Crossing a ditch first thing in the morning
My left foot was sliding into the orange mud, which was trying to suck my sneaker off my foot. I was lifting our bikes up to Dee, who had scrambled to the other side of the 15-foot ditch that we had to cross. Our bikes are heavy touring bikes, not like road bikes that you can heft up on a shoulder and then climb a flight of stairs. I had two options —lift the bike up a few more inches to Dee while getting my feet to more solid ground, or slide further into the muddy trench, bike and all, and lose at least one shoe.
It was one of a few moments so far, in these first three weeks of the trip, when I’ve had to suck it up and draw on whatever strength I could summon. (That damn Seven Mile Bridge in Florida on the first day also comes to mind.) I told myself I was strong, capable of lifting the bike a bit higher while finding better footing. And I am, and I did. Dee snapped the photo above as I crossed the ditch a third time, this time with my panniers.
Another reason why I’m taking this trip has something to do with tapping into strengths. Self-affirming reminders that I am strong and capable are not my usual self-talk. I can believe those things after a marathon, sure, or a century ride on a hot muggy day. But learning to trust and believe in my strength feels good. And for that, Dee is a role model beyond comparison.
And why, you may be wondering, were we crossing a muddy ditch anyway? Did our East Coast Greenway Bike ride turn into some kind of Spartan/mud run/obstacle race? We have been navigating mostly by using the East Coast Greenway online map (map.greenway.org) via a phone app, map.me. But we’ve supplemented our wayfinding with Google maps for bikes, especially to find our way to motels and coffee shops. It’s interesting how the two routes are closely aligned sometimes and other times vastly different. Dee was looking at the two maps last night and saw that we could cut off 20 miles or so today by taking the Google route. We’d only have a few miles of greenway either way, the rest would be on roads, so we opted for the shorter route. (We wanted to make sure we could get to a bike shop in Clayton with enough time for someone to take a look at Dee’s rear derailleur.)
About five miles into our ride we encountered ”road closed ahead” signs. We ignored them, because bikes can usually make their way around road construction projects, on the shoulder if nothing else. Welp, not this one!
It’s not the first time we’ve bushwhacked. There was this bit of greenway in Volusia County, Florida, that was actually fine for riding, they just had a few more details to finish up, maybe?
The rest of our day passed without much incident. It was a beautiful early summer day, the sun burning off the morning clouds, a fresh breeze keeping us cool. We passed more farms and fields and horses. Yesterday’s baby hills on the Cape Fear River Trail grew into full-blown hills, our first of the trip, engaging a few new leg muscles.
Clayton seems to be a sweet little community, 20 miles to the east of Raleigh. But I am excited for tomorrow, which offers 70 miles of mostly beautiful greenways taking me home to Durham, where I get to see Bob and spend two nights in my own bed. I may not be able to sleep well tonight, I’m so excited.
Plus I’m jazzed on sugar. We happened on a Dairy Queen this afternoon and I had my first ice cream of the trip, a soft serve hot fudge sundae. Right before dinner, as befits a rule breaker with mud on her shoes. Dee, by the way, peeled and ate an orange while I downed the sundae. Sometimes you have to ignore your role models.