Day 3: Bicycling from Fayetteville, NC to Elizabethtown, NC
43ish miles — and who’s really counting when there’s so much to see?
The third day of the East Coast Greenway WAY (Week-A-Year) tour began with breakfasts piled high with ham and bacon and a side of bacon fat with fresh steamed or raw vegetables a distant memory (unless you carried your own). With Hurricane Matthew dominating the news and expected to take out the Eastern seaboard from Florida to North Carolina, many cyclists who lived along the coast or needed to take care of business went off in separate directions. Those cyclists who were left behind were grateful for the chance to ride another day. And a half.
The roads were mostly rural and narrow, and with six-inch shoulders, if you were lucky. This meant when you stopped to take a saddle break, you needed to move well off into the grass. Grass that grew out of the sand, and sand that grew into puffballs of sand with holes on top, puffballs that were the homes of ants, and if you weren’t paying attention extra-large puffballs (sand castles) that hosted fire ants. The talk at these stops revolved around the ants, and it didn’t take long to begin feeling an itch or two on your lower leg. An itch that eventually crept up above the knee, and while you didn’t see any creatures moving on your flesh it was enough motivation to get back on your bicycle and keep riding.
There was the occasional dog chase, which gave us an opportunity to test our agility and sprinting skills. Quickly navigating away from the chasing dog put you precariously into the oncoming traffic lane, and meeting traffic head-on seemed more reasonable than getting bit by a dog. Fortunately, the dogs weren’t biters, and in each instance, we had no oncoming traffic. Eventually, we out sprinted the dogs, returned to our side of the road and resumed conversations about the next upcoming turn on the cue or another photo-op.
We stopped to take in the history and views at Jones Lake State Park, where we met a lovely gentleman who had just left his home and life’s belongings behind in Myrtle Beach and was headed inland, away from Matthew, for Raleigh. He was convinced we were bicycling in the wrong direction and offered to share his paper map in an attempt to turn us around. He took our group photo, and we parted ways with a hug and well-wishes for safe travels.
Arriving in Elizabethtown, we headed for a planned luncheon stop at the Cape Fear Vineyard. This is no ordinary vineyard. It is complete with free-roaming animals – chickens, miniature horses — surrounded by long-leaf pine trees, frog sculptures, and a bonding bench. Of course, we hadn’t sufficiently bonded by this point, so to complete the bonding process, pairs of cyclists sat on the far end of the bonding bench and bounced their way to the center.
For those who used the bonding bench, and those who did not, the day was not complete until we had bonded one last time for dinner at Georgio’s. This would conclude our final night together as riders, and it gave us time to appreciate touring the East Coast by bicycle.
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.