FAMILY, FRIENDS, FLEEING A STORM, FINALLY BALTIMORE – AND A FOX INTERVIEW

And I’ll start with my plea for donations (though I have learned I really do not like asking people for money-but it is not for me). If you can, please donate – all money is being divided equally among the 4 nonprofits at the end of July. http://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/new-beginnings-work

I ended up staying in Ocracoke an extra day due to predicted thunderstorms on the day I had to ride 50 miles plus take a 45-minute ferry. Imagine my surprise when my brother called me. “Where are you?,” he asks. “Ocracoke.” “We’re in Ocracoke.” “Oh, stop kidding me.” Turns out during my walk through this quaint town my last full day there I was just a block from a motel where he was! He and his wife were on a spur-of-the-moment trip! It was great seeing them. We had a nice lunch that afternoon, went to the Ocracoke Museum, and I admit we had an ice cream sundae evening!

Weather cleared and the next day I headed to Rodanthe, a nice 50 mile ride with a tail wind! I visited a Coast Guard station that first was a “surfman” station that rescued people from the sea. In this part of North Carolina two strong ocean currents come together, causing countless shipwrecks in the past. That night I headed to the beach to watch and listen to the waves rolling in. As I returned to the motel, a father was launching a flying saucer to his young son who jumped up to catch it. A loud engine sound boomed behind me. It’s “everyone for him/herself” as I dash into my room and shut off the air conditioner – it was a mosquito truck (or boon-kah as I called them as a kid when we lived in Florida). I detest bug spray though I should have realized that was why there were no mosquitos where I was staying, right next to a marsh. I talked to this father the next morning. He is also a cyclist and is now inspired by me to do some distance biking.

Heading to Nags Head, I take a break after riding over a frightening 2.5 mile long bridge that is under construction. As I near the end it becomes one lane. The flag man signals me to go ahead. I think I hear him say, “left” and wonder why. The next thing I know, cars are heading toward me and I realize he means I should ride to the left of the orange barrels (where the construction work was – not an appealing idea). I am thankful the lead car stopped and let me squeeze through.

After that scare-fest, I stopped at a campground to chill. I hear a faint “hello,” and it turns out to be Arleta, a young 20-something woman riding from Florida to Maine approaching me from the camp grounds with her fully loaded bicycle. It turns out we have been on some of the same roads and have cycled in some of the same weather and winds. In fact, as I think back, I might have seen her on I-17 north of Savannah in a busy part of that U.S. highway with no shoulder when I passed by with my Uber driver (and expressed sympathy to the cyclist). This driver, named Henry, is an Iraq war veteran with severe PTSD but wants to hike the Appalachian Trail with his son. He says I inspired him to get back to cycling to loose some weight and prepare for the hike.

Arlete and I shared road stories and snacks and then had a nice lunch in Nags Head at Sam & Omi’s (which surprisingly had a great salad even though a bar atmosphere). Arleta is so much less high maintenance than me – she is camping, wearing tennis shoes and shorts (not bike shoes and chamois pants-which are padded bike shorts), only checks in with her family about once a week, and uses warmshowers.org to find places to camp and maybe dine and shower (much braver than I am). She also majored in psychology with an interest in helping people who are incarcerated. Amazing!

Nags Head is right near Kitty Hawk where the bicyclist shop owners Wright Brothers launched their first flight. Of course I went there, listened to informative presentation, and explored the museum. I also had a nice Italian meal that night with transplanted Baltimoreans Steve and Karen. I left Nags Head via car the next day, scooting out of the way of Tropical Storm Bonnie and ending up in a security line at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

For some reason when I rented a car and wanted to stay near the end of the Mt. Vernon Trail (an 18-mile trail that gets you to Washington, DC), I didn’t understand I was actually returning my rental to a military base. I watched with some trepidation as each car ahead of me was inspected and some of the drivers and passengers had to go to an office. Fellow baby boomers in front of me, in fact, had to pull their car over for further inspection of their packed car. Of course, I travel lightly but was concerned that it might seem just plain weird that I was returning a rental to a military base and then cycling to a hotel. But the stern soldier took it in stride, waving me through after my ID and Social Security number were check in the office.

But…. I couldn’t find the Enterprise Rent-A-Car office! My GPS navigator said I had arrived. All I saw were low brick buildings, military in nature. I drove around the block, pulled in to a lot and talked to a retired soldier coming out of a laundromat. “I don’t know of no car rental place here.” Hmmmm. It was a holiday weekend and closing time had long since passed for the office since it was Saturday on Memorial Day weekend.

OK. Ride around the block again. Look carefully. I see a bowling alley. I see an “investigation office.” Then I see a tiny, tiny Enterprise sign adjacent to the investigation office and no parking lot for cars. Well, I just parked in front, left the key in the return box, crossed my fingers, and managed to get to the hotel after a mile on a safe base road and a cringe-worthy mile on another “under- construction” road with no shoulder.

The Mt. Vernon Trail was a safe and generally beautiful way to get to DC. In fact, I met a backpacker at a rest area where people watch birds and launch boats. He – name is Hunter – just spent February to May hiking the Appalachian trail and now is walking, getting rides and hoping for boat rides back to Florida. He also has a nonprofit he supports – ihikeforlife – for veterans. I told him about Henry and his hopes for the same hike with his son.

When I lived near DC, driving in that city was difficult (due to all the circles and NE, NW, SE, SW roads with the same names.). NEWSFLASH: It’s harder on a bicycle! The Mt. Vernon Trail took me safely (though somewhat convolutedly once in the Alexandria, Airport, Crystal City area) to the 14th Street Bridge, after which I got completely lost. I was told one could ride on sidewalks in DC but pedestrians in large groups apparently don’t hear very well while seemingly nodding that I could pass, almost causing my first crash (and a knee/shin interaction with my bike). I finally got to my room that night and just huddled until the next morning when I met up with Kristen and Dan. This is where I had my last rice cooker meal! I’m staying away from rice and quinoa for a few weeks now.

Thanks, Kristen, for figuring out the route! How nice not to have to keep checking my maps or notes to stay on track. Though I haven’t ever been lost, sometimes I have had to turn around and backtrack. The route Kristen devised using a DC bike site was generally safe though much hillier than I anticipated and about 50 miles (rather than 40, the distance between the cities) since it connected some great bike trails. There were times when Dan, while cycling, was able to help me up a hill, pushing the back of my bike while cycling. I never knew that was possible. Thus, I only walked the bike a few times when sidewalks were both jittery and steep.

We made it into Baltimore just in time to shower, meet up with my sister Kathy and niece Sarah, nephew Jason and his friend and her daughter, and catch a fantastic Orioles-Red Sox game (fantastic because there were a lot of hits AND the Orioles won). The next morning, I had a live interview on the local Fox affiliate. http://foxbaltimore.com/morning/cross-country-bike-trip. Then, my sister helped me get my bike to Baltimore Bicycle Works, the city’s only worker-owned and operated bike shop, for boxing and shipping back to Albuquerque, and my panniers, rice cooker, helmet, bike clothing and other supplies to UPS for the same purpose.

Yay! Back in blue jeans and New Balance shoes. So, now I’m playing tourist in my former hometown for a few days, meeting family for dinner tonight, heading to Ocean City for a few more days (friends and family), then back to Wilmington via another car rental to catch up with my older daughter and her family before heading by plane back to Albuquerque.

Thanks all for following my journey. I can’t believe I made it here on schedule, albeit there were a few unexpected hurdles, family health issues, plus stress about unsafe drivers and weather was higher than I expected. Most people have been genuinely friendly, a number have been interested in and supportive of New Beginnings Work, and I accomplished a personal goal that I just began to imagine about a year ago. I’ve learned a lot more about re-entry programs and will compile a data base and share it with all of them to increase networking of all of us who believe this is important. Adios and peace out!

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