Weeks 14, 15 – Virginia, North Carolina

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

How can it be that good? Honestly. I am thinking what to write about and I bring in mind all these last days in Wilmington and then I read my last post about my days in Richmond and….. honestly, how can it be that good? Earlier today I caught myself trying to stop myself from laughing alone. It may sound silly/giggly, but while sitting here and recollecting my recent days, I started smiling and then laughing – I can feel my whole body exude happiness. And I say to myself “Hey, stop! Focus a little bit on what you are having now in front of you and start organising your future – time flies!” – “yes, yes, ok, of course, I have to sit down and write about this so very unexpected and goodness-me-so-amasing last week and, also, about the previous week!”

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Well… yes!

[But, before I move on, give me some time here to attempt answering the question twice set above. Firstly, I ‘d like to say: well, yes, it can be that good – this is not a dream or something supernatural. This is my reality for now. A trip around the world sounds really special and amasing and…WoW – well, it is! Why am I saying this? Because…… I built this reality! I dreamed, and thought, and planned, and acted, and tried and re-tried and left and rode and flew and rode again and now here I am, 105 days on the road. It’s real, it’s happening. Even if my trip was terminated now for some reason I would be satisfied. I would be full. This is a huge thing for me to say – myself I always want more. But I really mean it.  I AM NOT SAYING THIS TO PRIDE MYSELF – I AM SAYING THIS BECAUSE I REALLY WANT TO ANSWER THAT QUESTION. HOW CAN IT BE THAT GOOD – I DIDN’T KNOW IT COULD BE THAT GOOD – I DIDN’T KNOW THERE EXISTS SO GOOD A “SITUATION” – I WRITE THESE LINES IN ORDER TO POINT NOT TO ME; BUT TO THE POTENTIAL, TO THE POSSIBILITY, TO THE POWER OF CONSTRUCTING OUR CONTEXTS – TO THE BEAUTY OF PLACING OURSELVES IN THE WORLD WE BUILT FOR OURSELVES.. (Let me clarify though that I have some really bad moments of fear, extreme inconvenience, boredom, exhaustion, annoying uncertainty. However, my mood, my attitude, the way I feel in general is making me very patient at every moment of discomfort). YES!]

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I left Richmond the cold Monday of the 25th of January. I was planning to follow a bike lane/trail and reach Williamsburg.. But there was so much snow at the trail that I couldn’t really tell where the trail is. I had also some difficulty in getting out of the city because of the ice…. I fell twICE (haha) and I thought that if the road condition will be like this for the rest of the trip, I can’t really leave today. But, the road got better and I got happier. I reached W. and found myself in an astonishing house, located in a resort. Felt like being in a museum – paintings everywhere and you could tell by every little detail, that was a classy house! I was hosted there by Roy – a really welcoming, smiley, kind, open, friendly and really knowledgeable lawyer. He cooked for me a delicious dinner and I very much enjoyed his historical descriptions (names, places, battles, everything!) and … and you know what, next morning I was a bit late and he had to go to work and he just told me “just make sure you close the door, when leaving”. Can you imagine? He had this amasing house and he only knew me for 10 hours. Well, this is what I call hospitality and generosity and trust.

I left Williamsburg on Tuesday the 26th in order to go to Norfolk. All my previous days were so packed I was feeling I had to stop for a little bit and write down. Pause and reflect. I had my good chance in Norfolk. I went to the place where I would be hosted but there was nobody there. It was 21:00, I was very tired and for a moment I was like: oops.. now,what? I looked for the city center, searched for free wi-fi, searched for 24h McDonald’s. The plan was to spend my night there and do all my on-line stuff and prepare my blog-post etc. I found 24h McDonalds but “sorry sir, our wi-fi is not working today!” – Urgh. I found Taco-Bell but “sorry sir, our wi-fi is not working today!” – Oh my God, is this possible?? I finally found a 24 hr cafe called IHOP (International House Of Pancakes)…
How I got there??

 I spent 13 hours there (from 23:00 to 12:00)! I had 12 cups of coffee and I also ordered “All you can eat pancakes” BUT they stopped serving me after 6 hours there! (Urgh!) I was trying to put in order my internet life there, but, most importantly, I had a very serious phone-call…

[As you know (?) one of the goals of this trip is to visit schools for my dissertation in education. In order for me not to send e-mails in schools I know nothing about, I was trying to enter schools through the Global Network of Schools that is coordinated by UNESCO. (Yes, this “E” right there stands for Education – I didn’t know it either). After 4 months of writing letters, sending e-mails, making phone-calls and being in contact with the Hellenic UNESCO Committee, finally I got an answer that the schools that I wanted to visit are very busy and it would not be able for me to carry out my research there 😦 ]

So, right there, in Norfolk’s IHOP, in-between the 9th and the 10th cup of coffee, with my notebook-diary in front of me and a very rude server that refused to bring me my 3rd round of pain-killer pancakes, this dream of mine in regard to visiting schools around the world, started to fade away. And this because I had no time to send e-mails to unknown schools and tell them that “I am at your city now, can I visit your school”. I really had to go at least to 1 school in the USA in order to set the basis for a comparative research that is kind of all-inclusive (USA, Latin America, Africa, China, Russia, Europe). So, I was very sad and upset, as I couldn’t also find the time and the place to do all the preparation necessary to send e-mails in schools. I was about to enter North Carolina’s Outer Banks, be there for 5 days, camp and be alone for a bit in the wilderness (I had no camping yet in the USA).

But then again, while being very sad and disappointed, I did what always makes me feel better. I delved into my thing-self. (Your what?) Yes, it sounds awkward. By “thing-self” I mean all the tangible manifestations of my personality that are to be found in expressions of mine (in the form of notes, photos, poems, collages, drawings, plans etc.). I checked my notebook, I checked my electronic diary, I even checked my Facebook Profile and Page. And I saw myself’s submitted expressions of compact meaning. Right there, conscious and careful arrangement of things in a picture. Meticulous picking of words in a poem that is not a Poem, but a beautiful and meaningful (to me at least) and compact array of words. Stimuli that relate to memories that relate to songs that relate to people. All combined. And right there, in this spatio-temporal and bit artistic expansion of myself I said “Woohoo man! That’s interesting, that’s beautiful, that’s… you! I exist!”

 cogito ergo sum – creo ergo sum
(
I think, therefore I am – I create, therefore I am)

So, in looking at my notebook I also saw all this preparation I had done for this trip and all this effort I put into this, and I saw “Nορφολκ” (Norfolk) in a page I wrote  8 months ago, and I said “well… visiting schools is a part of it. You do your best from now on and when you get out of the Outer Banks, find a place, concentrate and send some e-mails to schools – you never know”. Before though I got to open my notebook, amid panic and sadness, I called my friend George. When things turn shitty he is my first line of defense (even when I can’t reach him – I am trying to think as he would do – I carry him) 😀

3 months on the road, today! The sun rises in Norfolk, Virginia and I open my preparation notebook and see Νορφολκ there, and the date was 2352015, 8 months ago!
Nορφολκ is there, in my preparation diary, 8 months ago… Sunrise, IHOPe

So, that was my time in IHOP, the last Tuesday of January. I was waiting for the rain to stop and I hit the road sleepless, moving to Outer Banks (OBX) – I had no idea where I would stop that day, where I would sleep that night.

(At IHOP I had some time to investigate online the wildlife of North Carolina, as I would be camping for the following 5 days at least. I saw that there were black bears there and I was a bit scared. I thought, though, that I will be sleeping in residential areas… I didn’t know what I had in front of me…)

I headed South and East until I reached the Atlantic Coast. From that point I would be riding only South, in parallel with the seashore. All good until that point. However, I didn’t really know what the landscape looks like in OBX and I also had another issue. A krak in the rack! On my way to the Atlantic Coast, an awkward sound from the rack hit my attention. I look there and… I kind of fixed that and moved on. At some point, before the sun set, I am in front of this:

Daemn’t! This was my only way to ride the OBX! I want to go this way! Urgh. I was very annoyed and I had an inner battle – what should I do? After taking some time I thought that “I am in a foreign country, in an unknown context/environment, where laws are enforced – I should obey and go back”. So, I just left! I started going back really disappointed. After a bit there was the wildlife refugee station – I thought I should ask – nobody there – It was closed. I saw 2 cars in the parking lot and went to ask for some advice. The first one told me “yeah, it’s closed now because it’s the birds’ mating season. It’s better not to go” The other one told me “yeah, it’s closed now, but it’s only 10 miles, make a quick and you ‘ll cross it in less than an hour. Since there’s nobody here, nobody will check and punish you. There are bears in the wider area, but they sleep at this time of they year, don’t they?” As  you can imagine, I followed the 2nd one. I went in thinking: “I ‘ll be fast and I’ll be at the other side in less than an hour” – (in retrospect, how silly was that decision!)) I was going fast in the unpaved road, having forgotten about my broken rack. After 1-2 kms… KRAK!, my rack broke at another point too and now it’s…well, useless! I  am at a wildlife refugee, in an area I shouldn’t be, where bears may be around, and the sun is about to set! OOPS! I put all my stuff in my shoulders and walked my way out thinking about where I will spend the night? and what about the bears? Pffff…..

My frustration went away in a matter of 5 minutes, as I reached the station…
But.. let’s take it from Norfolk…

So… I woke up at 05:45 am at a camping spot I shouldn’t really be, I pack my stuff and head to the ferry. It was a 2 and a half hour trip so I had time to prepare myself for the following journey. I didn’t know where I will stop or sleep. The plan was to reach Jacksonville (135 km) and maybe a bit more, then wake up on Sunday morning, ride the rest and go to Church in Wilmington. But it was already 10:00 am…

I had severe saddle sores so I was wearing 3 padded shorts in order to be able to ride. That was an epic journey!

I reached Wilmington at 2130 – exhausted as I were, I hit the city center and… guess what, I looked for a free wi-fi in order to find a place to camp. So there I am, on a Saturday night at a very central point (full of bars), with well-dressed people all around me. Myself is looking more like a homo sapiens on a fully loaded bike, rather than someone who is looking for the best bar in town to listen to an awesome live music show and enjoy some cheap beers. Well….  I was both!!!

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30/1/2016 – 229 km – 9:47:26 riding + 11:42:11 total time – 23,5 kph average – 5.825 cal – 23 kg load – no electric assistance  (tinyurl.com/ztznos9)

A man (Josh?) approaches me  with his bike: “you need help? directions?” – “actually I am looking for a place to camp” – “follow me!” – “yes, sir!”. We are in front of Scrap Iron Art Gallery, Wilmington Downtown. Josh introduced me to Murphy and Murphy introduced me to Brandon (the owner of SIAG). I was to camp at his backyard but after the live music show I fell asleep at the sofa and he let me sleep at his bar without him being there! He asked me “can I trust you?” – I assured him and he said… “just make sure you close the door, when leaving” – again, the same! What a country?! What a people?!

I woke up next morning, Sunday the 31st of January of 2016. I could hardly sit on the saddle, honestly. I found the church (St. Nicholas). I enjoyed the Service a lot and the sermon. Right upon the end of the Liturgy ms Stacey (Anastacia) approached me and started talking to me – being interested on who I am, what am I doing, etc… We started talking and it was such a pleasant surprise. She was the wife of Deacon Thomas, and they invited me at their place for lunch… Well… they hosted me for 3 nights!!! I am so grateful to them. Not only for the provision of food, shower, a place to sleep, but also for their lovely company, their wonderful family. I felt like a family member, really. We had a lot of discussions on spiritual issues and I was so interested to hear about their journey until they found the orthodox faith. It was such a boost for me…. You see, people who are spiritual wanderers and finally they find their “port” have a lot to teach to us. Things like being consciously and voluntary a member of Church, like being grateful for inheriting the faith of your forefathers, like being a soul that seeks God everyday. Thank you!

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On Sunday, when leaving Church with Deacon Thomas, we saw mr. Alexandros. He approached us and was very interesting in who I am and how come and I am in Wilmington etc… Next day, Monday the 1st of the 2nd, I went to Starbucks in order to organise myself and send e-mails to schools… Mr Alexandros had called Deacon Thomas in order to learn where I was.. so he came and found me at Starbucks!!! We discussed a bit on my trip and I expressed him my disappointment about  UNESCO schools. His wife, professor at the University in Education, may could help. She came at Starbucks to meet me and at the same night we had a dinner at Giorgio’s restaurant, along with mr Nick and Ms Nena and Mr Yannis and Mr Alexandros and Ms Eleni! Apart from enjoying their company so much I loved getting an insight of what it means to come from Greece in America looking for a better life, or what it is to be a Greek born and raised in America. It was such an enriching experience for me.

But, back on track, at this dinner I let the company know about UNESCO schools  and about my dissertation project and Ms. Nena said that it may be very possible to visit a local private school. She asked for CV, documents, etc., I turn on my tablet and in a matter of minutes I send the e-mail with all the documents necessary. They print it there and on Tuesday morning (the nexrt day!) at 0930, I get an e-mail that I can visit the school at 1230!! Hoorraayyy!! Amasing?

I spent 3 days there, observing class lessons and interviewing one teacher and I was… fascinated. I can’t reveal anything else as research matters are a bit sensitive. I ‘d like to let you all know, though, that I gave a presentation to the kids of the school, showing them some pictures and demonstrating the bike. IT WAS FANTASTIC! Thank you all at the school for this warm and wellcoming hug of yours!!!

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Finally, I ‘d like to let you know that I am deeply grateful to Mr. Yannis Kartsikaris, from Edessa! What a man?! Generous, helpful, warm, friendly. Without him my short time in Wilmington would be a lot harder!!! He hosted me at his place, he showed me all around Wilmington, he introduced me to his kind and very interesting friends, and he was always taking me from place to place with his car. (You know… it’s not the best to go to a school for research being sweaty…). 😀 😀 😀

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The Fernandez Family , Ms. Eleni, Mr Yannis, Mr Nikos and Mr Alexandros!

I got into some details here only to draw the picture better…to make clear how… one thing leads to another… how sometimes making no plans is better.. but most importantly how people can be very polite and warm and showing love. Love! So many lovely people out there!

During these days I learned that no matter what’s going on, how hard it is… you should just “keep walking”…. “just do it” and things will get better. I always say this to myself in difficult times. “it’s just a matter of time Angelos, nothing is infinite. It will be over”HA!

As a goodbye, a realisation I had when cycling on the sand, upon entering North Carolina.

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It is hard to leave your mark…

Riding on the sand like the one you see above was sometimes difficult and sometimes very very difficult! But there was no obvious reason why this difference. I mean the sand was looking exactly the same at every moment. The point is that when I was looking back at different times I could see my trail when it was very difficult to ride, but there was no trail when it was easier. The conclusion is. It is hard to leave your mark, but it’s worth trying!

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…but it’s worth trying!

 

2 thoughts on “Weeks 14, 15 – Virginia, North Carolina

  1. Καταπληκτικός, δε χορταίνω να σε διαβάζω. Απολαμβάνω το ποδηλατικό σκέλος, ρουφάω τα ταξιδιωτικά κείμενα και τις εικόνες, ενισχύομαι πνευματικά από τις θεόσταλτες εμπειρίες που βιώνεις. Σε ευχαριστώ από τα βάθη της καρδιάς μου, συνέχισε την περιπλάνηση!!!

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    1. Δημήτρη, δεν ξέρεις πόσο χαίρομαι που μου το λες, αλήθεια!! 😀

      Like

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