Saturday, May 30, 2009

Raquel's Tommaso

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, sometime in 1993: It was a regular day, like any other. I decided to pop into my local bike shop, Bay Ridge Bicycle World. I hadn’t seen Patrice, the owner, or Gerald, the wrench, in a few months. I walked in and saw a beautiful sight, a Tommaso frame hanging from the ceiling. I said “wow, she’s beautiful”. Patrice pointed a tobacco stained finger at me and said “that’s an Italian racing bike, it’s not for you!” I don’t remember if I gave her a smart-ass response but, being a native New Yorker, I probably did. It hung there unsold and after a year I convinced Patrice to sell it to me.

The bike and I have been through a lot together. I’ve been squished between two buses in Manhattan, crashed in the Adirondacks which dented the top tube and gave me a concussion and I was knocked over by a pickup truck. But lots of good things too, century rides in Montauk, New York, Lake Tahoe and Savannah and countless shorter rides as well as some light touring. Throughout the years my Tommaso has been a faithful companion and just like her owner, she’s a tough New Yorker.


My "mojo"

Indio the Wonder Dog

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oriental to Bath

We had to tear ourselves away from Oriental the next morning. Our room at the Oriental Marina & Inn was wonderful and the food delicious. If you visit, ask for a room upstairs, which is actually an efficiency apartment with a loft bedroom and fantastic views of the marina. There’s a tiki bar, pool and restaurant on the property and a nice coffee/ice-cream shop across the street.

Only on the coast, a bike with barnacles

Shrimp boat (not Bubba Gump)

Last ferry, then only 6 miles back to Bath

Cedar Island to Oriental

Seventy miles of open marshland, swamp and pine forest lie between Cedar Island and Oriental. The terrain is flat but the distance, winds, mosquitoes and lack of drinkable water can make for a difficult ride. We spent the day putting one pedal stroke in front of the other until the miles were behind us. At the end of the day we were rewarded with one of the most beautiful towns on the North Carolina coast.

Two recreational vehicles passing

Viewing the vast void, a vacuum of vanishing vacationers

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Leaving Bath at daybreak

Touring bikes are modern day versions of servant carried sedan chairs or passenger elephants. They creep slowly through the world at a pace perfect for soaking in the view. Touring bikes can be therapeutic tools to help rat-race refuges be more ‘in the moment’ and soon after the first pedal stroke the bike itself disappears and all that’s left is the experience of traveling.

Soon after leaving Bath, I forgot about my stressful job, mortgage payments, student loans, taxes and all the chronic irritants that eat away at my wellbeing. All that remained was the experience of traveling.

In Ocracoke we had a short layover before catching the Ferry to Cedar Island.

Exploring Bath

Exploring Bath takes about 15 minutes. If you are a skilled rock thrower, you should be able to toss a stone from one end of Bath to the other with little effort. Bath is a beatuiful tiny place. We finally found a town smaller than Bryson City!

Leaving town. . .

Up at 6:00 am, load car, drop the kids off at school (see you Tuesday!!), drive seven hours from one end of the state to the other, check-in at motel and, yes, I would like to get on my bike and explore Bath. And that is just what we did . . .

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Biking on a boat

One of the coolest things to do on a bike is ride a ferry. Maybe because it’s such a novel thing for me, coming from the mountains. A couple of years ago we went to Raquel’s hometown, New York City, for the Five-Boro Bike Tour. We rode the Staten Island ferry as part of the Tour. We also rode from Manhattan to Coney Island just to eat a famous Nathan’s hot dog and then took our bikes on the subway to get back. That was cool too; to me. Raquel was pretty blasé about it. It’s hard to impress a New Yorker, but for a country hick like me…I was excited, “Can we do it again, can we?”

We’ve ridden the ferries at the Outer Banks several times in the past few years. The OBX ferries are small and most folks get out of their cars and mingle. Sport fishermen drinking beer, families with kids and dogs, business people, UPS drivers and occasionally bike tourists, all crowded onto the deck. It’s neat to explore the coastline by bike, then ride onto a boat and explore in a different way, then hop back on your bike and off you go. I love that.

It’s also very inexpensive. What would it cost to charter a boat to sight-see for a couple of hours? You can ride the OBX ferries for just a few dollars. The ride from Swan Quarter to Ocracoke and the ride from Ocracoke to Cedar Island are each about 2 ½ hours long. That’s plenty of time to meet other passengers and have a nice picnic lunch before getting back on the bike.

As you can tell, I’m getting pretty excited about our Outer Banks trip. We leave Friday!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reflections on Touring

So we’ve been described as “avid tourers”. I agree, we are. Jack and I love to tour. We have not done any long tours, most of our tours are short (4-5 days to a week or so) but we’ve done quite a few in the 4 years we’ve been together. This summer we will be embarking on our longest and most difficult tour together, 2 weeks on the Blue Ridge Pkwy/Skyline Drive. Next summer we plan another 2 or 3 weeks to do the Pacific Coast Highway (Astoria to San Francisco).

Although Jack and I talk about taking several months off and doing an extended tour, the truth is that we really love being in the Smoky Mountains and although we go away several times a year, we always look forward to coming back home. After reading several blogs recently, we were talking about this and it hit me-we just don't have the urge right now to be away from home for more than a few weeks. I said to Jack "in 20-30 years all our short tours will add up to several long tours". Jack believes we appreciate our short tours more because of the fact that they are short.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Book Report: Odysseus’ Last Stand by Dave Stamboulis

The Cycling Dutchman, Peter Van Glabbeek, , left a book behind after his brief stay with us on his trip around the world (we sent him off with Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods). Peter’s gift to us, Odysseus’ Last Stand, by Dave Stamboulis, is a wonderful telling of an around-the-world journey by the author and (at least for more than half the trek) his wife Hitomi.

Dave Stamboulis does not gloss over the hardships of bike travel nor its rewards. He tells of being pelted with rocks, pedaling through feces strewn roads and near muggings as well as the beauty seen from the saddle. This is a great book to occupy rainy days.

We hope to pass the book along to our next Warm Showers guest. This copy has a life of its own. I don’t know where it’s been or where it may travel. Hopefully it will keep us posted.


Another Short Tour of the NC Coast

Two weeks till we tour the inner and outer banks of North Carolina!
Here’s what we have planned.

-Day One (44 miles with 2 ferry crossings): Leaving from the home of Blackbeard the Pirate, Bath, N.C. and heading to Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge.
-Day Two (66ish miles): Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge to Oriental, N.C.
-Day Three (54ish miles): Oriental, N.C. back to Bath, N.C.

A Bit About Blackbeard:
“Wild Times in Bath Town. The sleepy little village became a lively place when Blackbeard and his crew sailed into port. They traded their ill-gotten gains at reasonable prices, engaged in wild sprees, and replenished their ships for additional sorties to keep the cycle going. All of this brought economic prosperity to the region. People came from great distances to buy foreign goods in the shops in Bath. The "ordinaries" (hotels of the era) became crowded with boarders, and Bath Town sprang to life. The pirates, with no shortage of hard drinking and swearing, regaled the villagers with wild tales of their adventures on the high seas.” From:

A Bit About Bath:
“European settlement near the Pamlico River in the 1690s led to the founding of Bath, North Carolina's first town, in 1705. By 1708, Bath had 50 people and 12 houses. It soon became North Carolina's first port. Political rivalries, Indian wars, and piracy marked its early years but in 1746 Bath was considered for the colony's capital.” From:

A Bit About Cedar Island:
“Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, located in Carteret County, North Carolina is on the end of a peninsula marking the southern end of Pamlico Sound. Established in 1964, the refuge consists of approximately 11,000 acres of irregularly-flooded, brackish marsh and 3,480 acres of pocosin and woodland habitat. The marsh and surrounding waters provide wintering habitat for thousands of ducks and nesting habitat for colonial water birds.” From:

A Bit About Oriental:
'The Sailing Capital of North Carolina' ...a place where land and water meet under the best circumstances. A place shared by fishing trawlers and racing yachts, Victorian homes and modern marinas, shady lanes and waterfront vistas. It’s a quiet place where people smile and wave to passersby. A pace that captivates you so quickly and thoroughly that, from the moment you arrive, you’ll be making your plans to return – or just maybe stay” From:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tour de Cashiers

Some days it’s better just to stay in bed. It’s a shame we seldom recognize which are ‘stay in bed’ days and which are not until we’re half-way into a ride. Halfway into the Tour de Cashiers metric, with the rain coming down in buckets, both Raquel and I realize we are feverishly ill (hopefully nothing related to Mexican pigs or Asian birds). We both made the best of it and did what we could.

The highlight of the ride for me was the second big climb. It’s a steep ascent with a series of demoralizing switchbacks and false summits and a teeth-clenching descent on the backside made even more epic in the pouring rain; our wet brakes only promising to slow a crash down to a sub-fatal speed, and our wet tires hinting at a little bit of traction.

The highlight of the ride for Raquel was taking off cold wet clothes and putting on dry warm clothes (and that’s all she has to say about the ride).

Two days later we are still recovering from both the ride and this croupy mess infecting our lungs. I look forward to doing this ride again next year…in better health of course.