In Search of the Meaning of Life – An Autobiography (Chapter Seven, Part Six – The U.S. Bike Trip Continues)

Thursday, October 21, 1976     Day 30     65 Miles, Total: 1010     $14.50, Total: $249.51

We cleared out of the pavilion and traveled east on Highway 250 into Charlottesville.  We stopped at a Humpty Dumpty hamburger restaurant and spent $4.50, but the food wasn’t very good.  The wind was very strong, gusting to 35 mph, and when we saw that Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, was on the top of a hill we decided to skip it.  We continued south on Route 20, the “Virginia Byway” or better known as the “Constitution Route” according to the signs.  Along the way we stopped at a grocery store and spent $10.00 on a lot of canned food.  There were quite a few large old stately southern homes along the route, but later there was a marked contrast of poor, broken down shacks.  About the time we were thinking of finding a place to camp for the night, we came across a house set back from the road and surrounded by the scrub pine forest that blanketed that part of Virginia.  In the driveway was a Cadillac, a Blazer and a Grand Prix; not to mention an inboard/outboard speed boat.  So we decided that this house was just as good as any other to ask permission to camp nearby.  We asked the man at the door if we could pitch a tent in the back corner of their yard, which was huge, and he said ok.  After the tent was set up, he and his wife invited us in for lasagna, and at the time I think it was the best meal that I had ever eaten (JoAnn and Gene – Mr. and Mrs. E.R. Davis, Dillwyn, VA).  In the morning Mrs. Davis invited us in for the biggest breakfast of our lives: toast, eggs, sausage, coffee, orange juice.  Mr. Davis was in the wood pulp business, and came back home for a late breakfast from work.  We stayed for a short while after breakfast to listen to Mrs. Davis tell us her family’s life story and to catch up on the local gossip, then we had to ride on.

(1994 Editorial Comment:  The land in Virginia was changing from the rocks and old forests of the Appalachians, to scrub pine forests and sandy earth.  Gone were the vast mountain vistas and scenic views, but now I was beginning to get the “coast fever.”  I coined the phrase that “it’s all downhill to the coast from here” and must have quoted it a million times between the Appalachians and the Atlantic Ocean.  But the funny thing was that there never was a “downhill to the coast” road, and there was even a sand dune to climb over before making it to the beach once we were at the ocean.)

(2009 Editorial Comment:  We had now traveled 1,010 miles and passed the first really big milestone so far on the trip.  This was our first experience with “Southern Hospitality” and the Davis family took us in as if we were part of their family – as if long lost “relatives” – and Mrs. Davis brought us up to date with everything was happening in their family, in Dillwyn and in the wood pulp industry.  What a fantastic experience this trip was for us, and meeting and talking with people along the way was quickly becoming the trademark experience of this trip.  What had started out as adventure – bicycling, camping and traveling – was evolving into an adventure focused more on life, as we met people along the way that helped us and that we ended up relying on.  Again, Mrs. Davis was extending to us her warm Southern Hospitality as a way to “mother” us while we were out on the road – in what I believe was a tribute to all mothers everywhere.)

Friday, October 22, 1976     Day 31     45 Miles, Total: 1055 Miles     $6.00, Total: $255.51

After we left the Davis’ house this morning, with a gift of a can of stew for the road, we rode down through Farmville and ate at a local restaurant for $5.00.  Then we kept on riding, and met a guy from Theta Kai fraternity at Hamden-Sydney College.  He said that we could crash there for the night, so we ate some bananas ($1.00) and other snacks, and went over to the college.  The frat house was a really bad mess, but we put the bikes in the basement and watched the Ali-Norton fight on TV, and then some of the Carter-Ford presidential debate before going to bed in the basement.  During the afternoon we had gotten in some Frisbee practice in the front yard of the frat house, and there was the usual music playing from speakers propped up in the windows, and guys drinking beer on the front steps.  We slept on a little stage in the basement that was covered with dirt, as it was the cleanest place that we could find.  The rest of the basement was a garbage dump, with cans and garbage all over the place.  We salvaged two warped spring bed frames and slept on them, which wasn’t that bad.

(1994 Editorial Comment:  The sun was shining, the temperature warmed up a bit and we took most of the afternoon off enjoying the chaotic atmosphere of the frat house.  It was time to unwind a little and have some fun, and that is exactly what we did.)

(2009 Editorial Comment:  The basement of that frat house really grossed us out, and was the kind of place that you could hardly walk through for all the junk and trash down there, and where you certainly didn’t want to touch anything.  Despite our surroundings, we managed to find a “sanitary” way to deal with everything and were able to get some sleep.  The frat house environment for a 20 year old that hadn’t partied very much in life was a real circus – and fun.)

Saturday, October 23, 1976     Day 32     55 Miles, Total: 1110     $20.18, Total: $275.69

We slept pretty good last night, got up at 8:00 a.m., and left early.  The road took us up into Keysville, where we bought milk, two boxes of natural cereal, and breakfast rolls for $3.50.  After our breakfast, we rode south on Highway 15 until it became a divided highway.  On that highway there was a very tall forest observation tower that we climbed, and afterwards we ate some cereal at the tower’s base and lay out in the sun, although it really didn’t get very warm.  We continued south on Highway 15, and stopped at a Tastee Freeze for a couple of Sundays – $1.50.  Then we rode on into Wylliesburg and then on to Red Oak.  We found that there wasn’t much in either town, and kept going south until we got to Buggs Island Lake.  We crossed the lake on a bridge going into Clarksville.  We stopped at a police station in Clarksville, and they let us sleep in a side room of the station.  It doesn’t get much safer than that.  We dropped off the bikes and went to eat at a restaurant, and although you won’t believe this, we splurged and ordered a half chicken each with tossed salad, vegetable, potatoes, rolls, milk, strawberry shortcakes with whipped cream and ice cream.  It was all topped off with a bottle of Michelob beer.  The total came to $15.18, which shot our budget for a month, but it was really good.  We decided that we couldn’t live on canned lasagna forever.  I only had $12.00 with me at the time, so I walked back to the police station to get a traveler’s check and came back.  It’s about 7:30 p.m. and we’re getting ready to crash for the night.  If we get an early start tomorrow then Fayetteville, North Carolina, should only be two days ride from here.  I’m sure that we’ll sleep good tonight.

(1994 Editorial Comment:  We were loosening up again, after the challenges of the mountains that we had left behind.  The trip was starting to become fun again, the weather was warming up, and we could almost smell the Atlantic Ocean’s salt air breeze from where we were.  We were resigned to the fact that our money was starting to run out quicker than we had planned, but our attitude was to enjoy it while we could.  Besides, in two days we’d be at Bruce’s brother’s house, and then we could relax for a while.  Still, plans were being sketched out for finding a job, for when and where we would need it.)

(2009 Editorial Comment:  I remember as I wrote the dinner account in the log book that no one would believe the meal that we had ordered and eaten.  In a way we were celebrating having made it through the Appalachians and it was important to enjoy our success – no matter how fleeting or short lived.  What’s the point of going on an adventure if you can’t even enjoy it and celebrate now and then?  The traveler’s check episode was actually funny to read about again.  We carried all of our money in traveler’s checks, and every time we cashed one it was very obvious that our money was dwindling – fast.)

Sunday, October 24, 1976     Day 33     30 Miles, Total: 1140 Miles     $11.00, Total: $286.69

When we woke up it was raining, so we stayed in bed a while longer until 8:30 a.m.  By 10:00 a.m. the rain had stopped, so we decided to take our chances and make a run for it.  About ten miles north of Oxford, NC, it started raining and it continued until we were just about into town.  In Oxford, we went to a Hardee’s hamburger restaurant and spent $5.00 on dinner.  After dinner we went over to the local police station and asked them if we could stay in a back room out of the rain, and they let us put the bikes in a council room.  Afterwards we walked through the town, but there was nothing going on on a Sunday.  We bought some ice cream for $2.00, and then bought some breakfast food and snacks for tomorrow – $4.00.  Back at the police station we made some Jiffy Pop in the council room, but we cooked it a little too long and it smoked the place out.  Then we watched some football games on TV, followed by 60 Minutes, and then decided to go to bed at 8:00 p.m.  All for now.

Monday, October 25, 1976     Day 34     45 Miles, Total: 1185 Miles     $13.00, Total: $288.69

We left Oxford and rode south on Highway 15 after eating our breakfast of donuts at the police station.  It had rained that night, and it was lightly sprinkling when we left.  As we rode south the road went up and down, and never did seem to straighten out.  In a small town we bought bananas, milk, and orange juice for $2.00, and took a lunch break.  Then we continued south on Highway 50 on the way towards Raleigh, and saw one of the policemen from Oxford while he was off duty.  The road continued on like a roller coaster into Raleigh, and we soon found ourselves on a highway that must have had twelve lanes.  In town we went to the Salvation Army, after the firemen in town gave us directions, but no one was there.  It started raining, so we waited for a while under the overhang of the church.  From there we cycled into the downtown area, cashed a check, and stopped in at a Chamber of Commerce office and asked for directions to N. Carolina State University.  We hoped to find a frat house or someplace to stay for the night.  It started raining once again along the way, so we stopped at a sub shop and ate three submarine sandwiches and washed them down with four beers for $5.00.  After asking direction again, we started out in the rain, and I saw a girl riding a bike with touring panniers on it on the other side of the road.  At the light she rode over to us and explained that she and her boyfriend had been riding from Buffalo, NY, and had had some problems and were staying in Raleigh.  She invited us to stay in their apartment for the night.  We were happy to get out of the rain and to get a shower.  Actually it was a bath, and that night we all went out for two more subs and six more beers for $6.00.  Then we crashed for the night in their apartment.  It turned out that the place had fleas, and I didn’t sleep at all, since the fleas were biting me all night long.  Such luck.  They were nice folks though – Dave and Jan.


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