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David Freeze: Two lighthouses and several new friends

I left the Elizabethan Inn in Manteo Thursday morning after a wonderful evening with another full day scheduled. After about five miles of riding, I rejoined N.C. 12 to head south.

The first stop was for an egg and cheese biscuit at the 7/11, and I struggled to eat it between conversations. People stopped by to find out where I was riding, with the last of them being Harry Veihmeyer. Harry plans to use the kayak strapped to the top of his car to fish all the way from the Dry Tortugas up the east coast of North America to Newfoundland. He asked me for tips on keeping his electronics charged and other things.

My first big stop was to see the Bodie (pronounced body) Island Lighthouse, and I found it spectacular against a clear blue sky. This lighthouse was built three times, and this one stands 150 feet high. A reader told me the name came because so many bodies had washed ashore in the area from shipwrecks.

Proceeding south, I entered Cape Hatteras National Seashore and found very quickly that a huge amount of sand was still being cleaned off the road in the area and that new dunes were being built by heavy equipment to protect the roads in the future.

Road construction delayed me several times but the most spectacular was because of the new bridge being built over Oregon Inlet. This bridge is going to be huge. The construction crew was actually using tugboats to move barges with supplies and cranes to where they were needed. I got some great pictures as I mostly had the lane closed for construction to myself.

The weather had improved so much that Thursday’s riding was very enjoyable. It was still a little chilly but a bright sun helped along with less wind. Throughout the day, I did notice a large number of dead deer and raccoons beside the road, something I didn’t expect.

The next stop was the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge. I have never seen nor heard so many birds at one place in my life. Hundreds of species of migrating birds can be seen in the 13-mile span. It was like the birds knew they were safe and stopped in to rest before moving on.

Just past the wildlife refuge was Rodanthe, another town that I have learned to pronounce correctly. I had been tipped off on how to find the house that Richard Gere and Diane Lane made famous in the movie “Inn at Rodanthe.” The desk worker at the refuge told me to look for the first house with blue shutters, and she was proven right.

A small sign confirmed the fact that house was used for the movie but it has now been moved off the beach and is available for rent.

Just down the road may have been the best stop of a whole day of great stops. The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station is now a historic site and has a wonderful museum.

With so many people losing their lives from shipwrecks off the coast, the federal government authorized a service that would train together and attempt to save as many as possible. Started in 1874, this particular station was the most notable of more than 100.

The museum and grounds are spectacular and include a fully stocked 1900s house and the quarters where the life saving crew lived and worked. The life-saving effort was the predecessor to the Coast Guard.

Elaine Haines was the very capable tour guide, and I also met Marilyn Boyleston from just south of Erie, Pennsylvania. Marilyn visits the area nearly every year.

I continued south through Avon and pedaled toward Buxton, the home of the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is 208 feet tall and its light can be seen from 20 miles out to sea and several miles from town.

I rolled in for some late evening photos and found Marilyn waiting for a sunset photo of the lighthouse. We both noticed that the lighthouse museum was closed and were disappointed, but the keepers’ house looked to be in great shape. The visitors center was only a gift shop, the same that I had found at Bodie Island.

Still, two great lighthouses in the same day were very rewarding.

Buxton is where I spent Thursday night in another great place built in the late 1940s, Cape Pines Motel. I got in just about dark and found the desk clerk very nice and a great grocery with deli right across the road.

It looks like two days of riding remain. Today, I will explore Hatteras and Ocracoke, then will be ready to board the early ferry on Saturday morning back to Cedar Island and my ride back to Salter Path. If all goes well.

This was another great day. There is a lot yet to see, so join me again and we’ll see what happens.

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