April, 1999
Chapter 11

Date: April 2, 1999
Location: Swansboro, North Carolina
Next Stop: Virginia
Mileage so far: 24,406
Notes: Turn Around - I have changed my ways. I used to be the hurry-up-and-get-there type. I was the guy you saw scooting through the beautiful, national parks and scenic highways, passing cars and racing around the curves, eyes on the road.

Last summer was a good time for this, as I was on a tight schedule, covering the northern states before the weather covered me. But I have changed my ways. I rarely go the speed limit, and I leave an unreasonable distance between me and anything in front of me. I am usually at the front of a line of cars, instead of behind them, and I have gotten very good at the "swing around" with which I wave cars past me. Happiness to me now, is a clear road behind me, as well as in front. That's me; King of the Road.

Ode to Chrome - I have never been much on having a sparkling ride. I carry with me several products to clean and shine ol' Bob, but I honestly spend very little time doing it. Without a garage to keep him in, he is very vulnerable to weather, and it seems that whenever I clean him up, it starts to rain. Been there? I'm sure you have.

I met someone along the road who said; "I spend 9 hours when I clean my bike!" I couldn't help but ask if this was something of which he was proud, or if it was some sort of parole agreement. I pretty much wipe mine down each week, and go over it pretty well each month. I remember picking it up at Scott Smith's Harley-Davidson last May, with a regretful feeling that this bike would never look as good as it did - man, did it shine!

Hunkered down in my brother's garage, I gave Bob some extra attention this week, from the front disks to the trailer hitch. I hit him with chrome polish, wax, degreaser - the works, and he is ready for the second half of this trip.

Polishing chrome is very rewarding. It is such a durable, beautiful finish, that you know that, no matter how dirty it is to start with, you can do wonders with it - just seeing a dirty, cloudy, piece of chrome can give you the shivers. You grab a rag and work it along the surface, pulling off dirt, grease and grime. You can hear the sound of dirty chrome, you can feel the drag in your hand. As you rub and rub harder, the dirt gives way, the rag fills up. You pry into the grooves and around the bolts - you know it will come clean, it's just a matter of elbow grease. You wipe off the heavy dirt, first, then off with the film, and, with a clean rag, you take to the finish, pulling out the shine and the luster. I'll tell you, there is nothing so beautiful as your ugly face reflected in the chrome of a Harley-Davidson.

Coloring the Corps

When Eric Reust leaves his mark, it will last a lifetime.
Check out Mark's new tattoo!
Posted April 11, 1999

Leaving Time - There is nothing like knowing where you're going to sleep tonight. I have been staying with family or friends for about two months now, and I have gotten spoiled. There are simple things here which are but dreams out on the road, such as a phone line, delicious cooking, a warm bed, close friends - a refrigerator! But dreams are why I am able to leave. Sure, a part of me wants to stay in one place, settle down, and enjoy the stability of a routine life, but the other part - the greater part - wants to complete this project, to travel all of the states and see places I've never seen, meet people I've never met, and to live this beautiful dream.

Amazing Grace - It was late and I didn't yet have a place to camp for the night. I had to catch a ferry at nine the next morning, so I rode it extra hard. Just as the sun was hitting the trees, I stopped at a small house on the outskirts of Bath, North Carolina. It was a dim prospect, but I was desperate. There was a late model Buick in the drive, which meant elderly people lived there - call me a stereotypist, but I have learned where the safe havens are. I rang the bell and after a minute or two, someone came to the door. I gave her my spiel, and asked her about the vacant lot next to her house. she told me that it belonged to a relative of her's, and that she just didn't know... Her name was Grace, by the way, and yes, she was elderly.

Well, I asked could she make a phone call, perhaps, and check for me? I even mentioned my ace card; the Family Circle article - I was desperate. She said she'd check, and she shut the door. I heard the dead bolt close between us. I waited as the Sun gave way to Earth and my hopes of finding a safe plot dimmed with its glow. "She's going to just ignore me," I thought. "She'll turn out the lights and hope I leave." I waited, and vowed to wait all night if I had to. Stupid? Yes.

Well, my wait ended a few minutes later, as she returned.

I could see her fumble with the lock and doorknob, and that she was carrying something. The door swung open, and she reached over to grab something else, and just as she shoved a plateful of banana bread, apples and chips in my hands, she said; "We wouldn't mind a bit if you stayed out there. Have you had dinner?" With her other hand, she retrieved a can of Coke and piled it on the heap. I thanked her for the lot, and tried to refuse the food, then I thanked her for the food. We spoke for a while, and I walked back to my bike in pitch-black darkness, carrying a healthy meal, chuckling at my own paranoia and shaking my head in amazement.

Outer Banks, North Carolina - I had never seen these nifty racks before I visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina. They are extremely functional, holding a half-dozen fishing poles and a cooler right where you need them. They seem to be very popular here, almost to the point of being status symbols. This gentleman has had his rack for some time and, though I forgot his name, he seems like a true Outer Banker. That is, he has been vacationing here for over a decade, and that pretty much gives him a good enough status so that he doesn't need the rack for anything except to carry his fishing poles and cooler.

Island Hopper

Take a ride in the second largest ferry system in the United States.
Posted April 23, 1999

Penning them in - Okracoke Island, with about 700 residents, is a beautiful isle south of Cape Hatteras. It has a unique breed of ponies, supposedly descendants of Spanish horses brought over here in 1585, or possibly stranded by shipwrecks. They roamed free for hundreds of years, but with strong growth in the area, brought on by more bridges, ferries and tourists, they have been quartered for their protection. Okracoke residents are a unique breed, also. With a strong Irish heritage, this isolated colony developed and maintained its own Irish brogue for centuries. The dialect was once prominent on the island, until recent times, and I wonder if they will pen the natives in?

Ever spend the night at an airport? I am, and it's one of the nicest evenings of this trip. The folks at Skydive The Point skydiving club have put me up in their bunkhouse at the Airport. I set up an office in the air traffic control room, and had a nice view all day. Tonight, I can see the wind sock gently swaying in the near-calm, the friendly sweep of the beacon's lamps shimmering off the wet runway, an occasional student pilot doing a touch-and-go, and the strip of amber lights trailing off into the universe. I think I'll go take a walk out on the tarmac, feel the energy of these beautiful machines, of this one, incredible place, and dream once again of flying someday.

Date: April 11, 1999
Location: West Point, Virginia
Recent Stops: Kill Devil Hills, Whalebone, NC,
Next Stop: Delaware
Mileage so far: 24,836
Notes: Stopping Traffic - Friday was a beautiful, sunny day on the Outer Banks, and I really enjoyed the ride. What better way to cap off a gorgeous day like that, then to cruise on into Norfolk, Virginia, follow the rush hour traffic toward the bridges, and watch the setting sun as you enter the traffic lanes for the several-mile-long Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, and take a smooth, effortless tug on the gas as your throttle cable snaps clean-off on you. I rolled to a stop and nearly blocked lane #3, and since lane #2 was closed, I debilitated nearly half the traffic on the bridge, so when the tow truck arrived, I made it an even half.

My tow-truck driver was a good-natured Virginian; ("everybody calls me Mac.") and he hoisted Bob up and took him to the service yard, where I managed to get him running again, sort of. I removed the cable from it's shield and, for the next 50 miles, I pulled it by hand in an awkward - yes, painful - procedure. The first 20 miles of this trip were fine, with beautiful, clear weather. Then, just south of Williamsburg, in less than one mile, the temperature dropped 15 degrees, the wind picked up and the hail began. I rode for half an hour through some of the worst weather of this trip. When I pulled over for some pliers to hold the darn throttle cable, a nearby tree succombed to the wind with a horrendous crack! A sane man would have taken a hotel room, a sane man would have pulled into a gas station or something. I got on the bike and rode it to West Point, figuring the storm came quickly and it would go quickly. I was right, but the storm knocked out the power in West Point, and I rode through an eerie ghost town that was set off by the spectacular lighting of the huge paper mill, which obviously has it's own power plant - it was surreal to say the least.

The WAY Down

If a troubled writer falls thousands of feet to the forest below, can anybody hear his screams?

Learn to skydive, in Dropping Class

Earth Moves

Bulletproof - While at the Skydive The Point clubhouse, in West Point, Virginia, I heard what sounded like a dragstrip on one of the runways. Someone told me that it was a "bodyguard training school" and I just had to check it out. It is a school, called International Training, Incorporated and they do train bodyguards in "Evasive and Defensive Driving," "Terrorist Surveillance Detection," "Protective Services," "Progressive Firearms" and a host of spy-type stuff. I understand that people come here from around the world to learn how to protect their muckety-mucks from getting mucked up.

Counterfeiting Nature

"Cigar" Daisy has been fooling ducks for decades,
Posted April 29, 1999

Date: April 20, 1999
Location: Chaddsford, Pennsylvania (Wilmington, Delaware)
Recent Stops: Chincoteague, Virginia and Salisbury, Maryland
Next Stop: West Virginia
Mileage so far: 25,536
Notes: High Maintenance - I can't complain, but let me whine a little. First, I lost a throttle cable, then my motorcycle battery died. I bought a beauty - it's about 40% smaller than my original battery, but should have about twice the cranking amps! It has "Aggregated Glass" technology, said Rick, the Interstate Battery distributor who sold it to me. I hope so, because I use the thing all night to run my laptop, and expect it to start the hog in the morning.

Speaking of the laptop; it died, too. (Not a good week for me and technology.) On Friday afternoon in Delaware, it became just 2 pounds of dead weight. This thing has never, ever given me trouble, and I about went into shock for three days waiting to have it fixed. The technicians at Info Systems, in Wilmington (John Lucas, John Velletta and Anatoly Gorelik) replaced nearly everything in it, as I hovered over them like an impatient child getting his tricycle fixed, and they did a great job getting me back to work. Thanks to Paul and Diedre Green for hosting me during this mess.

SPRING! SPRING! SPRING! It has been cold and miserable up here in Delaware this past week. (I'm still whining.) The people up here don't mind, because they're used to it, and because they're not crazy enough to ride motorcycles and live in canvas campers. But I am - you betcha. And am I looking forward to summer coming and am I looking forward to heading south! I saw these tulips somewhere in Virginia, on the Eastern Shore, which seems more like Maryland, and nobody I asked knew why it is Virginia, but I sure like the flowers.

Life is Sweet
MONDAY, APRIL 19, 1999,

When you're a third generation confectioner, your family tree is made of deep, rich chocolate.
Posted April 26, 1999

I had the privilege of staying with the Davises while in Delaware. I knocked on their door late one afternoon, and Gayle let me set up my camper in their side lot. Well, Norm came out about an hour later, after reviewing the True America web site and was a little displeased with my accommodations. "Why don't you sleep in our motor home?" he asked. I tried to refuse, but he got the best of me, and I spent four days in their luxurious 31 foot Winnebago. Norm's a great guy and he is working on an e-commerce web site called Quixtar.com which is Amway's new endeavor, and he even let me watch his promotional CD and he even invited me to make my fortune with Amway and he was quite nice when I said I didn't have the time right now. Many thanks to the Davises!

Mr. Gilchrist Goes to Washington

Strolling around in the heart of freedom.
Posted May 9, 1999

I stayed on the Sharp farm, while on the coast of Delaware last week, not knowing that I was sleeping on the grounds of the world record holder in a highly competitive contest. Not more than 50 yards from me was the power unit - and the world record trophy - for the winning team in the 1998 International Pumpkin Chunkin' Contest! Bill Sharp, and his team from Illinois, built a device that, in 1996, threw a pumpkin over half a mile - 2,710 feet - setting a world record. Last year, with some modifications, they hurled the sucker 4,026 feet, as over 8,000 people watched. This lighthearted competition has gotten serious, with judges using lasers and GPS to measure distances. The grail of all teams is, of course, to toss this innocent vegetable a mile. Why? Silly question!

Sharp's mother, on who's farm I stayed, has a beautiful tree in her backyard. The "Money Tree" Bill Sharp calls it, is a cell phone tower, planted right between the house and the barn. He told me how much they are paid to rent the small piece of land, but it's really the Sharp's private information. Let's just say they could use the rent from the Money Tree to make payments on a nice car - a really nice car.

Moving Art
She is a woman of letters, and three letters spell the difference between her and some hack with a computer: A - R - T.
Posted May 3, 1999

Take me Home, Country Road - I had a wonderful, relaxing ride through the Shenandoah Mountains the other day. The weather was beautiful, and so were the scenery and the sky and the people. I don't know how many times I've gawked at a beautiful scene, and then tried to capture it in a photograph and failed. This shot was so easy, I didn't have to get off my bike as I rounded a turn on Route 29 in northeast West Virginia (I did stop, mind you.) Click on the framed photo for a large, panoramic view of a valley in the Shenandoah Mountains. As you wait the few seconds for the file to load, hum a few bars of the "Big Valley" or "Bonanza" themes to get you in the mood. Passing through Hanging Rock a little later, I saw this whimsical sign on the Christ Community Church (wonder if he had to take a number?)

Down in Rio (pronounced "Rye-Oh") I met Wanda, at Davis Grocery, a classic, small town market, with two gas pumps, drinks, snacks and plenty of conversation. I stopped in for the telephone and a bathroom. "Oh, it's right out back," she said. To the Davis' credit, this was one of the cleaner water closets on this trip (OK, no water) and you don't have to worry about flushing before you leave. I guess I could have put the seat down.

There is plenty of water in West Virginia, and many people live on the wrong side of it. The state is lousy with bridges; tall, short, new, old, above the water and yes, underwater. Several families had to cross this bridge every day (before a new bridge was put in last year.) Sometimes the water would get so high, or the ice so thick, that they would park on the street and cross a rickety, old cable-and-plank, walking bridge. Riding through West Virginia, I saw many bridges like this.

True America Tip

The collection of True America CD photo albums is available from the main page. Here is one:

Click on the hay barn to view the
True America Eastern U.S. photo album.

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