Day 1: Bicycling from Raleigh, NC to Smithfield, NC
42.5ish miles — or more depending on bonus miles & wrong turns
The first day of the East Coast Greenway WAY (Week-A-Year) tour began in downtown Raleigh with nearly 40 cyclists jones’n to get on their bicycle legs. Many drove double-digit hour-long car rides, tipping the scales of 70 mph speed limits for the right to transition to a pace that resembled something much slower. Cycling at touring speeds, with the winds at your back if you were lucky. A pace that averaged 10-12 miles per hour once you factored in the stops – that were many, especially on day one.
Stops for traffic lights stops to recheck your gear when your bicycle made unusual noises, stops to study the cue sheet or reset digital devices that without notice decided to reboot. Likely, because they could. Stops to wonder if Homeland Security defines bicycle saddles are a form of torture. Stops to wonder if your brakes are rubbing, or if your tires went soft because you’re working harder than you think you should, yet no one else is complaining so you keep those thoughts deep inside. Stops to take pictures of pathways, flowers, birds, animals and your fellow riders. Stops to share snacks and power bars even though your GPS reads only 6.9 miles. Stops to visit with the locals in small towns, or pose in front of statues of ice cream, or visit a bakery at 9:30 AM because likely it was as good a time as any to eat fudge or some other sugary treat.
Stops to push out a pic to your Facebook page, which became instantly flooded with “Likes”. Who wouldn’t LIKE to be bicycling, town to town, seeing the East Coast and being charmed by the smallest of details? Stops to eat lunch at the small town diners — restaurants that serve the locals breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with menus that may not include “healthy choices,” but it’s OK, because you are riding your bicycle, burning calories, and you can always return to your favorite foods another day. And when you get your bill for a sandwich and a drink that reads $2.59 you just give the waitress a ten dollar bill, and walk away with a full belly and a broad smile knowing that you made her day and did your part to stimulate the local economy.
And then there was the riding. Cycling along a network of connecting trails throughout Raleigh that took you away from cars, away from noise and fumes. Exiting the trails, we returned to roadways, where we cycled happily on a few downhills and pushed our minds to look away from the looming uphill and colossal trucks patiently waiting for a chance to pass. At times, the roads narrowed, and we tested our balance ability to ride on top of the white line. Other times the shoulders became wide and smooth, and we wondered how life could be so good. With rural and low-volume traffic we returned to cycling side-by-side, catching up with our fellow cyclists on topics that included food, our next ride, future travels and of course when we would stop again. Not because we had to. Rather, we wanted to savor the outdoor adventures, and a chance to talk to the locals and connect our dreams with theirs.
The East Coast Greenway WAY tour is about experiencing by bicycle one segment of the grand plan — 3000 miles of bicycle friendly roadways and trails between small towns and big cities and flavored by the human-connection along the way from Calais Maine to Key West Florida . This year’s segment is scheduled to begin in Raleigh, NC and finish at Myrtle Beach, SC – approximately 330 miles. Nearly 40 cyclists, and a dedicated ECG staff made it all happen.