When we woke up this morning, we were all excited to get a move on and go see Eric and Jamie! So we popped out of our sleeping bags and started our day! But no sooner had we gotten out of the tent when we realized everything was all wet! I mean, it was as wet as if it had rained! ..But it hadn't rained last night.
Then we looked in the direction of the ocean and went, "oooohhhhhh". *light bulb* Big, low clouds of fog were rolling towards us. These fog clouds had been rolling in from the ocean for hours probably and were slowly getting everything in their path all wet. At first we kind-of snarled at them, but then, as we watched them, they were actually pretty cool to look at. They were moving fast enough that we could see them overtake trees and cars turning them milky white. Then, every once in a while, the fog would come to a spot of sunlight, and the light would appear to stream through it in big, long, bright streaks. It was so pretty. It was neat, peaceful, and gave our morning a fresh-start feeling.
After breakfast, we took a picture of us at our last campsite. It was a little bittersweet. Then we packed up and went to pay.
It was around 8am. We wanted to leave early, but the office wasn't open yet, so I knocked on the door of the campground manager's house. A lady came to the door and was clearly not happy that I had knocked. When I told her the office was closed last night when we got here, and we wanted to pay, she also got upset that we had camped without paying first. Then she told me that our no-water, no-electric site was $23/night!! I was stunned; our average camping rate all across the USA has been $10. I only had $20 with me, but I told her that Nathan had another $20, and I could go get it. She said she didn't have change. I said I could write her a check. She didn't accept checks. I knew she didn't have a credit card machine at her house, so I didn't even ask about paying with my card. I asked if she would just accept the $20, and she said something like, "OK. I'll make up the difference somehow...". I didn't even ask for a receipt.
We were happy to get on our bikes and get out of that campground. Sheesh.
Finally, we were on the road, and had 17 miles to ride to get to Hatteras and our friends Eric and Jamie. Yay! The nice, newly black-topped road we rode on last night came to an abrupt end at the Avon city limits and was replaced by a cracked road with lots of potholes. We could see why they had repaved part of the road. We finally made it to Hatteras, and on our way to the hotel, found Eric and Jamie out for a morning stroll. Hooray!! This part of the trip had been planned ever since before the trip began...and now here we were. This was such a huge milestone in our journey, and I couldn't believe it was happening.
After hugs and hellos, they said, "Wow, your bikes look so much cleaner in the pictures!". Haha :-)
Back at the hotel, we ate a snack and got right down to work making a video of Eric and Jamie to show you all. Here they are!
After their intro video, we walked around a pier a little ways away, and there were jellyfish in the water! I've never seen a real, wild jellyfish before. They were different than I was expecting - they were brown and swam sideways. I took a video for you to check it out (I love videos!):
After that, Eric and Jamie put on their bike clothes, and we headed off to explore Ocracoke Island, an island on the Outer Banks only accessible by ferry. It was 1 mile from the hotel to the ferry, and when we got there, we stopped at the guard station. The guard looked at us and said, "Where did you guys come from?" Eric and Jamie, all excited, said, "We biked from Rodanthe (about 35m away), but they started in Oregon!" And the guard responded with one of my favorite quotes of the whole trip! He thought we had misunderstood his question, so he said, "No, I mean how far've you BIKED from?" We all paused a minute, and then Eric and Jamie said, "They RODE their BIKES from OREGON!". The guard was stunned speechless. Then he pointed towards the ferry and told us to go ahead.
When we got to the waiting area, another guard approached us. We all stopped, and he said, "Now which of you guys rode from Oregon?!" While we were riding across the parking lot, the first guard had radioed this guard to tell him!
Then the ferry pulled in and started to unload, and another touring bicyclist got off and came right over to us to say hi. Turns out he is from Switzerland and is riding around the world as a 60th birthday present to himself! He's ridden 11,000 miles so far and he's still going! Woah!
Then we boarded the ferry. On the way across the inlet, we saw lots of birds (lots!), everyone saw dolphins (except me), and we even got stuck on a sandbar. And, of course, we ate more food.
We unloaded at Ocracoke and I once again marveled that we were really here. Ocracoke is the furthest south we will travel on our whole trip. Ocracoke is also the last 'new' place we'll go. After this, we'll turn around and everything from here to the finish will be backtracking. I can't believe it...
Our first stop on the island was the wild pony pasture. Ocracoke is apparently famous for its wild ponies (they're not ever called horses, always ponies, and I don't know why). As we rode towards the wild pony pasture, we all felt great. It was so cool to be riding together, and it was another gorgeous day (just like we've come to expect in the Outer Banks). It was sunny, slightly windy, and in the 70's. We were all in short-sleeves and shorts. It was awesome.
After a few miles, we found the ponies and were surprised to see that not only were they all fenced in, but they all had little barns/houses to go into, and they were provided with food. Why, we wondered, were they called WILD ponies? They were interesting, but with all their care, we decided it was just about the same as looking in at any other horses from behind a fence.
After another hour or so of riding, we finally made it all 14 miles from the ferry to the city on the island, and we all had one thing on our minds: food. We put our bikes in the 'Bike Parking' area outside of Howards Pub and went in.
We were hungry and the food was yummy. Woo-hoo! After eating, we explored all over the island. We bought postcards (of course), saw the ocean, visited some gift shops, and even rode down this old historical road that was apparently one of the first roads in the city. We were excited to go down the road, because a brochure said there were lots of historical buildings and things to see on the road, but when we got to it, it turned out to be a small, uneven, dirt path that seemed to form an alley-way behind a bunch of old houses. Interesting, but definitely not what we were expecting.
The thing I was most excited to see was the Ocracoke lighthouse. It's actually a lot smaller than other lighthouses, but it was a big deal to me because it was the first lighthouse I've ever seen in real life! They even had a mini version of it that brought out the King Kong in Jamie.
And just like that, it was time to head back and catch the 5pm ferry back to Hatteras. So we rode 14 miles back to the dock, and had a surprise on the way: Allesandro! He was riding West as we were heading East. It was so cool to introduce Eric, Jamie, and Allesandro to each other because we had told them all about each other! After talking for a few minutes, the mosquitoes started biting, so we wished each other luck and finished our ride to the ferry. As the ferry took us back towards Hatteras, the night sky lit up the water. The sun was setting on one side of the boat, and the moon was rising on the other side of the boat, so it was actually two totally different views depending where you looked. It was so cool!
Back in Hatteras, we all survived the mile back to our hotel in the dark (which included a really big pothole that I think we all went into), put our bikes away, and walked to...what else...a restaurant! Eric had picked out this hole-in-the-wall place that he was really excited about. We got tons of food for really cheap, and it was good too. Nathan tried a fried oyster sandwich, Eric had fried Grouper, and Jamie and I had Chicken Philly's. We also got hush puppies, fried vegetables, and chili-cheese fries. It was so good, and when we were done, we were all really full.
But full-schmull, we walked over to a grocery store anyway...and got dessert. :-) Nathan and I got a box of 10 ice cream sandwiches. Eric and Jamie weren't sure how we'd eat all 10 before we left tomorrow morning. Nathan and I just smiled.
Back at the hotel, we showed Eric and Jamie some of the videos from our trip, ate ice cream sandwiches, and talked. Then, when everyone started drifting off, we went into our separate rooms, took showers (yay!), and crashed into bed.
Today was such a good day. I can't believe it's already over. And I can't believe tomorrow's the last day. I just can't believe it..