Cycle North Carolina
October 2-16, 1999

By Jim & Liz Zearfoss

bicycle chain


The idea for Liz and I to ride bicycle across the state of North Carolina, from Murphy to Manteo, was presented to us in July. Liz works in the accounting department for Capitol Networks (WRAL, MIX 101.5, and others across the state) a major sponsor of this inaugural ride. During a staff meeting they asked for volunteers to ride the ride and report "from the field". The reports were to be posted on the Internet at Liz was volunteered because everyone knew she has an interest in cycling, or as we suspect, it may have been because she owned a bicycle. In any event, she was asked if she wanted to go with the understanding that I could go along for moral support.

We both had previously qualified for an important bicycle event the end of October and were looking for a way to prepare for that, so we decided to try to arrange to go. It meant making plans for coverage at work, as well as extra training days to prepare.

In preparation, during the months of August and September we rode approximately 15 - 20 miles four nights/ week and an additional 45 miles each day over the weekend. In addition, we did some weight training, particularly with our legs to prepare for four days of riding in the mountains. Finally we were ready to go with all registrations complete; lodging arrangements made (we motel rather than camp) and support for work and home related issues while we were gone.

The ride arrangements had to include a way to get to the beginning of the ride in Murphy and return from Manteo at the end of the ride. A bus trip was offered starting in Asheboro; we drove from Cary to Asheboro on Saturday, loaded our bikes on a truck and took the bus to Murphy, then did the same thing from Manteo to Asheboro and back to Cary on the last day. We thought the best way to present our impressions of this ride is to offer daily summaries from diary entries we made along the way.


Day 1 - Oct. 2 Asheboro to Murphy -

We began the day before our trip by packing our bikes for transport. We decided that the best way to protect the bikes during the truck ride to Murphy was to tape pipe insulation around all the tubes. We packed the day before because we had to be in Asheboro by 9:00 to load the bikes and get on the bus for the trip to Murphy.

One thing that stood out during loading was that about 1/3 of the people looked like athletes and that they should be there. Another 1/3 of the people looked to be in average shape and condition and the rest appeared to be somewhat overweight and out of shape. I won’t tell where we thought we fit in this mixture, but it was quite a cross section for the beginning of an 800-mile trip, with the first four days being across and through the mountains.

The trip to Murphy took almost 5 1/2 hours. When we got there we had to wait for the bikes to arrive so the total time for the day was about 12 hours door to door.


Day 2 – Oct. 3 Murphy to Franklin –

Today we rode from Murphy to Franklin. Wow! What a first day ---- 58 miles---- 4100 ft of elevation; there were two major climbs of ten and seven miles; of course, they both had down hill runs. There were no casualties coming down, which was good news considering the descents. Our maximum speed was 40 mph.

We traveled through the small village of Andrews and over Junaluska Gap; the first major climb, around Nantahala lake and up the second climb over Wayah Gap. The scenery was beautiful so we stopped and took lots of snapshots.

At one of the rest stops we met a 14 year old boy, who is the youngest male riding the entire ride. There was also an 8-year-old girl riding in the back of her father’s tandem.


Day 3 – Oct. 4 Franklin to Brevard –

Mother Nature was the winner today. We had severe thunderstorms, fog and heavy rain to start. What a bummer ---- mountain riding in wet, cold weather is not pleasant and can be dangerous. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.

The distance for the day was 64 miles with one severe climb. The scenery into Brevard was great. Brevard is a bustling town in the middle of the mountains.

We met two colorful characters today. One rider from California is trying to ride all 50 states. He says he has done 22 so far.

The other can best be described as an adventurer. He told us all his past trips and travels. He is on this trip to prepare for Odyssey 2000 ----- Which is a bicycle trip around the world from Jan. 1, 2000 to Jan. 1, 2001. I thought 2 weeks was a lot of riding. It was a very interesting lunch conversation.


Day 4 Oct. 5 Brevard to Black Mountain –

Well, we climbed Mount Pisgah today and then proceeded onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. Mt Pisgah is 5100 ft high and from there all views are down. The leaves were just beginning to turn. It was pretty neat.

Before starting down, we had lunch at "Peak of the Parkway" and enjoyed the food, the people and the views. But most of all we enjoyed a good rest.

The downhill runs were spectacular ---- the tunnels along the way proved to be a challenge. Just imagine, on your bicycle without headlights cruising at 35 mph, through the darkness…..What a rush! My top speed for the day on a straight, long section was 44 mph. The distance for the day was 58 miles with 5100 ft of elevation. We usually take 7 or 8 hours to complete each day’s trip with eating, resting, snapshots and all. No Road Dogs here.

We found out today the oldest participant is 86 years old ----- that ranges from an 8 year old young girl to an 86 year old young woman. Physical fitness at its best, which is what it’s all about.


Day 5 Oct. 6 Black Mountain to Forest City -

Today was the last day in the mountains. We were told the first four days would be tough and they were. Close to 60 miles a day in the mountains for four days; we’re both beat. Tomorrow should be easier --- shorter and no mountains.

Today we rode from Swannanoa, over Black Mountain and the Eastern Continental divide through Chimney Rock, a distance of 58 miles. The temperature at the start of the day was in the low 50’s and seemed to get colder as we rode.

We stopped for a trip to the top of Chimney Rock and one final view of the mountains.

When we got to Forest City they held an Octoberfest celebration for us. Actually, they rescheduled an annual event to match our schedule. We’re ready to leave the mountains and are looking forward to the rest of the trip.


Day 6 Oct. 7 Forest City to Lincolnton –

Today we rode 53 miles of rolling hills through the quiet town of Cherryville. The day began chilly, but eventually warmed up and it was a beautiful day.

We rode into a slight head wind on rough road with long inclines, it seems like we can’t win. The previous four days have been very rough on bikes and people; both are beginning to breakdown. The SAG wagons are being used more and more to bring people to the end of the day’s ride.

On a sad note, we heard that a dog that got loose along the route knocked down our 86 year old rider. She was transported to the hospital for treatment of a broken pelvis and collarbone.

In Lincolnton we were treated to an alive at five entertainment. We enjoyed really good music and entertainment.


Day 7 Oct. 8 Lincolnton to Concord –

What’s that roar I hear? We rode into town on the day of time trials for the race tomorrow. Traffic everywhere!!!! Kind of like riding your bicycle through a zoo. A very busy zoo! On the plus side, we were allowed on the track for one lap with the bicycles. It created a diversion for the race fans that stuck around to hoot and holler their support.

Today was the easiest so far, 54 miles of nice roadway. The riding was excellent with plenty of flat roads and very few hills. My legs still ache.

We talked to a newlywed couple from High Point. They got married on Friday a week ago and this is their honeymoon ----- talk about trial by fire. Liz said she would make him take her to Hawaii.

While in Charlotte, we had a chance to visit with friends, plenty of time to catch up and home cooked carbo-loading.


Day 8 Oct. 9 Concord to Asheboro –

Well, that’s one week down and one week to go.

Today we rode from Lowes motor Speedway back to our kickoff point Asheboro ---- 76 miles. Our starting temperature was in the lower 60’s and, with a cloud cover, stayed there throughout the day. It’s a good thing too, with 76 miles to ride we didn’t need the sun to drain our strength.

Early today we saw Reed gold mine, the first documented gold find in the U.S. We also rode through the town of Mt Pleasant. Very neat classic homes with beautiful porches.

This afternoon we had a rest stop at historic Gold Hill. Liz window shopped, but you can’t carry things on a bike. It was a nice place to take a break.


Day 9 Oct 10 Asheboro rest day –

Today was a rest day and we need it. This has been no Sunday ride in the park! So far this is one of the toughest rides we have ever done. This many miles on a daily basis becomes very tiring, but we are happy we did it to gain the experience and to prove that we can.

We met some very nice people and saw scenery that we would never have seen the same from a car. We have done approximately 440 miles with about 380 to go. The trip, originally advertised at 720 miles, in the end was actually 820.

We lost 90 riders from the first week, but gained about 120, so we have 30 more riders. That makes 350 – 400 riders each day with daily riders included.


Day 10 Oct. 11 Asheboro to Hillsborough –

Once again, bad weather to start a Monday. Only rain this time – no lightning and only for half the day. Today we rode 60 miles with really good roads, even with the rain it was a great day. Because of the rain we missed all the scenery but we had more chance to talk with others. We talked with a 74-year-old couple from eastern NC. They are carrying all their gear with them, tent, clothes, everything. It turns out this will be their 10th crossing of the state through the years.


Day 11 Oct 12 Hillsborough to Raleigh –

Today we rode 55 miles; rolling hills with into a slight head wind. The mileage is getting easier, or was it just because we were heading home and will spend the night in our own bed? No matter the reason, today was easier!

It is interesting to see the new riders for this half of the ride. They have plenty of enthusiasm but are beginning to feel the strain on the second day. By comparison, we feel like much stronger riders than a week ago. Our technique has improved also. We have about 275 miles to go over the next 4 days. That seems to be a pretty aggressive schedule.


Day 12 Oct. 13 Raleigh to Wilson –

Well, we were wrong about no more rain for this trip. Today was 56 miles in the mid 50’s with rain all the way from Raleigh to Wilson. The terrain has gone to completely flat, which took some of the sting out of riding in the rain. The hills are gone and the roads are good so our speed is picking up.

Today, on the road, we passed a tandem with a woman in the front and her husband in the back. That is an unusual combination, so out of curiosity we asked, it turns out he is blind and is an avid cyclist, so this is the only way to get on the road.

On the way into Wilson we began to get a glimpse of the damage done by hurricane Floyd.


Day 13 Oct 14 Wilson to Washington –

Today was flat from Wilson to Washington ----- 70 miles with no hills.

We saw a lot of farmland, soybeans, corn, tobacco and cotton. Miles and miles of farmland, where are the mountains when you need one?

We saw lots of damage from Floyd, both crop damage and property damage. We passed homes with all their possessions, in ruins, stacked outside. I talked with a woman directly affected with the loss of her herd of goats. She is on the ride because she needs the break. The effort required for her to ride this ride pushes all other thoughts to the side.

The weather today was ideal, mid 60’s, light to moderate winds mostly helping us; not a cloud in the sky. The breeze combined with the flat terrain produced another fast day for us. When we arrived in Washington, we had time to tour the historic area and wander through the riverfront shops.

Our legs ache, our back aches, our butts ache ----- and we’re having the time of our life.


Day 14 Oct. 15 Washington to Ocracoke –

Today we rode 73 miles to Swans Quarter and ferried across to Ocracoke. Even with a 15-mph headwind all the way, we rode well enough to make our 4:00 ferry.

We left Washington at 7:30a and with a 2 hour ferry ride arrived in Ocracoke at 7:00p --- almost 12 hours ---- a very long day.

Along the way we stopped at Bath, beautiful old historical buildings and the oldest existing church in NC. Built in 1704 and still being used. This was the first day we were able to smell the flood. Musty smells and spoilage everywhere.

Well, tomorrow is it. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I really need to return to a "normal" life, however, this trip has been an experience that I want to hold on to.


Day 15 Oct. 16 Ocracoke to Manteo –

Fourteen miles into the wind, ferry ride and five more miles into the wind ---- all before breakfast. Today we have to ride 84 miles to Manteo, the last stop. The first 12 miles were the toughest ride we have ever done. Thank goodness we changed direction slightly and the wind was across instead of head.

Miles and miles of dunes ---- both sides of the road ----- for miles and miles. That is our impression of the Outer Banks and today’s ride.

We stopped to see the Hatteras lighthouse in its new location. What an impressive move! It rained while we were there, so it was dampened a bit.

This was our last day and I have resolved my mixed emotions from yesterday. I am ready for the trip to end. Today was a difficult day with all the elements in play:

Wind ---- lots of it

Rain ---- just a little

Sunshine ---- just enough

Aches and pains ---- plenty

We loved every minute of it! Every mile! And yes, every ache and pain! Would we do it again? --------------

Did we mention the miles and miles of dunes????


Postlog –

YES, we would do it again! We went 819 miles; climbed five very difficult mountains; rolled through the middle of this state and suffered the monotony of flats in the East. It was far and away more than we expected and will have this memory forever.

North Carolina is the only state we have ridden that has such diversity and interest across the entire ride.

Page maintained by Tom Sheffield and last revised on Monday, November 8, 1999.
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