Biking through North Carolina and Virginia to a Family Reunion, page 3

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.

Saturday, June 7

Distance: 26.6 miles
Riding time: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Average speed: 13.5 mph
Maximum speed: 22.1 mph

Today was the second "rest day" of our trip, so we didn't pack up camp, but we did bike a lot to visit attractions in Nag's Head and Kitty Hawk. First we rode to Nag's Head to play on the beach again. Compared to Ocracoke, this beach was narrower and the sand was coarser. Daniel and I spent most of our time sitting in the wet sand, digging holes and letting the frequent waves cover us with surf and wash our sand holes away. I played on my own for a while, jumping into large waves. It was great fun, but one particularly large wave knocked me over, pulled my swim shorts partway down, and washed my sunglasses into the ocean, never to be seen again. I'm obviously a novice at beach recreation - next time I'll remember to tie the drawstring on my shorts and leave my sunglasses on the beach with my shoes. Later in the day I bought a reasonable pair of sunglasses for $50. That's a small expense compared to the overall cost of this trip, but I was still annoyed to have lost a good pair of sunglasses.

Before leaving the beach we had a unique encounter with a crab. We were all resting under the shade of a small, elevated walkway when Kathy spotted a small crab running from hole to hole in the sand. We were all having fun watching it when it suddenly turned and ran towards us at full speed. Within a few seconds both kids were screaming, and Daniel had his hands around my neck and was doing everything he could to climb up on my back. I threw sand at the crab but it was undeterred, so right as it reached us I used my hands to fling it away from us again. After landing about 15 feet away it sprinted right back at us again, and didn't stop until after I'd flung him one or two more times. By then Daniel was more than happy to climb into his bike trailer and ride to a restaurant for lunch, even though he had previously been reluctant. Once the crab encounter was over I realized what had happened: the crab was running across the very hot, dry sand and couldn't find his next hole, so he dashed for the only shady spot that he could see. After I flung him away from us a few times the heat overwhelmed him and he cooked to death. We felt sorry for him once it was over, but not while he was rushing us. When Kathy took Daniel into a store afterwards and let him pick out a hat, he chose a hat with cartoon crabs on the front and told the cashier all about the crab that we saw on the beach.


Daniel liked sitting on the beach and digging the wet sand. Every now and then I had to pick him up and move him because the surf was slowly pulling him into the ocean.


Playing in the surf.


The "attack crab" that panicked us. He may not look frightening here, but when he was rushing towards my barefoot family, he was a little scary.

After lunch we visited Jockey Ridge, the tallest sand dune on the east coast at almost 100 feet tall. The kids were tired, so I hiked it alone and took only a few minutes to reach the top. From up there I saw that the smoke haze from the mainland forest fire had become much worse since we first noticed it two days ago. I hope that it doesn't become worse yet.

A few miles north of Jockey Ridge we visited another famous sand dune, this one made famous by the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903. I should really call it a former sand dune, since the sand has been deliberately stabilized with grass and the dune is crested with a large stone monument. We tried to ride a paved footpath to the top, but the grade was far too steep.

Back at camp at last, we ate dinner and rested in the somewhat cooler evening shade. My parents and others have told us that our location is in the middle of a major heat wave right now, with temperatures in the mid-90°'s for the past several days. I believe it, but I'm not sure what to do about it. We are all sweating profusely and getting small heat rashes, but we are generally coping well. We'll try to find an air-conditioned ice cream parlor for lunch tomorrow.


A sand dune at Jockey Ridge State Park. No one is sure how so much sand ended up right here, but some scientists think that it came from nearby barrier islands that have since eroded away. The dunes drift south in the winter and north in the summer as the prevailing winds change.


Looking out at the ocean from one of the dunes. The dunes have been shrinking in recent years as nearby construction projects have either trapped sand in the ground, or have hauled sand away for other purposes.


The Wright Brothers Memorial. The world's first powered flight started at the top of this sand dune (now covered with grass to keep it from shifting.)


Kathy, who wants to be pilot someday, standing by the Wright Brothers Memorial. From 2 of its sides the memorial looks like an airplane rudder.


Daniel watches a peacock at our campground.

Sunday, June 8

Distance: 70.1 miles
Riding time: 5 hours, 1 minute
Average speed: 14.2 mph
Maximum speed: 28.1 mph

Kathy was tired of starting our rides so late in the day, so this morning she woke me up earlier and we hit the road at 9:20, more than 90 minutes earlier than our previous best starting time. The early start was important because all we cared about today was distance. We have 3 days to get from Kitty Hawk to Williamsburg so that we can visit Colonial Williamsburg with my parents.

The early start also helped us avoid some hot weather on this incredibly hot day. The sun was so intense on our skin that I only stopped our bike in places where there was shade. We took 3 breaks today at a restaurant and two gas stations so that we could cool our bodies down in air-conditioned buildings. At 3:30 p.m., after the day had begun to cool, we saw 2 thermometers reporting a temperature of 98°F, so I assume that the temperature was above 100°F at midday. We all drank frequently because we were sweating like crazy.


Daniel sleeps while Kathy and I try to get an early start on our day.


An osprey looks down from a nesting platform on utility pole above Pamlico Sound. Several of the platforms had nests and appeared to have osprey families.


Cooling off in an air-conditioned gas station.

Towards the end of our ride we crossed the Great Dismal Swamp. Deliberate draining has reduced the swamp to a fraction of its original size, but it is still a large swamp that is now a protected state park. We saw deer, egrets and a beaver in the swamp, and we heard frogs croaking. It looks like a good place for watching wildlife, but I wouldn't want to hike through all the water and mud.

It was while we crossed the swamp late in the day that the kids finally broke down. Daniel was poking Maggie, Maggie was crying, Daniel had a dirty diaper, and he answered all of our commands with "No!" The kids were hot and tired and we needed to stop. I tied down Daniel's hands with little string handcuffs (which I've kept handy since creating them a few days ago,) and we biked on as fast as we could. As soon as we were out of the swamp I walked up to a farmhouse and asked the owners if we could camp on their land. Not only did Tim and Betsy let us camp, but they also invited us to use their swimming pool! It's hard to explain how nice a clean, cool swimming pool feels after biking in extreme heat for 5 hours. We all played in the pool for a while, and then Kathy put Maggie to bed and cooked dinner while Daniel and I kept playing. By this time the day had cooled off, and we watched fireflies while eating dinner on the back porch. What a fun finish to a long, hard day.

Tim grew up in this area and has relatives all around the swamp. The family farm beside his home is growing cotton, but he works as the manager of a nearby sawmill. He and Betsy have a daughter, Brianna, who is finishing high school this year, and they built their pretty home on the edge of the swamp just 3 years ago. Tim seems to love living here, and tonight I'm certainly glad that he lives here.


The Great Dismal Swamp.


Climbing into Tim and Betsy's pool. Beyond their fence are miles of swampland.


Playing in the pool.


Tim, our generous host.

Monday, June 9

Distance: 65.0 miles
Riding time: 4 hours, 55 minutes
Average speed: 13.1 mph
Maximum speed: 24.7 mph

This was another hot day, with a forecast high of 98°F. Tomorrow is forecast to hit 97°F, and then this heat wave is supposed to pass and bring the high temperatures back down to the low 80's. Despite the heat, today felt cooler than yesterday and that was a welcome improvement. It might have felt cooler because the air was less humid.

We had both good and bad experiences today. We traveled more than 60 miles (good,) but we still didn't reach Williamsburg as we'd hoped (bad.) We mistakenly thought that Williamsburg was 50 miles away, when it was actually more than 70. We are sleeping in an air-conditioned home with friendly hosts tonight (good,) but we had a major tangle with local law enforcement right before we arrived here (very bad.) Overall, it was an interesting but stressful day.

Due to the heat we took several breaks, the longest being at Baron's Pub in historic downtown Suffolk. We were there for about 2 hours. We took other breaks at convenience stores to cool off and get ice water, and whenever we needed to stop along the side of the road, I made sure that I stopped in a shady spot. There were lots of tall trees along our route providing welcome shade. There were also lots of rolling hills, especially at the end of the day when we were tired and sore.

After just over 60 miles we stopped at a convenience store in Surry. We were hot, tired and thirsty, and Kathy needed to feed Maggie. As we walked through the door a local woman, Lynn, asked where we were going and then asked, "Would you like a place to spend the night?" I answered, "Yes, do you have a place for us?" Indeed she did - a nice farmhouse just 2 miles away, with an air-conditioned guestroom and a shower for us to use. Kathy was busy breast-feeding, so Lynn told us to meet her at the grocery store down the street as soon as we were done. Unfortunately, it was soon after Lynn left that we had our encounter with the police.

We were resting in a storage room at the back of the store when a policeman found us and asked to speak with me; someone who saw us at the store had called the police to report child abuse, deciding that it was too hot for children to ride in a bike trailer. In a snapping, authoritative tone the cop accused us of torturing our children, letting them get sunburned, and risking heat stroke, but all of his accusations were false. He told us that it was 103°F outside (I didn't believe him,) took both our driver's licenses and called for another officer, fully intending to arrest us. This all happened while Maggie was breast-feeding and Daniel was playing with a payphone. The second cop was sent to grab Lynn from the grocery store as a witness, and Lynn was scared nearly to death when he asked her to follow him without offering an explanation. The first cop asked me, "Why are you biking today and where are you going?" and scarcely believed when I answered, "We're on vacation and biking for fun. We're going from New Bern, North Carolina to Fredericksburg, Virginia." I get the impression that almost no one bikes around here, especially with children. The cop and I both got to talk to a social services worker by cell phone, and Kathy and I have been commanded to visit the social services office at 8 a.m. tomorrow for evaluation. What fun! Kathy doesn't handle this type of encounter well, so she was in tears for a while. In the end, I doubt that much will come of this. Our children are healthy, and we've taken reasonable precautions to keep them safe. Daniel even enjoyed our police encounter, occasionally exclaiming, "Police car!" with a big grin on his face.

At Lynn's house we were finally able to relax. We ate dinner, took showers (we need to look good for the social worker tomorrow,) and talked with Lynn and her daughter Reid. Daniel got to see the horses and chickens before going to bed, and now Kathy and I will sleep on a real mattress for the first time in more than a week.


Downtown Suffolk.


Lynn leads Daniel up the stairs of her front porch.

Tuesday, June 10

Distance: 19.0 miles
Riding time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
Average speed: 11.5 mph
Maximum speed: 27.2 mph

Our visit to Social Services this morning went about as I expected. Our case worker apologized for the way the police treated us yesterday, then asked us a few questions about how we were caring for our children. She gave each of the kids a little stuffed animal and gave Daniel a book. After filling our bottles with cold water, we were back on the road by 9:10 a.m.

We didn't have far to go today, so we spent much of the day at a museum. After crossing the James River on a ferry we stopped at Jamestown Settlement, a "living history" museum about the first successful English settlement in America. The ruins of the original settlement are a few miles away and have a separate museum, so Jamestown Settlement focuses on replicas that visitors can see and touch. It has a recreated fort, full-size replicas of the ships Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, and a recreated Native American village. Everything was built using the same tools and techniques as in the 1600's - even the nails for the fort were hand-created by a museum blacksmith. The museum's indoor galleries have hundreds of artifacts and excellent explanations of the time period. I was impressed by how well the museum served both adults and children - lots of historical information for adults, and lots of activities for children. Visitors are allowed to touch to the replicas, so I didn't need to restrain Daniel or worry about him breaking something. We spent several hours there, and there were still several galleries that we didn't have time to see.

Moving on, we rode to a visitor's center in Colonial Williamsburg and bought tickets for tomorrow and Thursday. My parents will meet us here tomorrow, and Mom warned me that buying tickets tonight could save us a lot of time in the morning. Colonial Williamsburg is another "living history" museum of sorts that uses actors and a combination of restored and reconstructed buildings to represent Williamsburg during the 1700's. It's the most famous example of living history in the United States.

I hope that Daniel behaves well for my parents. He fought off sleeping until almost 11 p.m. tonight, and he's been less cooperative in recent days.


Daniel talks with Christina, our caseworker from Surry's social services department.


A cotton field on our way to the James River. Most of the farms around here are planted with cotton.


Daniel points out a small island to Kathy as we cross the James River. Daniel loved all of our ferry rides.


A replica of the Susan Constant at the Jamestown Settlement Museum. The Susan Constant was the largest ship leased by the Virginia Company when they established the Jamestown settlement.


A replica of the Discovery, the smallest ship used by the Virginia Company. The company owned this ship, and used it to explore Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Despite its small size, more than 10 men crossed the Atlantic in this ship.


A graduate student demonstrates how arrowheads were made at the Powhatan Indian Village. The stone that she uses is actually from Missouri, and is unlike any stone in Virginia. That stone is used as a precaution, so that her creations will never be confused with real Native American arrowheads during future archeological digs.


Daniel and I scrape a deerhide with shells at the Indian Village.


The recreated Jamestown fort. This represents the fort as it looked during 1610-1614. The fort was briefly abandoned in the spring of 1610 after 80% of the colonists died of starvation, but the survivors were rescued by a supply ship. During the starving time the colonists could not leave the fort for fear of indian attack, and some survived by digging up and eating the corpses of other colonists.

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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.