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October 18th 2003
Published: October 18th 2003
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Sock Monkeys Rule!Sock Monkeys Rule!Sock Monkeys Rule!

It was the least Julia could do for me to make me a sock monkey to watch my back...
I left Williamsburg in a hurry with another Quaker on bicycle, both of us eager to catch the 10:30 ferry to Surry from Jamestown. We had a little over 3 miles to ride to the ferry in 20 minutes, but we didn't want to miss the ferry because we would have been left standing on the dock for another 30 minutes, waiting for the next ferry. Given that the morning had still not warmed up beyond 50 degrees, it would have made for a chilly wait. Steve led the way on his bicycle, and I worked to get as much oxygen into my lungs as possible to keep up with him. Even though Steve was riding a mountain bike with big, chunky tires, I still had a hard time keeping up with him encumbered as I was by 60 pounds of gear. To compound matters I was still suffering from a cold that I had picked up a couple of days before, and so my nose was completely blocked up. I usually breathe through my nose and mouth at the same time when I'm really pushing it, so I found myself struggling to stay up with Steve.

But we made it to the ferry a good five minutes before it docked, and so we had the chance to chat with a couple down from Front Royal, Virginia on a touring motorcycle. We discussed the perils of rain on the road, and the motorcyclist confided that he would rather ride a bicycle in the rain because at least that way he could stay warm. On a motorbike there was no physical exertion required, and thus no extra heat generated by the human body.

Our ferry ride was brief, and soon we found ourselves on dry land again. After studying our map, Steve & I concluded that we could shave a good 5 miles off our route by taking some of the smaller roads. But within 300 yards of leaving the big road, we found our path blocked by a construction crew. The hurricane last month had washed out the bridge, so we were forced to turn around and ride the bigger roads. For the rest of the morning we timed the arrival of the ferries by the waves of traffic. For 20 or 25 minutes Steve and I would be alone as we rode side by side, chatting away. But then the ferry would dock, and soon a stream of cars would pass by us.

After 5 days covering more than 250 miles, my legs were exhausted and my knees were creaking. Knowing that I had at least 40 more miles to cover, I stopped & took some naprosin to relieve the worst of the inflammation in my knees. Steve looked on with concern, and offered to pace me to the halfway point on my ride. I readily accepted his offer, and for most of the rest of the day I rode less than a foot behind Steve, tucked down on my aero bars to take full advantage of the pocket of aerodynamic calm that followed in his wake. In racing such a practice is called "drafting," and if done right it can save as much energy as 20%. Steve allowed me to save as much energy as possible for the ride from Smithfield into Norfolk.

Steve and I shared a lunch of bagels & hummus kindly provided by my hosts from the night before while sitting on the side of Jericho Road, which was still paved with bricks. Then Steve said goodbye, and I was on my own on my ride back home to Norfolk. The farther east I rode, the flatter the terrain grew, which was a relief to me as my energy ebbed. Finally I found myself riding down High Street to the ferry dock in Portsmouth, exhausted, but delighted to be returning to an old routine. For a year I worked in downtown Portsmouth, and there were many times when I commuted by bicycle and ferry, pushing my bike onto the ferry ahead of me. This time my bike was more burdened, and I was exhausted not from a day in the office, but from a week on the road.

As I rode across on the ferry, I thought about the miles I had already covered, the rest day that I would spend at home, and my journey into North Carolina that would start next week.

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