Friday, May 28, 2010


Some final thoughts on our recent sojourn around West Virginia and Virginia seem to be in order. The trip that started out headed to California was significantly shortened. What would have been about a 4600 mile trip in 16 days ended up being 960 miles over 11 days. A few final observations and I’ll move on…

  • I was over packed regarding electronics. In my repertoire of electronic tools, I packed my Olympus Camedia C-8080 digital camera, my Sony camcorder, our Canon PowerShot camera, 2 tripods, chargers for each tool, a 1200 watt power inverter, a Garmin Nuvi 260 GPS unit, my new SPOT II, a Garmin Oregon 400T handheld GPS navigator, two cell phones, and one Dell laptop. The Olympus camera, Sony camcorder, tripods, and 1200 watt power inverter never saw the light of day. All images were taken with the Canon PowerShot and I was very pleased with its performance. The battery did not require a single charging. The SPOT II exceeded my expectations. It sent every “We’re o.k.” message that I attempted and it provides me with an ongoing map of our trip. One set of AA batteries powered the SPOT for the full trip. “Milli”, our Nuvi 260, performed wonderfully as she has previously. She was “spot on” (pardon the pun) in getting us to and from our intended locations. My most pleasant surprise was getting used to the Garmin Oregon 400T. I have had it for a little over a year and never had the opportunity to get accustomed to it. I made an effort this time and kept it on my side as we hiked in the various parks. While I always knew where we were on our hikes, it was comforting to see how accurate the Oregon unit was. I recall that, at one point, the Navigator told me I really didn’t need to tell her we were approaching another climb. The color screen is harder to see in the daylight than my former Magellan black and white screen but I was able to adapt. Even under heavy tree cover, the Oregon maintained its satellite connections. The laptop was essential to keeping up my blog posting but also, along with my Blackberry Storm II, meant I was more aware of work issues than I would have desired. I would see an email that piqued my curiosity and I just couldn’t let it go… (My ongoing weakness!) The cell phones… well, more on that later.
  • Wet, rainy weather can be fun… for awhile! Our first 3 days of travel were literally spent inside the camper or inside a local public library. Overall it worked well as we enjoyed simply reading and relaxing. There was no TV coverage, no radio, and no cell phone coverage in that particular campsite. I appreciated that I could have a conversation with the Navigator and not have it interrupted by a ringing cell phone – something that happens way to frequently at home and happened once we were back in coverage areas on this trip. The wet weather also led to my biggest disappointment of the trip. We didn’t get to ride the Greenbrier Trail. I really wanted to have that experience but it wasn’t to be this go round. Perhaps this will plan the seed for a return trip later.
  • We were overwhelmingly greeted in friendly and courteous ways by the people of the local communities we visited: The people of the Middle Appalachian mountains were exceedingly polite and pleasant to us throughout. I’ll always remember asking for a suggestion of a good local grocery store in Lewisberg, West Virginia. EVERYONE in line chimed in with a suggestion! The various Park staff members, business owners, public library staff, and just good folk all made our trip a very pleasant endeavor. (Note: we had one less than gregarious meeting that I’ve written about and that person wasn’t rude – just distracted or having a bad day.)
  • Big brothers can be a problem: I made mention somewhere along the line of young families with pre-school age children beginning to fill the park in anticipation of the Memorial Day Weekend. Our last night in Hungry Mother State Park was enlivened by a toddler, who would simply not quit crying and go to sleep. If a parent was with him, he was quiet but once they tried to sit by their campfire, he would start screaming again.  Being that he was in a canvas pop-up beside us there wasn’t much to muffle his wailing as we sat by the campfire. The following morning, his mother informed us that they had just found out that the toddler’s older brother would wait until the parent left the camper and would then make scary faces and guttural sounds at his younger brother. This, of course, scared the toddler and he responded with his cries for his mother. She also informed us that “big brother” was in a bit of trouble…
  • Living up to the title of this blog, which includes a reference to cycling adventures beyond the Great Smokies: Due to the dreary weather, I didn’t get to do as much riding as I desired. The aforementioned Greenbrier Trail was missed and the rainy weather at Douthat kept me from adding many miles to my log. I did enjoy getting out of the campground at Hungry Mother and could have added quite a few miles more had we stayed longer. It was good to see the bike lanes and “share the road” signs in Marion, Virginia.
  • The BEST FEATURE of this trip was sharing it with the Navigator: We are lucky in that we are very compatible with similar interests. Our days and nights went quite smoothly throughout. We didn’t have competing interests in either desires for activities or duties to keep things running. At the end of the day, I’m always glad to go to bed with “my best friend!”

On to other items:

Tour of Discovery: Ride for the Republic: We’re down to 18 days until the kick off on this important tour being undertaken by our good friend Jim Artis and Florida teacher Rafael Giraldo. This tour will depart from Bar Harbor, Maine at the crack of dawn on June 14th and make its way along the 13 original colonies that formed America. 2670 miles later, it will end in Key West, Florida. If you haven’t been following the trip preparation, check it out at Cycling Experiences.  You can also see detailed information at Tour of Discovery: Ride for the Republic.

2010 Ride the Divide is approaching quickly. The race, which runs along the spine of the Rockies from Canada to Mexico, will begin in Banff, AB on June 10th. Our friend, Kent “the Mountain Turtle” Peterson, will be partaking of this adventure again. MountainTurtle Kent will again be running the race on a single speed bike. You can join Kent on his “roll out” if you are in the Issaquah,Washington area on June 3rd when he begins his 7 day ride to the starting location. To get more details on this incredible journey, check out Tour Divide. Kent is one of 12 veterans signed up for this year’s race. A total of 46 racers are currently signed up to start. This 2745 mile single stage, self-supported race will likely not have 46 finishers.

The use of electronic technologies plays important roles in both of these races. SPOT will be present in both adventures enabling us, the viewing public, to share virtually in the trip. Jim Artis has put together quite the travelling power shop to manage his various charging needs. He has multiple posts on the evolution of the Power Box.

Our best to both of these intrepid adventurers!

Finally, my home community will be sponsoring the first annual Blue Ridge Breakaway on August 21st. This ride will have century, metric century, 40 miles and 24 mile routes. Cyclists interested in climbing will be particularly pleased with the opportunities to climb Soco Mountain, Water Rock Knob, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway and then descend back to the starting point. Registration is now open!


Until later,

- Zeke

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Day 10 (Tuesday) – What can I say? Just another day in the paradise that is Hungry Mother State Park. I should report that we were up early, that I completed a 30 mile ride in and around the park climbing every mountain I could find and that we then polished off the day with a 10 mile hike.

If I reported any of that, it would be a lie… Tuesday was apparently intended for being laid back. We did muster up the energy to enjoy a fine campfire breakfast of biscuits, scrambled eggs, and sausage preceded by coffee by the stream. Uh, I think I recall taking a nap. But wait, the Navigator and I pooled our energy and managed to leave the campground long enough to drive into nearby Marion, VA to explore the town. We also needed ice in order to keep our cool libations cool.

The town of Marion is quaint and, as seems typical of our mountain towns, has the central downtown area (always referred to as historic) and the strip malls where you can find the big box stores. For a small town, Marion sure has a lot of banks! Unfortunately, none of them are the one we use.

The most exciting moment of the ride came when I made a bad call on a left hand turn and we ended up on I-81 going south and out of town. 7 miles later we found a turnaround and proceeded back to pick up that ice and a little something for supper.

Next, we were forced to take a nap…

(Relevant cycling note for this post: Marion has a bike shop. Sorry, I didn’t stop and go in or check it out. I just know that it exists and it is named Dean’s Bikes  and Locksmith. I did note a Fuji sign in the window.)

It became apparent along about dusk that doing nothing is pretty energy exhausting and I realized that I had not moved myself from creek side long enough to eat a power bar. I became concerned about reaching my lactate thresholds through muscular inactivity. Before I could crash and burn from not doing enough, we took a short stroll along the lakeside and watched a young bride getting her picture made for her upcoming nuptials.

I was reminded of the “circle of life” on this little foray along the paths of Hungry Mother. On the edge of the woods, was this young bride to be with so much of her life and expectations in front of her and walking, not 75’ away, was an elderly woman, who was obviously cognitively and physically impaired being led slow step by slow step along the path by her care-giver. Who knows what life this elder woman has led and if it met expectations held by her when she was the young bride to be’s age.

Following a supper of rubbed and grilled pork chops, grilled fresh asparagus, and rice, I think we took another nap followed by getting up and going to bed…

Day 11 (Wednesday) – The day started early when a friend called to make a camper inquiry. Actually, the day had started much earlier when I kept hearing a car driving around the area at 3:30 a.m. Knowing that this shouldn’t be happening, my curious brain wouldn’t let me sleep so I climbed from the comfort and warmth of the bed to glance outside. Sure enough, a car pulled in beside us with its parking lights on and I could see a flashlight making its way through the trees to the next campsite. If something untoward was going on, I couldn’t discover what it was so I turned back in with hopes of getting back to sleep.

During our early morning stroll we discovered that the young mother of the group near us had become sick during the night and the car beside us was being used to transport her to get some relief. Fortunately, it was nothing serious we were told by her husband.

Being somewhat disgusted with our lack of activity yesterday, the Navigator determined that we would be more proactive in meeting the day today. So, breakfast behind us, we headed out for a hike and to pay for our final night’s stay in Hungry Mother.

We chose the Lake Shore Trail as our beginning point and began moving. This trail is 5.7 miles long and is very aptly named. The first 40% of the trail, as we took it, is relatively flat and runs alongside the lake. After crossing below the dam, we headed into the woods and began climbing above the lake. The Navigator took lots of photos of differing plants that we observed along the trail. We enjoyed seeing how many we could name.

The trail is wide and mostly packed. It is used by hikers, runners, and cyclists although we saw only 2 runners and 1 mountain biker on our circle around the lake. We heard but did not see a Pileated Woodpecker drumming in the woods. Several Canadian Geese and Mallards were out feeding and sunning as we traversed the trail.

The trail makes several turns away from the lake and back into typical Appalachian wooded coves. The Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron are still in bloom and made for some pretty sights. We also noted a least 4 different types of ferns including a Bear Claw fern.

Bear Claw Fern(Bear Claw Fern) 

After 2 hours of hiking, we returned to our campsite to find that two more of our neighbors have moved on. As I write, there are only 3 sets of campers in this campground although this is likely to change as the end of day comes upon us. It will certainly change tomorrow as the Memorial Day weekend crowd gets an early start.

6:00 p.m. EDT update:

The weekend crowd is arriving early. Young families with pre-school children are finding their way into the park getting ready for the weekend. The sites alongside us and the creek are now filled.

After lunch and some recovery time from the morning hike, I headed out on the Fuji to get in a few more miles before we pack it in for this trip. My warm-up consisted of a short ride up the valley beyond the park as described in yesterday’s post.

Field along Hungry Mother Highway(One of the fields along my warm up ride) 

The Camp Host had encouraged me to climb the hill to Campground C saying it was pretty steep. So, I checked it out and, in fact, it was steep but short. For the effort, I did get to view the tent campground. All of the sites in this campground are up in the air on pedestals.

Camping above the ground! 

(Campground C lets campers experience the highs of camping!)

High Water Camping!









(High water camping just outside of the campground. Notes blocks under wheels!)

My main interest in riding today was to go beyond the Park boundaries up the mountain. I did so for approximately 3 miles at an average grade around 11%. Throughout the climb, road signs warned truckers to turn around! I did so at, according to the sign, the last possible turnaround. I hate to think what was beyond that next curve!

A quick descent down the mountain brought me back to the Park offices and beyond. I extended my ride an additional 3 miles out into a country road I had spotted earlier. This turned out to be a connector to the road going up the next valley.

My return trip to the Park was punctuated with the most traffic I’ve seen this week. I stopped just above the spillway to grab a couple of images of the lake from that perspective.

Fuji at Hungry Mother Lake









(My trusty Fuji CCR3 overlooking the spillway)

Spillway at Hungry Mother Lake









(Sun setting on the spillway)

My final ride in Hungry Mother was pleasant and about the right length given the hike this morning. We’ve been blessed with good weather while here and, as is hopefully clear in my posts, this is an excellent place to visit and rest. We have a final campfire in us and a few more moments of quiet by the creek side before this part of the trip is over.

We’ve heard the calling of home the last two days. Actually, we’ve missed our dogs and cats more than having a great desire to return home. It’s time to make the short journey south to home. This will give us some time to ease back into the normal routine before having to return to work next week.

While this wasn’t the trip we planned, it has turned out to be enjoyable and relaxing, which is something both of us needed. The Navigator and I continue to enjoy each other’s company more than that of other situations and living together full time in a 26’ x 8’ camper can either highlight your strengths or highlight your weaknesses. Fortunately, after 27.5 years, we’re still working with the strengths!

So, tomorrow’s daybreak will have us packing and doing those things necessary to load up and head home. In all likelihood, there will be no post tomorrow as we travel home and resettle. For those of you that have read this “travelogue” of our adventure, I thank you and hope that you’ve found it interesting! Your visits are deeply appreciated!

Until later,


Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Monday arrived right on schedule and our second week of travel began amidst the tall trees and rhododendron covered banks of Hungry Mother State Park. After enjoying a restful night of sleep, we enjoyed our morning coffee while sitting alongside the banks of Hungry Mother Creek. A small stream that moves at a slow pace, the creek is nevertheless chock full of life. Birds of numerous persuasions are constantly in and out of the water bathing themselves and seemingly enjoying a frolic in the water.

As we finished our morning breakfast of yogurt, banana, and coffee, the sun topped the mountain ridge and bathed the campsite in light bringing greater clarity to the clear waters of the creek. Our companion pair of Mallards made their morning visit and then moved on down the creek to the lake proper.

I had to telecommute to work for a couple of hours as I had done last week. This time, however, the Verizon 3G network was readily available at our campsite and I was able to connect to the company servers and do my duties while sitting by the creek. Let’s talk about a great view out of the office window!

Following completion of my work requirements, it was time to pay for an additional night’s stay and this was my opportunity to get in a ride. I headed down to the campground office and made it official that we would be staying at least another night. After some wrangling with the computer, we were checked in again and I headed out on my morning ride.

I pedaled out of the park back toward Marion, VA. and the bike lanes that we had encountered upon our arrival. The park itself doesn’t include that many miles of roads so leaving the park was the best alternative to get in some miles. The first couple of miles were along the shore of the lake and was an easy warm-up.

Hungry Mother Lake(The placid waters of the lake at Hungry Mother State Park) 

After exiting the park boundary, I came upon my first climb of the day. It turned out to be approximately 1 mile in length with a peak grade of 11%. The bike lane was much appreciated as this turned out to be a fairly busy state road. The drivers passing me by were courteous and gave me some additional space even though I was in the bike lane. I rode for 4 miles out to the local hospital before turning around and heading back to the campsite.

Once back in the park, I planned to explore some of the park’s roads but my keen navigation sense only ended up retracing my steps to our campsite. I did however keep going beyond the campground and found that I could ride to the end of the state maintained portion of the road for approximately 1.5 more miles. The road here is alongside banks full of ferns and rhododendron on the eastern side with open fields and meadows to the west. Some private housing exists here and it varied from relatively poverty appearing to high-dollar homes.

While I was riding…

The Navigator had stayed behind at the campsite in order to read. She thought she heard me returning from my ride but was quite surprised when a warm snout appeared on her left arm. She was warmly greeted by A.J., a Golden Retriever.

AJ the Golden Retriever stops by for a visit(AJ, the Golden Retriever, gets a rub down from the Navigator) 

As it turns out, AJ is a well-known, not always appreciated, visitor to the campground. His home is up the road from the campground and he has been making his visits to Campground B for years according to one of our fellow campers. AJ enjoyed a good nap, a snack, and another nap with the Navigator before moving downstream to some more campers. He made a return visit later in the evening but was spotted under our picnic table by the camp hosts and shooed home. They reported that AJ has been known to spend a day or so at a given campsite if not sent packing. While his presence with us was in no way an irritant, the hosts indicated that other campers often feel less than accommodating to AJ and register their complaints about him frequently. It’s hard to imagine anyone complaining about this laid back dog…

A nice hike was in order… 

Hiking trails and mountain biking trails are plentiful in this park. The Navigator and I headed out for a short trip along Lakeshore Trail with a return to the camp office and store along the way. The trail is well maintained and quite wide so there appears to be ample room for both hikers and cyclists. Horses are not allowed on these trails. Tire tracks in the low lying wet parts of the trail attested to the recent presence of mountain bikers. The broken bits and pieces of shale covering the trail would not work well with my skinny tired Fuji.

Hungry Mother has a very nice beach area. Most of the park’s amenities don’t seem to be open yet as their season is not officially here as yet. However, we did get a feel for what is available and this clearly would be a destination park rather than a stop-over location.

The beach area at Hungry Mother(The beach is ready for some customers…) 

While at the campground offices, we were treated to a former employee getting to tear down his former offices! The old check-in and camp offices have been replaced by a newer much larger facility so the old one had to go…

Office reduced to rubble(Memories reduced to rubble in a matter of minutes) 

I proffered my help to the dozer operator but he just grinned at me and kept going! It was a similar rejection as the one that I received in Douthat State Park by the employee, who was grooming the sand at the beach area of Watoga Lake with his Ford tractor. Some guys get all the great jobs!

Just prior to a supper of baked potato, salad, and steak grilled by the campfire, I tried to do my best Jim Artis impression and put “finger to keyboard” in order to get a blog posted. Jim is very dedicated to his readers and, while staying with us recently, made sure to keep fresh material available. So, here’s to you Jim!

Zeke updating blog by campfire!(Updating gr8smokieszeke by campfire!) 

Our night ended after some roasted marshmallows, watching a young small mouth bass in the creek feed, enjoying the drumming of a Pileated Woodpecker, and enjoying the sounds of other birds as night fell. I believe that we have found our premier campsite on this trip.

Until later,

- Zeke

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Following our mid-trip stop for clean laundry in Stuart, VA, we located the local Super Wal-Mart and stocked up on supplies for our next day or so. We’ve been trying to shop in smaller amounts and more frequently than we usually would for a camping trip. Moving from place to place every 3 days has let us enjoy seeing folks from different places – noticing the differences and the similarities. The Navigator and I have both been struck with the friendliness of the people we’ve met in each of our stops. This goes beyond the various park staff and extends to the casual bump of a grocery cart in an isle or stopping at a local hardware store to ask for directions. We’ve yet to run into anyone out and out rude.

The Navigator in the laundromat (The Navigator contacts father and sisters while doing laundry)

As we returned to Fairy Stone State Park for our last evening, the rain ceased and the skies began to clear. Even though we were under heavy tree cover, the rays of the setting sun were very much welcome. Our site was on a sort of promontory and we enjoyed just sitting and watching the various squirrels and birds as they went about their day. We took a short hike and walked right upon a doe before seeing her. She glanced at us for a moment and then bounded off into the underbrush.

Our second day here was much more enjoyable than our first as it was much quieter following the departure of our previous night’s neighbors. The camp host informed us that the party of 15 or so had been part of a larger church group that was supposed to be down in the group shelter but the shelter’s accommodation limit had been reached. The Camp Ranger made the executive decision to move the remaining group members to the campground where they behaved as if, well, they were a group. Ah well, the irritation of the night only served to help me appreciate the relative solitude of the following day.

DAY 8 Begins With A Move…

Feeling that we had pretty much gained our maximum enjoyment of the Fairy Stone Park, we loaded up first thing this morning, our 8th day on the road, and headed toward Hungry Mother State Park in southwestern Virginia. Hungry Mother is routinely listed as one of the top campgrounds in America and we didn’t know whether they could accept “walk-ins” or not. We decided to risk it knowing that most families with school age children would be departing today and also knowing that next weekend (Memorial Day Weekend) will be the first really big camping weekend of the year.

Our route took us across The Crooked Highway beginning with Jeb Stuart Highway just outside of Stuart, VA. This two lane road crosses over some serious mountain roads. We had one long stretch of highway that I would easily estimate at 4 miles and I’ll bet it had an average gradient of 9%. Our F150 was down to 30 mph as we reached the summit. It would be one heck of a training climb for the Wood-Man!

Reaching the summit brings you to Lovers Leap. An incredible vista of Virginia land is spread out for you to see. I made sure to get an image but the skies were still so grey that much of the magnificence of the view is lost in the image.

Lovers' Leap Provides Incredible View(The view from Lovers’ Leap on Virginia’s Crooked Highway)

Our arrival at Hungry Mother SP occurred mid-afternoon. We were greeted in Marion Virginia, the entrance to Hungry Mother, with bike lanes leading into the park. We were fortunate in that we guessed correctly that sites would be available and were able to secure a site in what the Ranger told me was the prettiest campground of the 3 in the park.

The Legend of Hungry Mother

Legend has it that when the Native Americans destroyed several settlements on the New River south of the park, Molly Marley and her small child were among the survivors taken to the raiders’ base north of the park. They eventually escaped, wandering through the wilderness eating berries. Molly finally collapsed, and her child wandered down a creek until the child found help. The only words the child could utter were "Hungry Mother." The search party arrived at the foot of the mountain where Molly collapsed to find the child's mother dead. Today that mountain is Molly’s Knob, and the stream is Hungry Mother Creek.

(Courtesy of Virginia State Parks literature: 2010)

We found our way to the cleverly named Campground B and secured a site alongside a bucolic creek. We’ve again been welcomed by a committee of Mallard ducks. This particular pair seem to be habituated to people and came right on up into the campsite. We were treated to a welcoming bath by the female of the pair as she spent a good 30 minutes cleaning all of her feathers and doing a pretty impressive “water dance.” The male of the pair stood by stoically keeping an eye on his lady love. (I’ve been told that Mallards mate for life. I wasn’t able to confirm this before posting today.)

The Hungry Mother Duck Welcoming Committee








(Glad you’re here! Did you bring supper?)

The Navigator Settles In








(The Navigator enjoys our latest campsite in Hungry Mother SP)

Tomorrow, after working for a few hours, I hope to get in some bike time as this campground appears to have lots of good ride-worthy roads. I’ve seen more cyclists today than I have in the entire time we’ve been on the road. The sun is shining as I post this at 6:00 p.m. EDT. It may be time to start a fire or maybe even take a nap. Whew, life is tough…

Until later,

- Zeke

Saturday, May 22, 2010


HE was upon us again. Our peaceful slumber came to a quick and resolute halt as the piercing call of the Sleep Destroying Night Intruder arrived on schedule at 5:00 a.m. Yes, the Nefarious Neutralizer of Sweet Travel Dreams was making his presence known again. I felt the Navigator vibrating beside me as she tried to crawl further under the covers to escape the ear shattering call of our dreaded early morning visitor. (Turns out she was just laughing at the ongoing visit of our “friend”) Was he on the table outside my window? Surely, he had not infiltrated the confines of the Hobbi itself. Lord knows it seemed like it. Fortunately, after some 15 minutes of revelry, he must have felt satisfied and went in search of other sleeping campers, perhaps some late sleepers down by the lake.

After managing a few more winks of sleep, we arose to enjoy the morning coffee. I had a quick conversation with Neighbor Ken, who remarked “Man, that is a persistent Whip-poor-will!” Ken, too, was impressed by our early morning visitor’s amazing consistency at showing up at 5:00 a.m.

Packing up and heading out…

Post coffee, the ritual of packing up and getting things ready for travel commenced. The Navigator and I have become pretty efficient at this as we both gravitate to our separate duties. She handles more of the inside and I handle more of the outside activities. The day was pretty again and we hated to leave but there was no more room in the Park.

Zeke hooks up to the Hobbi(Zeke prepares to connect the Hobbi to the F150) 

Our travel plans took us to yet another Virginia State Park – Fairy Stone near Ferrum, VA. After a brief stop in Clifton Forge, we headed down US 220 through Iron Gate, VA, which must own some kind of record for number of churches in a straight line. We counted 7 separate churches within a 2 mile length of highway. Numerous denominations were present, some of which I didn’t recognize (Church of the Bretheren?).

Our route took us through yet more beautiful Virginia and the city of Roanoke. We arrived in Fairy Stone around 3:30 p.m. and quickly discovered that this park campground is a series of back-ins that have been carved into the mountainside. We did locate an isolated pull through with water and power. No other campers were in sight. We thought we had landed in a great place for peace and quiet.

The Navigator at peace in Fairy Stone(The Navigator catches her breath after Fairy Stone setup) 

We enjoyed a nice hike around the Lake Shore Trail and got a quick peek at the lake that exists within this park. We were greeted by the welcoming committee near the cabin section.

Vacation2010_GreetingCommittee(A quacking good time appeared to await us at this point!) 

The Family that travels together…

…makes life miserable for those around them. I should know by now that when in search of peace and quiet, state parks are not generally good choices on weekends. This lesson was relearned when a family of 500 (actually 15) and 3 yapping dogs moved in beside us as dusk fell. Suffice it to say that it was a long night spent inside the Hobbi. Even the camp host had no luck quieting this group down.

Fortunately, this morning’s rain (Day 7), sent them packing. I guess being inside a wet tent with 20 of your closest family members isn’t as much fun as it might first appear. I did note that the yapping Poodle wasn’t welcomed into the family’s waiting arms…

So, on this mid-trip day, I sit in a laundromat in Stuart, VA writing this entry and somewhat helping the Navigator with washing and drying clothes. I’m contemplating how to fix our electric jack, where to head to next, and rejoicing in 3G speed!

Until later,

- Zeke

Friday, May 21, 2010


Day 5 of Zeke and the Navigator’s multi-state camping tour pleasantly arrived under bright blue skies. After 4 straight days of rain and dreary skies, we thoroughly enjoyed our morning coffee, bagel with cream cheese, and a banana as we prepped for the day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as we surveyed what little bit of the sky we could see above the narrow mountain valley of Beaverdam Campground.

Our first order of business was to decide to stay or to go. We’ve been committing to only one night at a time so that we would have the maximum flexibility in our trip planning. We already had the information that the campground was booked solid beginning Friday so the decision was really whether to risk staying and having to travel to another campground and hope for a site on Friday or hit the road today and be more certain of finding a place to stay for the weekend.

We very much wanted to enjoy some sunshine so we opted to stay at Douthat State Park one more night and take our chances on finding an open spot elsewhere on Friday. After our morning intake of caffeine, we hurried down to the camp office to secure our spot for the night and to also try to get a cell signal to check in with the Navigator’s father. Reception was very poor for some reason and this prompted us to head down to Clifton Forge where we knew from yesterday’s visit that strong Verizon signal existed.

Given the beauty of the day and lack of riding that I’ve been doing, the Navigator suggested that I ride my Fuji CCR3 to Clifton Forge and meet her at the Krogers where we needed to shop and turn in some DVDs. She also offered to grab a couple of images on the way as proof that I really did ride at least once on this trip!

Zeke enjoying the roads of Douthat SP(Zeke on Douthat State Park road) 

The ride to Krogers encompassed 10 miles. Shortly after leaving the Park’s boundary, we came upon a paving project that had reduced the road down to one lane of travel and you had to follow the “pilot car” in order to get to where you were going. I tried to keep up with traffic once we began moving but only managed to stay on the bumper ahead of me for a couple of miles. Fortunately, there was no one behind me so I wasn’t impeding traffic. The paving materials appears to be some kind of thin concrete and stone slurry. It was definitely not the inches of asphalt that I’m used to seeing at home.

After leaving Douthat State Park Road, you immediately go under I-64 and into the town of Clifton Forge. The road at this point is dual lane in both directions with businesses on each side. There is one short climb up to the Krogers store.

Zeke and the bike lane - Clifton Forge, VA(A bike lane runs along this section of Clifton Forge highway) 

It was warm and I had definitely worked up a good sweat on the run to Krogers. The Navigator was waiting on me and properly documented my unnoticed arrival at Krogers. There were no balloons and festive crowds awaiting me and, even better, Floyd Landis had made no assertions that I was a doper. At least, I’m guessing that’s why there were no assembled national press members at Krogers waiting on me to smoothly unclip.

Zeke post-ride at Krogers(Note that I don’t leave home without my Road-ID) 

After cooling down and posting my blog report and checking email, we did our grocery shopping for the next few days and rented our final DVD from Krogers. To our list of watched movies, we’ll now add Old Dogs. I’m not yet sure where it falls on my movie critic’s list. Definitely above Nine but well below Brothers. I’d say it is solidly in the middle of the pack.

Back to the Park we go…

After loading up with supplies to get us to Sunday, we returned to our peaceful campsite to find that the neighbors beside us were greeting the attendant members of their family reunion this weekend. The noise level had definitely increased given that there are 8 grandchildren in this reunion between the ages of 18 months and 5 years. I had enjoyed my conversation with Ken, the patriarch of the family, yesterday. He and his wife were the first campers to arrive. Ken had unloaded bicycle after bicycle from his camper getting ready for the kids to appear. He also had his own 2 bikes purchased at Kitty Hawk Bikes in Kitty Hawk, NC.

The Navigator and I enjoyed our final campfire at Douthat State Park with a meal of grilled hamburgers and slaw. Just prior to the meal, we hiked down to Douthat Lake and experience a nice change in the available light as dusk began to fall.

Folks had settled in for the night as I made my last walk around the campground. Very tired children were no where to be seen as they had run out of energy slightly earlier while adults, moving at a much slower pace, were sitting around their campfires enjoying each other’s company and low volume conversations.

The Navigator and I climbed into our bed with good books to read. It wasn’t long until dreaming had replaced reading. The quiet sounds of the forest critters and the smell of smoldering campfires made for a great backdrop for sleep – truly restful sleep. 

…Until HE arrived…

More later,

- Zeke

Thursday, May 20, 2010

DAYS 3/4 – In Search of “enLIGHTenment”

Our move from Watoga State Park in West Virginia across the mountains to Douthat State Park was made with the hope of finding sunshine. We left Watoga under light mist as the heavier rains had subsided allowing the Greenbrier River to begin dropping its water level along the banks. “Milli”, our Garmin Nuvi 260, took us back through Marlinton for one final “look see” and across West Va. 39 into Virginia. The two lane mountain road traversed the Allegheny Mountains and Back Creek Mountain taking us through Warm Springs. The trip to Douthat was short in distance but long in time relative to distance travelled. This was due to the many turns and switchbacks we experienced. I recall thinking that on one specific turn on the Virginia side of the mountain, I could probably reach out and wipe clean the rear lights on the trailer from my driver’s seat in the truck!

Arrival in Douthat…

Our arrival in Douthat was under gray skies with heavy clouds but, fortunately, no falling precipitation. This was a nice break from the almost constant rain we’ve experienced since Sunday. The Park is situated around a beautiful lake. Hiking and mountain biking trails abound. The main road that runs through the park is narrow with no shoulders so I am not sure what to expect on my road bike.

Lake Douthat view from Blue Heron Trail 

(A 3 mile hike around the lake abounds with beautiful images)

View toward Douthat Lake dam









(Even under grey skies, a beautiful mountain lake!)

We enjoyed a nice and easy hike around the lake and back to our site at Beaverdam Campground. This particular campground, one of 3 in the park, was only partially full of campers on a Tuesday evening. Just as we were ending our walk, the clouds apparently reached their capacity to hold water and it began to rain again.

After a quick trip into neighboring Clifton Forge, Va. and a Krogers store for supplies, we grilled a couple of steaks and began our viewing of DVD’s rented at Krogers. All of the rain has certainly provided the opportunity to catch up on some movies.

The first visit of an extremely happy Whip-poor-will awakened us around 4:00 a.m. We shared his joy for the first 10 minutes of lyrical song. 38.74 minutes later, we were less than enthralled with his visit. Eventually, our fine feathered friend moved on to other sites and we drifted off to sleep again.

The sun continues to hide…

Day 4 was indistinguishable from Day 3 weather wise. We continued under rainy looking skies but again no falling precip to start the day. The overnight rain had ended about the time of the arrival of the Whip-poor-will. After breakfast of bagels and bananas, we headed back to Clifton Forge to turn in DVD’s and discover aspects of the local town. We were also in search of internet and cell phone connectivity.

Once out of the park, Verizon service became available and we spent 45 minutes in a Hardee’s parking lot as I posted blog entries and downloaded email. Navigator Kathy was able to connect with sisters and father.

Clifton Forge is a railroad town and its history is abundantly clear in the local architecture. The houses, built on the sides of the mountain, overlook multiple train lines running to the east of town. We spotted a couple of coffee houses and I saw two cyclists in town. The dreary weather has apparently run the cyclists of the area to ground.

As evening fell, some holes in the cloud cover opened up and we could see glimmers of blue sky. The lack of rain also allowed us to enjoy our first campfire of the trip.

The Navigator enjoys our first campfire!








(The Navigator warms up by the evening fire!)

Zeke recording thoughts of the day...

(Zeke the Scribe considering the day’s events)

Day 4 Ends Quietly…

After enjoying a fine meal of grilled chicken and baked potatoes, we napped and watched yet two more movies, (Brothers and Men Who Stared at Goats). Along with these two flicks, we’ve now watched Blind Side, Nine, The Proposal, and Couples Retreat. I told you it has been raining A LOT! Were I a movie critic, I’d list them as follows in descending order of excellence.

So, Day 4 ends with hopes for improving weather. A decision will need to be made in the morning as to whether to continue the search for “enLIGHTenment” or to hold where we are. We already know that the campground is fully reserved beginning Friday so, at the very latest, Friday will be a travel day.

Until later,


Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Zeke and Navigator Kathy’s second day of vacation began much as Day 1 ended – it was raining. Overnight we were treated to the pretty much constant sounds of rain falling upon the Hobbi. It made for some great sleeping weather.

We were hoping for clearing skies on Monday but it was not to be. In fact, when we checked in with our camp hostesses to pay for an additional night at Watoga State Park, they graciously told us the truth and said that heavy rains were predicted for the rest of the week.

Monday was to be a wash anyway as a vacation day to some extent due to my work responsibilities. Part of the deal in my getting 2 weeks off was that I would work part of Mondays to get the company billing reports extracted and filed. This would necessitate a connection to the internet. Thus far, we’d had no TV reception and no cellular signal reception where we were staying along the increasingly wider Greenbrier River.

Vacation2010_GreenbrierRiver02(Note flooding on left side of Greenbrier River) 

I had been told previously, when making an information seeking call to the Watoga State Park office, that WiFi services were available at no charge at a coffee cafe in nearby Marlinton. Our on-site hostesses confirmed this and provided directions to the hoped for site of internet connectivity. After a 30 minute drive, we arrived in downtown Marlinton, West Va. and sure enough located the Dirt Bean Cafe and Bike Shop. Hey, a cafe and a bike shop – the day is looking up!

Downtown Marlinton, West Va.(Downtown Marlinton, West Va. – a pleasant place to visit) 

The Dirt Bean is housed in what I would take as being one of the older buildings in Marlinton’s downtown section. It is about 2 blocks off of the Greenbrier River as is almost all of the Marlinton we saw. The Greenbrier Trail was about 1 more block away from the river. We entered the Dirty Bean and queued up to the ordering station.

It was at this point that I determined that the Proprietress of this fine institution was NOT having a good Monday. She curtly stated we could still get breakfast and, if the WiFi was working, which she didn’t think it was, I could try to use it. We placed our order and I went about trying to connect to the wider world electronically while Navigator Kathy explored the shop.

Zeke in the Dirty Bean(Internet, internet, where are you?) 

I quickly discovered that the Proprietress’s assessment of her Wifi signal was correct – it didn’t work. So, making lemonade out of the lemons we’d been served, the Navigator and I enjoyed an excellent breakfast of Blueberry Waffle and a loaded Breakfast Bagel. The Dirty Bean bike offerings included Kona bikes and numerous Gary Fisher MB’s. There were also a couple of comfort rides for rental.

The Proprietress, perhaps dealing with whatever was making her Monday unpleasant, had changed clothes and left the shop quickly. Her employee, a pleasant sort, confirmed that the WiFi was down and out and that all of their phones were out as well. This young lady was quite helpful and suggested that we try the local public library to see if they had internet service. Hitting myself upside the head, I thought “What a great idea!” Of course, I haven’t been in a library of any sort since my days as a graduate student. I offer this morsel of information only as a small attempt to assuage my guilt for not thinking of this myself.

So, out the door and, yes, into the rain we went to traverse the sidewalks of Marlinton two blocks to the public library. We were greeted courteously and professionally by the librarian, who assured me that I was welcome to use their WiFi service. She printed me out a small ticket with my new username and password and gave me 2 hours even though I had assured her I only needed one hour to do my work and get back to vacation.

Turns out she was prescient! I couldn’t get that sucker to work for nothing! No, not the computer and not the internet – my preset report back home on the company server. Finally, at 1 hour and 38 minutes, it properly extracted the data and I ONLY needed 1 more hour of internet service to do my duty to my company. (Something about being in West Virginia keeps reminding me of the catchy phrase “I owe my soul to the company store…” )

Thankfully, my remaining work was finished quickly and I even had a chance to scope out the weather forecast and post my blog entry before exiting the premises of the McClintic Library.

Zeke getting back to vacation!

(Zeke leaving the library behind.)

McClintick Library









(McClintic Library, Marlinton, West Va.)

Back to Watoga We Go!

Now that most of my vacation day was spent getting ready to work and then actually working, the Navigator and I headed back to camp. Along the way, we passed numerous High Water signs and local DOT crews out cutting fallen trees or removing mud from slides. This area has really been hammered by rain recently. They have been under almost constant flash flood warnings it seems.  It appeared water was running from every embankment possible. Some of the images were quite beautiful if you could divorce yourself from the possible damage that could happen when all this water comes together downstream.

Free running waterfall (Waterfall running strongly resulting in flooded road)

Vacation2010_Creek01 (Feeder creek of the Greenbrier)

On our return trip to Watoga, we spotted the lone element of wildlife that we’ve seen thus far. A wild turkey flew across the road in front of us. Otherwise, we’ve seen no other wildlife. The informational brochure for Watoga State Park says it is “the rare visitor who doesn’t see white tailed deer while visiting in the Park.” Yep, that’s me and the Navigator – rare visitors!

Upon our return to our fine campsite in the wetlands of Watoga, I did open up the truck and looking longingly at my so far unused Fuji CCR3. Maybe tomorrow big guy…

Fuji CCR3 lashed down... (The dormant Fuji CCR3 ready for action!)

Day 2 came to a close with us enjoying each other’s company and doing some fine reading. The new book I’ve started begins with two travelers in a RV being murdered. Of course, if that were to happen to us on this trip, I’d never hear ‘em coming because of the never ending rain pelting the roof!

Until later,


Monday, May 17, 2010


After a day of planned delay, my “best half” and I headed out on what has the potential for being the longest vacation we’ve had in 8 years. Various responsibilities that need not be addressed here have kept our sojourns away from home and work to no more than 7 calendar days and most often only 4 to 5 days.

While our initial travel plans underwent some significant change, our revised plans kept us closer to home geographically and slowed the pace of travel considerably. Our original trip called for a cross country loop in 16 days. The revised plans keep us within about a 400 mile radius of home with today most likely being our longest travel day of the period.

The past week has been hectic taking care of all the regular job chores plus prepping for being away from work for 2 work weeks. In addition, it was planting time and the fertilizer that I threw out on several yards really kicked into gear resulting in a need for frequent mowing. Thanks to Capt’n Nick, staff photog of the recent “Jim Artis Experience”, our yards won’t be knee high to a giraffe when we return. Capt’n Nick is going on tour with Big Red and keeping our yards under control during our absence.

The prep for the trip also required taking the camper, a 2007 Keystone Hobbi, out of storage and getting it ready for travel. This included a pull down to Walker Service to have the wheel bearings and axels checked for safety and the tires evaluated. In doing so, a repeating nagging problem with the electric jack was found to still be an issue despite having had it fixed in November just before going into hibernation.

Originally, we planned to leave home on Saturday, May 15th but realized an extra day of prep was needed. Given that we no longer needed to be on the West Coast on the 20th, we took much needed advantage of the shortened trip in order to finalize getting the dogs to the kennel, planting, mowing, and packing.

ZekeMattieOrla( Zeke, Cuzzin Mattie Ann, and Orla) 

This will be the longest we’ve been away from our favorite 4 legged “buds” in their lifetimes. I already miss having Zeke and Orla along on this trip as they are campers supreme!

The Trip Begins…


 (Zeke “locked and loaded” for travel)

I sent out the final email at approximately 10:15 a.m. announcing that trip control was being handed over to the Blackberry Storm and SPOT was on-line. Under sunny skies and warm temperatures, Navigator Kathy and I hit the road and headed northeast to Tennessee along I-26 W, which oddly really runs north and south. The ride up I-26 from Asheville to Johnson City was gorgeous as we climbed the mountain and crossed over Sam’s Gap.

As we had not stopped to eat this morning nor had any of the required coffee that I usually need to get going, we pulled into a Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Johnson City to calm our grumbling stomachs. We followed the signs to the RV/Bus parking but could not locate it as we circumnavigated the building. Finally, I spotted the lanes reserved for RVs and busses. They were packed with cars parked tail to head and there was no “room in the Barrel” for us. That was o.k. because a Waffle House was within shouting distance and they had the welcome mat out. I heard a blueberry-pecan waffle calling my name…

Vacation2010_WaffleHse(Caffeined UP and ready to roll…) 

Good Travel Weather Bids Adieu…

We had about 100 miles of continued good weather on our run north on I-81. Once you get past Bristol, Tn, I-81 could almost qualify as a scenic highway. We traversed some very pretty country along the Virginia corridor.

“Milli”, our Garmin Nuvi 260 as we’ve name her, eventually directed us up I-77 toward Bluefield, West Virginia. The end of our good traveling weather was upon us. As we climbed a serious grade of highway, light rain began to fall and the road turned wet quickly. We came to the first tunnel that cuts directly through the mountain in Jefferson National Park. As we approached the northern exit of the tunnel, we could tell that the weather was changed dramatically and for the worse.

Heavy rains were on the other side of the mountain. Between the road spray, fog, and torrential rain, seeing the lane of travel was difficult. We enjoyed a shorter tunnel experience as we crossed out of Virginia and into West Virginia. The heavy rains continued unabated.

I Went To Princeton…

That would NOT be Princeton University but rather Princeton, West Virginia. “Milli” was calling for us to continue another 38 miles on I-77 and then to backtrack approximately 45 miles on I-64 to get to our eventual cutoff at Lewisberg, West VA. Navigator Kathy correctly pointed out that we were taking 2 sides of the triangle and could simply get on highway 219 at Princeton. We decided to get off the interstate, look it over, and make a decision. With Princeton being our first exit, we pulled off and discovered the West Virginia Visitors Center immediately on our right. Being the seasoned travelers that we are, we decided to get an opinion from the locals!

Navigator Kathy at Princeton, West Va

After connecting with “Bob” (not her real name), we were advised that on a sunny day 219 was a lovely ride but that in this terrible weather, it would be basically “nuts” to take it. “Bob” assured us the drive time would be similar even if we appeared to be going out of our way.

So, we took “Bob’s” advice and headed back to I-77 where we promptly saw what looked to be a very bad automobile wreck. The first responders were just appearing on the scene. The car was upside down and looking pretty well crushed. It appeared to be a one car accident so I’m not sure exactly what happened. I’m certain the weather played some part in the event.

I couldn’t believe it was possible but it began raining harder! Cars were pulled off on both sides of the interstate waiting out the heavy weather cell. There were numerous motorcycles under bridges and other places where some meager shelter gave a modicum of comfort. We kept plugging along at a sedate 55 mph and staying in the slow lane with the big trucks.

I’ll Bet It Is Beautiful Country…

On any other non-rain day, I’ll be this would be a gorgeous ride. We went over bridges that appeared to span valleys a thousand feet below us. The mountains held the highway in tight embrace in other places and I was reminded of the Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky in yet other segments of this trip. This area, known as the “Middle Appalachians”, appeared to be every bit as pretty as my home area in the “Southern Appalachians”.  I’ll hope for better weather when we depart this section of America so that we can enjoy the vistas more.

Lewisberg At Last…

Our time on the interstate finally ended at Lewisberg, West Va. as did gas prices below $2.90 a gallon. While stopping to fill up at a local convenience store, we asked for a suggestion of a good grocery store nearby. We were greeted by just about everyone in line giving us different options and directions. One fellow even opined, “Well,the whole town’s only 5 miles long so just drive in the direction your going and you’ll see one (grocery store).”  We took him at his word and sure enough found a very nice Krogers where we laid in supplies for the next few days.

Returning to Highway 219, “Milli” informed us we were within 34 miles of our destination and that it would only take another 56 minutes. Uh? That works out to about 30 mph for speed. Turns out “Milli” was right. Highway 219 is one seriously narrow 2 lane mountain road with grades of 7% and 9% for 3.5 miles at a whack. Going up was slow as my F150 pulled our 26’ Hobbi up the ascents and going down was slow as I kept it geared down to keep the camper from fishtailing around us in the many, many hairpin turns that we encountered.

Friendly Folk Abound…

We passed through small unincorporated communities (Droop, West Va. for one) and were pleased to see folks throwing up their hands in greeting as they stood on their porches. One particularly energetic greeting was at the Copper Penny Cafe. We may have to make a stop there in the next day or so. We passed by the birthplace of Pearl Buck, which now looks to be a museum.

Finally, Day 1 Travel Ends…

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally arrived at our destination of Watoga State Park. Dusk was rapidly departing and night time setting in when we located a likeable campsite along the Greenbrier River. We had long since passed out of Verizon cell service. Of course, it was still raining when it came time to setup the camper. We decided to wait until the light of day and hope for better weather in which to get level and stationary.

Day 2’s Agenda…

Unfortunately, work calls in the morning so we must depart Watoga for nearby Marlinton, West Va. where I can get a WiFi signal so that I can do my duty. The good news is that will also give us the opportunity to stop at a local outfitter we spotted upon our arrival and can check into the rental of a couple of fat tire bikes. The riding begins tomorrow! We are sitting on the Greenbrier Rails-to-Trails path and we intend to make the most of it while here. The path runs 76 miles from end to end and has a 1% grade! I’ve also perused the map of the park itself and it appears I can get in many miles of road bike riding within the border of this 10,000 acre State Park.

The rain has stopped now and the chirping of the night bugs and croaking of the frogs can clearly be discerned amongst the occasional drop of rain from the overhanging trees. I think I hear a peaceful night’s sleep calling…

Until later,


Friday, May 14, 2010


(See 1:00 pm update below:)

NCATA has gone on record as opposing House Bill 1686 entitled  AN ACT TO ENSURE THE SAFE OPERATION OF BICYCLES BEING OPERATED IN  GROUPS OF TWO OR MORE ON THE STATE'S STREETS AND HIGHWAYS, AS  RECOMMENDED BY THE JOINT LEGISLATIVE TRANSPORTATION OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE. This position appears to validate my concern as posted yesterday that the bill is not truly a cyclist safety measure but more a measure to reduce cyclists rights to the road usage.

The NCATA released their position late May 12th.

All concerned cyclists are encouraged to contact their local representatives and urge them to oppose HB 1686 as IS CURRENTLY WRITTEN.

Until later,

- Zeke


From an email sent by Steve Waters regarding his meeting, along with Alison Carpenter (President of NCACA), with Rep.Cole on 05/13/2010.

“This confirms the bill now goes to the House Transportation Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Becky Carney, an outspoken advocate for public transit and transportation choices.  Then if it is reported favorably it goes to House Judiciary III.  Co-sponsors are Rep. Sandra Hughes, Wil Neumann and Jane Whilden.  Rep. Hughes is not running for re-election and Rep. Neumann lost his primary, but Rep. Whilden is an ally.

Today Alison Carpenter and I met with Rep. Nelson Cole and Rep. Grier Martin.  Nelson said he would be willing to exempt cities because they can pass their own ordinances, but he said he "can't" add a requirement for a passing clearance of three feet because rural roads are too narrow for that to be possible without crossing the double-yellow lines. (And according to Grier he may be right.)

My guess is that enough concerns have been raised by legislators that it would be difficult for the bill to pass all the way through the House and Senate in the short session, but we should still come to consensus on how the bill can be amended so we can speak with one voice as a statewide bicycling community.  I defer to the NC Active Transportation Alliance to craft that consensus language.

The members of the House Transportation committee can be found here:
And the members of the House Judiciary III committee can be found here:


In my reply to this email, I noted that all of us cross the yellow line in a safe manner for many reasons. I posited the question as to what Rep. Cole would do should he come upon a slow moving farm tractor in his lane of travel. Would he simply stay behind it until the tractor moves from the roadway some mile(s) down the road or would he more likely pick a safe time to accelerate around it? Rep. Cole’s belief that the rural roads of N.C. don’t provide for sufficient space for a 3’ passing requirement is balderdash.

Is exempting cities from the legislation a good thing or does it merely break up the fight into smaller pieces? I have no idea…

Until later,

- Zeke

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Rep. Nelson Cole of Reidsville has introduced House Bill 1686 entitled “AN ACT TO ENSURE THE SAFE OPERATION OF BICYCLES BEING OPERATED IN GROUPS OF TWO OR MORE ON THE STATE'S STREETS AND HIGHWAYS, AS  RECOMMENDED BY THE JOINT LEGISLATIVE TRANSPORTATION OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE.” This bill would prohibit cyclists from riding more than 2 abreast on N.C. roads except on paths or parts of roads intended for the EXCLUSIVE use of cyclists. The bill would also require cyclists to move into single file “as quickly as is practicable” when being overtaken by faster vehicles and would prohibit cyclists riding two abreast from “impeding the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.”

After reading the legislation and a corresponding report in the Raleigh News and Observer, I’m contemplating the motive behind the legislation. Rep. Cole seems to indicate it is out of concern for cyclists but, the wording, per the News and Observer, sounds to me as if it is an attempt to get those pesky traffic impeding cyclists out of the way of “real traffic.” Cole is quoted as saying, “Drivers worry, he (Cole) says, about the hazards of suddenly meeting cyclists in wide packs on narrow roads.”

Perhaps I am too negatively ascribing motive to the introduction of the Bill. In my opinion and under the best possible light, it is poorly worded. In fact, it prompted me to write to my own Representative, who is a member of the Transportation Committee where the Bill now resides. Following is part of my correspondence to Rep. Ray Rapp:

…I wanted to write to you concerning HB 1686 introduced by Rep. Cole. I understand this bill to now be in the Transportation Committee for review. I am, of course, in favor of cyclist safety. As a 57 year old cyclist, I find that since my return to the sport some 3 years ago, I am in better health both physically and mentally, my weight is down 30 lbs., and I’ve reduced my carbon footprint significantly by commuting from my office to home in Bethel 2 to 3 days a week. I typically carpool into the office with my wife and ride the 23 miles home via Canton.

I have concerns about the wording of HB 1686 in its current state. There seems to me to be ambiguity in the requirement of “moving to the right as quickly as is practicable”. My question concerns who determines what was “quickly as practicable”? Can an auto or truck driver determine someone didn’t move quickly enough and use that as a defense to “tap” a rear wheel or cause more significant damage to a cyclist? Does an investigating officer, in the event of an accident, make the determination? Does the cyclist determine what is safe? Along these same lines, how far to the right is enough? If there are barriers such as dead animals, 2 X 4’s, broken glass, potholes, sewer covers, etc. in the direct path of the cyclist, must they still move to the right? Again the wording in its current state seems to put this bill in conflict with existing law where cyclists have the same rights to the road as other road users.

Inherent in any conversation about vehicles passing cyclists is the concern with distance between the passing vehicle and the cyclist. I have been “buzzed” numerous times while riding. “Buzzed” means that a vehicle passed so close to me that I was in danger of being hit by protruding mirrors or bumpers, etc. Sometimes, this is the result of impatient vehicle drivers who try to pass in a blind curve and get caught by oncoming traffic. Other times, it is because the vehicle driver is distracted, i.e., talking/texting on cell phones and drifting off the road, applying makeup, smoking and drinking coffee while trying to pilot a 2 ton vehicle. Finally, there are the less frequent but still very dangerous situations where auto drivers intentionally try to run cyclists off the road.

I strongly recommend that text be inserted into this bill, if it goes forward, that would require a minimum of a 3’ passing distance between the overtaking vehicle and a cyclist. If that space is not available, the overtaking vehicle should slow down, remain in line until such time as the 3’ space becomes available. The 3’ passing requirement is already law in numerous states. I believe that S.C. became one of the most recent to adopt the requirement last year.

In this day and age of increasing gas/oil prices, an apparent never ending thirst for fuel by the American people, and numerous chronic health issues (obesity, diabetes, etc.), we really need to be about reducing our reliance on the automobile and being car-centric and finding ways to share the existing roadways. I ask that you consider these comments in your deliberations as a member of the Transportation Committee…


Perhaps this bill offers, with some amendments and textual changes, an opportunity for some real safety changes for cyclists in North Carolina. As in all things, time will tell..

Until later,

- Zeke

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I’ve always been “blessed” to be able to reach into a pile of assorted fruits completely blindfolded and pull out the only lemon in the bunch. This skill has kept me entertained, flummoxed, and busy through the years. Apparently, I haven’t lost my touch!

On Sunday, I made the trip to my local REI to finally purchase a SPOT 2 GPS locater. I’ve been intrigued with the concept since watching the 2009 Tour of Discovery in which Rafael Geraldo made his way cross country and allowed observers to join him through the use of technology.

Arriving at the store just before closing, my Sales Associate reached into the proverbial “bunch of fruit”, except this time it was the stock of SPOT 2’s on hand. Drawing back his hand, he gives to me a nicely wrapped brand new SPOT 2 in black and orange dressing. He assured me that REI had returned all of their stock of the original SPOT 2 after so much negative press highlighted problems with that version.


With lots of duties to take care of for our long planned vacation beginning at the end of this week, I didn’t get to do the initialization until lunch time on Monday.  Everything went smoothly. All of the lights blinked green just as the manual indicated they would. A GPS location was locked in quickly and the send message cycle started properly.

I eagerly looked forward to getting emails from those individuals that I had already listed as being the recipients of my hopefully “all is well” message. I eagerly looked forward to receiving one for an hour. Then, I began to look forward with some trepidation to finally getting acknowledgement that the messages had been received. Finally, when no message arrived from anyone, I gave a short “thanks” that I wasn’t critically wounded and in need of the SPOT service.

Following work, I tried to send the “track progress” messages. Upon arriving home some 1.5 hours after initiating the latest message, I logged in to my SPOT account only to be informed that I had zero, the big 0, in GPS locations.  Fortunately, I recognized my deck and knew where I was currently located even if my SPOT somehow didn’t process that information.

So, a quick call to SPOT tech support and an approximate 10 minute wait resulted in a pleasant conversation with the SPOT personnel, who had me retry everything making sure I had a clear view of the sky. We had a nice conversation for about 15 minutes and the SPOT tech dude properly announced, “Yep, you’ve got a defective unit there. Take it back to the store where you bought it and they’ll replace it.”

Yet another quick call to REI and the Sales Associate assured me that they had more lemons, err SPOTS in stock and that they would be happy to replace my 1 day old unit. So, I’m heading out shortly to Asheville to replace the busted one. I’m testing the replacement BEFORE I leave the store!

In a related matter…


I ordered from Amazon a RAM mount for the SPOT so that it can sit nicely on my truck’s dashboard or windshield as we travel. I paid extra for 1 to 3 day business shipping so that the unit would arrive before our departure date this weekend. If my math is correct, I ordered on Monday and 1 to 3 working days should end by this Thursday giving Tuesday as the first working day following the order. Imagine my surprise when I received an acknowledgment from Amazon that my unit was shipping and would arrive by May 17th. Hmmm, that seems to be the week AFTER we depart… I guess that, as in all things, time will tell!

Until later,

- Zeke

(Update to this story 12:30 p.m. 05/11/2010)  I am back from the REI store where I swapped out the faulty SPOT 2 for one that works. I had a very easy swap out with REI and then a quick response from SPOT to get the ESN switched over to the new unit. I was able to quickly initialize the new unit and started receiving messages, as did my intended recipients, within 10 minutes. All in all, things are working nicely at the moment!)