Heading Toward the Coast      Back to Bike Stories  //  Back to the Weeville Home Page

The Herald  Friday, June 21, 1991
 
Heading toward the coast
 
Before I could find breakfast in Laurinburg, N.C., on the second day of my tour to the coast, I was flagged down by a local who wanted me to join a forming bike club.
 
"A mighty long commute from Lancaster," I answered, much to the guy's obvious chagrin.  Nonetheless, I thanked him for his offer.  I was barely awake, and I was already being interviewed.
 
Outside a restaurant a man walked by explaining me to his young son, just like I was some critter at the zoo.  "Don't stare, Michael.  That bike is built for traveling.  That man is out seeing the country.  Move along, Michael."
 
As soon as I rode up the ramp onto U.S. 74, I was blasted by a trash-moving headwind.  For a bicyclist, there is nothing more frustrating than this.  Even a crawling speed requires a high burn rate, and a few hours of this is usually all I can stand with a full load on.  I mentally put this day into the hard-earned 50-mile category and knuckled down behind my road fairing.
 

I clawed my way to N.C. 711 and found myself on this trip's second classic bicycling highway.  Headwinds aside, this road was quiet and scenic. In downtown Pembroke, all the buildings broke up the wind, allowing me to soar through the traffic lights like a real athlete.  Folks on the sidewalk yelled "Look at that!  Did you see that guy on the bike?"
 
I chuckled at this as the wind nailed me again at the town's outskirts.  Chugging along at 10 mph, I thought, "If they could see me now."
 
Such was the pace through Lumberton and on to Elizabethtown, founded in 1773.  By now I had determined that it's uphill to the beach in North Carolina.  The climbing and the headwind had taken its toll.  I was ready for lodging.  So what if it takes me four days to get to Surf City?  Isn't this supposed to be fun?
 
I was shocked and amazed to learn from a local that Elizabethtown, a county seat and one of my designated targets, has no motel.  "You'll have to go to White Lake". 
 
OK.  White Lake is a resort area, exactly on my way anyhow.  I could handle 8 or 10 more miles, but that would be it.
 
I made it to White Lake and found quite a spectacle.  The lake itself is beautiful, huge and sparkling this unseasonably warm Saturday.  The area was already gearing up for its annual bash, the much advertised Water Festival to be held the next weekend.
 
The motels along the shore were many, but most were tiny.  The ones with a functioning sign had the "NO" lit up.  There was an awesome field off to one side packed with camper trailers, enough to attract a tornado on a clear day.  It was obvious there was no room at the inn for a lone bicyclist, and I didn't bother to stop and beg for a room.
 
After a complete lap around the lake I ended up on the road to Wallace, 27 miles away.  Despite my early misgivings, this would be a 100-plus-mile-day.  Down the road I went, doubting that Wallace itself had a motel.  Limbo seems to go well with bike touring.  It happens so often.
 
Having long since run out of food and water, I pulled into the only oasis, a country store 10 miles from Wallace.  A sign on the door read, "Closing at 5 p.m. today."  It was 4:57.  A miracle.
 
The lady inside said Wallace indeed has one motel, and she described a shortcut.  She locked up and left as I finished my snack outside.
 
After 104 miles, I made it to Wallace.  The motel lady was engaged in a telephone firefight with somebody.  She banged the phone down and said, "If you want a room, the last one I have left is a double."
 
"I'll take it."  Another miracle.  Bike touring is fun, as long as you know how to pray.
 

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