#16 Outer Banks to NOLA

2006 May 1-5
1,428 miles

Monday morning the wind was still blowing strong (25mph sustained, 40mph gusts) and now adding a misty rain. Today probably isn't the best day to ride down the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, but I'm already this close... I'm going! I brave the weather to drive the 150 miles round trip down NC12 to the Hatteras Light and back to Nags Head.
(If I didn't, Brenda may never forgive me!)

While the heavy winds blew salty, sandy mist, I crossed the 2+ mile long Bonner Bridge and made my way to the Hatteras Lighthouse. This shows only a section of the Bonner Bridge. Photo credit: www.mark.umd.edu/~mark/hcbbrdge.html Cape Hatteras Light--the oldest and tallest lighthouse in America.This is the light keeper's house and the bunkhouse for the workers.

While I was in the Hatteras Light Station visitor center parking lot, an RV pulled up and four of the occupants walked over to chat with me. Two of them were local to North Carolina and all were riders. They gave me credit for being out in the harsh weather on a motorcycle. They say this as they motion to their transportation--the RV. They strongly advised me NOT to take the ferry back to the mainland. They had just come across it and couldn't believe how they were getting tossed around by the waves. Then they asked me the condition of hwy12 back up to Nags Head -- specifically if the seawater was over the road yet. Well . . . I didn't know. I'd just ridden it, but I'm clueless . . . I explained that there were sections of road that barely had water across it. They explained to me that THAT was seawater blowing through the sand dunes and up over the highway. They also advised me that it would be getting worse as the tide came in.
Okay. That leaves me with two bad options. The ferry is getting tossed around by high waves and the highway has the Atlantic Ocean flooding it. Guess I'll stick to the land route, but it sounds like maybe I should consider moving on . . . Fleeter is NOT a dual sport motorcycle built for fording water-flooded roadways.
On the way back north on the two laned hwy12, nothing seems much different since the last time I passed this way just a couple hours ago, until... I came up on a section of road that was completely covered with water and to make it worse there's about 2-3 inches of sand over the road. The dunes were shape-shifting in the winds and much of their shape was now under Fleeter's wheels and covered with water. This gets my attention.
Traffic slowed to a crawl and very slowly drove though the deepest section, sometimes even stopping as they tried to get though. The water was up to the rims of the SUV in front of me. Now "slow" is very much the right answer when you are driving on four wheels. Let me explain how this is NOT the answer I am looking for. A motorcycle is more stable when there's some speed involved. When going very slowly, it is a challenge to keep it upright... with your feet on the pegs. And of course, if you stop...that is generally the time to put your feet down to hold the bike up. Right now, "down" is not where I want to put my feet. So, maintaining forward motion is something I wish to do through this section of road. I stopped where the water was just barely covering the road and waited for the vehicle in front of me to get far enough ahead, that I shouldn't have to stop because the traffic in front of me stopped. So, the plan is put in motion . . . I start out concentrating on making it through the water covered sand. The plan is working, until . . . I see there's oncoming traffic. The oncoming vehicle is moving along slowly, but fast enough to send a big enough wake out that even with my boots on the pegs they will still be flooded. But what can I do? I DON'T want to stop, and turning around is out of the question. Then, the oncoming driver suddenly stopped. Praise be! A driver that was paying attention to what was happening around him and saw my predicament. That, or . . . the driver was so shocked to see a motorcycle coming through the water at him that he froze. Either way, life is good. I made it through and that was the worst of it. The rest of my time on the Outer Banks was simply . . . windy, salty, sandy and, a somewhat wet, 50 degrees.
Another lighthouse I stopped to see while on the Outer Banks . . . Bodie Island Lighthouse.Dairy Queens are everywhere -- they just don't always look like they do in Texas! When I arrive back in Nags Head, I decide I've had enough of the blowing sand and salty mist and I'm getting tired of fighting the wind gusts. So, I decide it is time to head inland. It took me about 30 miles driving west on US64 before the winds became manageable, the sun finally broke through, and the ride became more enjoyable. After stopping in Columbia to warm up, fuel up, and get something to eat, it was time to get back on the road heading to New Bern. A few miles out of New Bern, I stopped at a small rest area and met a fellow traveler by motorcycle. He was on his way home after 3 weeks on the road to the Blue Ridge and West Virginia. When he found out I was planning to find a motel in New Bern for the night, he offered to put me up in his RV, which was parked in his backyard. He called home and told his wife to be expecting company...we were about 10 miles down the road.

Now this is where one might consider all the warnings your Mother ever gave you about meeting strangers . . . and going home with them. But how will I ever have stories to tell if I don’t wander outside the lines?! So, I accept his offer and we head toward “home,” the whole way with me thinking that if any flags go up, I will just abandon the offer and keep riding.

Troy and I park our bikes in the backyard and enter the house at the back door. He calls out to his wife … several times, but no one appears. This is where a flag appears. What if there is no wife? Now I am stuck in the house with a “crazy” and Fleeter is inside a chain-link fenced yard . . . with the gate closed. The flag starts waving more frantically. But just a couple seconds before I have time to plan my escape, Denise walks into the kitchen. She has a shocked look on her face . . . like she’s confused about why she is seeing someone in her kitchen with her husband. Troy says, “This is who I called you about.” I quickly step forward, extend my hand I say, “Hi. I’m Claye.” She shook my hand and said apologetically, “When Troy called and said that he’d met a girl on a motorcycle at the rest stop down the road and he’s bringing her home with him . . . I thought . . . he was kidding.”
"Not kidding," I said, "here I am!"

This turn of events was lucky for me. I got a free place to spend the night and met two great people. I enjoyed their generous hospitality and conversation. I was even able to give Fleeter a good wash to get off all the sand and salt. And, Fleeter got to share the shed with a Vulcan and a Heritage Softail for the night. I wandered outside the lines . . . and met two great people when I did! The next morning Troy had coffee waiting and made pancakes for breakfast. The three of us sat around visiting until the afternoon. Finally, I shoved off about 2:30pm headed to South Carolina.

For any Nicholas Sparks fans out there . . . If you've read "A Bend in the Road" you might find it interesting that the road that inspired road of the story is Brices Creek Road . . . the very same one that Troy and Denise live on.

Here I am with Troy and Denise before pulling back out on the road the next day. Sure enough. That's the RV I spent the night in! The small Episcopal Church behind the post office where I stopped to buy stamps.
State Routes are the roads I prefer to travel, but entering into South Carolina, I took I40 so I could stop at the visitor center for a map, motel coupon book, etc.Just south of North Carolina / South Carolina state line is a place with character called "South of the Border." Fleeter goes nose to nose with the wiener dog next to the hotdog place.
I used one of those coupons at a motel in Florence, and spent the next day, Wednesday, wandering around the back roads of South Carolina. When I stopped for lunch near Columbia, a fellow came up and started asking questions. When he found out I was traveling alone, he asked if I knew how to "wrench" the bike. I answered, "No." With an air of distaste, he asked, "Then what are you going to do if you breakdown?!" This attitude took me by surprise. I shrugged and said, "Use my cell phone and call for help." He turned to leave . . . as if he didn't have any interest in talking to some girl out "playing" on a motorcycle that didn't even know how to fix a mechanical problem herself on the side of the road if necessary. I only wish I had thought quickly enough to add that it would be the same thing I'd do if my pickup broke down and to ask him if he did all his roadside repairs. Too late, he was gone.
That night I used another coupon to stay at the nicest Red Roof I've ever stayed in (only $39.99 plus tax) in Madison, Georgia.
Thursday I went looking for a place that wasn't on the official state map of Georgia, but I'd read about where to find it. Here is the only sign showing that the Whistle Stop Cafe is in the area. Anyone who has read the book or seen the movie may know what this next picture is about...

The Whistle Stop Cafe...known for their fried green tomatoes, is found in Juliette. Zebulon, Georgia

Back roads are filled with little gems that you don't get to see along the Interstates.

More back roads of Georgia…

Not every Texas is as big as my home State!

This is the fourth state line I've crossed on Fleeter... Some people go to theme parks, zoos, museums, etc. Not me, not this trip anyway. Passing through Montgomery, Alabama, I choose to stop at the local cemetery and pay my respects to the Honky Tonk Poet, Hank Williams, Sr. I checked the weather and it looked like it would be raining by morning in Montgomery; however, it looked like Mobile would be in the clear. So, I headed to Mobile for Thursday night.

Friday morning I roamed up and around Mississippi for awhile then headed back south to Pascagoula to catch US90 and follow the Gulf Coast westward. My travels on US90 ended before crossing the bridge from Ocean Springs into Biloxi.The bridge between Ocean Springs and Biloxi was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. This is as far as I'm going on US90 today. "End of the Road" After Ocean Springs, I found I10 to make time into New Orleans, where a friend was expecting my arrival. I slid through Slidell, over the bridge into east New Orleans. Even though I thought I was prepared for the devastation we'd all heard about and watched on the news, seeing this kind of widespread destruction of a large city in America was shocking and sobering. I arrived at my friend's house in the Faubourg Marigny section of New Orleans on Friday about 3:30pm.

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