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Old 02-12-2013, 10:12 AM   #407
jdrocks OP
Gravel Runner
Joined: Jul 2007
Oddometer: 4,586
I had Patrick’s tracks through the Alligator, but when I put together my route, I must have anticipated that I might be short of time on this long day ride, so my route was an abbreviated semi circle that would catch the high points and drop me farther south on NC264 instead of coming around full circle back north to NC64. I had a few things on the list accessed from NC264, nice thought, but I should have changed up…and didn’t.

The Alligator is comprised of low coastal woodland, small lakes and canals, and cropped fields with water control structures so that they can be flooded post harvest. I was hustling along the gravel while taking this all in, thousands of waterfowl everywhere in the flooded fields, when I caught a flash of white from my left and flattened myself over the top of the tank. I had run through the landing pattern of a flock of Tundra swans coming in from my left while I had been looking at the birds in the flooded fields on my right.

Huge birds, 7’ wingspan, and they seemed low enough to reach up and touch if I had the inclination to touch a cruise missile, which I didn’t. These birds must had been well acclimated to human activity, they never changed course, never flared. These birds are so numerous that they are legally hunted, and being an old waterfowler, I was thinking I could have put a dent in the population with my well worn 10ga. The Tundra swan is the bird that has traditionally wintered in this area, including Lake Mattamuskeet, as opposed to the Mute swan, considered an invasive specie, found in the Chesapeake and farther north.

I was racing along on the roads, all well maintained if not well used, nobody in here today, although I did run up on an old hunt camp near a boat landing that had a pickup parked in front. Sun low, shadows on the gravel, and I missed a turn on this maze of roads, not so good, and I had to stop to key up a “GOTO” that would take me down to a waypoint I had marked on the NC264 intersection.

I needed to get my butt outta there before full dark, but I realized that the new GPS routing was going to take me through the bombing range, whoops, and I let the damn thing recalculate about a hundred times as I made some turns, then some more turns, eventually finding NC264, the sun on the horizon, my sight seeing plans down the tubes. I took stock of exactly where I was, damn, a long ways from home, the temperature in free fall. One last photo across a big burn, and it was dark, just that quick.

Eastern Carolina, on the roads along the sounds, woodland and saltmarsh, peat bogs and swamps, not much human activity that would show a light or two, ain’t nuthin’ to speak of, my thoughts went back to Manteo, and that sandwich I didn’t eat…and that fuel I didn’t pump.

I had a vague recollection of a fuel stop ahead, but it had been years ago, the exact number of miles left in the tank unknown. Roll the dice, cinch up tight, hit the switch for them flamethrowers, mash the gas, and with a big roost of shoulder gravel I was gone west towards LakeMattamuskeet through the blackest of freakin’ black, truly shocking in it’s intensity. Only one born for the trail would be foolish enough to be out there, and my thoughts had made a sea change…from fried pie served in Carolina to whiskey served in Virginia.

(to be continued…)
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