Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A beautiful morning in Tennessee
When we woke up on Friday morning, the overcast sky was not conducive to early rising.  That coupled with the short ride to Hillsborough, NC we knew we had, made for a leisurely morning.  After striking camp, we headed down Highway 321 toward North Carolina.  Our ride quickly got longer when we arrived at the 321 "Road Closed" signs, which sent us on a lengthy but beautiful detour that wound us through the Appalachians.  Although we were gaining altitude, the bikes loved the cool, dense air and ran great with no adjustments.  After another unfortunate breakfast at McDeath in Mountain City, TN (the gas station here did not meet our high food quality expectations), we continued on 321 south through Boone, NC and eventually to Lenoir, where we jumped onto Highway 64 east.  Having lived in NC for 12 years and ridden extensively in the mountains, I decided to ignore the route that was plotted for us by Google Maps, and instead, said to myself, "I know how to get there."  This provided our first excitement of the day, as my route put us onto Highway 70 east too soon, and we found ourselves on the entrance ramp for I-85.  Mind you, we are not allowed on the interstate.  Once I realized where we were, we pinned our throttles WIDE open and made a beeline for the next exit, which was a frantic and scary 8-mile ride.  We dove off the road, pulled out the iPhone, and dutifully followed Google Maps' directions from here.  It sent us on a much more appropriate (and legal) route. 

Our good friends, Bill and Dawn
Thunderstorms were forecast for central NC, and we found them shortly thereafter.  Between Asheboro and Burlington, we dove into a gas station, zipped all the vents in our jackets, and rode into a very heavy but fortunately, small band of thunderstorms.  This was our first experience riding the Symbas through 4 inches of standing water, but they passed the test with flying colors.  The rest of the ride was in and out of light to moderate rain, and we finally made it to the home of our longtime friends, Bill and Dawn.  We had a lovely evening of dinner and conversation, catching up on each others' lives and families.  Bill and I worked together for years and started riding at about the same time.  It was fun to reminisce about some of our early adventures (like rebuilding my racebike in Bill's driveway and then putting 50 break-in miles on a totally not street-legal Moto Guzzi V50 with an open megaphone exhaust on the back roads of Durham County).  After a wonderful night's sleep, we awoke to a delicious breakfast of homemade waffles, bacon, and fresh strawberries.....and more rain.  We spent the rest of the morning working on our bikes in the garage and admiring Bill's stable of bikes (over the years Bill has bought many bikes but has never sold one of his!).  By 1 in the afternoon, it looked like most of the rain had passed, so we headed out for the NC coast. 

Arriving at my parents' house, 3800 miles and 15 days later
While we did get rained on that day, we did manage to avoid the real toad stranglers.  The scenery in eastern NC is not as pretty as in the western part of the state, but the roads are smooth and flat, so we made good time and arrived in Sneads Ferry, NC before 7pm.  My dad met us in the driveway and snapped a few photos of the end of phase 1 of our trip.

We have done over 3800 miles in 12 days of riding, and aside from the chains, it was a trouble-free trip.  Thanks to our generous friends who provided us with several nights accommodations and home-cooked meals along the way, our 15 days on the road only cost about $850.  Over the next couple of weeks we'll be visiting family and friends, going to the beach, eating east Carolina barbeque, and surveying our vast tracts of land (we just bought 2.5 acres in Selma, NC) before we head out again to Ohio and on to Toronto in early September.  Look for more updates then!

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