We woke up a little late again but felt better than the previous morning. It was my 45th birthday today, and I was looking forward to a good day on the road. Coffee downed and shower taken, I headed out to the bikes for the now familiar routine of morning maintenance. It was a happy surprise to find everything basically in spec, they just needed some chain lube and one psi in the rear tire of each bike, and we were good to go. The weather was good but a little humid as we rode north out of Raleigh towards the Virginia border. We were both experiencing some mixed emotions about our stay in NC. We lived there for 12 years and still have family and friends in the state but left under some unhappy circumstances. Neither of us ever thought we would want to return but both found ourselves a little sad as we rode farther away. These emotions seemed to cloud our journey today. The weather got hotter and more humid, the roads were busier than they needed to be, and I had a bad case of “bike noise paranoia”. We also seem to have lost our paper map somewhere along the way. It was tucked in its usual spot inside the Rok-straps behind Rebekah but went missing sometime during the afternoon.
I kept checking over the bikes every time we stopped, sure I could see or hear something odd as we slowly made it further north. We stopped for a lunch of Clif Bars and warm water and took a rest in the parking lot of a high school in Oxford, NC. When I once again checked the spokes, I noticed what turned out to be the cause of the erratic tapping that I could occasionally hear – the funnel which is clipped to the helmet lock on the left side of my bike was turned around from its normal position and was banging against the side of the bike in the wind.
One mystery solved, we got back on the road and found ourselves in Front Royal, Virginia at about 6:30pm. We had only ridden about 260 miles by this point but my sister (who travels for a living) had mentioned how much she liked Front Royal a couple of times, so we decided to stop for the night. Mistake #1. Maybe there is a North Front Royal?, or maybe life at the Fairfield is nicer?, or maybe it was just our general funk, but we never found the good side of Front Royal. Since it was my birthday, we checked out the under $60 hotels and quickly decided not to stay in any of them. Cigarette burns and moldy carpets were the common denominator and apparently (as evidenced by the numerous non-operable cars outside) the inexpensive hotels in Front Royal also double as Section 8 housing.
So we decided to camp. Hey, it's a tourist area – there has to be good camping, right? Mistake #2. We fired up the iPhone and located several local campgrounds and ruled out a few due to distance. We stopped by one and found out that tent camping (no hook-ups!) was $32, so we rode on. By now it had started sprinkling and our standards quickly plummeted, and the “right” campground turned into the “right now” campground. About this time we spied the Gooney Creek campground and pulled in, determined to take whatever we found and pitch camp ASAP. Mistake #3. If you get bored you can read the reviews on TripAdvisor
(that we later found) and appreciate the loveliness of this place. One of the reviews likens it to a campground from Deliverance and that is a pretty apt description. If the place hadn't been packed due to the holiday weekend, I think we might have seriously worried about banjo music late at night. But I digress. As I set up camp, Re once again headed out in search of food. Lightning was flashing in the hills around us by the time she returned. She did a nice job of approximating a birthday dinner with a steak and blue cheese pasta dish, salad, bread, and a tiny cheesecake for dessert, all washed down with oil cans of Foster's lager. We soon went to bed and fell asleep to the sounds of falling rain and the drunkards down the way.
Just a quick update on our spare spokes – it turned out that Alliance Powersports, the SYM importer, was unable to get spokes to us after all. Michael, in the parts department, did put me in touch with Chris from Ootys Scooters
in Santa Barbara. Chris recently installed a new front wheel on a customer's Symba and was able to salvage some spokes from the damaged wheel. He, very kindly, is sending a few via UPS to my in-laws house in Ohio, gratis! Thanks, Chris!
280 miles in about 10 hours. The bikes are running fine, I'm just having a little trouble trusting them right now.