WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Finishers Wander 8 - Morehead City, North Carolina
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2004 18:24:01 -0700

    Some days are difficult to write about because essentially nothing happens. Actually, 'nothing' is good. You've been there, you can relate. You start out the day all refreshed and ready, and maybe one or two things make an an early impression, set the tone, get you going. And perhaps at the end of the day you have a good - or bad - experience, but the middle of the day is a void. Let me write about the middle.
    Traveling itself is an act of constant attention. Traveling by motorcycle is a constant application of attention. You ride, you watch, you process, you pass. If it is a good day, you remember little. The more you get to do 'nothing' the better the day flows. I can remember little about the day except I saw a lot of land, and it was a good ride. What more could anyone ask for? The Ride is the reason.
    Ok. Details. I left Spartanburg on two lane back roads. These state highways are not even in the base map for my GPS. I was in "uncharted territory". Finding my way to SC9, I began a general track toward the ocean, passing foothills, then bench land, then pine forest, then cotton fields, then low black swamp toward the coast. It has been three days since a rain in these parts, so of course everyone is cutting grass. As I pass a swath left by the mower going up the lawn, I clearly smell wild onions cut from the shaded edge of the hill. Spring has arrived in the South.
    A few miles later I come upon a 3 foot tall licorice dot in the middle of the road. As I approach, the dot erupts and a half dozen wings spread for flight. Turkey vultures are dining at the road kill cafe. These birds are slow to launch, and you must give them deference (Flight 1-Bird Heavy cleared for takeoff, runway 0, straight ahead). One good thing about vultures is they always angle away from a straight path. Watching which way they point makes it easy to guess where they will go. Remember the cardinal rule of motorcycling: never hit anything you can't eat in one sitting.
    With the prevalence of the piney woods, there is a pestilence of pine log trucks. Log trucks are not of themselves a problem, but pine trees have loose bark. Following a pine truck is like watching a beehive. There's all this stuff buzzing around, and occasionally something comes at you that would sting. Playing miss the missile while jouncing for a place to pass is a game of too close - too far. Sometimes you just have to ignore the color yellow ... as in line paint.
    Lines and laws are, after all, made for cars. Even a halfway competent motorcyclist can safely pass in a quarter of the space a car would need. But laws were not written to be logical. Still, I was relieved the county sheriff did not react as he popped over the ridge when I was just getting back into my lane after "safely putting a danger behind me", or so I would have claimed. :)
    One of the pleasures of unplanned travel is the surprises it delivers. Never would I have guessed that I would traverse the birthplace of Dizzy Gillespie: Cheraw, South Carolina. But since I don't like jazz, it was not likely I'd know that anyway. Nonetheless, there is a magnificent statue in the town square of the man with basketball cheeks, on the banks of the Grand Pee Dee River. (How'd that get its name?)
    Soon thereafter I had to take a 20 mile jag on I95 to get to the next lateral highway. Why are speed limits even posted on Interstates? "65" may have been the average age of the drivers on the road, but to keep from being passed you had to be octogenarian. Now it is hard to believe I did three continuous days at this speed only last week.
    Fate works in mysterious ways. Or, as I told the waitress, I come from a place where good food is commonplace, and excellent food is not unusual. This was excellent. Because of getting stuck in the snow earlier this week, I am at least a half day behind where I hoped to be, not that I have a schedule to keep. But that meant I arrived at the west end of the Orcacoke ferry late in the day - too late to make it to Hatteras before dark and with no reservations on a Friday, that was chancy. So I quit early looking for a motel. Except, there are none. I had to backtrack 20 miles to Morehead City to find one, and the least expensive was $70. How could there be no motels on the lower outer banks? Ah, as was explained, no one stays for one night. Beach properties rent by the week or month. My loss became my gain. While looking for a motel, my "cafe eye" did a double take. Mrs. Willis Steak and Steam Pub had all the right look. So that's where I went. (I do so appreciate that "eye".) Mrs. Willis started serving meals literally out of her kitchen window in 1949. The place soon became a business, and grew and grew. Her daughter Mona runs the place now and any of 100 children, grand children, great grand children work there. But the food is the draw. I had flounder filet stuffed with crab meat. Usually this is a flat display of a few ounces of crab. They brought this bulbous delicacy that looked more like a puffer than an flounder. I swear it had half a pound of crab. REAL crab. Real fresh, with home made sauce and baked sweet potato. The string beans I ordered came "flat and fat", looking like cut stands of green ribbon and tasting like bacon, slow cooked the southern way. Desert was real key lime pie, only served in season. Yes, limes have a season, unlike Sara Lee.
    The best compliment I can offer is to say I believe I have found the east coast version of Duarte Tavern. Duarte is the best road house you will find anywhere for fresh fish. Where? Even the location says "fish" - Pescadero, CA. Mrs. Willis is that good.

Now to sleep to make the 7 am ferry through 50 miles of pre-dawn Atlantic shore.

361 miles
Spartanburg US176 SC9 I95 NC72 NC41 NC111 US70 Morehead City
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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