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The Herald Friday, July 26, 1991
Friends are easy to find
After two days of fishing and frolic at Surf City, N.C., it was time to close my bags and begin the backtrack home. I chose a more northward route for my return, through the central part of the Tarheel state.
Different roads yielded the same scenery. I decided to name this trip Tour de Tobacco Fields, as I rolled from one big plot to the next.
I saw one field being planted. The tractor was creeping along pulling a big rig behind it with four man-buckets. The four people in the buckets were systematically plopping each individual plant where it should go.
The creeks and rivers in this area, that I saw, were all black. The water looks like weak coffee. Despite the natural color, the locals all rave about the fishing.
Maybe the pace of life here is slow, but folks apparently like their entertainment fast. Way back in the woods I passed a pretty sophisticated go-cart track, a dirt facility with banked curves, with a sign proclaiming, "Racing every Saturday night. Bring the family."
Every bumper sticker I saw pledged allegiance to one NASCAR driver or another, although most had that famous black Chevy on them. Dale Earnhardt should run for governor when he's through racing. At one small store there was a mimeographed bulletin warning all the other drivers about the "Earnhardt Law." That is, "The distance for the start line to the finish line is directly proportional to the distance from the gas pedal to the floorboard, Lead, follow, or get out of the way!"
The locals are inherently friendly. At one stop a family would have it no other way until I accepted a piece of a big chocolate cake they had in the car. Wow, was it ever good.
At the same stop, a man interviewed me and begged that if I had the time, I should stop at his house for a hot meal. "The wife and kids would love to meet a guy like you." Time and a 10-mile side trip with a headwind was all that prevented me from taking him up on it.
Folks hollered loud encouragement from their front porches, and at every stop a crowd formed around my bike. I guess years from now they'll still be talking about the day that boy on the crazy-looking bicycle came through town.
A fishing boat captain in Surf City told me it was going to be a bad year for sharks, but I learned on my own that the folks in the coastal plains for North Carolina had best beware of snakes.
Judging by road kill alone, this is snake heaven. It was normal for me to swerve around four or five flattened ones per mile, and some of these were giant. Figuring that the highway probably takes up about one-trillionth of the surrounding acreage, I think I'll pass on this year's marshland safari.
A store owner told of a water moccasin that slithered in through the open front door, terrifying the customers around the cash register.
After 104 hot miles I found lodging in Dunn, N.C., at a big-name motel beside I-95. Despite the urban environment, I looked under the bed for snakes. If they can shop at a convenience store, they can just as well check into a motel.
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