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For Bike Maniacs Who Travel with Non-bikers
(some tips on surviving a standard vacation by biking guerillas, followed by brief accounts of two such vacations)
By Jay T. McCamic
This tongue-in-cheek piece first appeared in the Wheeling Area Bicycle Club Newsletter, of which our author is the editor. In fact, those of you who take a shine to his style may wish to click on his name and join the club and you will be privy to a newsletter truly packed with info and "interesting" thoughts (or you may just wish to tell him to take a hike!--Editor note).
You may know the scenario: Spouse "gear head" is a bike freak and can blissfully ride for as long as weather and body power will hold out. If not riding, checking out bike shops can fill the rainy hours. Spouse "non-gear head" thinks all this is relatively amusing at home but "Hey buddy, we are on vacation and it is time for family time." Oh boy we got problems. Maybe some kids are into biking while others detest the whole idea of sweating. Maybe mom wants to cuddle up with the latest Grisham novel sitting at the beach lathered up like a Brown 'n' Serve Thanksgiving turkey. Maybe the big event in her vacation fantasy is a visit to the Teddy Bear Museum. Maybe you are spending the week in East Overshoe, Nebraska visiting your in-laws. These are the folks that you can't figure out for the life of you how they can be responsible for producing your wonderful spouse because their life revolves around TV Guide schedules and sales at the mall and where can you get the best price on kielbasa. Remember, "If you're going to be a bike maniac you got to be a bike maniac from your first metric century to your last dying day."
1. Take your bike.
Sounds obvious, but how often have you said "Hey, we are going to Myrtle Beach. The place has more road traffic than Manhattan on Garibaldi Day, the salt and sand aren't exactly great for my pride and joy road machine, and the whole bike rack gig is a hassle...the heck with it." Even better, if you can, borrow and bring an extra bike and helmet. I once convinced one of my brother-in-laws to go on some extended rides when we met at Myrtle Beach one year. (More on Myrtle Beach later.)
2. Do serious map and other reconnaissance.
You know your highway map isn't going to cut it, but purchasing the necessary small scale maps or guidebooks is both expensive and real "hit or miss." (Case in point, pretend you are not from the Wheeling area and try to find detailed info about the River Trail or any local bike riding info. We note that the WV State tourist stops have very little info on Wheeling at all and zip about Wheeling biking or Wheeling bike trails.) Best Bet: go to the local library. Every county has one. Stop in the county seat and ask around (you needed to get out of the car anyway). Non-gear heads can look up the "Complete Book of Teddy Bears" and you can go to the map section and usually find a detailed county map to photocopy. Ask the research person at the desk about local bike clubs and check out the card catalog for any regional guides, then scope out the yellow pages for bike shops in the area and don't forget the community bulletin board.
3. If you are not a morning person you must become one.
This is painful for some but an absolute truth. You know why. You and the gear heads of the family can set the alarm and Mr. Coffee and get out the door for some serious riding and still get back and join the rest of the gang for that necessary trip to the Teddy Bear museum. Or have them meet you with the car at the next cultural experience.
4. Reject the standard American notions of cleanliness.
Scientific evidence indicates that the human body functions remarkably well without a twenty minute shower complete with shampoo once (for some twice) a day. Ride your bike early and meet the gang with the car at McDonald's or other fast food chain store nearest the Teddy Bear Museum and if you are really stinky, get your change of clothes, soap, wash cloth and towel (the towel is essential unless you are into that full body air blower experience). Then have a serious wash-up at the sink in the restroom. Don't leave a mess and, if all this embarrasses you, explain in your best fake foreign accent to the wide-eyed little old lady from Duluth that you are with the Ukrainian National Team, or that in Tromso the McDonald's serves fish paste on toast, or some other gibberish. You are never going to see these people again anyway.
5. Take a large seat bag, rack pack or fanny pack.
You may want to pack stuff you never take along on rides at home, like a camera, sunscreen, pen and small notepad, pocket knife for cutting up fruit purchased at roadside stands, sandals, shirt, and cable with lock, or you can make use of the extra space to be a real hero. Say you are having such a good ride you come back to your in-laws an hour late and they're all giving you dirty looks and tapping their feet waiting to get going to the Teddy Bear Museum. You then whip out the contents of your bike bag which could have all sorts of goodies. You say: "Look honey, just twenty-five miles from East Overshoe on back road 238 I found this really neat Thai restaurant that got five stars according to a 1994 article I saw posted on the wall. Here's their take-out menu." (Believe me, your in-laws will either have never heard of it or they've heard of it but have permanently deleted it from their gastronomic data banks because it doesn't serve kielbasa.) Or, "Check this out, darling, a brochure, and would you believe it, there's a new Teddy Bear Museum in the next town over that has a special collection of Teddy Bears made in Uzbekistan. Your favorite kind!" You get the idea.
A Couple Actual True Life combined biker and non-biker vacations where all participants still speak to each other:
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Stop in Rock Hill, SC and go to the public library. Copy the Horry County map from the South Carolina Atlas. Cut and paste together to make a serviceable map. Cruising down the old beach road and the old section of Myrtle Beach can be fun. (Check out the mother of all schlock shops "The Gay Dolphin". It has itchin' powder, exploding cigarette loads, rubber dog doo, this is the place for you!) But most of the real riding came in various loop routes out of Conway, SC.
Highlights: flat good roads with nearly zero traffic, swampy creeks with dark tannin-colored water, giant live oaks hung with Spanish moss, old churches, fruit stands (life is short--catch some shade and let some peach or watermelon juice run off your elbows), the world's largest motorcycle graveyard and fix-it shop, pit-cooked barbecue shacks, and tobacco fields.
We got up earlier than the non-bikers and came back when they were still trying to figure out what to do with the day.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Get a Park Service map, or a copy of a normal highway map is plenty good. From Ocracoke to Kitty Hawk is around 90 miles. Flat, but can be windy.
Highlights: Stop at the Coast Guard Station and check weather forecast or, if they aren't busy (especially in the evening), you can get a tour of their boats. Good guys. Two of them even gave my youngest son lessons on how to properly blow his bosun's pipe (for sale at the Hatteras Museum); the three of them were sitting on the dock piping away as the sun went down. Leap frog either north or south with non-bikers in the car. While bikers ride, non-bikers make extended stops at the Hatteras lighthouse and museum, the beach, Jockey's Ridge, Wright Brothers Museum (take time to get the complete talk and tour by the Park Ranger). Meet up at pre-planned stops for picnics, swimming, etc.
Tip: You must be real familiar with the ferry schedules and reservation procedures, as they do not make exceptions and if you are trying to get back to the mainland at the south end you could get cut off and have to take a seriously long detour to get back around. The neat thing is that bikes do not need reservations and it is real cheap to take the ferries as a biker.
There are great long loops using either the Swanquarter Ferry (at the south end) or the bridge at Manteo (at the north end) to hook up with the mainland areas that parallel the Banks. That area of the mainland is very isolated and has great road surfaces, miles of marsh grass, pelicans, and great salt air.
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