Next goal: Wilmington, North Carolina, about which we know very little. But we hear it’s nice.
On the way to Wilmington, we’ll spend a night in Southport, North Carolina, about which we know even less. That day – from North Myrtle Beach – is a long ride for us, about 70 miles, and we pace ourselves. At one point, exhausted by traffic and noise, we take a turn and happen upon some gardens. We take a spin through and enjoy a pleasant, quiet respite from route 17. Another pleasant moment on this busy riding day comes as we approach Southport, and ride past the damp grassy verge along the side of the road. It’s rush hour, and cars are whizzing by, but on the bikes we’re able to hear peepers in FULL swing.
Southport turns out to be lovely. We stay in a waterfront motel associated with an old historic inn across the street. The innkeepers have renovated the motel and it surpasses every expectation: comfortable, pretty and classy! Who knew? The water part of the waterfront hotel is the Cape Fear River. We enjoy our evening in Southport. Jerry grabs some takeout and we crash. The next morning after breakfast in a cafe and a walk around this quaint, lovely town, we take a ferry across the water and start our ride to Wilmington. The biggest event of that ride is the point at which our odometers turn over 1000 miles. We’re pretty damn proud of ourselves.
Wilmington is awesome! What a great city, teeming with historic buildings and guideposts to educate travelers. We stay at Stemmerman’s Inn, also awesome, and eat at the Black Sea Restaurant (a fantastic Turkish place). While in Wilmington, which is also on the Cape Fear River, we watch the movie Cape Fear, with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. We order enormous ice creams from the popular shoppe called Kilwin’s. (This trip is, in fact, a lot like our smaller bike rides at home, a macrocosm, if you will: where we eat is key.) We have dinner at a fondue place called Little Dipper. It’s ladies night the evening we eat there, and we get an early reservation, having been warned that it’s very popular. Jerry and the waiter seem to be the only men in the place. The noise is tremendous: like twenty book groups all in one building, enjoying a special on bread, cheese and merlot. We walk the riverwalk, we walk the city, we see signs of spring!! (Remember – the point of the trip…?) Wilmington ends up being an unexpected treat. Here are some pics:
We make the decision not to go to the Outer Banks. In one way, this is hard, because we’ve looked forward for so long to riding through that beautiful string of islands, seeing that much more ocean before heading north and inland, and just enjoying the northern seaside spring. However, the northern seaside spring- in our timeframe – promises hard rain, cold temperatures, and headwinds. And so, in another way, it’s not that difficult a decision, and we make our peace with it.
And so, after Wilmington, we ride to Jacksonville, North Carolina. We stop in a Walmart to get a few necessities. People are buying all manner of crap. They crowd the aisles. I have the sense of familiarity – our Walmart is like this, too. But I don’t get there often and haven’t been to any store like this since starting the ride. It is WEIRD. Sort of like those Star Trek episodes where the crew flies back to earth for a few days.
I’ll close with a quote from a young mother in the parking lot of the Walmart. Leading her two very young sons, ages maybe 2 and 5, into the store, she shouts, “No, we are NOT going to Chuckie Cheese! I just bought a Guinea Pig!!!” Having once been this young woman, I enjoy this moment beyond all reason.