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To start the day T, of TnA (Travis ‘n Angie), decided we needed a breakfast burrito. C had no idea what one was so it seemed a great idea in her mission to try every different food that the US has to offer. C tried it and declared it fantastic and a definite success. C decided to do some weeding and then it was time to roll.

It was a beautiful ride mainly along small country roads. We went past lots of small farm plots where maize, green beans and small amounts of tobacco for personal consumption were being grown. As we only had about 50 miles to ride it was great to be able to take such a route instead of riding down highways as we had been doing quite a few times.

We were 10-15 miles as the crow flies from our destination but the GPS was trying to send us down to the main highway and thought that we had another 30+ miles to ride. Hah. Not a chance. I’d looked and found a route that would take us through Croatan National Forest. I was slightly nervous about the quality of the road but it was early, we had plenty of energy and it wasn’t going to be too much more than 10 miles.

Upon arriving at the dirt track we had a discussion and decided that the 10 miles of dirt track sounded a better option than the 30 miles of highway. Looking back I’m not quite as sure but it was definitely a break from riding on paved roads. It was definitely better than the loose sand we had ridden on back in Florida. We made sure to clip out as the minimal gains in efficiency would have been seriously outweighed by the chance of coming off the bike painfully. The first 30 minutes or so weren’t terrible but then it just started to drag.

We were going along at 10-12kmph (6-8mph) but the amount of concentration needed was frustrating. One of the main reasons to take the route had been to enjoy the national forest and I felt that we were definitely not doing that. Instead of getting to look at the nature and wildlife on show we spent the whole ride staring at the ground ensuring we didn’t hit a loose patch and lose balance.

When we were around the half way point after about 45 minutes I called a break which was easily the most enjoyable part of the ride. I was hoping that it would relax me and put me back in the mood to ride along the dirt track but 10 minutes later I was questioning why we had decided it was a good idea and hoping that C was enjoying it in some way because I definitely wasn’t. It turned out that she felt the same way. I decided that I would need to get in touch with some people who have been touring in South America and Africa to get some tips on how to ride on dirt roads without going crazy as when I get that far there aren’t going to be too many beautifully paved roads.

After 90 minutes of riding we eventually got out and there was a definite sense of elation and freedom. Riding on real roads was so fun and I had a new lack of care about small bumps that I’d have previously tried to avoid. C saw a local farmer selling fruit + veg so we pulled in to grab a snack before we finished riding for the day.

We got to Alex and Mary Helen’s in the mid afternoon and spent the rest of the day having an amazing time. Alex is a scout leader and so had a great game that he had recently set up, tomahawk training! He showed us how to do it and of course had no problem hitting the target. The same couldn’t be said for either C or I. It took 20 minutes of throwing, missing and collecting the tomahawk before I landed it and regained a little bit of my manliness that had been vanishing with every attempt.

After tomahawk time I played with their sons Ian and Cooper while and C got taught both the game of cornhole and some cooking techniques. Alex knew all about cooking in the wilderness so gave her lots of tips and showed her the magic of wrapping things in tin foil, putting them on the BBQ and creating something simple yet delicious which ended up being our dinner. He also thought it would be a good idea for us to get pics of us riding his Harley to show people what we really meant by the idea of a bike trip. I agree wholeheartedly and there are times when I ride that I had the power of the Harley to get through headwinds and up steep inclines although that would probably feel much less rewarding.

Over dinner Alex told us about the Trans-Am cycle that he had done in his early 20s with a friend. We got shown some breathtaking pictures that captured the raw natural beauty that the US has to offer.

Later C mentioned our plan to rent a car when we got to DC so we could ride over to Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous building Fallingwater. There was one small problem, she had never driven automatic, on the “wrong” side of the road or with a steering wheel on the “wrong” side. Alex and Mary Helen saw this problem as a great opportunity and decided to give her a driving lesson and so the whole family got in there people carrier and C drove us over to Cups-N-Cones, the local hangout place and home of delicious ice cream.

The drive over was impressively smooth. Other than when the door got hit as she tried a few times to grab the gearstick it was a success and C got an ovation from the car on pulling in to the parking lot. I tried to document the experience but as it was dark the flash went off which was obviously distracting.

On getting to Cups-N-Cones we realised just how strongly the church knits together the town of Newport. Everyone knew each other and was called Brother ___ or Sister ____. We met some incredibly friendly people and got the challenge of choosing 3 of the 60 flavours on offer to mix for our ice-cream, a task nearly as difficult as the dirt track but so much more pleasurable.

Driving lesson

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