2021 Outer Banks Bicycle Trip
This blog details the 6-day solo bicycle adventure of of Jeb Hunt from Durham, NC to the Outer Banks and back.
This isn’t the typical method I’ve used to write about my bicycle trips. Normally while on the trip, at the end of each day, I’d write and post a “blog” about the adventures of the day. This time, however, I wanted to focus on the biking and decided I’d write a thorough summary when I finished. It’s now a little over a week since I finished the 6-day trip and I’m finally sitting down (actually laying in a hammock) in the backyard on a breezy, but beautiful, 64F and sunny Sunday morning. Outside seemed like the only appropriate place to write something like this.
So that I wouldn’t forget the details, I did take notes throughout the day while on the bike trip. I’ll use these notes, pictures from my phone, and the map from my Garmin GPS bike commuter to relive the trip as I write. Hopefully this will keep the memories vivid now, and years from now, which is one of the main reasons I write these summaries.
Something To Prove
I always knew this trip was going to be different. First of all, it’s my first solo trip. I wasn’t quite sure what going it alone was going to be like. In the back of my mind was a “failed” solo trip in the summer of 2018 which turned into a wonderful serendipitous camping (and some biking) adventure with my parents and their motorhome. But it definitely wasn’t a bike trip.
I also turned 40 this year. It’s been 8 years since my first long distance bike trip, which also means I’m 8 years older. I know forty isn’t old, but you do start to wonder at what age will the pain and aches of a long distance bike trip lose its appeal. A big factor that I wanted to test out again after crossing the 40 threshold was the ability of my body to still recover in one night. On all my previous trips, no matter how hard of a day it has been, I’ve been so thankful that after one night’s rest I’m able to do it all again. I know at some point that is going to change, I don’t expect it to be for a while, but being that it has been two years since my trip to New Zealand, I was curious how I’d hold up.
There was one final thing I wanted to prove to myself. Ever since my first trip, I always thought I could push it a little harder if I really wanted to. I’ve only ridden over 100 miles in a day probably about 5 times. Only a few of those times has it been on a bike trip, and on a touring bike. The typical average daily mile average from my previous trips is somewhere between 70 – 80 miles. I’ve always thought that if I had to, I could push myself an extra 20 miles each day. I’m not quite sure why I thought that, or why it was important, but at this point I needed to actually show that I could actually do it or shut up about it.
So there you have it. I wanted to prove three things:
1) I wanted to prove that I am actually brave enough to be completely on my own and do a solo trip. If anything was to happen it’s completely up to me to figure it out and find the solution. It’s taking away the security blanket of having another person for the first time.
2) I wanted to prove that I’m still young enough and in good enough shape to handle a bicycle trip and still be able to recover with just one night’s sleep.
3) Finally I wanted to prove that I could actually do 95 and 100 mile days, multiple days in a row, if I wanted to.
Not to mention, I also wasn’t quite sure what taking a short bike tour while we were still in a pandemic was going to look like. I knew I’d need to pack masks and hand sanitizer. I also knew I wasn’t quite comfortable using Warmshowers again quite yet. But since I’m fully vaccinated and the trip is mainly outdoors, I figured it’s probably about the best way to travel given the circumstances.
How the Trip Came to Be
It was actually Sharolyn’s idea to combine a bike trip with a visit to see Jayme, Justin and the kids in North Carolina. My niece Jana had been born in December 2020 and we wanted to visit as often as possible while she was still young. We first visited in April during Easter. That was the first trip we took after everyone was fully vaccinated from COVID-19.
It made the most logistical sense for me to start and end the bike trip in Durham. That would allow my parents to stay in Durham and spend time with the family, and would also keep me close enough that I was never too far away in case of an emergency. I briefly thought about signing up for Bike North Carolina which happened to be doing a Mountains to Coast ride about the same time we were planning to go. I ultimately decided again that however, because the idea of being around so many people didn’t seem like a great idea in the current climate.
I knew I wanted the trip to be about a week long, covering as many miles as I could during that time. I initially thought about biking towards Washington DC (the previous destination for my “failed” 2018 trip. However, one day while Zwifting on my trainer and watching Netflix I ran across an advertisement for season 2 of the Netflix show Outer Banks. I had never heard of the show, nor really considered the Outer Banks as a destination, but started googling it anyway. Upon closer inspection the Outer Banks were a perfect bikeable distance from Durham (a few hundred miles), had some wonderful bike paths and views, and allowed me to make a loop instead of covering the same territory twice. Once I decided that a week-long 500ish mile long trip from Durham to the Outer Banks and back was the way to go, I did decide the watch the Netflix show about Kooks and Pogues. While the first few episodes weren’t bad (with a National Treasure like vibe) it only got progressively worse as the series went on. But that’s a whole different blong.
We left for Durham from Pensacola on the morning of Thursday, September 30th driving my parent’s motorhome. After a long day we arrived in Durhaml about 10:00pm. I planned Friday (October 1st) as a day to prepare my bike and panniers and get ready for the trip. My first week-long solo bike trip would begin on Saturday, October 2nd from Holly Point Campground about 15 miles northeast of Durham where Dad and I were camping during our stay. Sharolyn was staying with Jayme, Justin and the kids.
Day 1 | October 2, 2021
Holly Point Campground to RV Resort At Carolina Crossroads
76.59 miles – 6 hr 12 mins
The trade off for cooler biking temperatures in the fall and winter months are less hours of daylight. The sun doesn’t rise in North Carolina in October until after 7:00am. I was determined that I would be ready to go and on my bike to start the trip soon after that. I slept pretty well the night before and had gone to bed plenty early (before 10:00pm) so by 6:00am I was ready to wake up and get ready to leave by sunrise. Dad woke up around the same time and after eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast, I made sure everything was packed and ready and changed into my biking clothes. Dad offered me a banana for breakfast, and I opted to take it with me to save it for later down the road.
At around 7:15, with the sun barely above the horizon but still not over the towering trees of the campground, I straddled the bike, waved goodbye to dad as he stood in front of the camper, pressed go on my garmin and pedaled out of the campground. I was now on my first solo bike trip.
Everything went smoothly for about the first 2 minutes.Then, as I was switching gears to climb the tiny hill out of the campground, my chain slipped off. I figured maybe I had just switched too many gears too fast. I got off the bike and took a minute or two to get the chain back on. The chain slipped off again, so I switched into a different gear before placing it back on again. At this rate it was going to be a very long trip. I even contemplated turning around and taking a more serious look at my bike. But I figured if I did that I’d probably cancel the entire trip out of fear of something going wrong. Switching gears before placing the chain back on seemed to keep the chain on. I just decided to use my middle gears whenever possible since the chain slippage didn’t seem to happen unless I was in the lowest gear. I was hoping that plan would work.
It was a cool morning with temperatures starting out in the 50s. I started out in my classic athletic pullover, a favorite style of mine to wear on bike trips. I can push up the sleeves when I get hot and roll them down in cool winds. Plus it helps keep the sun off my neck. Sharolyn had also bought me an athletic-styled gaiter mask for the trip which I decided to also wear around my neck so that I wouldn’t forget to put on a mask when going into convenience stores, etc. The added bonus was that it was going to protect the back on my neck from sunburn as well. I ended up wearing it the entire trip. I also had my other adidas face mask (along with my phone) in the top tube pouch for easy access.
The first 10 or so miles were mostly wooded as I left the area surrounding the campground. I passed some really old farmhouses and even passed a small farm with llamas. The smell of bacon wafted through the air as I passed another farmhouse. It was Saturday morning and bacon was undoubtedly on the menu at that house. Already I was using all of my senses to experience the world around me, one of my favorite parts of a bike trip.
Fifteen miles in I made it to the small town of Franklinton, North Carolina with a population of only a few thousand residents. It’s the kind of town you only ride through on a bike trip. I didn’t see any reason to stop though so I continued on. My first break was around mile 26 in the town of Louisburg. I was ready for a short stretch break so I decided to stop in front of the Louisburg College Library which had some benches next to a walking labyrinth. Already the banana at the top of my pannier was looking appetizing so I decided to eat it then. I texted Dad to let him know that I was over 25 miles in and things were going fine. He was also going to be able to keep track of where I was on the trip using the live tracking feature on my Garmin. I wasn’t sure how long the battery would last using this feature, but it appeared it was going to last plenty long enough. He liked being able to always see where I was.
I walked over to a nearby trash can to throw away the banana peel and started to walk the labyrinth when I returned from the short walk away. I quickly abandoned the idea of walking the whole labyrinth though, because I realized it was going to take much longer than I wanted it to take, even at a very quickened pace.
Geoffrey called when I got back on the bike. I let him know I was on the road and the trip had started. It had warmed up enough that I had taken off my pullover and put it in my pannier. The high temperature for the day would be in the 70s. Perfect biking weather.
Not everything you see and experience while on these slow paced journeys is necessarily happy. I passed a person standing by a small roadside memorial cross on which I was assuming was a memorial of someone who had been killed in a traffic accident at that place. They had brought flowers to leave at the roadside memorial. Of course I didn’t know the specifics, and for the next few miles I would wonder about the different circumstances that lead to that moment. I said a little prayer for the person at the memorial and their families and wished them peace and comfort.
At about 45 miles in I pulled off on a back logging trail, hidden from the passing sparse traffic, and had some peanut butter and crackers as my lunch. I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to have “real” lunch, but the peanut butter and crackers seemed to be doing the trick for now. By around 11:30am I had already gone a total of 50 miles for the day, was making wonderful time, and I was ready for another quick break as I passed a convenience store in Hollister. I picked up a gatorade and some M&Ms to enjoy down the road. It’s nice to have a little candy in your pack just in case your energy levels get slow and you need a little pick me up. Candy isn’t great for providing energy for the long haul, but it is a great quick burst of energy. Sixty-two miles in near the town of Aurelian Springs, I noticed a covered picnic area with tables beside a small church. I thought it would be a nice place to have a short break and get out of the sun which was now in full abundance as I entered midday. None of my breaks were very long, and these would become the standard throughout the entire trip.
The traffic and roads were very kind throughout the day. Everything was back roads with space traffic. As I neared my destination for the day I crossed over the interstate and I knew I was now getting close to the campground I had chosen. Before long I had arrived at the RV Resort at Carolina Crossroads. I wasn’t sure if they allowed tent camping at the RV Resort, but was relieved to see a hotel near the entrance to the RV resort. The hotel would be my plan B. It is always good to have a plan B.
Following the signs to the RV Resort I soon found the registration building. I leaned my bike against the building, took off my helmet, and put on my face mask. When I inquired about space for tent camping, I soon found out that tent camping wasn’t allowed. I was both surprised and not surprised. All it takes is a patch of grass for me to set up my tent. Why not charge me a little bit and give me a little patch of grass for the night? I noticed a few small cabins near the registration building and inquired about them next. She mentioned that they were a minimum 2-night stay, but after a little pause, said she would rent one to me for the night since one was available. “Will you be very, very tidy?” she asked. “You won’t even know I was there,” I assured her. They hadn’t planned to do a full cleaning before the next renter arrived the following day, so I promised to be as clean as possible.
It wasn’t quite 3:00pm yet and I had biked the 76 miles I had planned for the day. That was the longest distance I had gone for quite some time. It was comforting news. Now, I just wondered how I would feel in the morning? That was the next question that needed to be answered.
Well, the next question was actually what I was going to do for dinner. At this point I was getting very, very hungry. The calories burned, and only small meals throughout the day, had caught up to me. It looked like I was going to have limited options. The closest town with restaurants looked like a 10 mile roundtrip and that didn’t seem like something I wanted to do at this point. After a little research I realized that I could order some pizza and have it delivered to the campground. Hot pizza sounds like a wonderful idea. Papa Johns seemed like the closest option so I ordered a medium sized pizza with lots of veggies. Under the additional notes section of the order I mentioned that I’d meet the delivery person at the entrance to the RV Resort. Seemed like a better idea than having the person roam around the campground looking for my exact cabin site.
“You weren’t kidding about meeting me at the entrance to the campground” the delivery driver said as they handed me the pizza. I had walked to the turnoff road for the campground. It seemed like a natural place to wait. The pizza had even arrived quicker than I was expecting and I hadn’t waited at the entrance for more than 5, possibly ten minutes. I was tempted to have a piece as I walked back to the cabin but I decided to wait. I was pretty sure I was going to eat the entire pizza, but surprisingly I was full after 6 of the 8 pieces. The cycling appetite hadn’t fully developed yet. I decided to save the other two pieces for a late night snack or possible for the bike ride tomorrow.
After the very early dinner I headed to the bathhouse which was attached to the registration building. I took a long, hot shower and got cleaned up from the dust of the day. After the shower I started to plug my electronics in to recharge my bike computer and phone, only to realize that I had brought the wrong phone charger. I had brought the right charger, but the wrong adapter to plug into the outlet. I started to slightly panic because I was now 75 miles away from my charger in the camper and wasn’t quite sure how easy it would be to bike the entire trip without the aid of a cell phone. I knew an electronics store would have an iPhone cord but there wasn’t one close. I thought there was a slight possibility that a gas station might carry one. Seems like I’d seen phone charges on a kiosk near the checkout at gas stations before.
There was a gas station about 1 mile away and the sun was still out, so I decided I’d ride the short trip (without panniers) and just hope they had a cord. On the short ride there I even passed a North Carolina license plate! Surprisingly I didn’t pick it up, but instead made a mental note to pick it up on the way back to the campground. I didn’t want to have to hold it both there and back.
I was so relieved when the gas station did have the cord I was looking for. I commented to the cashier that I would have paid double for this charge and for a second I think she thought about charging me double. I had more trouble than I was expecting finding the license plate on the way back. It was harder to see from the other side of the road. But eventually I didn find it and brought it back to the cabin. I had made it to my destination. I was fed and my batteries were charging and it wasn’t even dark yet. All and all it had been a successful first day. Maybe I can handle a bicycle trip by myself after all. Maybe.
Day 2 | October 3, 2021
RV Resort At Carolina Crossroads to Sunbury, NC
76.12 miles – 6 hr
I was relieved when I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready for another long day on the bike. My ability to recover completely with one night’s sleep was one of the things I wanted to test and see if it was still possible. I was on my bike again by 7:15am biking towards the rose-colored sunrise skies of the east. I didn’t eat breakfast before I left the cabin, but I made sure to pack the two leftover pieces of pizza and the extra chocolate milk I bought the previous evening. I figured these two would provide a breakfast of champions down the road.
The roads out of the Carolina Crossroads area were full of more farmland and small country roads. Being that it was very early Sunday morning, the traffic on these small country roads was empty of traffic, which was wonderful. I rode past “Historic Mill Pond” which appears to now be used as an outdoor wedding venue. With stacked tables and chairs under a white tent, it looked like there had been a wedding the night before and had some additional cleanup to do this morning. Birds, which appeared to be pheasants, roamed amongst the grounds.
Next was the area of Pleasant Hill, which was aptly named by the terrain. Gone were the slightly larger rolling hills of yesterday, to smaller, short climbs which were indeed pleasant to bike. I biked by a lot of small churches, many of them Methodist churches, such as Concord UMC which was established in 1795 according to its sign. Even though it was Sunday, it was still too early for anyone to be there yet. All of them had empty parking lots.
By 9:00am I had biked over twenty miles and decided to stop at the closed Margarettsville Post Office to enjoy my two pieces of leftover pizza for breakfast. It was a short break and before long I was back on the road passing cotton fields, collard fields, and watermelon trucks. And there must be peanut farms somewhere near, as a steady stream of peanuts were littered down the road for miles.
At 10:30am I was already 40 miles in and had reached the small town of Murfreesboro. Continuing with a “snack method” instead of a “meal method,” I purchased a calorie-rich blueberry muffin and gatorade at the convenience store at the edge of town. The route then took me onto the larger US Hwy 158, but still sparsely traveled on a Sunday mid-morning. By noon I had ridden 50 miles. By that time the route had taken me off of Hwy 158 near the town of Winton (a brief bathroom break in the woods), over the Chowan River, and through multiple other small towns, like Gatesville, around 63 miles in.
I arrived sunburnt (even though I stopped every few hours to put on sunscreen) in Sunbury at 2:00pm, which is earlier than I expected. When emailing with the owners of the Bed and Breakfast I planned to stay, I had guessed that I’d arrive sometime around 4:00pm. For the second day in a row, though, the roads and winds had been kind.
Since I was early, I found a park bench in the Rotary sponsored park in the one-stop-light-town of Sunbury. My meal options looked limited, so I snacked on peanut butter and pretzels and made a plan for the rest of the day. Near the only stoplight in town I did notice a Family Dollar. Though I wasn’t expecting to find many favorable food options, I figured my choices were limited already and I’d at least see what I had to choose from. After 15 minutes of roaming around the store trying to find something that would work for dinner, I bought a few more snacks and gatorades instead. I figured if worse came to worse (meaning I became desperate) I could always bike back and find something.
Though I was still early, I decided to go ahead to “The Teacheredge,” the bed and breakfast I had booked to stay at for the night. Since I was early I placed my bike near and sat at a table and chairs outside near the side porch. Before long the owners of The Teacheredge had found me and invited me inside.
A teacherage is a house for one or more schoolteachers, typically directly next to the school, similar to how a parsonage is a house for a parson or minister of a Protestant church. I had never heard the term before. Sure enough, directly next to The Teacherage was an rundown and closed, but historic looking, school building. The owners of the bed and breakfast were very kind and got me settled in quickly. When they asked about breakfast in the morning, I mentioned that I’d probably be leaving too early to enjoy the breakfast since I needed to make even more miles tomorrow. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for breakfast instead, but it seemed like the right decision since I was trying to make it all the way on to the Outer Banks tomorrow.
After a shower, I layed in the comfortable bed for a while while I considered food options. I checked food delivery apps (something I’d never considered before on previous trips), but alas I was too in the middle of nowhere for that to be an option. On google I noticed that the convenience store next to the stop light seemed to have a deli of some sort inside. I remembered biking past this convenience store, but honestly it looked so rundown that I didn’t stop. I was surprised it would have something like that inside. Reading the reviews, it sounded like it had Fried Chicken and sides. I think I had found my dinner place.
After a short nap I made the short walk to the convenience store, and sure enough the deli served some delicious fried chicken and potato wedges. I also noticed that they seemed to serve bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits in the morning. “What time in the morning does the deli open up” I asked the cashier as I was checking out. “This time of year, during hunting season, we open around 5:00am for the hunters to get breakfast.” Jackpot! I had now found my breakfast for the morning as well!
I decided to take my fried chicken to the park I had snacked in a little early. My appetite was starting to pick up more than yesterday, and I enjoyed the two large pieces and generous helping of thick potato wedges. Without a trash can in the park, and not wanting to walk back to the convenience store, I carried my trash with me back to the bed and breakfast. I was looking for an outside trash can so that the smell of chicken scraps wouldn’t overwhelm everything, but when I inquired, the owners said they didn’t have an outside trash can because of critters. She said I could throw it away in the covered trash can in the kitchen however. While in the kitchen she mentioned that Ii could help myself to some breakfast food early in the morning if I’d like, but I told her I was excited to hear about the breakfast sandwiches at the convenience store.
Though it was only about 5:00pm at this point, I settled into my room and took it easy for the rest of the night. A brief look at the weather looked like I might have my first headwind tomorrow. I wanted to make it more than 90 miles tomorrow, which might be hard in a head wind, so I made plans to start riding before sunrise when I thought the winds might be calmer. I made sure all my lights were charged and then set my early for around 5:30am. I figured if I got on the road around 6:00am that I could get 20 miles or so in before the winds picked up and increase my chances of making the longer distance.
Even though I was tired from 2 days of riding 75 miles, it still isn’t easy to fall asleep before sunset. I tossed and turned for a few hours, but finally around 8pm or so I think I fell asleep for the night.
Day 3 | October 4, 2021
Sunbury, NC to Oregon Inlet Campground (on the OBX)
96.4 miles – 9 hours 40 minutes
I was relieved when I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready for another long day on the bike. My ability to recover completely with one night’s
Day 4 | October 5, 2021
Oregon Inlet Campground (on the OBX) to Cedar Island, NC
70.3 miles – 9 hours 14 minutes
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Day 5 | October 6, 2021
Cedar Island, NC to Kinston, NC
105.7 miles – 9 hours 15 minutes
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Day 6 | October 7, 2021
Kinston, NC to Holly Point Campground
95.6 miles – 8 hours 41 minutes
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