With the extra work we had to do that took us into November James was worried he would have to ride down in freezing temperatures or worse, with a threat of snow. We kept our eye on the forecasts and with the wild swings in weather this fall, we lucked out with a spot of warm dry weather on November 10th with a high of 15 C for James to ride south on the motorcycle. The upgrades and heated gear performed great!
The recent time change caught us off guard with not only how early the darkness fell, but how quickly the temperature dropped when it became dark. Both nights, we stopped at an unplanned location wherever dusk found us: the first night at a quiet gravel parking lot on the outskirts of the small town of Ridgway, Pennsylvania; the second night we parked at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Ashland, Virginia off the I95, enjoying dinner inside. The abandoned parking lot in Ridgway was a real boon since it was level, quiet, you could see the stars, and it was walking distance to a Sheetz gas station with free wifi and a clean washroom. The Cracker Barrel parking lot was convenient, but bright from the parking lot lights, and very noisy being adjacent to I-95.
TCOB: Taking Care of Business
Saturday we hit the Trader Joe’s, Margot’s favorite American grocery chain. We also went to T-Mobile where we got set up with a new phone, US phone plan and mobile hotspot. Sweet plans: unlimited streaming on Netflix and YouTube, (Canadians: yup unlimited mobile streaming, whaaat?), 2 gigs on phone, 6 gigs on the hotspot, all for $85 per month. Oh and unlimited calling any time of day, all across the USA, to Canada and Mexico and FROM CANADA AND MEXICO. OMG. When I saw the plan details online confirming what the saleslady told us was true, I actually teared up. Bell and Rogers, you both suck. I think we will just stay with T-Mobile forever. To that end, we put James’ Canadian cell on hold and migrated Margot’s cell to VOIP (using wifi, or cell data as the voice signal).
Observations as Canadians (by James)
To make the traveling more tolerable, Margot listens to podcasts and audiobooks and I listen to music and local radio stations (recall that we are traveling separately with me on The Hare (motorcycle) and Margot with the Tortoise (trailer). While listening to the radio, I made a connection regarding the Holiday Season. In recent years, Canadians have been (rightly) bemoaning the early onset of Christmas marketing before December, and even Remebrance Day (equivalent to Memorial Day in the U.S.). And before that, there has been a switch to making the Christmas holidays more inclusive, for example wishing people, “Happy Holidays” vs “Merry Christmas.” The American radio stations made a big deal about the Holiday Season and I realized they were referring to the combination of U.S. Thanksgiving and Christmas. Companies have noticed the sales potential, and created a huge marketing machine around it. We now have “Black Friday” (the day after U.S. Thanksgiving) in Canada to kick it off. I figure the U.S. chains have simply brought their marketing/sales cycles to their Canadian stores which has resulted in other Canadian companies having to jump on the bandwagon to stay competitive. And that’s why Christmas marketing in Canada starts so early now.
Another thing we noticed was around the recent U.S. election. There were a lot of “Vote Trump” signs, and very little for “Vote Hillary.” As well, there were many more anti-Hillary signs vs anti-Trump. It’s worth noting that we’ve mainly been driving through rural areas. Based on the signs and talking to people, it seems voting for Trump was as much voting to keep Hillary Clinton out as bringing Trump in.
First destination: North Carolina
We arrived at our friend Jeff Martin’s property just across the North Carolina border on the lovely Knott’s Island. He had a sweet spot for us in the sunshine with full hookups (electricity, water, and sewer!). Jeff, his daughter Mia, and his dad “Pops” were hosting other snow birds at the same time — Gilles and Joanne from Quebec who were on their way to overwinter in Mexico! Gilles’ English was pretty good and Joanne only spoke French. I was happy to practice my French with them. Dinner that night was meat and shrimp fondue, which I believe was the first dinner we had with Jeff in Toronto! (Sidenote: James met Jeff in 2008 in Toronto through the motorcycling community, and his story about how he landed in Toronto is very interesting!)
We enjoyed almost a week with Jeff and “Pops” at their lovely, country property. Jeff took us crabbing off the docks at the campground a short walk down the dirt road from his place. A couple weeks ago, Jeff caught a ton of blue crabs here. The technique is to tie the bait (usually old chicken necks) to a string. If the string starts walking away, pull it in slowly and net the crab before it lets go. The water was a bit too cool and it was a bit too late in the season to catch anything but really it was just an excuse to hang out for the afternoon by the ocean in the sunshine. We went back at sunset for one final check of the lines and to enjoy the sunset, haha!
We were lucky to spend some time with Jeffe’s daughter Mia (now 14!) while we were there. Mia showed us her gecko and we fed him a live grasshopper from the yard – for such a cute little guy, he is actually a vicious predator! Mia gave us a biker bell which wards off evil spirits that cause motorcycle breakdowns and accidents and is especially potent when given as a gift. Thanks Mia!
Since we had been to Virginia Beach several times before, we didn’t bother touring the strip or visiting the aquarium. Instead, we went for a motorcycle ride down the coast toward the Outer Banks area, enjoying the free Currituck ferry ride on a beautiful day, to meet up with Kurt and Sharon. James met Kurt and Sharon for the first time when they cooked dinner for him and put him up for the night a few years ago on a motorcycle trip! In fact, he was supposed to stay with another facebook friend in Charleston, WV, whom he had never met IRL (in real life) either, but due to work, Allie referred him to Kurt & Sharon. In a nutshell, he stayed with strangers twice removed! Kurt and Sharon had relocated to the OBX (Outerbanks) from landlocked West Virginia for a huge lifestyle upgrade and were loving it! We spent the evening chatting and we were especially interested in their involvement with the local sea turtle rescue, N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles) where they volunteered.
On the Road Again
Our first month-long reservation was about 1000 kms south, on Jekyll Island, Georgia. Since we had left later than anticipated in November, we had changed our itinerary and no longer had time for our planned stops in Myrtle Beach or Charleston. On the first leg of our journey to North Carolina, we had comfortably averaged about 500 kms per day so we knew that was a good pace for us. FTRVers talk about the 2-2-2 travel rule: drive less than 200 miles (about 320 kms), arrive by 2pm and stay at least 2 nights. This is a good general rule of thumb once you reach the area where you want to be touring, but for us Canadian snowbirds, it breaks down. Given that we can only be stateside for 6 months, we are still up north when the weather turns cold. We need to beeline south to get out of it quick, especially since James is on 2 wheels.
Accordingly, it was a manageable 2 day drive down to our next spot on Jekyll Island at the south end of the beautiful Georgia coastline. The towering live oak trees draped with Spanish moss look so otherworldly to our Canadian eyes. The palmetto and palm trees remind us we are entering a semi-tropical area with the cold of an Ontario winter truly behind us.