Almost Made It – And Then We Did

Hank – We got an early start in that we were on the road by 8:00 am. The plan was to ride to Knott’s Island, NC, and take the ferry to Currituck. From there we had slightly over four miles to a campground. As we headed south the traffic thinned out, which was great because there was little or no shoulder on the roads we were on.

We had a side and tailwind for some of the day and made pretty good time. We were planning to catch the 2:00 pm ferry but it looked like we could cover the 38 miles in time to catch the one at noon. But when we headed east we had more of a headwind.

We crossed over to North Carolina, our 26th state of the trip, and followed highway 615 (NC Bike Route 4), which would take us straight to the ferry. The wind turned against us as we passed the open wildlife refuge wetlands. I was busting my butt when Kathy waved me up. She wanted me to break the wind for her. But with two more bags on my bike than she has I was having enough trouble just keeping up with her so that didn’t work out in her favor at all. We finally slogged through that and hit the last part to the ferry. We got there just in time to see the gate was closed and the “Ferry Not Operating” sign posted on it. Needless to say, that was pretty disappointing.

I asked a couple of locals about the ferry and they said that if it’s not operating now then it won’t be the rest of the day. Since the last campground we saw was many miles behind us we decided to ask someone nearby if we could camp in their yard. While I was pushing my bike to a house my rear fender started rubbing against the tire. What the heck is going on with that? After a couple of looks I finally found that the rack bolt on the left side had sheared off. Well, crap! (Not what I really said) I removed the left rear pannier and carried it to the house where Kathy was asking  for permission to camp. Yes we could pitch our tent on their lawn. Yay!

Kathy was getting cold so we put the tent up on the leeward side of a brick shed and I got to work on solving my rack problem. I saw I had another mount point just below the one I was using so I loosened the rack and fender bolts and installed the two bolts for the rack. It’s a good thing I brought a bag of bolts with me for just such an emergency. I tightened everything back up and it looks like I’m golden for now. Whew!

I called the NC DOT to check on the ferry because there’s no notice on the web site indicating it’s not operating. It does say it doesn’t operate in high winds but not what constitutes high winds. We had 20 mph winds and higher gusts going and it looks like that will continue for two more days. I was on the line waiting for the next operator when I was finally told to leave a message. I hope they call me before tomorrow morning.

I looked at the map and the ride to Currituck will be 41 miles via heading north to Virginia. We’d be retracing about 20 miles of today’s route. I’m guessing the ferry won’t be running again if it doesn’t show for the 6:50 am ride.

I called again and got through to a person. The ferry is not running today due to mechanical issues. They won’t know if it’s running tomorrow until tomorrow morning. Keeping my fingers crossed.

We were snug as bugs in a rug in our tent when Brenda came out of her house and told us the ferry was coming. After a short discussion we decided to catch it rather than risk it not running tomorrow. We packed up quicker than we’ve ever had before and rolled over to the landing. While waiting at the gate we chatted with some of the ferry employees and they learned about the adventure we’re on. It was going to be dark when we arrived in Currituck so one gentleman offered to give us a ride to the campground since he was headed in that general direction. Cool!

Near the end of our ferry ride, that same gentleman came in to the passenger section and told us we could stay at his house and sleep in his RV if we wanted. It would shorten tomorrow’s riding by 20 miles or so but meeting people is a big part of the adventure so we accepted. Carlton is the engineer on this ferry. Later I learned it’s just for this week. His job is on the Hatteras ferry. Kismet decided we would meet. During the drive to his house I remarked I noticed two Sheriff cars along the way and they weren’t that far from each other. Well, this (Highway 618) is the only road so that’s why. Carlton has an interesting personal history that we only got to touch on. He’s been all around the world doing all kinds of incredible things. He’s worked on American and foreign ships and the artificial Palm Islands near Dubai. He enjoyed working overseas for extended periods of time and coming home to a quiet house. He laments he now has a lot of neighbors where 20 years ago his was one of the few houses in the area. In his words he’s older now and can’t do the stuff he used to do when he was younger. So he took a job with the state ferry system, which is a job he never would have taken on as a younger man. “I like chaos”, he said, “Because when you’re done you feel like you’ve accomplished something.” Carlton also has a sense if humor that sneaks up on you unexpectedly. I wish I could hang around him some more. When we got to his house we met his wife, Tina, and their grandson, J.R. We were welcomed with open arms and made to feel at home. Carlton and I had a beer while the ladies chatted for a while. He gets up at 4:00 am so he had to eat dinner and call it a night. Kathy and I retired to the RV and made dinner, which involved me pouring boiling water into bags of dried food. Tomorrow will bring us something new. By the way, Carlton said the mechanical issue stopping the ferry was a simple fix. It just took time for the part to arrive. Plus, this ferry was a backup and doesn’t have all the spare parts like the main ones do.

Kathy – Today was a typical autumn day. Temps were in the mid 60’s but it felt much colder with us being so close to the water and having the 20 mph sustained winds blowing. The fall leaves were scurrying about all day under our tires. I have to give Google Maps for cyclist credit today. They predicted mostly flat terrain, and they were correct! Imagine that. Google Maps elevation gains were actually accurate today. That’s a first. Let’s see how that plays out in the future. 🧐😏🤪

On another note for our first real day back in the saddle (after our two-week break) we were reminded of all the sights and smells that come with bike touring…dead animal funk in the air, manure in the farm fields, more bug bites, dead animals in the road, and of course I saw approximately ten dead snakes today. 🐍 😬 I’m counting my blessings that they were dead.

Considering the winds at 20 mph and gusts at 28 mph, we made pretty good timing getting to the 12:00 pm ferry that was 38 miles away. Traffic was heavy when we started with lots of stop lights that initially slowed us down a bit. However we only took one ten minute break today so that helped with our timing.

I was so pumped we made it to the ferry because we were giving it our all the last 10 – 15 miles, especially with all those headwinds towards the end. We made it with five minutes to spare only to see the sign that it was not running today. Bummer! We were tired, hungry, and getting pretty cold with the winds. I was not interested in backtracking an hour and a half to an RV campsite. My plan was to pitch a tent anywhere and call it good. Lucky for us one of the neighbors, Brenda allowed us to use her yard.

So we set up the tent, got cleaned up and were ready to call it a day…then Brenda came out about 4:20 pm and said she saw the ferry and it was running again. You never saw two people take down the tent, deflate sleeping pads, pack up clothes, food and sleeping bags so fast. Literally in ten minutes we were riding away from Brenda’s house to catch the ferry.

Once on the ferry some of the staff were asking us about our trip. One guy name Carlton (“like the cigarette” according to him) offered us a ride to our campground we had initially planned on for the night. Once we got off the ferry we had four more miles of riding to get to the campsite, however it was dark now. So we took him up on his offer. Then during our 45 minute ferry ride, Carlton came back and offered to take us to his place where we could sleep in his RV in the driveway. This was 20 miles south from the ferry. We graciously accepted. Once there we met Tina (Carlton’s wife) and J.R. (their grandson). I have to say, what great people! They are so kind to open their home up to strangers. They are also extremely friendly and made us feel so welcome. We are very thankful for their hospitality!

So overall it was a good day. The ride was definitely challenging during the strong headwind phases, but we powered through. Hank’s bike rack broke, but he managed to fix it. We met so many wonderful people in North Carolina today and found a warm place to rest our tired bodies tonight. Today may have not gone according to our original plan, but I would have to say it went much better. We are very grateful for all the blessings that we have received today. 💗💗💗

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