I know what you are thinking. You are thinking “What is he doing back in Oxford already?” Well after I had made it across to the east coast and the Atlantic Ocean, I decided to forget about New York and all the horrible weather I would have to go through and instead took the quickest and shortest route to Oxford. It only took 5 days from Charleston. I know that is pretty quick, but this is Oxford in North Carolina and not to be confused with the Oxford in Mississippi. Don’t worry, I am not going back that way now. Yes, they have ‘spare’ Oxfords in the USA, but not as many as there are Jacksons or Jacksonville, they seem to be in every state that I pass through.
I stayed another day in Charleston, I had heard the weather forecast again and it wasn’t looking good. I stayed in while Jessica worked in her office. She went to the end of the drive to collect the post and was hotly pursued back by a barking Alsatian and just made it back I time. She carried on working, but saw the dog chase another person, go through all the recycling bins outside then chase a van down the road. She called Animal Control who said they would be over “…But DON’T go anywhere near the dog”. It had been drizzling but started to rain hard. Jessica came into the lounge and said “That dog is still running around and it is absolutely drenched. I think we ought to try and get it into the house”, “Oh ok, bringing the dog into the house is sort of not going anywhere near it, isn’t it? We could shut it in one of the rooms” I said but Jessica was concerned “No, we can’t do that, it will probably rip the place to pieces!” I was sent out in the pouring rain to try and bring it in. Even with an umbrella I was soon soaked, but I couldn’t see the dog anywhere and hadn’t seen any of the antics that Jessica had told me about. Jessica took the umbrella and went out and very soon came running back shouting “Quick, quick, it’s coming”. I stood by the front door and the dog came up to us, it seemed friendly enough but was very timid and frightened and very wet. I checked its collar but there was no tag so tried to dry it but it would have nothing of it. We left the door open and moved back with the dog on the doorstep and enticed it in with the help of Charlie, Jessica’s dog. It eventually came in, stood beside us and shook itself soaking us in the process. The floors were soon covered in wet footprints. Animal Control eventually turned up and said “We have seen this dog before”. There is never a dull moment in Jessica’s house. It rained all day, I didn’t even venture outside again.
I left the following day, followed highway 17, then diverted through the historical town and got onto the big bridge over the river which had a nice cycle path at the side. There were no signposts to the cycle path and if I had carried along the obvious route of 17 I wouldn’t have even been able to get on it. I followed highway 17 north for the whole day, it was never enjoyable, no shoulder and busy the entire day. It was boring too, through forest the whole time though at least it made it easy to find somewhere to camp.
At Georgetown I moved onto the smaller 701 still a boring road with no shoulder but at least it wasn’t so busy. It was another 37 miles to Conway. Mile markers are a funny thing in the US. Every state has its own rules, most of them have a mile number every mile, but here in South Carolina and in Florida they don’t have any at all. Texas had them every 2 miles, tiny little signs that were on alternate sides of the road, so really you would see one every 4 miles, though how the number worked I have no idea as they rarely seemed to be below 600 miles, even if it was only a short and minor road. Georgia’s were the silliest though, they reset theirs every time you entered a new county and there were plenty of those, nearly every time you crossed a bridge you entered a new county. I lost count of the number 1 mile markers I passed and it useless for working out how far you had to go to the next town. I crossed into North Carolina, I immediately liked it, there was a shoulder. It was only about two feet wide, but it gave me a little more space. Occasionally when there is no shoulder vehicles come mighty close and it doesn’t give me much confidence in their driving ability here, so I don’t know if they just passed too close or even worse just haven’t seen me at all. 95% of cars here are automatics, that frees one hand and the brain to carry out the other tasks that have to be done whilst driving such as stroking the dog on the lap, reading, checking the map, shaving, but more often than not talking on the phone. It seems almost obligatory to talk on the phone whilst driving, “I am just going out for a drive as I need to make a phone call. I will be back when I have scared the crap out of a cyclist!” My confidence isn’t enhanced by being a passenger in cars here either. I think am normally a good passenger, but here I just sit there, keep my mouth shut and pray, but that might be because I go in cars so infrequently these days. On one occasion though I did yell at the driver and undoubtedly saved a pedestrian from being hit on a pedestrian crossing. I stopped at a gas station in Bladenboro and joined the locals for a coffee who were sat at the tables. Being a Sunday it was quiet, people were either at church or sat at the gas station ogling at the good looking women working there. “We come here every Sunday and put the world to rights. It would be a much better place if everybody agreed with us” I was told. By the time I reached Elizabethtown it was raining…time for another coffee. I was cycling through fields and houses, not good camping country. I eventually spotted a nice track going into some woods, but the woman in the house opposite was watching me so I went over to try and get permission to camp there. As I started towards the house she went inside. I knocked on the door that had a big ‘Welcome’ sign. The dog barked but there was no answer, I knocked again, the dog carried on barking but there was still no answer. I left thinking how ironic that sign was and went down the track anyway. I camped amongst the tall trees. As the evening went by the wind picked up, there was a roar of the wind through the trees, though I was well sheltered and the wind hardly noticeable at the bottom of the trees. My only concern was that the wind would be blowing from the south in the morning, but before long I had other concerns as I heard nearby branches come crashing to the ground. I got around that problem easily enough, I just turned up the volume of the music I was listening to. In the early hours of the morning the rain started, and when it rains in the Carolinas it really rains! It rained hard and loud on the tent, so loud I couldn’t tell if the wind had stopped and left this depression over me.
It rained on an off but long and hard enough for me to delay my departure as long as possible. As I returned to the road the track was blocked by a fallen tree. But the day was on the up, the rain had stopped and I hadn’t even got went, the clouds were breaking, it was very mild and I had a tailwind, that is just about perfect. A few months ago people would stop and ask where I am going and when I told them New York, they would say “WOW! All the way to New York, that is amazing!” but now when I tell them they just say “Oh, right” and walk off. I guess that is a good indication that I am getting pretty close to New York. Having said that somebody asked me today and responded with “Wow! You are going to New York on that b-u-y-sickle, it will take you 57 days”. Each night now finding a campsite is tricky. I was heading through boggy woodland and houses with plenty of land owned by them, there seems to be little for me to camp in easily. I still don’t worry too much about it. I found an open field with a faint track going around it. I asked permission in the house across the road. “It is owned by the Duke and he wont mind, he is in Raleigh”, so I went around the field and into the woods on the other side. Once set up and in the dark it was quiet and nobody would see me there. I stood looking up at the stars hardly able to believe that camping possibilities had seemed so slim, yet this spot was just perfect.
This morning was colder than of late, though I was soon enough in shorts but kept me jacket on. People still tell me about the bad weather I am heading for, though right now it feels like spring. The scenery of the Carolinas hasn’t been that exciting. After Western USA it is hard to live up to, but the last 20 miles or so have been rolling hills through pretty farmland, the miles slip by easily.