Bicycle Touring – Week 2 – Getting into the Swing of Things

Despite all the flat ground we were covering, our biking tour was a real roller coaster for me. During our first week of adventuring, I knew we were on Adam’s dream vacation but I was struggling to keep up, both physically and in level of excitement. The chilly weather didn’t help. Fortunately for both of us, the second week was a lot more enjoyable for me. I was a little more used to biking, eating tons more carbs to keep my energy up, and the weather got warmer, too.  We had also had some great trails and other fun spots, too, like riding the Fort Fisher Ferry in North Carolina.

All aboard the ferry!
All aboard the ferry!

Our Stats

Here’s our stats for the 12 days we rode. We almost covered 500 miles as we traveled from Durham, North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina.

BikingWeek1and2_StatsGraph

We averaged about 40 miles per day, and typically about 10 miles per hour when we were moving, even with the really low mileage weekend.  We spent about 4 or 5 hours a day pedaling on the bikes, with breaks for snacks and lunch. The record keeping on speed is tough because we often paused for traffic or to check directions without stopping the clock.

I’m proud that we got out there every day. I don’t think either of us has ever biked 40 miles in one day before, let alone for multiple days in a row.

However, that 40 miles a day was disappointing, because many more advanced touring bicyclists can go 60, 80, or even 100 miles some days. We did ride at a very comfortable pace, but the limiting factors for me were the time I could spend in the seat and my sore and tired knees and legs. I think Adam was also feeling the “time in saddle” limit but he probably could’ve gone further or faster. More distance would’ve been helpful because 40 miles is a short range to get between towns and campsites.

If we do this again, I would love to try to swap out our mountain bike tires for road tires to see if we can up our speed and get some more miles.

Our Route

Here’s the rough trip map. This is based on Google maps and not the official East Coast Greenway Route, but by the end of the trip we were following more Google and less Greenway, anyway. The Greenway route is designed to ride the best trails, but sometimes it takes you really far out of the way, even if there are good quiet roads that are more direct. Sometimes with only 40 miles of range you need to go with the shortest rideable route!

In addition to enjoying the scenic Fort Fisher Ferry, we rode through a lot of other small back beach town roads. Around the Myrtle Beach area, we stopped a few times to relax and enjoy our latest books on the beach.

In between miles, we had some time for relaxing on the beach.
In between miles, we had some time for relaxing on the beach.

Unfortunately, we did also run into a lot of roads that were quite unfriendly for bikers. (That plus the route forward was what led us to pull the plug on the trip in Charleston.)

Like the first week, we stayed mostly in hotels or motels, and had only one night camping, at Buck Hall Recreation Area. This was the one time on the trip I was glad we had our mountain bikes because we took a long dirt road into town, rather than bike alongside Route 17, a very busy highway.

BikingWeek2_DirtRoadtoBuckHall
On the road into Buck Hall, South Carolina.

While the dirt roads were great for safety and chatting while we rode, they were quite a bit slower. Even with our funky pace data, this was our slowest day of the trip.

Our Gear

Our bikes held up really well during the trip, and our basic camping set-up was enough to get by for a few nights. The camping gear included our tent, one sleeping bag and a blanket, two recently upgraded air mattresses, our small cooking pot with two real spoons, plus the AeroPress.

With the exception of my one flat tire, we didn’t have any issues with our bike gear, and only used one new tube and one patch kit from our repair kit. That giant screw I hit did require five patches to fix. I’m not sure I’ll try to use this one again but at least I now know how a patch kit works! BikingWeek2_5Patches

So, Is This The End of Bicycle Touring for the Ogres?

Even though parts of the two week trip were a little bit of a struggle, I had a lot of fun exploring the country by bike and I’d love to do it again sometime. We saw a lot of great back roads and bike trails. I haven’t eaten so many snacks since I was playing high school soccer and my dad called me the Hoover. Even though this trip started out rough for me, it got a lot better by the end and I know Adam would love to do another bike trip. (RAGBRAI, anyone?!))

Next time we attempt a bike trip, there are just a few things I’d do differently. I’d love to pick out a slightly better route, with even fewer busy roads and more trails and back roads. I would probably avoid coastal cities because they often have limited roads or bridges in and out. I’ll try thinner tires so I can get a little more speed and distance.  We would have a lot more flexibility if we could occasionally get 60+ miles per day, or travel a bit faster and have more time and energy to enjoy the spots we visited.  I’d keep all the other gear the same but maybe add a handlebar basket or bag to keep my camera and snacks more accessible.

Even outside another long adventure, having the panniers available for our bikes lets us run errands around town. My biggest learning from the trip is that most cities, towns, and even rural areas and parks have safe places to ride bikes.  For our trips around town, it’s sometimes faster than driving, and almost always more enjoyable. I see a lot more bike riding in our future, hopefully on occasional long touring trips but on short trips too!

3 thoughts on “Bicycle Touring – Week 2 – Getting into the Swing of Things”

  1. Thank you for the informative travel journal.
    I am impressed that you and Adam knew when to quit, putting self-care ahead of ego.
    Love!

  2. You’d like RAGBRAI. They have a sag wagon so you don’t have to carry your gear. (I have friends who did it.) Road bikes are the way to go.

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