by Sara Dykman
It has been a few weeks since we typed up a blog or uploaded photos. We called it our “winter break” and blamed it on our lack of a computer. Finally after 9,000 miles of bumps and temperature extremes our hard drive gave up. It is a bit of shame that we waited so long to send out an update. We have stayed with so many people and I could type up a small novel about them. Instead I’ll jump around a bit, and try not to make this too long.
It has been a humbling month of biking. We fought the cold weather of the Appalachian mountains, and survived thanks to the help of friendly strangers inviting us into their homes. Since we left Washington DC we have seen our coldest temperatures, including a morning of biking in 3 degree weather and a night of camping in the teens. In the same month we have stayed with 16 different families. Southern hospitality is not an exaggeration! We joke that when we arrived in Washington DC we were two weeks ahead of schedule and now, in South Carolina we are right on schedule.
I’ll start up from where Matt left off the last blog (http://www.bike49.org/2010/12/8-crazy-nights/) in Bluefield, VA.
Leaving Bluefield, VA, headed to Tazewell, we were local celebrities after making it onto the cover of the local newspaper. Eating in a parking lot a women fished out ten dollars for hot coco, on the road one in ten cars honked or waved, folks slowed down to take our photos and wish us well. We loved it. In Tazewell we were hosted at the local YMCA. We camped in the aerobics room, a first for us all. This YMCA would prove to be an amazing contact. The director of the YMCA would pass our info on to a friend, who would tell his brother about us, and eventually lead us to a place to stay for Christmas.
The next day we were scheduled to give a presentation at the North Tazewell Elementary School. We were lucky enough to be invited to the teacher’s holiday luncheon, that offered us a full spread of lunch food and desserts. The dessert table was epic, and we took full advantage of the opportunity to eat copious amounts of sweets. Later we spoke to the entire school in the gymnasium. By now we know what to expect from presentations. We know that in the morning even the most enthusiastic bunch of kids are going to drag and that in the afternoon a photo of a bear can throw the students into a frenzy. Those 300 kids were about as excitable as they come, considering the three previous days had been snow days, it was a Friday, and winter break was quickly approaching. They would have screamed for an hour if we had let them.
That night we stayed in Tazewell for a second night, in one of my more memorable houses. The day before we had been grocery shopping at The Food Lion (what a name) when we met Lisa at the register. After a few moments of talking she invited us to her house for the evening. “I just got to clear the ammo and the camo off the bed” she told me. I am not sure if she had expected us to take her up on our offer, but we did. After sorting out the details we headed to her house after the presentation, just in time for cornbread, soup, banana pudding, and the evening news (with a blurb about our presentation). All of Lisa’s coworkers thought she was crazy for inviting us over. They called a few times that evening to check in on her. That kind of hospitality never ceases to amaze me. People like Lisa, those willing to help an absolute stranger, inspire me.
We continued our streak of warm places to stay the next seven nights. We stayed with folks that read about us is the paper, folks that stopped us on the side of the road, in spare trailers, and in “the world famous” Little Congress Bicycle Museum. The Little Congress Bicycle Museum is a tribute to the history of the bicycle in Cumberland Gap, TN (www.bicyclemuseum.net). The one room museum was packed full of bicycles, and was a time-line of the evolution the bicycle. It included bicycles with wooden rims, a 1895 Penning Farthing (the big wheel bicycle), and a 1934 quad-cycle (a four seater bicycle). Judge Ralph, an adventurer himself, opened up the museum nine years earlier, and invited us to spend the night there. It was the first bicycle museum any of us had ever camped in.
From the Cumberland Gap we headed to Spartanburg, SC where we would spend Christmas with Richard, his wife Jan, and their kids, Will, Anna Grace, and Carolyn. Richard rode his bike out to meet us almost 40 miles from his home, in Tryon, NC. We liked Tryon because we met a wonderful couple that invited us to their house and because it was at the bottom of a wonderful hill that was the perfect combination of smooth pavement, winding turns, and steep grades. That hill took us out of the mountains, and after a month of cold and frost nipped toes we were ready for some southern weather. Having Richard lead us on the back roads to his house was a real treat. With out him we would have either been lost in the rural farmland or fighting for some space on the busy highway.
We had been wondering where we were going to be for Christmas for most of the trip. Finding Richard and his family was very lucky. We celebrated Christmas with a wonderful diner, a tour of the Christmas lights, and a day of rest and relaxation. We could not have asked for more. But of course more came. Richard called his sister, Paige, in Columbia and she not only offered us a place to stay but she too biked us in and out of the city a few days later. Page called her other brother, Charles, and we will be staying with him tomorrow. An entire generation opened their homes to us. None of us would have thought that was possible before we left Arcata almost eight months ago.
And I can’t end this blog with out mentioning the New Year. We pedaled the last few days through the swamps of the lowlands, enjoying the warmth of the sun, and that great feeling of biking in less than three layers. This put us in Charleston, SC for New Year’s Eve. I am not too much of an night owl so I was more excited about today when we biked to the Atlantic ocean and partook in the Polar Bear dip with about 300 others. Costumes were encouraged so we did the best we could. I wore a few things I found on the side of the road and Tommy rocked a broom. We lined up with folks dressed as bananas, santas, braveheart, Abe Lincoln, and a hundred other wacky costumes. On the count of three we ran into the ocean. Happy New Year! We also brought in the New Year with good food and company. Our Charleston hosts, Charles and Missee, helped us bring in the New Year with some southern traditions. We ate collard greens and Hoppin’ Johns (rice and field peas) to encourage prosperity, good health, and good luck.
So Happy New Year! May 2011 be full of adventure, merriment, and joy. May our posts be more frequent and our computer up and running soon enough. Thanks to everyone that helped us make 2010 a wonderful success and a year to remember.