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Day 74-75: May 17th-18th, Kiptopeke State Park to Stockton, MD to Rehoboth, DE

We woke up at the state park and had to ride 27 miles into the wind before reaching an actual town with actual food and actual coffee. The town was called Exmore and we stopped for breakfast at the Exmore Diner. It was a one of those old-timey diners built in what looks like a gigantic Airstream trailer and we were, very clearly, the only non-regulars in the place. As always, we quickly made friends. One fellow close-talked us for a while and offered to buy us breakfast (we politely declined). Some bikers (Harley kind) sat next to us and encouraged us to “be safe out there” (then proceeded to ride away sans helmets, of course). Sophie placed our order and after she ordered my portion (two sweet potato pancakes, one regular pancake, two scrambled eggs, a side of bacon and a coffee) the waitress began to walk away and Sophie had to awkwardly tell her that that was only for one of us. Five different people commented on the amount of food we were eating and the waitress asked us, “Where do y’all put all that!?!” Sigh. Then, to add to the embarrassment of it all, I wanted to get a stronger cup of coffee after breakfast so we went to a bakery in town. There we were recognized by a patron from the diner who poked fan at us and then directed us to the ice cream shop down the road. Eventually we got back on our bikes and headed toward the Maryland border. We stopped for a snack at what appeared to be a cute country diner that was, in fact, a super gross roadside dive. We got lemonade which smelled and tasted strongly of sulfur and salads that I won’t go into detail about but suffice it to say that it’s the first time I’ve been concerned about food poisoning from a salad. During the stop, though, we had a couple older gentlemen ask about what we were doing and where we were going. After getting back on the road and riding about five miles those same gents pulled their car over ahead of us and flagged us down. One of them owned a giant farm right on the water a few miles away and they offered us a place to stay, hang out, nap, shower, whatever because they were just “so impressed” by us. Again, we declined but were very grateful for the offer. As ever, nice people everywhere. For many miles we had seen billboards advertising a place called Stuckey’s and, as a cultural experience, we decided we had to go. It had been billed as a gigantic Virginia gift shop, restaurant, novelty item haven, etc. What it was was a gas station that sold a whole lot of candy and some religious tshirts. I did get some awesome pecan pie though so it wasn’t a total bust.

We were scheduled to stay with a warm showers host just over the Maryland border. We got there around 6pm and regretted the decision pretty much immediately. Almost all of our Warm Showers experiences have been awesome. At the very least we have always felt safe and had a clean place to sleep. More often than not we have had kind, generous and interesting hosts whom we are sad to have to leave in the morning (I was ready to move in with Pam and Guy). This was not that. By the time morning rolled around we tried to decline having breakfast at the house because we just wanted to get out of there so bad. It’s hard to describe it all in enough detail to do the experience justice but some highlights include: our host appeared to be drunk when we arrived and proceeded to taunt us when we declined his offer of beer. He told us he was “in prison for many years” at which point I was ready to run for the door but eventually it became clear that he had worked in prisons, not been a prisoner himself. Sophie and I both tried to make small talk with him but he told us firmly, without a hint of sarcasm, that we were not allowed to ask him questions. A lot of silence ensued. He had a young Taiwanese wife who seemed to be very nice but she was never formally introduced to us and mostly ignored us. The room he gave us to sleep in was also used for incubating chicks so neither of us slept a wink because of the chirping and scuttling of the chicks all night. There was only one bathroom in the house and it was not clean and, confusingly, seemed to serve the double purpose of kitchen storage. In the morning, we tried to leave around 6:45am. To his credit, he made us breakfast and coffee which was very nice of him but unfortunately he barely cooked the sausage which was literally red inside. Warm Showers is a wonderful thing and the people who volunteer to open their homes and host strangers are, almost always, incredibly generous and kind souls. We have appreciated the kindness of all these folks along the way. Though I applaud this guy for trying to do a nice thing, I would have been far happier camping than had to endure the discomfort of staying with him.

Soooooo anyway… we left Stockton early and were excited not only to be outta there but also to be on our way to Rehoboth, DE. Last year Sophie planned a surprise trip for me with my little sister and former roommate to Rehoboth, home to our favorite brewery, Dogfish Head. We had such a great time last year that we decided early on that our bike trip would include a few days here. Unfortunately the ride was actually pretty miserable because of the fierce headwinds we were battling all day but once we got here we were happy as clams. Our first stop was the Dogfish brewpub where we sampled some of our favorite beers and celebrated having made it here, so close to the end of our trip. We will spend a couple days here, enjoying the last few days of the trip and, hopefully, trying every beer on the Dogfish menu!

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Sophie’s favorite wildlife area

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Battling the wind in Delaware

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Our first beers at Dogfish Head. This is the face of happiness.

 

Day 73: May 16th, Virginia Beach to Kiptopeke State Park

When we woke up in our campground it was raining lightly and the forecast was for heavy rain for most of the day. We packed up as quickly as we could and hopped on our bikes just in time for the skies to open up and start dumping rain on us. After five very wet and unpleasant miles, we found a Starbucks where we took up residence for the next six hours. Thanks, friendly Starbucks staff. We spent the entirety of those six hours finalizing our decision to move to San Diego where I will be attending medical school at UCSD. Eventually around 2pm the skies cleared and we emerged from Starbucks for a celebratory lunch. The highlight of the day was getting to call my mom to wish her a happy birthday and let her know that we would be coming home to California for the next four years.

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This is what I look like when I’m soaking wet and contemplating my future

 

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Who needs expensive rain gear?

After lunch we headed for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel entrance. Bicycling is not allowed on bridge-tunnel so the Virginia DOT will shuttle cyclists across in pickup trucks for the price of the $15 toll. We loaded our two bikes, eight bags and other miscellaneous swag into a pickup truck and an affable VDOT employee named Jesse drove us across to the eastern shore.

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Gear loaded

 

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Gear unloaded

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Triple wide in the VDOT pickup with our new friend Jesse

Across the Chesapeake, we reloaded our gear and rode to Kiptopeke State Park under clear blue skies.

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Sophie facetiming with Stoked friends at Kiptopeke State Park

Day 72: May 15th, Salvo, NC to Virginia Beach

We reluctantly left our cushy digs in Salvo early on Thursday morning and had planned to go about 105 miles to Virginia Beach, taking advantage of favorable winds. After cruising the first 33 miles, we stopped near Kitty Hawk for our customary gigantic pancake breakfast. Word of what we were doing spread like wildfire through the staff at the breakfast place and we felt like local celebs as we ate our pancakes, eggs, bacon, fruit bowls, bananas and coffee (this meal may have been a new record for us). Not long after leaving the breakfast place we crossed a long bridge with gnarly crosswinds. It was terrifying. When we got to the other side Sophie had huge blisters on her hands from gripping her handlebars so hard. Aided by the best tail winds of the trip, we busted out the next 45 miles to get to Currituck, NC where we took yet another ferry ride.

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The scary windy bridge crossing

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Waiting for the ferry and consuming a typically gourmet lunch

 

Ferry rides continue to be the best part of any day because we get to make forward progress without lifting a finger. This one brought us across the Currituck Sound to a wildlife area just 10 miles south of the Virginia border. We had grand plans of another border crossing video when we suddenly realized that we had crossed the state line without realizing it. We continued on and despite the fact that we were generally heading north, the road was winding all over the place and the wind couldn’t make up its mind so our glorious tailwind ceased to push us along. The roads started to get more city-sprawl-like, meaning higher speed limits and many more cars, so we were happy to arrive at our campsite for the night and stop biking for the day. At the end of this 105 mile day, we were tired and hungry and ate peanut butter and jam sandwiches while barely exchanging a word, all we could do was space out.

Day 58-59: May 1st-2nd: Aiken, SC to Charleston

We left Doc Brown’s house on Thursday morning and had breakfast at a local mom and pop joint that she recommended. We got our pancake fix (the addiction has really taken hold at this point and it’s unclear what will happen when the ride ends and we are no longer burning 4000 calories a day on a bike) and headed for Walterboro, SC, home of our next Warm Showers hosts. We stopped in Barnwell, SC for a snack and found a local coffee shop where we stuck up a conversation with the woman working the counter. Her name was Tonya and she was so interested and impressed with our trip that she made us free snack packs with apples, muffins and biscotti. Unbelievable. We hung out with Tonya for a while and swapped stories before heading out again.

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Instructions in the bathroom at the breakfast joint in Aiken

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Tonya, the magical gift-bearing friend from the Coffee House

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We’re considering a career move into posing with signs

We had to stop for around two hours in the middle of the day because it started to pour down rain but eventually it lightened up enough to get back on the road. By the time we ┬ámade it to Walterboro we were wet and tired and incredibly happy to find that our gracious host, Ron, was ready with a delicious homemade dinner. Ron is a touring cyclist as well and had lots of stories about his own adventures. In his spare time he also makes wine, which we got to try. In the morning he and his wife Debbie made a big, tasty breakfast for us and eventually we hit the road, headed for Charleston. It took a bit longer than expected to get to Charleston because of an unexpected “detour” (reading maps can be hard sometimes) and the fact that South Carolina is the least bike friendly state we’ve encountered on our entire trip. Bike lanes to do exist and, once again, unpaved roads are often the only alternative to the main highway. So we dodged fast-moving vehicles and rode on sandy lanes and finally made it to Charleston. In Charleston we are staying with Sophie’s friend Josh’s brother Mark and his wife Jenn. They were both working on Friday night so Mark lent us his car and we hit the town just the two of us. We found a super delicious dinner spot (where, after all these weeks in The South, we finally had boiled peanuts) and wandered around town after dinner sampling every dessert spot we came across.

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Waiting out the mid-afternoon rain

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Ron and Debbie, our warm showers hosts in Walterboro

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Boiled peanuts are confusing

 

 

Day 55-57: April 28th-30th, Mid-Georgia East into South Carolina

On Monday we woke up at Indian Springs State Park and headed out early. We stopped after 20 miles for a big breakfast and then again after 50 miles to mail our wedding stuff back. We had been carrying it in our pannier bags for two days (dresses, high heels and all) until we finally came across a post office. That night we stayed at another state park where the park hosts warned us of some incoming weather.

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Identity crisis at the post office

Luckily it didn’t rain on us overnight but as soon as we hit the road in the morning it started to rain. After 20 miles we came to the first town of the day and stopped for breakfast and to wait out the rain. The folks at the diner we found were very friendly and, like everyone we met in rural Georgia, warned us about the weather. Our waiter had tons of questions for us about our trip. He also asked if Sophie was my daughter. That was a first — and, I desperately hope, a last. The rain held up and we got back on the bikes and headed for Augusta. Riding into Augusta was basically impossible. Like most of The South, Georgia, and particularly more urban areas in Georgia, is not the most bike friendly place. Mapping a way into the downtown area without riding on terrible highways was like solving a maze. We stopped at a Fresh Market (The South’s answer to Whole Foods) to stock up on supplies and figure out where we were going next and, once again, had a million people tell us about the incoming Sharknado and decided that rather than camp we would find a hotel room for the evening. We found a room in the historic downtown district of Augusta, got showered and changed, and headed out to check out the town. We found some good, cheap beers at a couple bars and tasty dinner. When we awoke in the morning, we found that the long-expected storm never really arrived. It was raining a little but nothing ┬álike what everyone kept warning us about. The forecast for the day showed yet more rain so we hung out in a local coffee shop for several hours, sipping coffee, reading, chatting and generally enjoying our lazy morning. Finally around 1pm we hit the road, crossing the South Carolina border and rode to Aiken, SC, about 20 miles away. We stopped at the local brewery for a beer and immediately made several new friends, including two guys who bought us a round because we had, “the best legs we’ve seen around here in quite a while.” After our beers we went for a walk around town during which I declared that I liked Aiken and Sophie said, “You like any town with a bakery,” which, I guess, is true. Then we dropped $10 at the local candy shop (Sophie likes any town with a candy shop). Having finished our nutritious lunch of beer and candy, we rode on to our Warm Showers host for the night, Dr. Cindy Brown, a local veterinarian. Doc Brown was an awesome host. She fed us a delicious dinner, full of actual nutritional value, and regaled us with stories of white water canoeing adventures and exotic animal surgeries.

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We had a bike path for about 100 yards, which was very exciting