After a month of riding circles in New Bern neighborhoods, I was ready to get out to the countryside to bike a leisurely pace and enjoy the sights and smells of farmland. So it was that an interesting and affordable Airbnb brought me west to Pittsboro, North Carolina where I was greeted by friendly faces and happy critters.
There were a few surprises during my week here. I was told that coyotes and bobcats do roam and while I did hear the coyotes, it was the smell of skunk that woke me from a dead sleep one night. I also thought it was great to have the barn protection in case of some stormy weather, but I didn't plan on temps going to 37 degrees! Getting out of the sleeping bag was a bit of a challenge a few mornings.
New Bern, NC has been a month-long stop on the “Could I live here?” tour. While I had done my homework, I knew in 3-4 days that this was not the place for me. Checking the boxes on my “must haves” list is a good idea, but I have to follow my gut and feel the culture. Note to self.
This sweet little town is a fun place to visit though, as it has 4 historic districts with more than 150 spectacular homes and a charming riverfront. It sits where the Trent and Neuse rivers come together, just 37 miles to the ocean. Founded in 1710, New Bern is the second oldest town in North Carolina and the original state capital.
The highlight of the past month was a surprise 4-day visit from my dear friend Martha from Austin. We haven’t hung out in 5 years but stepped right back into play. We spent hours on walking tours about town, ate plenty of ice cream at the Cow Cafe, fell upon music on the riverfront, and did plenty of catching up and sheer gabbing. Really great!
In just a few days, I'm pointing a few hours west to return to the outdoor life.
My sunrise departure from Lake Champlain differed this year as I drove through the Adirondacks on my journey across the State of New York. I had no idea how many undeveloped, low-key lake towns exist in this area and I’ve circled a few on the map to return another summer or two.
Rochester is my destination. Not a new place for me by any means, but I’d not seen a friend here for more than two years nor one of her daughters for nearly four. The added surprise was that a friend from Portland, Oregon just relocated here (his hometown), and it was 2015 when we’d last connected.
So Rochester, here I come. The city felt very familiar and it was easy to fall into walking in the beautiful parks, biking the Canal and River trails, and finding the local food spots. While Rochester may have some city issues (and cold winters), it still seems like a highly underrated place with much to offer.
With a push southwest into Pennsylvania, I arrived at my dear friends and adopted family, The Newtons. While a week early, this was designated as my birthday week this year, and oh boy, there was fun and festivities for days! It started with pizza alongside a bit of Idiocracy; biking small hills, kayaking a lake, cocktails on the patio, a farm stop for pie, the celebratory Reuben dinner, and a bit of BBQ. Let the year begin anew!
In the Valley
Hanging west has become the smart choice when pushing south, and during the past year I’ve enjoyed the small Virginia towns of Winchester, Harrisonburg and this week, Staunton. Settled by a Scots-Irish immigrant in 1732, it became an official town in 1761, the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson in 1856, and the architectural landscape of TJ Collins for 20 years. While Staunton was a key supply depot during the Civil War, it remained mostly unscathed. A town of nearly 30,000 today, it has five historic districts and leans fairly liberal. It was an enjoyable stay though Idalia pushed me out one day early.
I’m now enjoying sunshine in the small town of New Bern, North Carolina for a month or perhaps a little longer.
The music was cued up for singing as I rolled out of Jonesport, Maine with a 6.5 hour drive
(in a perfect world) to Plymouth, New Hampshire. For the first time in 3.5 months in New England, I was meeting with familiar faces, my sister and niece, for nearly a week of food, games, chat, and hopefully, fun.
It was my first visit to Plymouth, a small college town in the Lakes Region at the southern end of the White Mountains. They’ve maintained a sweet little Main Street with Plymouth State University nearby; and you don’t have to venture too far to access hiking trails, riverfront, and lakes. There was plenty of time spent cooking & eating good food, a few challenging games of Rummikub, a gift box of books to share, a belated birthday celebration, one day of rain, one night without sleep, and a one-mile hike. The visit was too short for my sister and I; too long for my niece.
Summer in New England has officially ended here, yet Vermont continues to pull me in.
In just three hours, I happily arrived solo at the Crown Point Campground in New York. While it was a short journey, I wasn’t sure what to expect while crossing Vermont mountain passes since the floods. There were single lanes for miles, but a great deal of clearing and shoring up had been done, while drivers were cautious and considerate.
My actual arrival time at camp was 10:30 am; far too early to set up the homestead, but a glorious sunny Sunday to park the car and hop on the bike across the bridge to rural Vermont. It was this region near Lake Champlain that brought me back in the spring pondering a more permanent life in the Green Mountain State. While it isn’t meant to be, I still see possibilities as a seasonal person in a few years.
In no time, the campsite was in good form and I was ready for an outdoor week. Shamefully, I realized that I hadn’t camped in five months (yes, Florida); though horrendous thunderstorms pushed me into my car for two nights of sleep. A little flooding but all good.
I was in familiar, pleasant surroundings and while I lived on the New York side, I mostly played on the Vermont side of the bridge. The view of Lake Champlain with the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west is one of the most beautiful spots in this country.
I’ve been in place for so long that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Originally, I was to stay two weeks in Jonesport, Maine but making a connection pushed it to three. During this time, I’ve seen perhaps five sunny days so I’m pretty well ready to move on from the coast. Unpredictable deep fog comes and goes across the area creating dangerous visibility for biking on narrow roadways, and slippery conditions on rocky hiking trails. This has had me discovering the ins and outs of every pathway in town on foot and reading books galore from the library sale; yet I’m feeling quite sluggish in body and mind.
Thankfully, I’ve been sharing a house with a wonderful group of people (and two dogs who never bark) during most of the past few weeks: a quiet, young man in the Coast Guard here, an older gent pondering Maine homesteading, and a 30-something gal who has just begun roaming. It’s been good to have conversations with people who are also trying to define “home,” and who are grappling with the same concerns of climate change, the cost-of-living, political divisions, and geographic options. Now thoughts of communal living no longer feel out of the question.
Jonesport is a fishing and lobstering town of nearly 1,400 people about 50 miles south of the Canadian border. Take the bridge across Moosabec Reach and you land on Beals Island; while continuing south brings you to a gorgeous nature preserve on Great Wass Island. Fact: There is no other town named Jonesport in the entire United States.
Visit townofjonesport.com for details on its interesting history. My story continues via photos!
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover