Getting On The Road Again

Brian and I were somewhat shocked last year to realize it had been more than five years since our last motorcycle trip together. This was true despite seeing each other several times a year (he is married to my first cousin). There was no particular reason for our lack of trips other than time, distance, and life’s increasingly busy schedules. No doubt many well-intended plans fall victim to these common challenges. Or maybe it was because that last trip was so big (12 days, more than 5,000 miles) that it satisfied our motorcycle travel itch for a while.

Last motorcycle trip
Scenes from our last motorcycle trip

The shock prompted us to put more effort into making another motorcycle trip happen. My travel itch was flaring up. The same challenges still stood in our way, and there are so many destinations to choose from. But we kept talking about it and by October we finally found a few days both of us had free. We would ride together again on Halloween weekend! Cue some spooky, foreshadowing background music.

We agreed on a loop route through North Carolina’s Outer Banks islands. I had been chasing the goal of getting 6,000 odometer miles on my new-ish motorcycle by the end of the year. Riding the Outer Banks would definitely give me enough miles to meet that goal.

I volunteered to plan out the route details. Neither of us had really enjoyed the interstate riding we had to do on our last trip, so one of our goals this time was to avoid major highways as much as possible. We also agreed on a general counter-clockwise direction, primarily because that seemed to work best with the ferry schedules. The Cedar Island to Ocracoke ferry at the south end of the Outer Banks only runs three times a day this time of year. The ferry ride itself takes two and a half hours, so it has a big impact on a busy day’s plans.

Route idea
Our Outer Banks loop route idea

With these two goals in mind, I pulled up Google maps and started exploring. Poring over maps and trip planning are two of my favorite things. That’s probably why I enjoyed designing adventure race courses so much. Adventure races consist of a set of mapped checkpoints. Teams must then find their way to these checkpoints. A simple series of intersections to go find would have worked ok for our motorcycle trip, but going to interesting locations instead could make it a lot more fun.

The next county east from where I live is Johnston County. That’s where I spotted Devil’s Racetrack Road on the map. We would be starting our ride on October 31st. How appropriate was that?! We had to include this road on our route!

Once the Halloween theme suggested itself, similar interesting spots started jumping off the map. I soon had a couple days’ worth of theme-related locations mapped out and a route file loaded into my GPS. The pieces of our plan were coming together nicely!

A few days prior to our trip, there was still some doubt whether Brian’s schedule would interfere and keep him from going. I was determined to do the ride alone if it came to that. Fortunately Brian’s schedule cooperated and he rode down from Boone on Thursday afternoon.

We spent the evening checking out some of the local Thirsty Thursday specials within walking distance of my house. We hung out at a sidewalk table under the stars and people-watched as we talked about riding, camping, and tomorrow’s plans. But we didn’t stay up too late. We had places to go the next day!

Our bikes in the garage.
Our bikes in the garage before the trip.

continued in Slow Boat to Ocracoke

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