On the Outer Banks - a story of bicycle touring


Stella and I (I called my bicycle Stella) had rolled into this North Carolina rest stop a few minutes earlier. A lot of thoughts and feelings were bouncing around in me. I wanted to pour them onto paper. Then, this guy came up to me and said “Howdy!” as if we knew each other. I must have looked confused. “Wasn’t it you that waved at me up the road?” Elmer asked.

“Oh yeah, the guy in the blue pickup,” I said, noticing his truck. To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure I remembered him. But I would have felt awkward telling him so. I had waved to everyone I passed that June morning, and maybe I remembered a blue truck, so what the heck.

“Where’d you ride from?” , Elmer asked.

“Set out from Columbia, Missouri, three weeks ago.” Elmer raised an eyebrow.

I’ve always liked raising people’s eyebrows. It was easy then, in 1977, to raise eyebrows over a long bike trip. Most of the people I met along the back roads had never seen the likes of me. My bike and all my camping gear hanging over it drew lots of questions. I often felt like a celebrity.

"On the Outer Banks" is an essay by Jeff Hiles about a bicycle trip from Columbia, Missouri, to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, in 1997. Read the rest of the essay here, or take a look at Hiles's other bicycle-related essay, "Listening to Bike Lanes: Moving Beyond the Feud".