Live A Big Life Ride

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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.

Days 68-71: May 11-14, Avon to Salvo for a few days off!

One of the things we miss most about our lives when we’re not biking across the country is the ability to take a slow morning and really relax over multiple cups of coffee. So, with only 25 miles to go this day, we luxuriated at the coffee shop in Avon for over 2 hours. Then, a quick 25 miles later due to more tailwinds, we arrived in the town of Salvo where we would be staying for several days. At STOKED we have an A+ supporter named Stephen, whose family owns a house in Salvo, and who generously offered it to us for the week! A house? With real beds? And laundry? And a kitchen? ON THE BEACH?! It’s exactly as wonderful as it sounds.

The towns of Salvo, Waves and Rodanthe are all teeny tiny, and exist on a skinny part of the Outer Banks where the entire island is about a 1/2 mile wide. With our days off we watched the NBA playoffs, made many batches of popcorn, eaten lots of fish, slept in, gone for runs on the beach, and other generally engaged in extra relaxing activities. We even both managed to finish our books and start new ones which is impressive since we have both been so mentally exhausted throughout this trip that reading has been nearly impossible.

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Not riding bikes

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Playing one of many games of gin rummy. It doesn’t matter who won (but I did).

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We’re into matching


On the last night of our mini-vacation we went out to a local bar and grill right on the water and watched the sunset, enjoyed some tasty local beers and food (including a burger with a crab cake on top!), and watched yet another excellent NBA playoff game. It was a luxurious way to spend a few days, especially considering that we’ve been so used to living in a tent and eating PB&J for dinner. Thank you again and again to Stephen and his family for providing the digs! You’re the best!


Day 67: May 10, Beaufort to Avon, NC

This day was to include multiple ferry rides, which is very exciting because that meant we would be making forward progress while not having to peddle our  bikes! We got up at 5:30am and were ready to roll (get it?).


Sunrise over the campsite

We had to crank out 30 miles to reach the first ferry, which left Cedar Island and took us 2.5 hours out and onto the Outer Banks. Really, riding ferries is quite exciting.


Enjoying the views


Madeleine’s hair going vertical

After the first ferry ride, we were on Okracoke Island of the Outer Banks. We were hungry (from all the sitting) and found a local joint on the recommendation of a fellow ferry rider, where we enjoyed the first of many seafood meals of the Outer Banks. But then we had to ride another 15 miles to the second ferry ride of the day, which continued the ferry excitement, over to Hateras Island. This was a shorter ferry ride, less than an hour, but we did make a new friend who was also into bike touring and was eager to hear any tricks of the trade we had picked up. All we could offer in the way of advice was to share the wisdom our gargantuan breakfasts.


More sight seeing

Then a VERY cool thing happened: we were biking from the ferry to our campsite for the evening, when this girl flagged us down on the side of the road. She said she had seen our jerseys on the ferry, gone to our website, thought it was cool and wanted to make a donation! So she handed me $40! Another example of spontaneous good deeds by strangers met on this trip. It made the last few miles to our campsite in Avon go by extra fast.


Lizzie, the benevelont fellow ferry rider