Day 18: To Rodanthe, NC - Atlantic Coast 2017 - CycleBlaze

May 3, 2017

Day 18: To Rodanthe, NC

I got up at 7:15, packed up, and went out for breakfast on the way out of Ocracoke. There was a side path for 4 miles to a campground, then back on NC 12. There's no shoulder, but very little traffic.

NC 12 on Ocracoke island.
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The road is sometimes so close to the dunes that sand spills onto the pavement. The dunes steadily migrate west.

Dune spilling onto the highway.
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The dunes are the highest elevation on the island. The bay side is low and flat.
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A ferry dock is at the undeveloped east end of Ocracoke island. I went on the free 10:45 AM ferry to Hatteras island. The straight line distance is short but the ferry takes an hour to circle around shoals.

The free Ocracoke to Hatteras ferry takes 1 hour because of a circular route.
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I saw 4 ferries going the opposite direction. There could be as many as 8 ferries operating this route today. It's the main access to Ocracoke island.

I saw 4 ferries going the opposite direction. This ferry route has frequent service.
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I talked to a couple who are doing a day bike ride from Ocracoke to Cape Hatteras lighthouse and back. Cyclists of any kind are rare even though the Outer Banks are well suited for cycling.

Two other cyclists were on the ferry, doing a day ride from Ocracoke to Cape Hatteras and back.
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The ferry lands on Hatteras island in the town of Hatteras. It looks like most of the houses were built in the last 20 years.

Fancy new houses in Hatteras.
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Lunch was at a dockside fish shop in Hatteras. One of several places I ate during the tour advertising that the fish menu is entirely dependent on what they caught today.

The Outer Banks have somewhat of a desert climate. I never saw prickly pear inland.
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The first 15 miles of Hatteras island is developed towns. New and upscale at the west end near Hatteras. The east end is older and more working class, with many trailers in Buxton.

Hatteras Island McMansion sprawl. Relatively low traffic. Most houses are vacant most of the time.
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In Buxton I turned on the 1 mile spur road to Cape Hatteras lighthouse. I had a great visit there. It's the most visited site on the Outer Banks, part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore run by the National Park Service. The spiral paint pattern makes it the world's most recognized light house.

Cape Hatteras lighthouse. Tallest in the U.S., 208 feet (63 m). Completed in 1870.
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I paid $8 to walk 248 spiral stairs to the top. It's great to see the inside and a rare view from up high. The turret has a rotating light but no Fresnel lens.

The structure is brick. The top is made of iron.
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20 years ago the lighthouse was about to fall into the sea. The sand island had steadily moved west, leaving the lighthouse on the waterfront. In 1999 the lighthouse was moved a mile inland. In one piece, very slowly.

The island steadily migrates west. The new location should be good for 100 years.
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I enjoyed the views from the top of the lighthouse. Lighthouses and tall bridges provide the only opportunities on this tour to get a view from up high.

Today it wasn't crowded but the large parking lot indicates that it is sometimes crowded. Original lighthouse location in the upper right.
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Looking down on the keeper's residences. I presume they were also moved.
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Friendly park ranger at the top. She is a source of information and stops people from causing damage or hurting themselves.
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The author looking less cute. It's very windy up there.
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I thought it might be hot inside the lighthouse but it wasn't too bad. Portable fans enhance the air circulation. It was fun going up and down the stairs. Ticket sales are limited to keep the stairs and top from getting crowded. On a summer weekend you probably have to wait a long time to get a ticket.

The iron spiral staircase has 248 steps.
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After a long stop I left the lighthouse at 3 PM. Hatteras island has been miles wide so far, but north of Buxton it gets much narrower so I could often see the water on both sides. The narrow parts are undeveloped.

Hatteras Island is very far from the mainland.
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I'm now going north with a southwest tailwind. The miles were fast and easy. Traffic is heavier than it was before Buxton, but now the road has a usable shoulder. The speed limit is 45 mph and the traffic is mostly cars. Few trucks.

I passed through the upscale village of Avon. Then a big gap before 3 consecutive small towns of Salvo, Waves, and Rodanthe. In between the towns is Cape Hatteras National Seashore, with occasional parking areas, trails, and beach access roads.

I went a few inches into the water. The undertow is powerful because of the incline. My feet sunk rapidly into the sand.
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Today had a high of 82F with no clouds. It's definitely less cloudy in the middle of the ocean than on the warmer continent. Strangely the humidity is relatively low.

Tourists trying to para-surf in calm bay waters. I didn't wait around to see if they ever got moving.
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Today I got fly bites whenever I stopped. That hasn't happened much so far on this tour. The fly bites cause massive swelling.

I passed miles of fancy new houses like this.
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Many of the beaches allow motor vehicles. Vehicles are supposed to stay below the vegetation and dunes, and above the high tide line. It looked to me like people regularly drive below the high tide line. A rutted beach is not my idea of a beautiful beach.

About half of the beaches allow vehicles. I avoided those beaches.
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A long time ago people were allowed to drive on all the beaches. Now many areas are off limits because they were found to be endangered species habitat. Redneck old timers complain that birds and turtles now have more rights than people.

I never saw people surfing. The waves here don't look great for surfing.
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In Rodanthe I got my reserved motel room at the rustic Sea-Sound motel at 6:10 PM. It's off the highway and very quiet. In town but a long walk from the beach. Every light bulb in the room is incandescent. Maybe the owner is a Luddite conspiracy theorist.

Small portion of a former amusement park in Rodanthe.
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Dinner was a half a mile south at the fancy Good Winds restaurant. After dinner I waited half an hour to watch the sunset from their high deck. It has a west-facing view of Pamlico sound, but the mainland is too far away to be visible.

West coast style sunset from the deck of Good Winds restaurant in Rodanthe, NC. The mainland is so far away that it's not visible.
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Traffic wasn't troublesome today. The road has a usable shoulder and a 45 MPH speed limit. No tall bridges today. It was a great "tour" day thanks to a long ferry, a lighthouse, and many ocean views. The Outer Banks are living up to my high expectations.

I need a rest but have one more day of good weather before a big storm arrives. Tomorrow will be my 9th consecutive travel day.

Distance: 55.6 mi. (89 km)
Climbing: 228 ft. (69 m)
Average Speed: 10.8 mph (17.3 km/h)

Today's ride: 56 miles (90 km)
Total: 827 miles (1,331 km)

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