Day 96 (11.19.10): The Great Dismal Swamp

Normally, road closures are inconvenient at best. We're never sure how far out of the way the detour will take us, what kind of roads we'll be on, or if they'll even be passable on a bike. Plus, since we don't have a GPS, most of our calculations are based on knowing how many miles we have to ride between point A and point B and ultimately, how far until we reach our final destination. Not to mention, we were already really, really tight for time!


Start End Lodging Miles $$ Spent Weather
Suffolk, VA Southern Shores, NC House (Scott & Kendra's House) 93.5 $7 L:42 H:56, Sunny, Windy


We woke up all snug and cozy in Skip and Chris's spare room not wanting to get the day started, but knowing that we had to because of the big day ahead of us. So, reluctantly we rolled out of bed and headed down to breakfast.

While Skip got out the dishes, Chris got together a delicious breakfast of eggs, bagels, and cereal. April thought the dishes looked really cool and "old timey" and fit really well with the cozy old southern house. So she said "Did you buy these old timey dishes to go with your old timey house?"

Skip and Chris looked at each other and then laughed. "Uh, no. When we bought those dishes, they were quite new and fashionable." So while I enjoyed the eggs, April got a good taste of her foot in her mouth. Haha!

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Skip went over the directions he had printed for getting us to Southern Shores in the Outer Banks. By his route, we had 93 miles to go to get to Southern Shores, not 87 like we had thought last night (the extra miles coming primarily from avoiding dangerous or unusable, by bike anyway, roads). Yikes! We weren't very excited to hear that, but we figured if we got to it, we could still make it.

With our stuff all packed up and our bellies full, we thanked Skip and Chris for their generosity and got going. On the way out of Suffolk, we passed by a statue of Mr. Peanut. Yes, that Mr. Peanut. Suffolk is the home of Planters!

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Once we got out of town, we really started pushing it. There were almost no hills, and we had a slight tailwind. Woo-hoo! As we rode, we began seeing little white fluff balls all along the sides of the road. At first we weren't quite sure what it was, but soon we came to a cotton field and realized it was all cotton! Neat!

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Before long we came to our final border crossing: Virginia to North Carolina!

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We also wanted to take a moment to thank another one of our supporters: Larry Slack! Thanks Larry!!

As we tried to situate ourselves to take a picture and video, I managed to stab the back of my ankle with my front gears. Ouch! The cut wasn't too bad, so we took our picture and made the video, but I definitely needed to clean it out and cover it with a band-aid so it wouldn't become infected. Of course, since this was the first we'd needed the first aid kit on the whole trip, it was clear on the bottom!

This isn't the first time the item we've needed is underneath everything else. In fact, I created "Nathan's Law of Pannier Placement" (N-LoPP for short) which states that any given item will be the furthest from the top of the pannier at the exact moment said item is needed. April has a corollary which states that the item will be in the pannier which is most difficult to get to (e.g. the one on the side of the bike that is leaning against the wall).

Anyway, while I was fishing out the kit and cleaning my wound, an older gentleman, who had been working in his garden, and his dog, came over to ask if we were okay and if we needed anything. We assured him we were fine and, having finished bandaging my ankle, we were soon on our way again. The dog started to follow us, so we stopped and told him to go home.

About half a mile down the road, we came to a gas station where we decided to stop, use the restroom, and have a quick snack. When we came out I looked up, and who should be coming toward us? That's right, the dog. He came right toward us, sat down in front of me, and looked up expectantly. Great…

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We didn't really want to take the extra time to run the dog home since we were on a tight schedule, but we weren't sure what to do, so April went in to ask the gas station attendant if the dog came to visit very often. "Oh, yes," the attendant assured us, "He comes down here all the time. In fact, he usually goes another couple miles up the road to a little diner where he gets some scraps." Feeling relieved about not having to take the dog home, we continued on our way.

A little further up the road, we passed the doggy's diner and turned east. And our nice tailwind turned into a mild cross-wind. Bummer. At least it wasn't very strong!

Our turn to the east also signaled the start of our journey through "The Great Dismal Swamp." No joke, that's really the name. And it was, we quickly discovered, appropriately named. For as far as we could see, it looked dead, and dismal, and swampy. It seemed that at any moment we should come across some fairy tale hero and swamp monster about to engage in an epic battle!

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We were making great time despite the wind, when suddenly we came to this:

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Normally, road closures are inconvenient at best. We're never sure how far out of the way the detour will take us, what kind of roads we'll be on, or if they'll even be passable on a bike. Plus, since we don't have a GPS, most of our calculations are based on knowing how many miles we have to ride between point A and point B, and, ultimately, how far until we reach our final destination. Not to mention, we were already really, really tight for time!

The detour ended up being pretty big, but we had no idea how many miles, if any, it actually added to the route. Not that it mattered too much. We were already pedaling about as hard as we could in order to make it to Southern Shores before dark. More importantly, we really, really, didn't want to cross the 2.5 mile bridge from the mainland to the Outer Banks in the dark!

Finally, we stopped to eat and use the bathroom at about mile 60. We figured we only had about 27 miles to go. And there were still about 2 hours before dark! We were going to make it! We would have to still go pretty hard, but it was totally doable! Or so we thought.

Our astute, math inclined readers are already noticing a discrepancy. They're saying, "Wait, wait, wait. If we add 60 and 27, we get 87. But don't you remember, you're not going 87 miles, you're going at least 93 and maybe even more thanks to the detour!!"

And right you would be, but at this point in our day, we had completely forgotten that our bike friendly route was indeed 93 miles long. We were just feeling proud of ourselves for going so far in such a relatively short time.

As we were getting ready to leave from our rest break, some guy called out "Hey roadie, where ya headed?" It took us a minute to realize he was talking to us. We'd been across the whole United States, and this was the first we'd heard the term "roadie". Turns out that apparently "roadie" is a term mountain bikers use to refer to road bikers. Anyway, we told him where we were going, he wished us luck, and we were on our way.

A few miles down the road we got our wake-up call. Or sign rather. It said 32 miles to Kitty Hawk. Kitty Hawk and Southern Shores are neighboring cities. Kitty Hawk is south after crossing the bridge, Southern Shores is north. That meant there were also 32 miles to Southern Shores and almost 30 miles to the bridge! Ah, not good!!

Later, April said that after seeing that sign, it was a good thing we had 30 miles of hard riding to decompress before we met our hosts for the night. I think she may have a point, because after realizing we had so much further to ride than we thought, we were both pretty frustrated and grumpy!

We rode hard to get to the bridge before sunset. It was probably the longest distance that we maintained 17-18 mph on the whole trip. It was hard, but we did it! We stopped for a quick break before starting over the bridge. I ate some gummy candy I had for some quick calories, but April didn't want any.

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By now we were both feeling exhausted. Our muscles were aching, and our butts weren't feeling much better, but we knew we were almost there and that we had to push just as hard for the last few miles if we wanted to make it before dark (and we did!).

For me, the bridge wasn't too bad. I kind of enjoyed riding across as sunset approached. It was beautiful, and since the traffic was fairly light and there were two lanes going each way, the fact that there wasn't a shoulder was a non-issue because traffic could flow around us. For April, however, the bridge was a very different experience.

April hadn't eaten the gummies like I had, and while I was enjoying the view, she was starting to feel a little light headed and dizzy because she was so low on calories. All of her attention was focused on riding in a straight line and not swerving into traffic or over the side of the bridge. That thought got her thinking of what she should do if she DID fall off the bridge into the water.

I wonder if it was something like that scene from Aladdin when the Genie was going over the emergency exits on the flying carpet. "In case of emergency, the exits are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, anywhere!"

Fortunately, we both made it over the bridge without any incidents. And we made it to Scott and Kendra's house before it was dark! We ended up with an average pace of 15.3 mph over the 93.5 miles our route ended up being. That gave us two trip records: most miles in a single day AND fastest average pace for a day! Wow!

We said a quick hello to our hosts, parked our bikes, and then took a short walk to cool down our muscles so that hopefully our legs won't be too sore in the morning! Then we met Scott and Kendra's three girls: Aliza, Lilly, and Emma, ages 7, 6, and 4 respectively. They were super cute and pretty excited to show us where we would be staying.

After a much needed shower, April played Go Fish and Memory with the girls, and I filled Scott and Kendra in on our trip while we waited for dinner to bake in the oven. Dinner was served shortly afterwards, and let me say, pizza and salad never tasted so good!

It was the girls bedtime after we finished eating. While they were being tucked in, Scott told us a bit about his own long distance bike tour a few years ago and some of the adventures he'd had. Then he told us that he and Kendra were in the process of launching their own business. Cool!

Since we are planning to start our own business when we get home, we were definitely interested in getting their perspectives, lessons learned, etc. Their business is Kena Sportswear and is centered around the active mom lifestyle. We had a great discussion, and we'll definitely be following up with them in a few months to see how things are going!

All too soon, it was our own bed time. Scott and Kendra said they would do their best to keep the girls from bothering us before we were up, but warned that we might be awakened by the girls jumping on our bed. Haha! I thought about shutting the French doors to our room, but discovered there was no way to open them from the inside. So I left them open just a bit.

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It's pretty amazing to think that we're in the Outer Banks now. No more denying that the trip is drawing to a close. It's kind of a sad thought really…

Thanks for reading, and we'll see you tomorrow!

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