Last Fall our good Seattle friends Steve and Janet Sisson let us know that they would like to join our adventure from April 4-14, while Janet has Spring Break from the school where she is a librarian. We guesstimated that the Outer Banks would work for us and provide them with airports they could fly into and out of with their tandem, and before we left Ithaca in January we booked our motels and B&Bs in that area to be sure we had lodgings each night.
Well, we got a little ahead of schedule. We've only hunkered down three times due to weather since we started this leg of the trip 11 weeks ago, less than we expected, and settled for four days in Savannah (which proved actually to be time enough to really see it) when only four days were available at the place we selected. So for the past week and for the coming week, we're really taking our time, coasting down the coast as it were.
We closed our last blog entry with our wonderful day and a half visit to Brookgreen Gardens outside Georgetown SC. Our next day was a mere 10 miles to Myrtle Beach, where we stayed at a lackluster Holiday Inn and spent a half day walking a narrow beach, never far from homes and hotels.
As you can see from the picture taken from our hotel, there were a lot of them!
Next day we had a strong tailwind as we rode through the rest of the Myrtle Beach area, and scrapped the original plan of another short day
in favor of crossing the state line and stopping at Sunset Beach NC. Good move. This community is much more remote from the highways, and has no roller coasters, Ripleys Believe It or Not Museums or any of the other ticky-tacky that Myrtle Beach wallows in.
We phoned ahead and found a motel suite with cooking facilities and got directions to a supermarket en route, and had a nice two-night stay with the day between spent eating well, reading lots, and walking far down the clean, almost empty beach along the ocean and around a point to the mile-wide salt marshes behind this barrier island.
Then on to Southport, with another tail wind compensating for an hour's ride down a straight, busy, uninteresting highway to get there. Southport has a large number of attractive homes surrounding a tiny downtown and a small harbor. Our cozy B&B room overlooked the mouth of the Cape Fear River and the Oak Island Lighthouse, brightest in the US and visible 22 miles out to sea.
With that tailwind we were in early enough to have half a day to walk the town, and discovered that we had missed by a week the filming in Southport of The Secret Life of Bees, which Louise finished (and loved) reading about the time they finished their filming. At the harbor we came upon
this marker telling us we're 596 miles from Key West and 581 from Nantucket. Hmmm, we've biked about 1500 miles since the start of January -- obviously not as the crow flies.
From Southport to Wilmington, 35 miles, we've taken our time even more, breaking that into 2 days of riding and 3 days off the bike so we could visit a great aquarium,
the remains of Fort Fisher, Caroline Beach State Park, and Wilmington itself. Wilmington was the largest city in NC
from 1840 to 1910 and had its greatest glory during the Civil War when it was a hotbed of blockade running, primarily because Fort Fisher protected the passage to Wilmington up the Cape Fear River. The last naval campaign of the Civil War was the storming of Fort Fisher in January 1865 and the subsequent taking of a few small forts further up the river and then the capture of Wilmington itself just a few weeks before it was all over.
As Fort Fisher was made primarily of man-made sand dunes, it had largely returned to nature when a renewed interest in the Civil War in the '70s triggered archeological explorations that led by the '90s to a partial reconstruction. The photo shows the area of the fort that federal soldiers stormed in the turning point of the fight, and it must have seemed like suicide at the time to try running up that hill even if you did have hundreds of comrades at your side joining you. Places like this are so sad.
Another day off the bike was happily spent hiking over to and through a state park famous for Venus Fly Traps. Little-known fact: they are native to a very small area, roughly a circle 50 miles from Wilmington NC.
We never did find one, probably because it's too early in the season. We did find this unusual flower that looks vaguely insectivorous like the notorious Venus. Any horticulturalists among our readers who can identify it?
We're now in Wilmington, another city with a large attractive residential area downtown, much like Savannah but with more Victorian homes and fewer mansions. We planned on two nights here with a day to see the city, but today was in the high 40s and rainy with a strong headwind, so we decided to hunker down once more at
our nice B&B and enjoy reading some of the 6 books we bought on the way into town -- hey, when you find a good bookstore, you act! -- and to catch up on the blog at the city library.
We'll close with a photo of another couple far crazier than us. They heard about us coming up the coast on their tandem,
then finally caught us a few days ago and rode together for part of a day, and are now well ahead of us. That's Hap and Diane Eaton, and they had biked 8500 miles from last May to when they met us, and will probably hit 10,000 by the time they get back to Ohio. They went west to Seattle, down to LA, east to St. Augustine and now north to PA, where they'll take a hard left and head home. Whew! Makes US tired, thinking about it!