Category Archives: honeymoon

Honeymoon Recap (Outer Banks Tour)

Loop through the Outer Banks of NC; 6 days of riding; 285 mi (460 km)

6-day Bicycle route through the Outer Banks of NC

Bicycle route through the Outer Banks of NC

The trip was a resounding success! We had a great time, our bikes worked well, and we had enough warm gear to keep us going. We saw some awesome sights, including lighthouses and the Wright Brothers National Memorial. And we had quite a few adventures, like getting picked up by the Currituck Sheriff on the beach highway, the Sisyphean sand plows, and the (almost) never-ending muddy wildlife refuge road.

We knew we needed to head south from PA if we were going to have a pleasant bicycle tour in late November, but we were a little surprised by how cold the weather actually was in the outer banks!


Daily temperatures on our trip - colder than average!

Daily temperatures on our trip – colder than average!

On half of the days, the daily high was actually close to or below the average low. Brrr. But this ended up being useful, in the fact that we could test our cold-weather gear. We wanted to do this anyway, since we are planning to start in Alaska in May, and depending on the year it is chilly. We learned that we have enough warm things for our cores, but could definitely use a few items…


#1: Thin wool gloves – Our hands were warm inside the bar mitts, but wool gloves would have been better for wet conditions

#2: Neoprene booties – Our rain covers for our shoes did not hold up, and once our socks got wet our feet got cold. Good booties could remedy this problem by keeping out the cold and wind.

#3: Warm waterproof hiking boots – Our SPD-style riding shoes are actually summer shoes with a lot of mesh for breatheability and contain vents in the bottoms. These vents were great at letting in water! So, for those days that are both quite cold and really wet having some hiking boots would be great to keep our feet both dry and warm. Also, it would give us an extra pair of shoes when one is wet, and for hiking in general.

#4: Flat pedal attachments – We’ll need some pedal attachments to allow use of “normal” shoes if we wear our hiking boots when riding.

In other lessons learned… we definitely will be more careful with our use of Google Maps! There are a lot of roads on map services (and in GPSs) that are not very driveable – or rideable). This makes more of a difference when the road turns muddy, and the winter days are short. Speaking of which, this was our first winter-season tour, and we were caught off guard by how early it got dark! If we weren’t set up to camp by 4:30 or so we were in for a cold dinner — at around 5 PM it got dark.

The final lesson was that we need to get used to our new bicycles and the riding postures. I (Jason) started having knee pain part way through the trip, and it got so bad I couldn’t finish the ride back to Virginia Beach on the last day. We think it was brought on by a change in riding posture – our new bikes are set up to focus on the hamstring muscle group and pulling, as opposed to the quads and pushing – in combination with a lot of hard mashing into the wind. My knee is doing much better now, though, and this is good, since I commute via bicycle to work every day.

Drying the tent and rain fly.

Drying the tent and rain fly after returning home.

Honeymoon – Day 6

Pettigrew State Park, NC to Elizabeth City, NC: 58 miles

Route for day 6

Route for day 6

We woke up to a very cold morning. Hot water for oatmeal and coffee/cocoa lured us out of the ice-crusted tent. While Daisy got the tent packed up, it was my turn to hit the hand dryer over and over to dry out my shoes. When we were both sufficiently dry and decently warm, we stuck a hand warmer by the toes of each foot and got on the road.

No rain today! We had some headwinds, but it was much much more calm than the previous day. Also, our route was great – back roads the whole time, except when we had to cross the bridge over the Albemarle Sound. After the bridge we found a picnic table to eat lunch at. It was nice to sit in the sun.

To make it a little easier on ourselves, we decided to check our tire pressure and top it off. They weren’t too low, but we did put in an extra 20 psi or so. This was definitely noticeable with the fully loaded bikes. Since we didn’t install kickstands yet, we needed to find something to lean the bikes against — luckily this yard had some farm equipment.

Convenient spot to lean the bike for maintenance

Convenient spot to lean the bike for maintenance

However, the ground was still quite wet. A lot of the land was still swampy, although as we moved north we saw less standing water.

Trees in the swamp water

Trees in the swamp water



We found our preferred hotel as we rolled into the outskirts of Elizabeth City. The employee that checked us in looked like a high schooler that was getting paid to be on Facebook. The room was sufficient, and we cooked a delicious meal of rice, veggies, and sausage in the parking lot. While the meal was cooking we finally broke out our camp chairs, after carrying them all week. We shelled and ate some peanuts as an appetizer.

Cooking in the parking lot

Cooking in the motel parking lot

Honeymoon – Day 5

Ocracoke, NC to Pettigrew State Park, NC; 62 miles

Route for day 5

Route for day 5

What a day!  It was supposed to be a nice, easy 36 miles to the state park.  We failed to notice, however, that a few of the roads that Google sent us on were unnamed.  The adventure started even earlier though, around 2 am.

The storm that blew in over the Outer Banks the night before caused the power in our motel to go off around 2 am.  Sometime later we got cold from the resulting lack of heat, and had to resort to using our sleeping bags to stay warm!  In the morning we had to be at the ferry before 7am, and so had to get prepared while it was still dark out. Without the lights we had to pack up using our headlamps in the motel!

The ferry had generator power, so it was still on schedule.  The woman selling tickets told us there were 7 inches of standing water in her lawn.  Yikes.  It took 2.5 hours to ferry back to the North Carolina mainland, and the rain continued.  It would continue all day.

We rode for about 2 hours into a strong headwind and rain.  Our directions sent us down a road with a sign: ‘road ends 1 mile’.  Uh oh.  Foolish us, we pushed into the wind anyway, hoping the sign was wrong.  It wasn’t – we reached the end of the road and found only a farmhouse and a large building with tractors.  We stepped in for directions and met Reed and Randy, two cotton farmers.  They invited us in out of the rain and peppered us with questions about life on bikes.  Reed even helped us plan a route to the state park we were aiming for, and gave us a new map.  Best of all, they gave us a big bag full of raw North Carolina peanuts.  I’m not sure how Jason fit the bag into his pannier, but he did.

As we left the rain started again, and we still had a long way to ride.  10 of the remaining miles were on a dirt/sand/gravel road through a wildlife refuge.  On another day it would have been beautiful, but on that day it seemed to go on forever, and we were exhausted when we finally reached the edge of the lake we were aiming for.

10 slow, difficult miles into the wind on this muddy road nearly finished us.

10 slow, difficult miles into the wind on this muddy road nearly finished us.

At the end of the mud road we met a gravel road, and luckily a park ranger who provided us with yet another map to find the campground.  We didn’t know it at the time, but there were still 20 miles left to ride.  We were already exhausted, but the promise of a picnic table, restroom, and spot for the tent kept us pushing as the temperature dropped.

We arrived at the park at dusk – just in time.  The ranger was very nice and helped us find a sheltered campsite.  I spent nearly half an hour in the restroom hitting the hand drier over and over to warm up and dry my shoes out.

Our campsite at Pettigrew State Park.

Our campsite at Pettigrew State Park.

We were so tired that we didn’t even have energy to read after climbing in the tent.  Honestly, we were asleep at 7:30.


Honeymoon – Day 4

Avon, NC to Ocracoke, NC; 38 miles.

Route for Day 4

Route for Day 4

Practically a rest day for us.

When we woke up at the Avon cottages we found that the weather had changed overnight.  Instead of a cold wind from the north, there was a warm, wet wind from the south.  The warmth was more than welcome, but our pleasant tailwind had turned into a constant headwind!

From Avon we headed south to the Hatteras lighthouse.  It was a slow November day at the National seashore.  There were, however, a number of trucks and SUVs with special carriers for fishing poles.  Apparently fishing is big business here.

Obligatory lighthouse photo with a twist - the fishing-equipped truck.

Obligatory lighthouse photo with a twist : the fishing-equipped truck.

The lighthouse itself was closed to climbing, but it was very pretty to look at.  For the next few days in mainland North Carolina we continued to see replicas of this particular lighthouse and its distinctive spiral stripes.

In the museum we learned that this area was called the ‘graveyard of the Atlantic’ because the large number of ships that wrecked along the shore.  In World War II it was called ‘Torpedo Junction” because German submarines lurked just off shore and sunk 397 merchant ships in the first 6 months of 1942.  We had no idea!

Waiting in line (briefly) for the ferry.  Note the giant homes in the background.

Waiting in line (briefly) for the ferry. Note the giant homes in the background.

After visiting the lighthouse we needed to catch a ferry to the next island, and we were lucky enough to ride up to the ferry landing just as they were maneuvering the final cars on board.  There is always room for a couple more bikes!  The ferry took us through quite shallow water – we could see sand banks just below the surface.

Once on the island of Ocracoke we stopped for lunch in a sheltered spot near the ferry landing.  Two separate ferry workers walked over to warn us of an encroaching storm, so we hurriedly finished our lunch and pedaled the remaining fourteen miles into town.

The final, forlorn-looking stretch of road before town.

The final, forlorn-looking stretch of road before town. That sign says ‘sand on pavement’.

In Ocracoke we got yet another cheap motel, and even negotiated a discount for paying in cash.  Surprisingly, we saw a number of locals riding bicycles and driving golf carts around the quaint community.   The best surprise of all was Eduardo’s – the taco truck!  We ordered two burritos for dinner and they were absolutely delicious.

Eduardo's, the amazing taco truck in Ocracoke.
Eduardo’s, the amazing taco truck in Ocracoke.

We retreated to the hotel just as the storm arriving with wind and heavy rain.  The next morning we planned to catch the early ferry to the mainland, so we planned the next day’s ride using Google maps.  We would come to regret this soon…