Home Up Site MapEast Coast '99

Allen Meets Floyd; Floyd Wins!

I'm back from my aborted summer tour from Washington DC to Myrtle Beach SC. The devastation hurricane Floyd wrought in North Carolina stopped me in my tracks. So now that I'm back I thought I might share with you the daily missives I posted from the road.

Day 1: 9-11-99: Arlington VA to Fredericksburg

Riley & Marilyn met me at the Clarendon VA Metro station Friday night and led the way back to their house which is just behind Arlington National Cemetery. Saturday morning they led the way through the cemetery, and showed me a great view of downtown D.C. They rode part of the way out the Mt Vernon bike trail with me.

It was a challenging day of riding as the part of VA near DC is building up fast and some of the roads have become six lane commercial strips. I was only planning to ride 40 or 45 miles today, but could find no place to stay so ended up riding 95 miles to Fredericksburg where I got a suprisingly clean room for $32!

I'm hoping to take it easy today, and do a few less miles. I'll be going through Richmond tomorrow. That should prove interesting. Thinking of the Civil War, it is amazing to me to realize how close the two capitals were.

Enough for today,

Day 2: 9-12-99: Fredericksburg VA to Ashland VA

I'm in Ashland tonight, about 15 miles north of Richmond. I'll be riding through downtown Richmond tomorrow morning.

The ACA route is nice, but they stick entirely to rural roads. It's hard just to find a store, forget about campgrounds or motels! I had to drop down onto Rt. 1 to find another inexpensive motel. I end up riding farther each day than I had planned because I have to find a place to stay. I made 61 miles today. That would have been fine if I hadn't had to go 95 yesterday. As it was, my legs just were not there, and I walked a lot of hills.

High point of the day: I toured the house where "Stonewall" Jackson died; and saw the ACTUAL BED where he died. I thought it was interesting. There was a guy there who must be one of those Stonewall fans, because he just stood there and stared the whole time I was there.

Most interesting thing learned today: Fredericksburg was so devastated by the war, both the battles fought there and having to sustain the troops that were camped there for so long, that the city's economy didn't regain prewar levels until 1936.

Enough for today,

Day 3: 9-13-99: Ashland VA to Hopewell VA

I rode out of Ashland along Center Street. The Amtrak rail lines run right down the middle of the street. I wonder how many pubescent boys have played chicken with these trains?

While riding through the middle of nowhere, I stopped at a small store. It was pretty barren, with half empty shelves. Some of the boxes that were on the shelf were coated in dust. The guy behind the counter didn't look or act very friendly as I walked in. But I called him 'Sir' as he checked me out, and I could see him relax. I wonder what that was all about.

I was sitting outside drinking my Coke when he came out of the store, locked the door, and spent the next 5 minutes telling me a long story about his wife and his 11 week old granddaughter and some other relatives, which somehow or other resulted in him having to take the cash deposit to the bank himself. There's gotta be something behind the attitude change. Or was it my perceptions that changed? All I did was say 'Yes Sir'.

Later I rode through downtown Richmond. What a dump!

I'm not a big Civil War buff, but I do stop at some of the sites that aren't too far off my route. I stopped at Malvern Hill this afternoon. This is the spot McClellan chose to protect his retreat from Richmond at the end of the Seven Days' Battles. The line of Union artillery is set atop a long slope, and the ground the Confederates repeatedly attacked up is wide open fields. The battle was described as "...not war - it was murder." And yet the Confederate troops charged again and again. It's hard to contemplate.

So now I'm sitting in yet another motel room; this time located right at the confluence of the Appomattox and the James Rivers. My attention is glued to the weather channel, where they promise at least 3 days of rain and winds this week. Lucky me! Whenever the worst of the storm reaches me, I'll probably hold up in a nice dry motel room, but as long as it doesn't get too bad I'm going to keep riding.

Day 4: 9-14-99: Hopewell VA to Suffolk VA

Southern Virginia is part of the Bible Belt. Stores and restaurants are hard to come by, but it seems as though every crossroads has a church. Some are thriving; well manicured and neat as a pin. Others have sagging roofs and are in need of paint, but their grounds are still neat and often sport colorful flowers. Yet others are long abandoned and are moldering back into the landscape. People in restaurants pray before eating. I ate breakfast at the Broadway Cafeteria in Hopewell, and three people in the booth next to mine told me they would pray for my safe journey, then joined hands, bowed their heads, and did so.

I spent the day covering 80 rainy miles. Sometimes it was just a drizzle, sometimes more. The route through southeastern Virginia is very rural, and I met cars or trucks only every half hour or so. I could hear them coming a quarter mile away, but many insisted on giving a short toot on the horn to let me know they were there. I guess folks really have no idea just how much noise a car makes.

I rode past a lot of cotton fields. Cotton is quite an attractive plant, with green and reddish foliage and the puffy white cotton bolls. The other predominant crop was, I believe, peanuts. But I'm not completely sure about that.

I'm in the outskirts of Suffolk now, just north of the North Carolina line. It looks like I will be here until Friday. The outer fringes of Floyd arrived here last night, bringing thunderstorms. Sometime tomorrow (Thursday) the forecast is for 5 to 10 inches of rain and 50 to 75 mph winds. I got an email from my parents yesterday saying they were leaving their home in Myrtle Beach and heading inland, so I know they're safe as well.

Hopefully I will get back on the road Friday morning and be able to finish my trip to Myrtle Beach before Gert shows up. I like company while riding, but Floyd and Gert are kind of obnoxious traveling companions!

Day 5: 9-17-99: Suffolk VA to Plymouth NC

It was a beautiful day when I woke up and stepped outside; clear, crisp, and sunny. I guess clear and sunny is redundant, but I'll leave it in just so you know I get up during daylight. :-)

About an hour after leaving Suffolk, I crossed from Virginia into North Carolina. I was disappointed, but not surprised, that there was no sign. I like to collect pictures of my bike at all the state lines I cross.

I didn't believe it was possible, but North Carolina is even flatter than southern Virginia was. I cruised quiet back roads through tiny towns like Holly Grove and Sandy Cross. While stopped at a store in Tyner, I was chatting with a guy gassing up his pickup. He tried to pick up my bike, and asked how heavy it was. Pretty heavy, I explained, but since there are no uphills here, it really doesn't matter.

North Carolina seems to me to be more prosperous than the areas of Virginia I just came through. The store shelves are fuller, the houses neater and freshly painted.

Sandy Point Beach Campground, situated right on Albemarle Sound at the northern end of the Albemarle Sound Bridge, was my destination for the day. I got there about 2:00, only to find the campground Closed, For Sale, No Trespassing, Private, Posted. Jeez! Since the next campground is almost 60 miles away, and I've already gone 70, it looks like a motel again tonight.

So, I continued on across the 3.5 mile long bridge (biggest hill I've climbed in 150 miles!) and pushed on to the town of Plymouth.

I did almost talk a couple into letting me camp in their yard, but it didn't work. The couple were out cleaning up their yard when I pulled in to ask to fill my water bottles. I asked them if they knew when the campground had closed down (they didn't), and then I asked if they knew of any other place. He started to suggest something, then caught the pursed lips and slight head-shake from his wife (a look any husband will recognize), so he just said there was nothing he knew of.

So here I am, another 90 mile day and another motel room. Sigh....

Day 6: 9-18-99: Plymouth NC to Berlin CT

Subtitle: Mission Aborted!

Little did I know, but in a state of contented ignorance I had managed to pedal my way literally to the edge of disaster on Friday. While riding south into North Carolina I had gone through a couple of places with an inch or two of water over the road, but nothing I couldn't ride through. I even wondered why all the kids were home from school. Well, while watching TV in my motel room Friday night I learned why. It seems eastern North Carolina was in the midst of a major disaster. Whole towns and counties were flooded, roads were closed, drinking water contaminated, food running out, and people drowned. And the water was still rising!

On Saturday morning I discovered that it was impossible to travel south, east, or west. This helped tremendously in deciding which way I should go. But how? Some of the roads I had come down on Friday were now closed. While I was at the front desk discussing options with the desk clerk and poring over her map, one of the other motel guests joined in. He was a photographer for one of the NC newspapers, and he was trying to get back to Charlotte NC. Since the only way out of Plymouth was to go north to Norfolk VA, and then head west, that was his plan. Throwing myself on the mercy of the press, I begged a ride and got it, provided I was ready to go NOW.

I hurried to gather my gear and bike from my room, and we jammed everything into the back of his rented Explorer on top of cases full of his camera equipment. Five minutes later we were on our way. We had to make a few detours due to flooded and closed roads, but eventually we were in Chesapeake VA, where I was dropped off at a gas station. I called every rental place in the phone book, but there was nothing available for a one-way rental out of state. Finally, I rode north to the Norfolk Airport and managed to locate an available car. Nine hours later I was home.


Copyright 1996 - 2011 Allen F. Freeman
Last modified: November 03, 2011