If yesterday was hot, today promised to be even hotter. The temperature at 8:30 a.m. was 88 degrees! We started biking at 7:30 this morning to beat the heat, and then headed for a ferry ride in Southport in hopes for cooler temperatures, at least temporarily. Shallotte, North Carolina was about 30 miles from the ferry and we arrived at 9:55 for the 10:00 a.m. ticket! Not bad when you throw in several “restroom” stops along the way.
Once on the ferry, seagulls surrounded us, thanks to a little boy who brought a bag of bread to share with them. The ferry took us across Cape Fear River to Fort Fisher. During the half-hour ferry ride, we received a brief history of the area from a woman who was transporting an injured pelican and a small predatory bird back to their natural surroundings. She struck me as a person who maximizes the opportunities that life has to offer. Retirement merely moved her to different phases where she has made contributions using her gifts and passions.
My chance to jump in the ocean came at Kure Beach. What a relief to be able to cool down ever so briefly. People along our ride today commented about the unusual heat wave. Everywhere we went, people were buying bags of ice and cold drinks. Our saving grace is that we are on bikes and there is always a breeze when you are moving—no matter how hot it gets!
Arriving in Wilmington began with an impromptu tour of the wastewater treatment center and various asphalt and bulk storage terminals on the outskirts of town. Our desired destination was a bike shop since there were none on our route since Georgia. My trustworthy navigator and companion landed us at the bike shop despite receiving some sketchy directions from locals.
After a successful trip to the bike shop, we ended our day with a delicious and nutritious late lunch at Chick-fil-A. We decided that the best place to be tonight is Wilmington. Despite wanting a higher mileage count for the day, we were gratified to learn we had eclipsed the 1,000-mile mark for our trip.
I would like to leave you with these thoughts on the characteristics of our bicycle tour.
There is nothing we like better than: being on our bikes, together, feeling the cool breeze—or the hot breeze—against our hot and sweaty skin; the sound of birds chirping in the trees or bushes; cars whizzing by us sometimes with a friendly wave or toot; the smell of the ocean; the flowers and trees swaying in the breeze; the variety of architecture in homes and buildings; our bodies getting stronger every day; the sun on our faces giving us a healthy glow. It is all good!
The ugly part is: roadkill and its corresponding stench; the trash along roads where people have littered, oblivious to their criminal activity; ingesting the odor from the wastewater treatment plant; and the decaying parts of town where homes with dilapidated cars parked out front with their flat tires, dents, broken windows; and the homes themselves with peeling paint, sagging roofs, trash on the front porch, without grass or flowers—only a chain-link fence donning a Beware of Dog sign and encircling the entire property.
The bad part of bike touring is: the traffic in the big cities; getting lost and asking directions from people who are unaware of their hometown surroundings and who readily admit they are “really bad with directions.” They give them anyway—and we, of course, take them, while not always knowing what to do with them! The bad part is also blisters on our hands or sore hind ends; tingling fingers or numb wrists; having to go to the bathroom so badly with none in sight. Therefore, I find makeshift bathrooms courtesy of roadside guardrails, bushes, and trees.
Back to the good: stopping at convenience stores and refilling water bottles with ice and cold Gatorade and chugging it down to quench a thirst that you never imagined could be satisfied so completely; wearing the same clothes every other day and never having anyone else notice because we are in a new place each day; listening to the local people proudly tell us facts about the area in which they live and love; having people just ask us where we are from, and where we are going, and how far have we come—just being interested and curious after seeing our bikes makes for a good day. And the best part is finishing the day, getting in our motel room, and taking a long, warm shower; and looking at each other and knowing that we could not do this alone, and that we are one strong couple who love to be together on our bikes—and off them too! That is what makes it all worthwhile.
All of life has the good, the bad, and the ugly parts to it. It is in keeping the right perspective, and focusing on the good that keeps the bad, and the ugly, manageable.