History, Geography & Living Free!
I've never been too good with history. My girlfriend sat in front of me during senior year. Instead of learning about the Civil War, I tried to figure out a way to fondle and ogle her without getting caught by Mr. Majeski. My love for teenage flapdoodle fondling came back to kick me in the butt many years later somewhere on the back roads of North Carolina.
The further south I headed on my exploratory trip for freedom, the more Confederate flags I saw. There are even official license plates with the Union Jack printed on them. To make a long, semi-uninteresting and embarrassing story short, I suggest that you don't tell a North Carolina bartender that you're proud to be a Yankee and then continue to ask him when I will pass the Mason-Dixon Line. How the heck was I supposed to know better? The entire state is full of trickery. The very name of the state implies that it is in the north. Why would you call a place North if it's actually south of the confederate line. After being laughed at by a bar full of southerners, I walked to my motel with my tail between my legs and used their computer to gain the knowledge that I spaced out on in history class.
When I Googled info regarding the Mason-Dixon Line and learned it involved a settlement between the Penns and the Calverts, I thought of Lord Calvert Whiskey (cheap Canadian hooch in a plastic bottle) and had another drink.
Things got a little fuzzy after that. I remember it being something about marking colonial borders, though, and that it represents the boundary between our country's North and South or something like that. On my Freedom Tour--riding a '08 Victory Vision Street through the towns of our forefathers from Washington, D.C. to Savannah--it was a line I wanted to cross. And let's make one thing clear: I am a habitual line crosser.
Turns out I know nothing about geography, either. I was always well below the Mason-Dixon Line my entire trip. Hmm, I was never one to reach new heights. My point is--and I do have one--is that being in the South for so many days had me thinking a good deal about race. Well, that and the fact that I saw five black cowboys riding horseback alongside a four-lane highway in North Carolina. They were heading north while I was following the GPS mounted on my Vision south after I'd left the stormy Outer Banks. Now don't go pulling the racist card out on me for bringing this up, just yet. You have to admit, the Marlboro Man was never black. Sure, there are plenty of black cowboys; Hollywood just never revealed them to me.
I love to ride, have a passion for adventure and have traveled around the world. One thing I've learned is how great we have it in this country. We've come along way since the days of the Civil War, and all around I can feel the pride and excitement our nation has for its first black president. That's not to say America is perfect when it comes to race. We still have plenty of issues and invisible lines. And let's face it: a lot of white men will never be able to jump. That's what made me hesitate before turning around to talk to the cowboys. Not the fact that I can't jump, but that I was worried they'd think I was being creepy for wanting to take their photo. Altogether though, it wasn't their color that intrigued me; I was curious why they were riding on horseback along the highway.
I passed the first chance of a U-turn, arguing with myself whether I should go back or not. I asked myself why I was on the road: I was out for adventure and to learn about the meaning of freedom. I made the next U-ey, caught up to them, turned off the bike so I wouldn't scare their horses, grabbed my camera and said, "Hi." We talked for a bit, I pet their horses and found out about the area's extensive trail riding system. After a few photos I waved good-bye, feeling a revived sense of freedom. Getting to meet new people and learn new things is truly what it's all about.
I mounted my steel version of a horse and headed on down the road with a warm and fuzzy feeling brewing inside. Things began to feel a little fuzzy on the outside, too. But I'll get to that in a second or two--depends on how perverted you were in elementary school reading class. No I wasn't drinking whisky again; I only do that when researching history. The only thing I drink in while riding is the scenery.
There isn't much to see after the Outer Banks while heading south. No ocean--at least I don't remember seeing any ocean. It was just a stretch of highway that seemed to go on forever--green stuff streaking along my peripherals. The highway is removed from communities and anything else that breaks up the repetitive visuals. I was beat and a little bored. The most excitement I had was when turning left on the four-laner and hearing four black rubbers squeal like a couple of horny sea-lions only a few inches behind me. I didn't even look back. I made my left turn and pushed my old blood pumper back down my throat.
I kept riding, and right before I zoned out again, the landscape changed. It was fuzzy. No, I don't mean blurry, as in I was going too fast, I mean fuzzy. Fuzzy little balls. Cotton comes from a plant? That's f-ed up. It's like fields of tighty whities and tank tops...I'm a city boy, a Midwest Yankee. No, I'm not an idiot. I went to college and stuff. Hell, I even got a masters degree. But I guess I just hadn't thought much about where the "fabric of our lives" comes from or how much hate and slavery was created over a substance that is used to clean earwax.
So much history is rooted in this white, fluffy stuff. Historians claim Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin was a main cause of the Civil War, as it increased the South's need for cheap laborers, which at that time were slaves. This is why touring the country on a bike is so important to me; I never know when I'll run across a piece of history. Despite a little zoning out, I'm not a zombie cruising the super slabs. I take side roads, get intentionally lost so I can expand my horizons, see new things--even if it's something as simple as where my underwear comes from--think about life and enjoy.
There are two other kinds of crops raised in North Carolina: tobacco obviously, and NASCAR. Yeah, whether you like to burn leaves or rubber, NC serves it up. I have crappy lungs, and mullets scare me so I steered clear of both and headed for the cool stuff like the USS North Carolina Battleship (battleshipnc.com) in Wilmington. She was the first new battleship to enter service in World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I was excited to get to play with huge deck mounted guns and canons. Sadly, all weapons are out of service and there really wasn't much to see unless you're stoked by large boats that are floating in a watery nursing home.
Nearby was also a reminder how free we really are. A sign located on the ships dock read, "Alligators are dangerous." Huh? No kidding? I love that sign. It simply states the facts. What kind of country do we live in where such ludicrous signage is needed? A free country with lawyers. Freaking lawyers. Perhaps in America we've become a little too hung up on our rights, suing each other at every turn. Everything's a potential monster. I chuckled. I've never been to Japan but I am pretty sure they don't have a signs near all miniaturized cities made of cardboard stating that Godzillas are dangerous.
Danger is a funny thing. We want laws to protect us from everything, yet we don't want too many laws because it takes away our independence. Darn, I'm glad I'm not the President. It's tough enough to figure out our country on a freedom tour, but I'd rather do it with the pavement screaming beneath me than by hitting a bunch of concrete barriers surrounding the White House. Though I bet Obama gets to drink better whiskey.
A small town with lots to offer.The Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association (chdda.com) is moving its May motorcycle rally from Myrtle Beach to New Bern, NC. Yep. Bike Week is now going to be up north with promises from Mark Cox with The Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association that New Bern offers a rally without restrictions.
There is some dude, Andy Reynolds (sirpepsi.com), who drank nothing but Pepsi for over 50 years. No water, no nothing. What does he have to do with this story? He will die someday. The inventor of Pepsi is already dead.
If Andy Reynolds is lucky, he will get to be buried next to Caleb Bradham in Ceder Grove Cemetary. Caleb is the inventor of Pepsi-Cola. Pay your respects to him and nearly 70 Confederate soldiers at the Confederate Memorial.
After working up a thirst walking in the cemetery, head over to the Birthplace of Pepsi (pepsistore.com) in New Bern.
Nothing scares a vegetarian more than a plant that eats meat. Bring a handful of bug chunks with you to the Venus flytrap capital of the world.
Do Sheep Get Cotton Mouth?
Turns out some medieval gentleman in Europe didn't really get it either. Sure, they knew cotton came from a plant, but they thought it was so similar to wool that they imagined it came from a plant that actually grew sheep. Seriously, this is true. It's the only thing I looked up while not drinking.