Sunday, September 13, 2009

When the weather worsens, the adventure begins

Monday, Sept. 7 -- When the sound of raindrops hitting the tent woke me just before 7 a.m. the other day, I was having a revelation: Dealing with weather is the common denominator of adventure.

Sailing around the world, launching a rocket into space, flying solo across an ocean, dog sledding in the Iditarod, winning a British Open golf tournament, climbing Everest -- in every case, weather is the challenge.

Automobiles make weather irrelevant. Only a blizzard, tornado or major flood can crack the waterproof, soundproof, aerodynamic, air-conditioned oyster of a modern car or truck. A typical automobile road trip is no more adventurous than an afternoon in church.

My motorcycle trip, on the other hand, continued to be more adventurous than planned -- so adventurous, in fact, that on my ride from Morehead City to Kill Devil Hills, N.C., my replacement camera remained in its case, inside a dry sack, packed in the tank bag, encased in a rain cover held down by bungee cords and I have no pictures of that day's leg.

It's too bad, too. It included two ferry rides, swamped highways, towns named Atlantic, Sealevel, Whalebone, Nags Head and Salvo, light houses and drifting sand dunes. With thunderstorms and five to six inches of rain predicted, the local weather was the lead national story on the Weather Channel. The radar showed a big blob of adventure being pushed ashore by light easterly winds.

I almost chickened out. The forecast for inland Raleigh was better -- partly cloudy with showers beginning in the afternoon. The online NOAA forecast, however, was winds of no more than 15 miles per hour at the Outer Banks. That much wind wouldn't spoil a day of golf in Hawaii. I went for it.

It's 25 miles from where the road ends northeast of Morehead City to Okracoke Island

My route took me from Cedar Isle, which was awash, 25 miles across Pamlico Sound to Okracoke Island, the southernmost point of North Carolina's Outer Banks. I drove to the north end of Okracoke and took a second ferry to Hatteras Island. From there, I rode up the narrow strip of barrier-island sand to Kitty Hawk, made famous by Orville and Wilbur Wright.

I found a motel in Kill Devil Hills and brought my gear inside. The duffel bag with my clothes had wicked water up from the underside and most of my clothes were soaked, but otherwise everything was OK. I went looking for a laundromat to dry my clothes, but found a Mexican restaurant instead and warmed up with a burrito splashed with salsa and washed down with a cold beer.

It wasn't until I was leaving the next morning that I noticed the motel had a laundry room with a clothes dryer. Oh, well; changing into clean, dry clothes would just have to wait.

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