Since I went to bed fairly early last night, I was able to get a pretty good start on today. I woke up around 6, but didn’t get out of my tent until about 645. I got all packed up and was gone before 715. It felt good to make progress earlier in the day. Since I ate a late lunch yesterday, I didn’t eat dinner, just snacks. So, I never unpacked my stove and food from my bike. This morning, I didn’t want to get all that unpacked just to make some oatmeal, so decided to eat breakfast at subway. Somehow, it’s cheaper to get a 6 inch flatbread combo than just the sandwich by itself. I didn’t want a coke, so I just got a cup of water. But the lady also said you could get coffee with it. As I was eating, I look over and notice the coffee machine is some kind of fancy pants thing with a bunch of flavors. I decide to give the vanilla cinnamon nut cappuccino a go and it was solid, so I might doing that again another day. Most of this morning’s ride has been paved, but I did hit two good sections of gravel though forests. I’m also starting to slowly gain some elevation. I wouldn’t say I’m in the foothills of the mountains just yet, but I’ve gone up probably 400ft so far today, and have definitely transitioned from mostly farms to more forests.
I stopped for lunch in China Grove, NC at Jimmie’s Restaurant. I started with a grilled chicken breast with cornbread, pinto beans, and green beans, but decided to order a cheeseburger when I finished that because I was still hungry. I thought about my dad, because the daily special today was chicken livers, which he loves and I hate.
Random though…do you know what I love? Getting waves from farmers on trackers, small town folks on their front porch, and people walking down the sidewalk. Do you know what I hate? Pretty much any situation in which someone doesn’t wave back at me when they clearly see me waving at them. If you have arms and aren’t carrying something, why can’t you wave? How grumpy must you be to not be able to lift you hand up? Maybe though, people are just too surprised to know what to do. I love walking into a restaurant and getting crazy stares like I’m some kind of alien. I usually still have my helmet and gloves on, and if it’s raining or close to raining, I have my goretex woodland camo jacket and pants on too. Maybe the getup is just too much for some folks to process, and they momentarily lose control of their limbs and the paralysis prevents them from waiving.
After lunch, things really started taking off. I made it to Lenoir, NC and started following the road up into the mountains. It started sprinkling, so I stopped at a church under a carport and put on my rain gear. Shortly thereafter, the rain stopped and it was blue skies so I took the jacket off. Next thing I know I’m heading further up the mountain and hear comes rain again, so I pull into some random house’s carport to put on my jacket while giving a friendly wave to the guy who’s mowing his grass in the rain. He didn’t seem to mind. As I go further up the hill, the road changes to gravel. It’s well-manicured and wide though. Further still, the gravel road narrows. Then it turns to dirt. Then back to gravel, but with grass growing in the middle. I’m looking at my GPS trying to see how far it is to the campground, and it looks within a few miles, but there were SO MANY switchbacks and twists and turns, I couldn’t seem to make any progress. I must’ve been on that road at least an hour, without seeing another car or human. It felt very remote. Things were a little hairy a few times on the dirt road, but with gravel it wasn’t too bad. Eventually after what seemed like forever, I rounded the corner and found the National Forest Mortimer Campground (http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recreation/bicycling/recarea/?recid=49006&actid=31). It’s pretty nice, and for $10 includes showers. It also has a picnic pavilion if a storm comes. There were a surprising number of people at the campsite for a Thursday when it was sprinkling, but still over half of the 19 sites were available. I had no cell phone service, and tried to get a message out to my friend Damon via my InReach SE, which was difficult given the tree cover. I finally went to bed and fell asleep. The air was actually cooler for a change and I wasn’t sweating. Next thing I know, I see a flashlight through my tent and hear “Aaron is that you?”. It’s 1145, I’m sound asleep, and Damon has apparently just rolled up. It took me a few minutes to put that together since I was so out of it and forgot about him meeting me in my slumber. He got all unloaded and finally went to bed. I couldn’t believe he found me, but he had apparently come up to the campground a much less treacherous route than I had.