April 14, 2001

4/14/01 Virginia Beach VA

Just like in Texas, my family has taken such good care of me. My Uncle Chuck picked me up at the airport and was surprised that all the grumbling about the plane being late was kind of my fault. Chuck has a beautiful home on Lake Smith in Virginia Beach. It was sort of a family gathering that first night with Chuck's wife, Irene, and her kids. Tammy brought her husband, Jeff, along with their son, Noah. And Robbie brought his Danish born wife, Gitta. I hadn't see Robbie since my trip through London on my way to Kenya in 1987. He was 13 years old back then.

Robbie, Uncle Chuck & Irene

Thursday was spent putting the bike back together. But Murphy's Law holds true, even for cyclists. I have a special rear axle that allows me to pull my BOB Trailer. Because it is a little wider, it kept poking through the bike box. So, I took it out. Unfortunately for me, I must have forgotten to put the part back in the box. That afternoon, Irene helped me find a bike shop that sold BOB Trailers and spare parts in Portsmouth, SCAT Bicycles. Once I got the bike up and running, it sure did seem heavy.

And the big surprise was that I got a call from Holly, an old friend from back in my Engineering school days. For the last four years, her and George have lived aboard the Hannah Brown, a 37' sailboat. In the past, they traveled from the Carrabien to Newfoundland. But this year, they're going to try for Greenland and Iceland for the summer and winter in Europe. And right now, they're docked in Elizabeth City, NC, about a 40-minute drive away.

So, on Friday morning during a rain storm, Irene and I drove to see Holly and George. By the time we reached Elizabeth City, the rain had turned to drizzle. A good thing too, because we got lost. But as we passed the boat, I recognized it from the pictures I've seen these last couple of years. After we got parked, it was "Ahoy on board," I said as George came out to help us onto the boat. Holly had cooked up a feast of beans, salad, corn and George opened a bottle of wine. And for dessert, there was homemade strawberry pie. After dinner, Holly took great joy in showing us their very fine boat.

with Holly on the deck of the Hanna Brown

The "Hanna Brown" was made by a boat builder as his retirement home, but after a few months of sailing, they decided that cruising life wasn't for them and decided tosell. Lucky for Holly, George found it on the same daythat it went on the market. After a week's worth of sailing lessons, Captain George and Holly started sailing the Eastern seaboard. That was four years ago.

The wonderful thing about the boat was it's efficiency of design. No space was wasted. And quite a few things just required a pull here and a twist there to turn it into something else. And Holly had added her own touches - pockets, pockets and more pockets. By the time the tour was over, the sun was shinning and it was actually getting hot.

In the past, I only get to see Holly once a year or so when she visits her mom in KC. But now that I've seen her on the boat she calls home, it's myturn to say goodbye after our visit. I wish I could have spent more time with her and the boat. But I have my own adventure and I need to get going.

That night, Robbie and Gitta took me down to the main drag on the beach for dinner. Even though it's only April, it was crowded to me. But Rob said this didn't even compare to the busy season. We ate at the Raven for 'casual dining'. Pretty good food. It was fun to get a little more time with Robbie. He's looking to get his PhD in computer science while his wife is thinking about an MBA soshe can work in the international section. I wish them much success.

Today, I probably should have done a lot more for the trip, but I just wasn't motivated. But I did get the bike fully loaded and rode a few miles. What a beast! One snafu I hadn't planned on was with all my gear plus some food, I couldn't get it all in the trailer bag. And that gear doesn't even include the tent strapped up front. Looks like I'm going to have to pare down the weight, especially my clothes.

Other than that, I got in some time on the lake using Irene's kayak. If I lived near some water, I would have bought a kayak years ago - so peaceful as you glide across the water.

That night, Chuck and Irene took me out to dinner (I swear I've gained five pounds in the last week) and afterward went to visit some of their friends who were brainstorming ideas for their up coming trip to Ireland. Chuck and Irene had lived in London for three years and had traveled to Ireland. After all the trip discussion, the conversation moved onto other stories, generating much laughter until late.

As we drove back to my uncle's, I remembered that I still needed fuel for my stove. "No problem." Chuck says, "we have a 24 hour Walmart here." What I couldn't believe was that at 11:30pm on a Saturday night, the parking lot and store were packed. I had to wait over 15 minutes in line for one item. Materialism at it's finest.

Well, I've had a week full of good friends and family and way too much food. I think I've gained a few more pounds. The plan is to start the trip tomorrow, April 15th, Easter Sunday, around 10AM in Yorktown, VA.