Day 2: Bicycling from Smithfield, NC to Fayetteville, NC
70ish miles — and who invited Hurricane Matthew to the Carolina coast?
The second day of the East Coast Greenway WAY (Week-A-Year) tour began with new routines and new grooves setting in. The pre-ride routine included two trips (maybe more) to drag your luggage and bicycle from your room to the lobby. Bonus points were earned for not spilling your cup of Joe. If you made it to the lobby without losing Joe, you treated yourself to a sit-down in the lobby lounge, chatting with bike mates, and planning your departure time for the day’s ride. Minutes are ticking, and it’s time to keep moving, so you find your way to the luggage truck to hoist your bag onboard — a bag that has mysteriously doubled in weight — and discover there is still time for more socializing. You then grab a tire pump, one that puts more than 40 pounds of air pressure in your tires, and quickly realize you’ll be riding a lot faster today with air in your tires. A long glare at your bicycle seat followed by a quick request of the saddle gods to be kind, and your group-du-jour of riders — with bright visibility lights flashing — are ready to cycle on.
After a brief moment on Smithfield city streets, we were back on a paved trail along the Neuse River and away from vehicles, motors, and noise. As the trail ended, we returned to rural roads. The terrain flattened just as the breakfast coffee kicked in, and we found ourselves moving along at 18mph taking in sights of tobacco harvests and fields of cotton. The scheduled lunch stop came and went before 10 AM. There were less stopping and more riding, and that may have had to do with the high-speed truck traffic which included oversized log trucks and pig farms on wheels. The unspoken goal was to ride fast enough to avoid a North Cackolacky whammy — where you are passed first by a log truck at 70 mph whose cross winds push you into the ditch followed by the next big truck — a Piggly rig — moving at much slower speeds, leaving you covered in stench.
Eventually, we reached Fayetteville, where we were greeted by beautiful paved trails that hugged the Cape Fear River, with covered bridges, mile markers, scenic views and water stations. Lots of stopping for pictures, greeting fellow exercise enthusiasts — runners, walkers, bikers — re-adjusting digital devices, and wondering how NASA sent astronauts to the moon yet no engineer has designed a comfortable bike saddle? Smaller groups of cyclists merged with other cyclists and soon we became one large family of riders, as we traveled along the historic Main Street sections of downtown Fayetteville.
Our day ended with the schlepping of bicycles and luggage to our rooms, making plans to meet for more meals, a much-needed shower, and wondering if riding 70 miles entitles one to dessert. Our group of riders eventually overtook the hotel restaurant, overwhelmed the waitresses and sous chefs, combining tables and chairs and offering a chance to replay the day’s ride, the close encounters with logs and hogs.
As dessert was indulged by many, the topic turned to whether you cared more about the VP debate or Hurricane Matthew’s potential impact on our tour. The European model confirmed the Carolina State of Emergencies, with Wilmington and Myrtle Beach in the process of evacuating. We knew then, our tour would shorten, yet the joy of watching Bev put down chocolate ice cream and living vicariously through Silvia’s samplings of cakes, pies and homemade fudge (how did we manage to miss these same opportunities while cycling?) returned our thoughts to “it’s all good.” Simply sweet.
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.