Day 2 – Mayodan to Mebane – 73 miles (140 total)
We awoke Monday morning to heavy dew, almost as if it had rained overnight, and the coldest low temperature of the entire ride (39 degrees). We were a little sore from the first day’s ride, but also happy to have the first day behind us, and looking forward to day two. We were starting to get into a rhythm – wake at six, break down camp, have breakfast, ride, set up camp, have dinner, sleep, start again. It was comforting to have a routine and we both enjoyed the mindless repetitiveness of it all. As the sun rose, casting advancing light on the rustic grapevines and fields around us, warming the air subtly, degree by precious degree, we were feeling good.
Breakfast this day was one of the many highlights of the week. Provided by Autumn Creek, it was a spread, as Fran put it, fit for a king. Situated under the cover of their gorgeous open-aired dining area, the buffet that spread out before us as we entered was almost overwhelming. Homemade buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy, grits, thick-sliced bacon, all manner of sausages, fried pork chops, perfectly done scrambled eggs, pastries, coffee… it was a nearly emotional experience and I was supremely happy as we sat there shoveling in maybe the best breakfast I have ever had while looking over the sun-dappled vineyards. Even now, I get a little misty just thinking about it. I wondered if it might be possible to pedal 500+ miles in a week and actually gain weight!
The rest stops on day two were special as well. After our daily wardrobe adjustment at rest stop one, we pedaled another 13 miles to the second rest stop in the town of Reidsville. The stop was set up in their beautifully constructed downtown Market Square and the entire town, it seemed, came out to greet us. There was a carnival-like atmosphere as we turned into the square as dozens of townspeople cheered us on and welcomed us to their town. Besides the usual CNC rest stop fare, there were local food vendors on site with everything from homemade pastries to chilidogs to cheeseburgers. Melissa and I both had chilidogs (how could we not?) and enjoyed a nice break, sitting in the sun and people watching. If you are beginning to sense a food-centric theme here, you are dead on. The meals – and even the occasional rest stop Little Debbie – were always the highlights of each day. As the old saying goes, “armies march on their stomachs”. Well, so do cyclists.
Rest stop three was another 15 miles down the road, at Grove Vineyards, where we did a wine tasting and listened to a live acoustic guitar performance. If you have ever wondered what wine goes best with Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies (and who hasn’t?), I would highly recommend the pinot noir.
And so, properly sated once again we rode off for rest stop four at the Glencoe Mill Village Museum. This was possibly my favorite rest stop of the entire trip. It was situated at a turn-of-the-century textile mill that had closed down in 2003, but had found a second life as a textile mill museum. Large interpretive signs posted on the exterior wall of the mill told the stories of the Glencoe Mill, mill village life, child labor, working conditions, labor movements and various other aspects of mill life. The western regions of North and South Carolina were, in the decades from 1890 through the mid-20th Century, the textile capital of the world, providing employment to millions and shaping the lives of generations. Children were recruited to work in the mills as early as 13 or 14 so entire families worked in various roles in the same mill. Mill owners constructed housing, mill stores, churches and taverns on mill property so that workers could be more easily monitored and controlled. This is a fascinating aspect of the history of the American South, and especially the Carolinas and I was thrilled that the old Glencoe Mill had found a new lease on life. Much to Melissa’s credit, she indulged me as I walked the property and took it all in.
We finally rolled into the Mebane Arts Community Center around 3:30pm and after showers, had dinner and hit the sack early. Tomorrow it would be onto Henderson.
Day 3 – Mebane to Henderson – 69 miles (207 total)
Some days on this trip tend to run together in a blur of spinning wheels and shifting gears and gently rolling hills with nothing especially sticking out in the memory. Day three was like that. We were solidly into our routine by now and enjoying some of the most beautiful weather of the year. We were exceptionally lucky weather-wise during the entire week. Especially compared to last year’s CNC ride where it rained five out of seven days. Our friends and fellow FreeHouba Tri Club members Martin Dvorak and Tim Brookie did last year’s ride and persevered through the worst weather in the 13-year history of the CNC fall ride. We had a new-found admiration for them as the week wore on – cycling all day and tent camping at night presents plenty of challenges in the best of weather – I honestly cannot imagine doing this event in the rain. It would be miserable. We both thought about that quite a bit during the course of the week and realized how fortunate we were.
When we rolled into Henderson on Tuesday afternoon we were pleasantly surprised by our accommodations. Our tents were set up in shallow right field of one of the baseball fields at the Henderson Family YMCA. The fields were well manicured, the grass pillow-soft. After dinner at a regional steak restaurant called Ribeye’s (we all had ribeyes), we retired to camp. After Fran turned in, Melissa and I watched an episode of “Modern Family” on her iPad in the tent (ain’t technology great?) and finally faded off to sleep by around 10pm. More to come…