Preparation / Training / Vacation
May 20-26, 2006
After a busy week of packing up my apartment, moving out, numerous goodbyes, and basically covering all the bases at home to be away for some time, I’m finally here in the Outer Banks, North Carolina for a week of leisure before heading off on my own toward the Pacific Ocean.
May 21 – Flat Tire!
I woke up at about 10:30am, had a relaxing morning, and had my bike ready to go for a training ride at noon. I rode an out-and-back trip along the only road on the island, south to Buxton, and returned – a total round trip of 45 miles.
The ride was completely flat (As I imagine Kansas), which sounds like a blessing, but in reality it was also a bit of a curse. This is because the terrain inherently tricks you into riding at the same tempo for mile after mile, and forces you into quite a steady workout, as opposed to rolling hills that give your body a rest on the downhills.
The weather was sunny and in the eighties, so I was sweating quite a bit and got a little sunburned. Also I didn’t have breakfast, so my body was craving fuel and probably salts too by the end of the ride. I suppose I pushed it a little too hard with the intention of giving myself a good workout.
At the end of the ride, less than a mile from the beach house, my rear tire suddenly went flat! I walked it back home without any inspection, showered, and raided some snacks and Cokes because I was starving. I passed out for a quick nap on the couch with some track meet on TV, and woke up just before my aunt, uncle, and cousin arrived, and helped them unload their van.
It wasn’t until later then that I took a look at the wheel, and realized there was a big old bent nail sticking out of the tire! Later my uncle Ric said,
“You know, that’s good luck!”
“Really? Where did you hear that?”
“Oh, I just made it up.”
Actually I do see it as sort of good luck. It gives me some extra practice working with my wheels here in comfort, so by the time it happens on the side of the road somewhere (And probably in the rain too), I ought to be a pro. But really, what are the chances of running over a bent nail.
For dinner we all had London Broil and sliced potatoes from out on the grill, and relaxed watching the Yankees/Mets game. Life is good.
On Monday evening I went for a short ten mile ride and viewed a beautiful sunset over the Sound. I returned at about 8:15 to find the rest of my family engrossed in the season finale of “24.” Then the next two nights was American Idol… I’ve lived by myself in apartments for three years now – all of them without TV. And guess what – I don’t miss it.
Tuesday I rode 25 miles south to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and returned. There was quite a bit of wind from the north, so I averaged about 20mph on the way down, and only about 9mph on the return! I met Mitch, a 62 year old riding a recumbent bicycle. He was towing quite a bit of weight, but had a pretty sweet setup!
On the road to the lighthouse I passed a large box turtle in the middle of the road, but when I went to pick it up it started freaking out, so I got scared and put it back down in the road. There were some cars pulling up slowly, and I got out of the middle of the road so they could pass. Soon traffic was stopped in both directions waiting for this turtle, and a girl got out of one the cars to rescue it. When she picked it up, of course, it shrank back into its shell and was well behaved for her.
I almost forgot to mention that a bird crapped on me during that ride. Apparently that really is supposed to be good luck!
I can’t remember the last time I had such a great vacation at the beach (I’d been to the Jersey shore a number of times growing up, but this would be our first (And only) family vacation to the Outer Banks). Most of our days consist of eating lots and lots of excellent food, and generally relaxing to the maximum capacity, with the exception of my occasional bicycle jaunts and mechanical practice.
Since the days until my departure can be counted on one hand, I now get brief pangs of nervous anticipation – usually caffeine/sugar induced. And my mother and her list of a million silly outrageous to things to worry about (And general negativity about this trip) doesn’t help my attitude either.
I know all too well exactly what I’m getting myself into. For the most part I’m excited to get out there on my own and finally get rolling, but part of me knows that once the initial novelty wears off, there will be plenty of moments of extreme discomfort and loneliness. Plus my budget won’t exactly allow for a luxurious trip, so I have to make my money last as long as possible, and see how tough or soft I really am without creature comforts.
I like it this way because I feel it will make the trip more rewarding – you’ve never had a shower until you’ve gone without one for a week – never appreciated clean clothes until you’ve worn the same dirty clothes for a week, never quite enjoyed a great meal in an air conditioned motel room until you’ve biked all day in the 100 degree heat and burned 6000 calories… etc. etc.
Okay, enough of that. It’s just that after a plush week at the beach, a part of me isn’t looking forward to the breaking-in period of camping out every night, that’s all. But once you get used to it, it’s a wonderful way to live!
May 25 – My first 100-mile ride
I rode my first century today!
I got started around 9 or 10 in the morning and rode 15 miles north through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. I came to this big long bridge at the north end of the island, and turned around and went back. This is the route I’ll be riding on the first day of my tour.
The stretch of road indeed did feel like a wildlife refuge – it just “felt” different – and I saw a couple cool looking birds that I couldn’t identify. Also the tall sand dunes and climbing temperature created a desert sort of atmosphere. The spot where I stopped for a break near the bridge reminded me of Assateague Island in Maryland – I’d rename it Pea Island National MOSQUITO Refuge!
I stopped at the beach house for about an hour – for lunch and a quick rest – before setting out to cover 70 more miles in the afternoon. It was easy terrain for a long ride, but there was a strong wind out of the south, making for an arduous headwind riding 35 miles south to the Hatteras Ferry. The high temperature rose to 88 degrees and there was no shade. I felt like an Arab in the desert because I rigged a wet bandana to shade the back of my neck from the sun. I also soaked my shirt with water at the house and later at the beach where it was available… and in the sun it didn’t stay wet for long.
After battling the headwind, I was pretty spent when I reached the south tip of the island at 5pm. It was a good thing I accounted for the wind when planning this ride – it pushed me all the way home! I averaged something like 22mph on the return trip, covering the miles at least twice as fast as before, and even got up to 30+mph on the one flat.
It’s a nice sense of accomplishment to have now ridden a century, even though I’m sure I’d do it anyway at some point during the trip this summer. It was a fun thing to try and do here though, before I’m carrying weight on the bike, and with a nice house to use as “home base” for logistical ease and relaxation. This handful of rides here has also given me the opportunity to fine tune my saddle/riding position, break in my butt, get tanned/sunburned, and generally get my body used to this before I’m out on the road without as many opportunities for rest.
Now I finally get to start this tour in a matter of hours! After riding along the dunes and the same windy road for a few days, it will be nice to move inland to the Appalachians and green pastures of Sweet Virginia!