Day 8

September 11th, 2010

During lunch yesterday we talked about how we had to catch two ferries, separated by the 16 mile length of Ocracoke Island.  We got out the schedules and determined which departure we wanted to shoot for on the second ferry, but somehow never got around to extrapolating that back to the first ferry and thus, our wake up time.  So it wasn’t until I half-woke at 3:30am that I realized I ought to work out the times and distances.  I think I did foggy math over the next 2 hours as I dozed, and I surprisingly ended up getting it about right.  We needed to get up at 6am to be sure to catch the 8am ferry to Ocracoke.

In the cool (56 degree) dawn, we made it easily, and 40 minutes of boat-riding later we were on the nearly deserted road on Ocracoke Island.  It was a beautiful morning ride, with the road seeming to be a giant strip of tape holding the bits of sand and vegetation together in a contiguous island (description borrowed from Dennis!)  It’s interesting how often I’m reminded of our last tour in the desert Southwest.  Here, the scrub vegetation growing out of sandy soil could have been in Utah, except in Utah it would have been at 7500 feet, and stunted by temperature extremes and lack of water rather than salt spray and wind.

We reached the town of Ocracoke at the southwestern end of the island in time to have a relaxing breakfast at a place that reminded me of Dawson’s Creek with a waitress that reminded me of Joey.  When we headed over to catch the 10:30 ferry,we learned that it had left at 10:00, and the next one wouldn’t leave until 12:30.  This time I know I didn’t read the schedule wrong.  Instead, I read the wrong schedule.  On our first North Carolina ferry, I had picked up a nice paper schedule of all the NC ferries, figuring it would be easier and more reliable than using the PDF I had saved on my phone.  Well, turns out that was the 2010 schedule published in January, while the one on my phone was the updated version published in August.  Ugh, take your out-of-date schedules off your boats you idiots!

Well, that gave us time to wander around the charming little town of Ocracoke in a style a bit more like the other tourists rolling around on their rented bikes, and less like bike tourists who are always moving on to the next place.

The 2+ hour ferry ride passed quickly due to napping and time spent trying to stop my bike from creaking while I ride (an annoyance Dennis has generously avoided complaining about).  Arriving at Cedar Island, we were a bit unsure what kind of services to expect since we’d been without cell phone coverage for a while.  We got some confusing information, and no one knew anything about our targeted campground 30 miles down the road.  So we circled around, and then got a late lunch at the run-down Driftwood Motel near the ferry dock, thinking it might be our last chance for food.  Turns out there was a good universal store (Oreo cookies, panty hose, and PVC pipe fittings all next to each other) a short way down the road, but after that, nothing.

We were into a strangely beautiful dead-flat marshland, an ongoing negotiation between sea and land, where the road was the only apparent solid ground for miles.

Eventually we made it close to our destination,  got some more frustrating “maybe”s to the question of whether this campground exists, and then got a recommendation to head a few miles further out to Harker’s Island, which surely has a campground.  The confidence behind that advice and the setting (looking across the water to Cape Lookout, a hard-to-access extension of the Outer Banks) convinced us to go for it, especially since we hadn’t gone that many miles today.

Shortly before reaching, as we stopped at a bait shop advertising cold beer, my rear derailer cable snapped.  Uh oh.  My 27-speed bike was now effectively a single-speed, and we seemed to be pretty far from the kind of civilization that supports bike shops.  Well, if you’re going to do loaded touring with one gear, these pancake-flat lands are the place to do it.

The recommended campground turned out to be an RV park without bathrooms, and thus no tenting allowed.  The proprietor recommended a motel just down the road, in this suddenly built-up island area.  But before we could reach it, she came speeding by in her pickup, recommending a house that a friend/family rents out instead.  Ok, plan change #6 of the day.  We took her up on her offer to cart us there in her pickup, and found a nice little house for $65, which is a pretty sweet deal when campgrounds are more than $30.  Finally we had found a place to sleep!

We ate some of our food purchased with camping in mind while watching the White Sox get clobbered, and then I set to work on my bike.  I actually had a spare derailer cable with me (smart), but it was too short (dumb).  Dennis came up with the clever idea to splice the new and old cables together with a nut and bolt, and helped me do it.  It seems to hold pretty well, and hopefully it will allow at least some limited shifting tomorrow.

We should get some kind of award for stretching relatively few miles into such a long day.  It’s been a week since I’ve slept in a bed, so this ought to be pretty nice.

3 Responses to “Day 8”

  1. Steve M Says:

    Check out Dennis’ blog, and you will see that he has complaints about your squeaky old bike.

  2. Louise Gregie Says:

    Steve, I hope those are the only “complaints” Dennis (& you, Neil), have tomorrow. Like the ingenious Dennis/Neil bike “fix.” So glad you had a satisfying end to a day that started at 3:30am. Good woman with the pickup truck. An AWESOME day!

  3. suchi Says:

    Genius that you guys were able to fix the bike! Impressive. Enjoy sleeping on the bed!:)