Biking through North Carolina and Virginia to a Family Reunion, page 2

Page 1: New Bern to Ocracoke
Page 2: Ocracoke to Kitty Hawk
Page 3: Kitty Hawk to Williamsburg
Page 4: Williamsburg to Fredericksburg.
Page 5: Visiting family and hiking in northern Virginia.

Wednesday, June 4

Distance: 9.3 miles
Riding time: 48 minutes
Average speed: 11.6 mph
Maximum speed: 20.0 mph

It's easy for us to enjoy the beach when we're camped right next to it. Today was a rest day for us, with no need to pack up our tent or bike a long distance, so we had plenty of time to enjoy our great location. Kathy cooked pancakes for breakfast - a luxury for us when we're camping, and one of Daniel's favorite meals. After breakfast we walked out to the beach and played in the surf. Daniel kept shouting, "Monster, monster wave!" whenever a big wave was about to hit us.

In the afternoon we biked into the village to look around, tour a museum, and sample more seafood with a late lunch. We may have sampled a bit too much; we each ordered a dinner platter (crab cakes for Kathy, fried oysters for me,) and left the restaurant so full that we ate nothing else for the rest of the day. While riding through the village I noticed that there were dozens of bicycles outside, perhaps more than 100, but very few people riding them. They're mostly on display at bike rental shops, waiting to be rented. The local tourism literature encourages visitors to park their cars and either walk or bike to get around, and the village is very compact, making nearly all trips a bikable distance. So why weren't more people riding? Probably because the narrow, 2-lane roads have no shoulders or sidewalks, and because those roads are crowded with cars all day. If the village wants more visitors to walk or bike then I think that it will need to add some facilities. If I were in charge, I'd convert a few streets to single-lane, 1-way traffic and then use the extra space for sidewalks and bike lanes. Other streets could be widened. I think that the changes would be good for business; visitors might shop more if they weren't stuck in traffic or dodging cars on foot.

After our late lunch we played on the beach again. We all loved it, especially Daniel, but we've discovered another drawback to this place. The problem is that the beach is covered with sand. It's on our bodies, in our shoes and socks, and embedded in our bath towel. When I rub on more sunscreen, I feel like I'm rubbing myself with sandpaper. I washed off in the cold campground shower this evening only to get covered with sand again when I laid down in our sandy tent. I know that it's all part of the beach experience, and that sand is fun to walk on and play with, so I guess I'd better adapt to it. We will see a lot more sand in the next few days.

The strong ocean breeze would have blown away our tent if I hadn't tied it down to our picnic table and charcoal grill. While walking the beach we could actually watch how the sand dunes are formed, since our footprints were erased within minutes by sand sliding towards the dunes in the wind. If the wind is the same tomorrow then we will hardly need to pedal as we bike north to Hatteras Island.


Our campsite on Ocracoke. The ridge behind us is a sand dune that separates the campground from the beach.


Kathy and Daniel eat pancakes for breakfast.


A view of the beach from the top of the sand dune.


Maggie's hammock worked as well on the beach as it did in the tent.


Playing in the ocean surf.


Kathy and Maggie walked the beach and looked for shells.

Thursday, June 5

Distance: 48.1 miles
Riding time: 3 hours, 19 minutes
Average speed: 14.5 mph
Maximum speed: 22.1 mph

I thought that after a little practice our morning routine would take less time, but that hasn't happened yet. This morning we were tired and Daniel was uncooperative, so it was past 11 o'clock by the time we rode away from our campground. Our 9-mile ride to the Ocracoke-Hatteras ferry was along protected National Seashore, so the scenery was sand dunes and ocean all the way to the ferry. I love seeing so much beach without hotels and condominiums next to it.


Ocean and sand dunes along the Ocracoke highway.


Daniel watches the ocean during our ferry ride.


Another Ocracoke-Hatteras ferry passes by.

After our ferry ride we toured a bit of Hatteras Village. The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is still under construction, but it had a few open exhibits on the role of the Outer Banks during the Civil War and World War 2. During the Civil War the Union navy captured the Outer Banks early in the war, and it became a safe haven for any slave who could escape across Pamlico Sound. I was surprised to read that during World War 2 German submarines worked just off the coast of North Carolina and sunk dozens of ships; I would guess that most Americans have never heard about that.

The best tourist attraction on Hatteras Island (aside from the beach) may be the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, which is now a National Historic Site. At 208 feet, it's both the tallest lighthouse and tallest brick building in the United States. Kathy and I took turns climbing the stairs to enjoy the view, since Daniel isn't old enough to climb the stairs himself. There was a slight haze in the air from forest fires on mainland North Carolina, but we still had great views.

After visiting the lighthouse Kathy asked me, "What should we do for dinner?" And I told her, "We'll cook after we get to our campground." We hadn't eaten anything since our late oatmeal breakfast, but I figured that we could survive another 10 miles or so before eating. Well, I was confused - our campground was 23 miles away, and that was way too far to go without eating, but we were in an undeveloped area and had no other choice. Daniel became so tired and cranky that he misbehaved by screaming into Maggie's ears and poking her face. After scolding him repeatedly, I made good on one of my threats by tying down his hands with little handcuffs that I quickly fashioned from string. The handcuffs kept him from poking Maggie, but he screamed even more. This was really sad for Kathy and me because our son is normally a very good child, and it's only because of our vacation schedule that he's so sleep-deprived and cranky tonight. We're not sure how to deal with temper tantrums during a bicycle tour, since we don't have access to our normal forms of discipline - we can't put him in "time out", or send him to his room, or take away his toys.

Although this evening was hard on us, we are still thankful for a wonderful tailwind that blew all day and kept our speed up even as our bodies fell apart. The wind and weather have been just about perfect up to this point in our trip.


The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. A large amount of land around the lighthouse is part of the National Historic Site and is protected from development.


The lighthouse stairs. This picture shows only the ground floor and the first landing; there are 8 landings between the ground floor and the top.


The lighthouse observation deck.


Beach and marsh within the national historic site.


Beach houses just outside the lighthouse property.


Looking down at the base of the lighthouse.


Kathy and the kids waited patiently while I climbed the lighthouse.


Kathy on the observation deck.

Friday, June 6

Distance: 49.3 miles
Riding time: 3 hours, 33 minutes
Average speed: 13.8 mph
Maximum speed: 28.4 mph

This was a good travel day. We had good weather, we got enough to eat and drink, we took time to visit an interesting place, and we arrived at our campground at a reasonable time. This evening was much happier than yesterday evening.

In the morning we woke up to a thunderstorm, so we cooked and ate breakfast in our tent, and the rain stopped before we needed to pack up camp. People tell us that this area gets frequent afternoon rain showers, but we've mostly encountered morning rain showers. We wisely chose to eat lunch before leaving town, stopping at both a seafood cafe and a Dairy Queen. We love to eat ice cream when we're on a bike tour, especially in steamy hot weather like we had today.


Eating ice cream at Dairy Queen.




Typical beach houses in Waves. Natural wood colors dominate here, unlike the pastel colors farther north. The first floor is always a flood-tolerant garage or carport, with up to 4 stories built above it.

After leaving town we rode through 27 miles of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a refuge that exists mostly for the benefit of migratory birds. It's part of the Atlantic Flyway, a path that many birds follow from winter havens in South and Central America to summer destinations in the United States and Canada. We biked into the refuge on a 1/2-mile trail that led to a wooden observation tower, and with the provided telescopes I could see egrets, ibis and other birds feeding in the ponds. Even more interesting was watching a large group of sea turtles swim past a footbridge, including two turtles that looked like adolescent leatherbacks. Adult leatherbacks are large and weigh hundreds of pounds, but it takes about 30 years for a leatherback to become an adult.

Beyond the refuge we rode through the beach towns of Nag's Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk. Riding through them made me think of John Bryans, an artist who taught me private art lessons when I was a child more than 20 years ago. He painted professionally, and one of his favorite subjects was beach houses in this part of the Outer Banks, where he owned a home himself. Most of his paintings depicted a tall, pastel-colored house along an isolated stretch of beach. I doubt that any such houses are here today. What we saw today was an oceanfront densely packed with homes all the way from Nag's Head to Kitty Hawk, and the great majority looked less than 20 years old. However, the houses are still tall, pastel-colored and usually pretty, so the oceanfront is still interesting to look at. I imagine that many of the houses are vacation homes that sit vacant for most of the year.

Tonight we are camped in Kitty Hawk, which is farther north than I wanted to go, but there simply aren't many campgrounds in this area. Tomorrow we will backtrack to visit some attractions that we missed on our way here.


Wetlands and the observation deck at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.


Kathy kisses Daniel while feeding Maggie at the observation deck.


Wading birds at the refuge. There's a great white egret and a white ibis... and the rest are too blurry to identify.


A group of sea turtles at the refuge.


This might be a juvenile leatherback turtle.


Kathy and Daniel watch the turtles swim by.


Typical beach houses around Nag's Head - tall, dense, pastel-colored and recently built.

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Page 1: New Bern to Ocracoke
Page 2: Ocracoke to Kitty Hawk
Page 3: Kitty Hawk to Williamsburg
Page 4: Williamsburg to Fredericksburg.
Page 5: Visiting family and hiking in northern Virginia.