We had planned to tour this historic area of the North Carolina coast for quite a while but the weather was always too uncooperative, making us reschedule the trip week after week. Finally, when The Weather Channel virtually guaranteed a stretch of sunny days with no rain, we quickly packed our gear and whatever we'd need for a couple of days' riding and drove east.
Love is Letting Her Ride Your Motorcycle
We decided to pull our bikes, a 1972 Yamaha XS650 and a 2004 Royal Enfield Bullet Sixty-5, by trailer to New Bern. Even though we knew the XS650 was in excellent condition (Christian had it serviced recently), this was our first big tour with the vintage bike and we didn't want to risk having technical problems along the way. No worries about the Royal Enfield. It's new and it runs like a designer watch. We have limited experience riding a vintage bike on an extended trip, so we would just have to see how reliable the Yamaha is.
That evening, after we rolled up on The New Berne House Inn, our base for the next four days, Barbara Pappas, the innkeeper, greeted us warmly and let us store the motorcycles in the garage. Great. One less concern to think of. All of the trees were in full bloom and everything covered in layers of brown and yellow pollen.
Filled up on a delicious breakfast of freshly baked bread, eggs and hot, black tea, we're ready to move out and roll through the busy little town. But first Christian honored me with a loving gesture inside the garage: He's letting me ride his latest treasure, his beauty, the XS650! Starting along the Trent River, meandering with the riverbank, and bound for Beaufort, we soon left Hwy 58 and 24 behind us, and it didn't take long for me to get used to the smaller size of the Yamaha. The tank looks tiny and there is no fairing, but the bike has a powerful, smooth-running engine.
A warm breeze welcomed us to Beaufort, the third oldest town in North Carolina. It's early summer and the first of the season's tourists are poking about the waterfront. We stop there for lunch at Clawson's 1905, where the views are lovely and the French onion soup is too heavily spiced. At Cherry Point, the ferry is in, running right on schedule for the trip across the Neuse River to Minnesott. I've always enjoyed these boat rides and the free moments they afford me to settle back, listening to the water splash against the bow and relaxing in the sun and salted air. This short trip is no different.
The day remains bright. Blue skies prevail and sailboats tack to and fro in the harbor of Oriental. Stopping at the Bean to snack on some great peach ice cream and cappuccino, we watch the traffic roaming the waterway. Riding back by way of State Road 306 and Bike Route 3 returns us to New Bern.
Love is Sharing Your Passion for Motorcycling
We continue exploring Bike Route 3 and wind our way into the countryside the next morning. The traffic is light, and cows and horses graze beside the road. Reaching Aurora, we board the Bayview Ferry to cross the Pamlico River and roll off minutes later in Gaylord to ride down Bike Route 2 through Bath, North Carolina's oldest town. Pirates and settlers arrived on the site in the 1690's and the town was incorporated in 1705. We cruised along Main Street, admiring the ornate brickwork on old buildings in the commercial district, and parked near the scenic waterfront for lunch at Down On Main.
Hwy 17 takes us out of town to meet up with Hwy 33 and Bike 3 back to New Bern. There's a lot of daylight left, too early to ride back to our B&B, so we headed for the Cow Café on Middle Street for some mid-afternoon refreshment: wonderful homemade ice cream in so many flavors it can take quite some time to make up your mind.
Between bites, our conversation turned to…what else? The tour and the bikes. Riding a vintage bike, I find, is a more intimate experience than usual because you have to be so in tune with the machine and its workings. It's more relaxing because speed is secondary, but of course, it can be worrisome too. After all, the Yamaha does have 33 years on it. It's only natural for me to think the engine might suddenly conk out on us. But so far, we've been lucky. The XS650 and the Bullet Sixty-5 seem to be a most compatible, reliable pair. And although it's new, the Royal Enfield turns over the miles via a rather anachronistic technology, a most endearing aspect that transfers to the rider the feeling of what motorcycling must have been like in earlier days.