to the ferry terminal in Southport NC
Horry Co. HFH gave me a terrific sendoff on Facebook Live. Really nice people. There was great TV coverage. I rode out of sight and then Cathy drove me to the real start point. Riding up Ocean Blvd was very nice, but the route took me on US17 a bit, which was ugly riding. You could use Google Maps selecting the bicycle option to see the exact route. It was a beautiful cloudless 70-deg day. The beaches looked great.
Click here to watch the news clip of John’s send off in Horry County, SC
Day 2 SAT SEP 25 – 69 mi
Fort Fisher NC to North Topsail Beach NC
A second day notable for being on US17 a bit. Otherwise, it was a nice ride. The bridge to Surf City was tall affording a fine view. And I fell into sand cycling on the street closest to the beach. It was like falling into a pile of pillows – I dusted myself off and proceeded.
Day 3 SUN SEP 26 - 59 mi
North Topsail Beach to Morehead City NC
Pretty quickly there was a major problem. Google Maps routed me through Camp Lejeune, but as I approached a sign warned of denied access even though SR172 goes through the base. I hadn’t thought to call ahead trusting in Google Maps, and it is a state highway, and I even drove it years ago. I called everyone that might help finally talking to Ret. Major Joe Welsh who advised me to try. But the nice young man with the big automatic weapon turned me away at the gate. He wouldn’t even let me take his picture. Luckily Cathy was still with me, so I backtracked, and she picked me up and drove me around the base and Jacksonville NC. The rest of the day was great crossing over the bridge onto Emerald Isle, and a nice ice cream cone, and up the barrier island to Morehead City. Plus, we had fine seafood dinner.
Day 4 MON SEP 27 – 49 mi
Morehead City to Buxton NC (w 20 mi ferry ride)
A pretty routine ride to the Cedar Island-Ocracoke ferry, although I did cycle through the Duke Marine Research Lab and Beaufort because I spent 6 weeks there in ’79 doing a little research project on light capture by the seaweed Ulva lactuca. Cathy met me for the 4:00 ferry ride and it was lucky that she was along. I had not taken into account the time needed to take a ferry and a second ferry ride was needed to get to Buxton. We watched an amazing Turner-esque sunset on the second ferry. The Swell Motel had a fly swatter in every room.
Day 5 TUE SEP 28 – 47 mi
Buxton to Kill Devil Hills NC
This was a day I was looking forward to and it did not disappoint. It was a remarkably easy ride because of a great tailwind generated by Hurricane Sam. At a couple of points, I went out to the beach for a good look. I love the Outer Banks.
Day 6 WED SEP 29 – 71 mi
Kill Devil Hills to Suffolk VA
Cathy drove me to the other side of the causeway and then left for DuBois . Early on there were traffic issues, but nothing as bad as US17 earlier. The route took me on a remarkably nice bike trail at one point. It started as a 2-lane newly paved highway gated off for cyclists, then it narrowed to one lane, then it deteriorated to a paved path, and narrowed again to a dirt path, only to peter out in a local park. A nice lady in a park supervising her son skateboarding heard me utter “I must be lost.” and came to my aid. The city traffic around Suffolk turned out to be a non-problem. Candlewood Suites gave me a very strange reception not allowing me to take my room until they talked to Cathy who had made the reservation.
Day 7 THU SEP 30– 59 mi
Suffolk to Williamsburg VA
Lunch in Moyock NC was remarkable in that it looked like all the restaurants were only serving takeout due to Covid. There was another ferry ride. Again, Google Maps produced a pretty good route through Williamsburg avoiding heavy traffic. I lost a sandal, which I had tied to the top of my trunk bag, and a motorist stopped me to tell me where to go back and look for it. Then I stayed with Mike & Marsha Anderson, an old high school friend.
Day 8 FRI OCT 1 – Rest day - HFH-WILLIAMSBURG treated me to a celebrity reception with plenty of video and picture taking. They have the best ReStore I’ve ever seen. It was huge, well lit, clean, and had great products. They had a furniture repair shop and tested and fixed electronics. They even had a person who assessed antiques and art looking for high value. Additionally, they are building a home using 3-d printing technology to “print” the concrete walls. There is a gantry that encompasses the whole house which carries the “printhead” which lays down layers of special concrete.
Day 9 SAT OCT 2 – 65 mi
Andersons to ASHLAND VA
This was a remarkably nice route with little traffic. Hurray for Google Maps. The strangest thing was eating dinner at Applebees – it was like a lady truckers bar. There was a load woman holding court, greeting friends, and holding forth about her driving experiences. There was a nurse downing shots after a hard double shift. I just kept my head low, ate my meal, and got out of there.
Day 10 SUN OCT 3 – 53 mi
Ashland to Alum Springs SP Fredericksburg VA
And this too was a very nice route with little traffic.
Cathy drove back from DuBois and we drove around DC. Then we had a very nice dinner our great granddaughter, Lilly, and her family. Plus, we stayed a couple of nights at a nice B&B in Frederick MD.
Day 11 MON OCT 4 – Rest day in DC, which we spent at the Smithsonian American History unit.
Day 12 TUE OCT 5 - 63 mi
Georgetown to Harpers Ferry WVA on the C&O Canal Tow Path. Cathy brought my mountain bike to ride on the trail and this was pretty routine riding in a way, but it was great to be off the highways. I met three guys from Arkansas (Tracy, Mason, and Eric) riding the trail and spent several hours riding with them. They work for the same aerospace company and do a bike adventure every year. This time they drove to Cumberland, took the Amtrak to DC, and were riding back. The Towns Inn was a funky stay but the right place because it was the only early breakfast available in Harpers Ferry.
Day 13 WED OCT 6 – 63 mi
Harpers Ferry to Hancock MD
This was the only day I got a little wet, not that it rained. Just that it was so foggy/misty that my glasses and clothing got wet. Still, it was a pleasant day. I love the C&O Canal history, the old buildings and the locks and the dams. Stayed at the Bates Motel.
Day 14 THU OCT 7 – 60 mi
Hancock to Cumberland MD
There was a detour at the Paw Paw Tunnel because the park service was doing a renovation. I had to push my bike about a mile up the mountain. At the top I encountered a woman sitting on a rock and we talked. She was waiting for 4 companions. I must have missed a detour sign right after leaving her because I never met her party. I was looking for a right turn because the detour left the trail to the left, but the detour must have crossed over the tunnel. I rode down the jeep trail and down some more, eventually getting to a highway. I didn’t have a paper map because I’ve been on the C&O Canal several times and I had no cell phone service, so I really had no map. If I had sat down and drawn a map in the dirt all would have been clear, but there I was planning on going right. I was in front of a mailbox and the owner stopped and asked if I was OK. In passing I asked which way to Paw Paw, which was to the left. After 4 miles of wandering, I got to the town of Paw Paw MD and a decent gas station lunch. The Fairfield Marriot in Cumberland is very nice.
Day 15 FRI OCT 8 – 63 mi
Cumberland to Altoona PA
The first 12 days were notable for being so flat, so the hilliness was a change. I had the best lunch in my travels at Manns Choice general store and there was a working horse trough outside. Shortly after I got a flat tire. While I was fixing it, the property owner pulled in and asked if he could help and insisted on doing the pumping. Had a DQ in Duncansville before tackling the Altoona traffic. Cathy and I had a nice huge Italian dinner with our friends Tom and MB Stojek.
Day 16 SAT OCT 9 – 53 mi for 885 mi total
Hollidaysburg to Clearfield
I rode the last 2 days faster and harder - like a horse heading to the barn. Of course, there’s a good bunch of hills involved in Pennsylvania. I got to Clearfield about an hour before the arrival ceremony, so I killed time be going to the Old Town Road Dairy for an ice cream cone. This was my day to be famous and one of the customers insisted on introducing me to her family and was disappointed that she couldn’t but me a meal. Her kids were not impressed. I arrived on time for our little parade into the Clearfield Days festival to celebrate the end of this trek.
Routing Notes: I’m having trouble adjusting to Google Maps and cell phone guidance. I learned how to do paper maps so well and the electronic mapping apps have their shortcomings. I hate to have the electronics on and talking to me all the time. I also don’t like the inconsistent scale, so I can’t feel how far I have to go. For the first week I was using a printout of the Google Maps instructions, which has its deficiencies. It calls out the turns by road name and distance from the last turn, but the road signs are often missing and I was constantly adding or subtracting to get to the odometer reading on my handlebars. At least by mid-ride I figured that I needed both the road name and route number. In city traffic, I sometimes relented and turned on the app. The 3 days on the C&O Canal Towpath were a very pleasant relief. I miss using the Delarme Road Atlas. So, next time I probably will map my route using Google Maps and transcribe it onto the paper Delarme maps. For part of a day in Virginia I happened to be on US Bike Route 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Bicycle_Route_1 I need to try to take advantage of this system of routes in the future.
Cycling Notes: This was a surprisingly easy ride for me. I did not have trouble adjusting to being in the saddle 6 hours a day as usual, I think because I was using a Brookes leather saddle. When I switched bikes, I switched the saddle too. Having Hurricane Sam out to sea helped too, giving me a strong tailwind for three days coming up the coast. At one point I was going down the road just keeping my peddling as soft as can be. When I looked down at the speedometer, it registered 18 mph. It’s important to reach for the water bottle every 30 minutes. Several people have expressed their awe at doing this ride, but there’s a trick to it. If you can ride a fairly energetic 20-mile loop in central PA, you can do easy paced 65 mi days on a ride like this (even carrying 10 pounds of luggage). Indeed, the day after arriving home I participated in the King of the Mountain bike race.