The end of the month rolled around and we prepared to depart for Oriental, North Carolina for three nights there to bicycle the Cycle North Carolina (CNC) Coastal Ride 2017. This is one of three multi-day rides this organization sponsors each year and includes a summer weekend long Mountain Ride and a week long venture, Mountains to the Coast, that takes riders as the title suggests, across the state. CNC alternates the spring ride locations every year among three different towns, Oriental, Edenton, and Little Washington.
We’ve participated in a number of events like this in the past, including a few in support of a cure for Multiple Sclerosis both in North Carolina and California and one event similar to the CNC ride, the Great Western Bike Rally. Both of these outings feature camping with a large group of fellow cyclists and a number of different rides of different lengths each day.
We met up with our car pooling partners, Bonnie, Karie, Jason, and Maurice Thursday morning around 8am and set off for Oriental, a relatively easy five hour drive, arriving there around 2pm at the corner of South Ave and High Street to find that many of the choice tent sites had already been claimed. Undaunted, we carved out enough room for our four tents with some to spare for folks we knew would be arriving a bit later. We’d be favored with good weather the entire weekend, making for ideal conditions to camp in.
Having driven straight through and not sure when we would eat dinner, most of us rode our bikes over to Broad Street to pick up our registration packets and stop in at the place where we would eat multiple times, Oriental Deli & Subs. I’ll get into the trials and tribulations Joanna and I faced eating out during the weekend, but the one place that never failed to deliver on quantity and quality was the deli.
We split a Rueben (Pastrami, Sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island Dressing on Rye Bread) with Bonnie, a deal at $6.69 with potato chips and a slice of dill pickle on the side. Back at camp we fell into a pattern that would become routine for us throughout our stay, sitting in a circle, cold beer nestled in koozie, making conversation with fellow cyclists and campers.
As the evening began to creep in we realized we needed to get going on dinner and so quickly settled on The Silos, a place we’d seen on the way into town that appeared to have a varied menu and good beer selection. The place was packed when we arrived and we were advised of a twenty-minute wait, which ended up being pretty accurate. Once seated though things began to drag out, as it became obvious that the proprietors had not planned for the rush of business they were going to get with hordes of hungry cyclists in town, not adding any staff to accommodate the crowds.
Joanna and I ordered a Veggie Pizza to split (Onions, green pepper, mushroom, olives, tomato, and garlic) with sausage added and then waited, and waited, and waited some more. Finally, after just about everyone’s food had arrived, the waitress asked if we were missing anything and we mentioned our pizza. Not long after that it came out and was consumed, fairly quickly on our part, as we were famished by this time even though the crust was so soggy you could have rolled it up and made a burrito from it.
The next day dawned with clear skies and the promise of pleasant temperatures all day. A good sized group of us left at 9am to tackle the longest ride of the day, 45 miles in total. The routes all weekend would feature one big difference from what we are used to in and around Charlotte; this close to the water all roads are flat. I would end up in a pace line with Maurice the bulk of the time, posting consistently above normal average speeds. A stop at the Deli replenished our fuel tanks and would carry us over to dinner later that night.
We passed the afternoon in camp and again, later in the day eight of us walked over to a restaurant new to the group, O’Town, waiting again for about 20 minutes before being seated. Joanna and I ordered Lobster Bisque and the Crab Cakes entrée to split and then waited, and waited, and waited some more. Food for the other folks at the table came out in dribbles and finally after everyone but us had been served, Joanna and I realized that they had likely lost our order, particularly given that Lobster Bisque, being soup, is something you just dish up out of a crock.
I left money for the beer I’d consumed and we walked back to camp, arriving a little after 9pm and put a dent in the Trader Joe’s Cilantro and Jalapeño Hummus and Pita Chips we’d brought with us to snack on, little expecting it would be our dinner one night. Up early the next morning with no side effects from having missed a meal, except for a slightly fuller wallet, we took off again at 9am to tackle the 50-mile ride.
This day would be harder than the one before for two reasons; winds were gusty that day and it seemed like every direction we rode in presented us with a head wind and critically, the first and second rest stops of the morning had no food. Support had been so abundant the day before that few riders bothered to bring any nourishment from camp with them and we took off from the second stop, at around mile 20 with empty tanks. What saved Maurice and I was a couple on a tandem we joined around mile 30 as we rode off their back wheel all the way to the third rest stop.
On a flat course, this is one of the best things that can happen to solo riders, tucking in behind two folks on one big bike is a very effective drafting technique and can save a substantial amount of energy. We cruised into the rest stop to find food supplies had returned to the generous quantities we’d experienced the day before. We fueled up, pedaled out of the parking lot on the back wheel of the tandem and motored on to the finish at a respectable pace, feeling far better at the end then we had in the middle.
Another visit to the deli for yet another good sandwich and then back to camp for a great afternoon of beers and conversation took us through the rest of the day. Dinner that night would not be a problem; the meal supplied by Cycle NC replete with an hour or so of free craft beers before the food was served. At the appointed hour we queued up for our free beer(s) and then walked a block to stand in a line that would move quickly to fill our plates with dinner, hush puppies, Cole slaw, and a selection of fried main courses, including chicken strips, shrimp, and flounder, finished off with banana pudding.
The rest of the evening passed like those before, sitting in the circle and getting to know our camp mates that much better. The next day, before breaking camp and heading home, we set out at 8am for another flat and fast 30 miles. The winds of the day before had subsided making for easier going, and the workout I’d given my legs in the two prior sessions convinced me to back off a bit and just enjoy being out on the bike. I still finished with a highly respectable average speed, proving that sometimes not trying to hard can bring the best results.
We finished up the ride and returned, breaking camp after showering, loading up the car and hitting the deli one more time for a big lunch to get us home. Joanna ordered the The Big Neuse (Roast Beef, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Choice of Cheese & Dressing on a Demi Baguette) while I got a Chicken Salad Wrap (Chicken Salad, Lettuce, Tomato on a Wrap). Along with our drinks the total came to $19.25, causing us to repeat a mantra we’d uttered throughout the weekend with the other folks; if and when we return to Oriental for another Cycle NC event, we’ll eat all of our meals at the Deli.
CNC Coastal Ride: http://cnc.ncsports.org/
Great Western Bike Rally: http://www.greatwesternbicyclerally.com/
Oriental Deli & Subs: http://www.orientaldelisubs.com/
The Silos: http://www.silosnc.com/