Outer Banks Winter Folk Festival
CLICK HERE for this trip's route map.
I'm gonna wander over to Elizabeth City Friday night and be on hand Saturday for the Outer Banks Harley Chili-Cookoff, then ride down to Nags Head on the Carolina Outer Banks for the 4th Annual Winter Folk Festival to hear Mike Cross sing ... arranged a little interview with Mike right before the concert ... and watch the St. Patricks Day Parade in Nags Head. A little southern Folk Festival and green beer should go a long way to making the long lonely weekend a little easier to bear.... it's OK honey...I'll be OK - you go have a good time!
Come on back after St. Patty's day and see how the ride went!
House was quiet - no kids...Kim's gone skiing...even the pesky cat that wakes us up every morning was staying elsewhere for the weekend, so I got up late - about 8:30am. Used to be I could lay in bed for hours drifting in and out of sleep, but now I just get up, maybe a little TV in bed, but mostly just get up. I had the dog feeding duty this morning, lock him outside and leave the key with neighbors to come let him in and out and feed him...packed thebike with a small overnight bag - SO much easier to pack for a totally-motel trip...zipped up the chaps, buckled the belt of the Leather Jacket, and put on the 3/4 helmet this morning - still pretty cold in the mornings here for pot-helmet-riding - and pull out of the garage at about 9am. Me and Huck on the road again - feels good.
Rode up to the corner for gas...the mom 'n pop gas station was .09cents more expensive than the shiney new pay-at-the-pump Exxon, but I pull in anyway. Whats the most extra I could pay here, maybe 40 cents? I tend to prefer the manual pumps and get off and go-inside-and-pay kinda stations...the shiny ones just really take away from the fun of a road trip - too clinical, sanitary and cold...get off yer ass, and go inside and say hey to someone - have a cup of coffee and find out a little about the town your in - thats what I say.
So, one coffee later, gassed up and trip odometer set to zero,I'm off in the morning chill - and fog. I hop on the Interstate for about 2 miles, and vear off onto Hwy 70 on the east side of Durham, heading for the Roadhouse - Durham Harley's Breakfast restaurant...my usual #2 - 2 eggs, grits and sausage, coffee and toast. I usually sit at the bar and eat so I could bullshit with the waitresses, but today they are all pissed off because the food delivery guy is way late again...I just eat in peace and let the tempers fly - no need to get into the middle of that today...nothing's gonna screw up the attitude today!
Head due east on Hwy 98, skirting to the north of Raleigh, and totally missing it's traffic. Ride through Wake Forest and stop at BJ's Family Restaurant for my last coffee of the day - it was about 10 by this time and the locals were out in force...couldn't help but contrast the way things used to be (with the local bib-overalled farmers in town after chores for breakfast talking about the weather and planting problems), with what I had sitting in the booth in front of me....same bib-overalls, but one guy was giving a littany on the perils of stock investing, and the second guy whipped out his cell phone and held it up to the light at an arms length, squinted and announced that the Dow was down 40 points already, while a third leaned over and brushed the dirt clods off his alligator-looking boots.....times have changed!
As I head out of town and towards the east into rural North Carolina, the numbers of pickup trucks and bass boats increased dramatically... Highway 98 is a two-lane that connects with Highway 64 out east of Raleigh, and cuts through some pretty poor, unpopulated desolate homesteads. Farmlands are still fairly tended but the numbers of run-down, abandoned homes and buildings, some totally reclaimed by the Kudzu vines, are high here. Sometimes it is hard to imagine what these folks do for a living out here...still, the alternative of taking the trip on the nearby Interstate....well, Hwy 64 isn't technically and Interstate but it may as well be (same kind of highway)...is unappealing.
I much prefer to ride along reading the street signs like Possum Road, Mullberry or Beaver Pond Lane, and have the chance to smell the woods and moss and lakes. I think this is gonna be one of my classic - NO highway rides....seems there's been way too many Interstate miles recently. Fortunately, for much of this ride I have either Old Hwy 64, Alternate Hwy 64, or Business Hwy 64 to choose from... with only the stretch through the town of Rocky Mount reserved for the real Highway - may as well get the hell through town quickly.
Right before I get to the first stop of the day - a little town called Bethel, I get detoured onto some back woods road 'cause the bridge is still out up ahead from last years devastating floods in eastern North Carolina. Waved at some little kids on the road wondering why they weren't in school today. I have been talking to a young lady in Bethel for years now, and thought I'd stop in and say hi on my trip. She's the librarian in this tiny town....and I'm riding by during her workday, so we're gonna meet there. They've taken an old Railroad Depot, built back in the 1800's, and made the town library out of it.
Me and 'M' talked for almost 2 hours about a little of everything going on in our lives...typical kinda stuff you'd expect from people who've known each other for over 2 yrs and never met. Snapped off a bunch of pics, she's cute, huh? (She'll send me some of her digitals, too, and I'll put 'em in here later)...straddled Huck for the ride out of town and headed east at 3pm.
I found the ride on Alt 64, and eventually onto Hwy 13 and 17 really good. Couple of little towns and mostly just woods and farmlands. Don't have far to go from here so I'm just scootin' along nice and slow. I hit Edenton, and ride through the Historic District - again...did this last year on the Swamp Ride and didn't find anyplace for a beer this trip either. Pulled over on the side of the road and bought a box of Thin Mints from the street corner Girl Scout vendor..something to munch on in the room later tonight.
Got in to Elizabeth City , checked in to a seedy little place - had reservations guaranteed otherwise I would have passed on it, but it was only $35 so I damned sure can't complain...can't expect much for that. Forked over the money through a crack in the 2 inch thick bullet-proof glass in the front lobby....now there's something that sure makes ya feel good about your motel choice! At least she was friendly enough to put me in a room next to the parking lot and with a balcony to park the bike under - her suggestion.
Dropped off my junk and headed out to see the town. Not much here...the local topless-bar is about the only place in town except for Poindexters down by the water front....went to the latter for a nice Prime Rib dinner, coupla Buds and the best slice of iced raisin bread I've ever had...warm from the oven. Then on to "Headlights"...guess which place this one was?...only problem is the joint is members only and a 3 day waiting period for memberships.....so I went back out front, waited for the next guy to pull in and told him I'd buy his first drink if he signed me in as a guest......I suppose the wrong kinda guy might have taken that wrong, but sitting astride Huck like I was, I think he just saw me as a drifter needing an in to the club. It was your typical seedy strip joint...local talent wasn't what you'd find back home so a couple more buds and I was heading back to the motel, under the canopy and fired up the computer to download the pics and write this crap.
Time to dive into my Barq's Root beer and Thin Mints and watch the tube....See ya for the Chili-cookoff in the morning at the dealership.
Day Two - Saturday
Slept late...watched a Danny Devito movie on TV til about 9:30am and packed the bike...rode down to the waterfront to snap a few pics and take a picture of the front of Poindexters...Find it at the corner of Main and Poindexter Street. Then in keeping with my long-standing plan to never eat at a franchise (other than Waffle House, of course) I rode around for 15 minutes trying to find something when I stumbled onto Van's Restaurant. The waitress bent the rules a bit and let me order off the weekday breakfast list - short stack with a couple eggs and sausages. Found it to be a good stop for breakfast and right around the corner from the dealership on Hwy 17 business.
I stayed in town last night to be on hand for the Outer Banks Dealership's Chili Cook-off. I knew I was gonna have to hit the very beginning of it and get moving to the Outer Banks (Despite their name, they aren't really on the Outer Banks, but real close!) When the tasting started, I guess there were maybe 60 people there...all bellied up with little mini-tasting cups to judge the best of about 9 entrants...it was no contest as far as I was concerned, voting for #29 "The Sportster Chili"...I'll see if I was even close if I hear from a new friend I met there, (pic #20) Captain Donnie (Squeaky) Smith...charterboat fishing captain out of the Hattaras Harbor Marina( "BIG EYE" www.bigeyefish.com 252-995-6890). Donnie and his wife Teresa and I have emailed a couple times and mentioned he was gonna make the 2 hour ride from Hattaras and would look for me. [Turned out Sportsters Chili took 2nd place....musta been rigged!]
Taking off fairly early - about 12:30 or so, I headed down Hwy 158 out of Elizabeth City towards the outer banks. I pass by a lot of waterfront, the closer I get to the coast. Eventually I hit the big bridge (click here for pic) and cross over into Kitty Hawk, officially the beginning of the Outer Banks at Mile Post #1. Not far down the road I ride into and look around the Kitty Hawk National Monument, where the Writght Bothers did their thing and had a cup of coffee (it was still pretty cold!) at Bob's Grill, where the sign reads..."Eat and get the hell out!" - my kinda place.
Eventually hitting the town of Nags Head, I stop for a cold one at Slammin' Sammy's...OK OK OK, I know I just had a coffee, but ya just can't pass up a place like that...crossed over Hwy 64 where this summer I will be taking my "Whalebone to Wolf Creek" ride, from one end of 64 to the other in NC...here's a picture of Huck with its rear tires as far east as it can get, in the sand at the end of Hwy 64, which is in the background heading over to the town of Manteo...This intersection of Hwy 64 and 158 is known locally as Whalebone, but more on that during the July ride.
Finally, getting to the Whalebone motel, I check in to the corner room, that has it's back porch right on the sand dunes of the beach...I specifically asked for it but would pick another room next time because the handicapped parking is right in front of it so ya can't park the bike in front of your room.... I'd certainly recommend the Whalebone for bikers - the owner seems real biker friendly - but ask for rooms 6 through 9, with parking right out front. I stop in here to get all uploaded and rest up - gonna change and hit the Outer Banks Festival in a little bit...after that I have another meeting with internet friends in Manteo at the Weeping Radish Microbrewery....so I doubt I will do any more updating til I get back home tomorrow night or Monday Morning - see ya then!
4th Annual Outer Banks Winter Folk Festival
Now, generally I am a Classic Rock kinda guy... but there are two or three singers that I follow and have followed for a number of years that I enjoy who are in the folk music style, and Mike Cross is one of 'em. Our paths nearly crossed 20 yrs ago in Chapel Hill, where he used to work at a Bar that I eventually bought and ran for nearly three years. He had left by that time, starting his career in music, and while I became friends with some of his friends, we never met til tonight, although I have attended many of his concerts over the years.
The OBX Winter Folk Festival was held indoors for the first time this year (good thing as the weather was COLD as hell) in the ballroom of the Comfort Inn at Whalebone Junction, just south of Nags Head. Performers included Stealin' Licks, a local group; Mustard's Retreat; Jack Williams (pics 31 and 32), Mollie O'brien (pic 34); Mike Cross, (pics 35 - 40); and Eddie from Ohio. The crowd was small, maybe 200 people but the bar had cold beers and the sound was great. I had originally set up an interview with Mike Cross after his sound check at 3pm, but when I showed up at 2:45, I was told he had showed up early for his check and already left... I was pissed! (Turns out he and his wife had come back for our 3pm meeting and heard me fire up the bike and take off just as they came back!)
So, I drove around Nags heads a bit, came back to the room, did come uploading and got dressed for the festival tonight. I missed the first group and hit the tail end of the second...but while the third was on stage, Mike and his wife came in to the ballroom and was looking around...so I came up, introduced myself, and we headed outside by the bike to talk about his old riding days and our mutual friends in Chapel Hill. Mike used to ride a Harley until several years ago when - as Mike tells the story - his agent got down on his knees and begged for the first of two different times for him to stop doing something...to STOP riding a motorcycle... the second was to ask him to quit using his chain saw on downed trees in his yard... gotta keep the talent healthy I suppose!
The first clip below, "Come Ride With Me" was actually written with a friend of his (one the few co-written songs Mike has done) but before he started riding bikes. This friend of his was so passionate about riding his Harley that he and Mike sat down and wrote that song about the feeling. Soon afterward, Mike got his own. We spoke for about 15 minutes, he posed for a pic out front by Ol' Huck with me and then headed in to take the stage. If you've never heard of Mike Cross...here's a few songs for ya to listen to....he currently has 7 CD's out - if ya like this stuff, let me know and I'll hook you up with the record sales company. (These sound clips require RealPlayer to work properly)
I sat through the whole set and realized too late that I had stayed too long. By the time I got the leathers on and rode the 5 miles over to Manteo, the Weeping Radish (pic 43) - the microbrewery that I had planned to meet my other friends at - had already closed and there was no one there. Whats with that? A brewery closed at 10pm? I heard from them via email later and found that they had come early in hopes that I would be there to say they couldn't stay anyway...seems these on-the-road meetings tend to be iffy at best. So I swing the bike around, head back over the bridge (pic 42), past Whalebone, up into Nags head and beyond to a little town called Kill Devil Hills, and over to Kelly's Bar and Grill.... I see now why Weeping Radish closed early - everyone on the Outer Banks was at Kelly's for St. Patty's day! Got no pics here - the bar-front was too dark and it was SO crowded that I would have felt stupid in there taking pics. The place was packed and while it was only about 10:30 by this time, after only two beers I was ready to head back to the motel for some sack time. All this cold weather riding is taking its toll.
Day Three - Sunday
Got up with the sunrise...I could hear the crashing of the waves from my room, even over the hum of the heater I left on all night. The sky was cloudless, so there wasn't anything too spectacular to take pictures of...besides it was too damned cold to do much other than take a look, and get back inside. Figured I'd pack it up early and head west, so I eased out of the Whalebone Motel (Al & Susan Awtry - www.whalebonemotel.com) at about 8:00am and headed back over the bridge to Manteo, past the Weeping Radish for a daytime pic and swung around to the mainland. As soon as I got over the second bridge (damned winds were really bad in the center of the sound) I took a left onto Hwy 264, instead of taking the main route home on Hwy 64. I figure I will be doing the Hwy 64 route this summer on my "Whalebone to Wolf Creek" trip and wanted to do something different.
264 is a beautiful ride - Down Alligator River (pic 45) (CLICK HERE for the windshield pic) ... a little monotonous at times with its tall grasses on both sides and flat landscapes, but for 20 miles I saw no other cars at all. The road is freshly paved, too, so it was a pleasant ride. Eventually it grew into a tree-lined ride that meandered around small lakes and creeks. When I hit a little town called Englehard (pic 46) I stopped at a little crossroads shop for breakfast - one of those combination gas, bait & tackle, breakfast grill, convenience store places, rural NC style. Great Sausage, egg and cheese biscuits though. I rode into Swan Quarter (Pic 47 & 48), a short side-road from Hwy 264, just to check out the ferry terminal - something I hope to use this summer on one of my other outer banks trips... If you ever want to use the Ferry from here to Ocracoke, make reservations and be sure to be here at 9am for the 9:30 am crossing (2.5 hours). They do take bikes and will provide ropes and tie-downs for you onboard, but in bad weather may refuse you on ship for the crossing - captains decision. If you miss it or can't board for weather - just take 264 to Manteo and down the outer banks - its a pretty ride, too. From here it is a short 40 minute ride to the nearest decent place to spend the night - the town of Bellhaven and it's River Forest Manor (pic 49 & 50). I stoppped here to talk to the owner, Axson Smith, for the tour of the place. They are famous locally for their meals as well as Bed & Breakfast style rooms...not bad price-wise either. I'm gonna stay here on my next trip this way.
From Belhaven, I headed south on Hwy 99 / 92 to the town of Bath. Bath was the first incorporated city in the United states, along with several other firsts, including first Library, and oldest standing residence (pic 51). Its also home to Edward Teach...affectionately known as "Blackbeard", who was eventually killed in Ocracoke in the late 1700's. The historic District is pretty small, as it was a pretty small town at the time, so don't plan on staying here more than an hour or two. From Bath I went on in to Washington back on 264... couldn't find a decent mom 'n pop restaurant open on Sunday (thought I found a perfect one - Peg's Diner, but they were not open)...so I settled for BoJ's. Changed the map in my clear map case window on the tank bag that I now swear by... can't tell ya how much use I get out of this RevPack bag, especially for my camera, but also for easy reference to the map I keep in there. RevPack - www.revpack.com (... hey, shameless plug, I know... but it works great).
Once I got fed, with the historic stuff behind me...the day still cold (I still had my leather chaps on and would keep them on all day), I switched out of goofing-off mode, hunkered down and just rode home....a couple more back roads to get up to Hwy 64, and just reversed the route I came in on, up Hwy 98 through Wake Forest and back home. Made it back around 6pm, windburned, sunburned and cold as hell..... was a tad too early for a beach trip I'll admit - but I had a great time. Met an old friend for the first time in Bethel...that last pic is one she sent me in an email of her on Huck as I was leaving...and finally got to meet Mike Cross who I've enjoyed listening to on occasion for many years.
My riding buddy for this trip, Lad Carrington ("Cowboys with Chrome Horses") couldn't make it due to a clutch problem on his ride...didn't want to risk it. By the way, Lad - Mike Cross asked to say Hi to you - he remembered you well. So, til next time - Myrtle Beach Bike Week probably - See ya on the road.