October 11:  Hopewell to Suffolk  73.4 miles

With a long ride ahead of us the vote was to leave as soon as the sun was high enough for the drivers to see us.  Sun rise now isn't until 7:15am so it isn't really that early any more.  

The skies were overcastted, but the temperature was warm and humid.  The forecast was for rain, so rain gear was packed on the bike just in case and off down Old Stage Road with a quick turn onto Lawyers Road to Centennial.  We were back out in the country and the rush hour traffic was behind us.  No horns, headlights, or close calls to bother us.  All we had to do was follow the route map and pedal.  The terrain in this area is relatively flat.  The roadway rises and falls at such a small degree that pedaling is a must to keep the bike in a forward motion, but with little difficulty.  Every once in awhile the way drops to create a nice coast to be followed by a slight rise that requires a little calorie burning, but no lactic acid build-up.  It was very easy to "zone out" and just pedal.  

The problem, however, with "zoning out" is that the mind goes off into never, never land and the eyes don't carefully watch the road surface.  A small pothole can bring one back to reality in a hurry.  The instant jolt to the arms and shoulders rattles the teeth!!

All day it was fields of cotton ready to be harvested, soybean ready to be turned under, and peanuts also in the harvesting state.  The homes peppering the area showed the poverty of the area.  Many were abandoned, some still homes to the unfortunate, and others in half repair.  The larger "main" homes that sat far off the road were weather looking and alone.  At one time this area was a thriving community, but as with so many agricultural areas, when the market value of a product drops, so goes the community.

Peanuts are still a major crop in this area.  Our destination for the night, Suffolk, is suppose to be the center or capital of the peanut production.  Planters Peanuts originated here.  Cotton is also one of the major sources of revenue.  For as far as the eye can see are fields of white balls hanging ready to be picked from their plant.  As we rode by each of us tried to imagine what life was like so many years ago when these "white gold" pieces were picked by hand.  The plant is a thorny one that would slice any finger getting near its bloom.

Hour after hour the views continued as the ones before.  The mind drifted off and then around the corner -- several dogs jumped out of the trees and began to chase us down the street.  If you ever want to restart your heart -- try daydreaming something wonderful and then see the fangs of a dog headed toward your leg!!!  The adrendialin rush will restart anything!  We have not had a problem with dogs the entire trip, so the caution ear that a biker turns on to hear the bark was off.  For about a half of a mile out in the middle of nowhere we experienced no less than five dog attacks.  One was with four dogs charging across the field in our direction trying to beat us to the corner.  Fortunately for each of us, the tried and true method of slowing them down worked.  The method:  scream in your deepest voice "Go Home".  We aren't sure that they understand the words, but the sound of several hysterical women screaming in a low masculine voice those words would stop anything and anyone!!

Our second excitement for the day was flooded roads.  Two days  prior while we were battling the rains in DC, this area received over twelve inches of rain flooding the Blackwater River.  According to a couple of geologists testing the speed of the river flow at a bridge crossing, this size of flooding only occurs once every 200 years!!  The water had exceeded the river banks by over two miles flooding fields of cotton, washing out roads, turning forests into swamps.  Our problem -- a detour in a car isn't the end of the world.  On a bike it can mean adding many extra miles to the day.  How do we get around this.  To our good luck the roads were closed to cars, but we could ride through.  The water had receded enough to give passage.  Only once did we need to be "carried" over and then our own sag did the job.

Now we are settled into a motel in Suffolk.  We have a rest day tomorrow, so those chores will get done once again.  Candi is due back tonight so now we are seven!

Lunch Sans Car Cafe!

Forests During the Flood

Help!!  How Do I Get Across This Puddle?

Now Where?

Mark (in background):  "Do Either of You Know The Way Out of Here?"

Testing the Flow of the Current of the Blackwater