With the new Le Mans and Stone (on loan from Moto Guzzi) beneath us, Christa and I put them through their paces on a treasured trip along the North Carolina Coast.
Late in the afternoon, with some 80 miles to travel, there's little time for us to chew the fat with the folks in Angier, NC, Moto Guzzi's headquarters in the USA. Nightfall is coming on and we need to scoot to make Rocky Mount where our tour begins in the morning.
We start them up and the sound of the Le Mans raises goose bumps all over my back. What a feeling! Christa turns out of the driveway and I follow, concentrating on the reverberations of the bikes. My wife has chosen a nice road but with darkness settling in we quickly selected a more direct approach: I-95.
With only four days for this tour, our luggage requirements are minimal. And even though Christa didn't bring all her makeup equipment along, I still had to battle a bit the next morning to find the right hooks and thingamajigs to affix the bags. That chore done, the roadway called.
On 64 East to Tarboro, then at Princeville onto 258, and later on 142, we take the first real measure of our machines. They run great. The performance and traction invite us to open the throttle wide and enjoy the speed. When Christa catches my glances, she lifts a thumb skyward. That's her signal: Let's fly; it feels good. Turning a sharp right on 125 toward Williamston, we pass through town and hit 17 North.
Slowing for a special street - here she is - a hard tug on the brakes, the rubber almost smoking (good going Guzzi!), we follow Woodard Road. Where pavement ends and gravel begins, there's Sans Soucis, the ferry location for crossing the Cashie River. The cable ferry creaks across the glassy water and deposits two shortcut artists on the opposite shore. Thereon, a one-lane road bordered by cypress, ferns, and wild orchids leads to NC 308. This river crossing is a nice break, giving us time to discuss our Guzzi impressions and restoring the blood flow to our backsides. Next up: 45 and 17 to Edenton.
"Edenton will surprise you," I had told Christa the day before. It's probably the most underestimated town in the coastal plains. She couldn't help but agree after we headed south on Broad Street and parked our bikes by the water beneath the trees. Spared major damage during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, this town of 5,000 by all appearances has retained its colonial charm. Gazing about, upon its substantial homes and the cannons guarding its Courthouse Green, one expects to turn and see great sailing ships heading for the wharves to unload their British and West Indies trade goods. In that era, Edenton was known as the most graceful town along the Albemarle Sound. It still is. The first seat of North Carolina's government, Edenton has been home to royal governors and revolutionaries.
Today, Edenton is a hospitable place for people who want to explore the countryside or the dreamers hoping to stumble upon Blackbeard's treasure. We couldn't find that booty, but we did discover Kramer's Garage. No, the Guzzis didn't need service - we did. Kramer's is a cozy restaurant with a sunny patio where you can watch all the sailing boats and the frolic of other water-sport enthusiasts. The lunch was reasonable, delicious, and the relaxing atmosphere tastefully complemented with jazz.
Highway 32 South treats us to a breathtaking experience on the bridge that crosses the Albemarle Sound. On the other side we turn left on 64 and stay on there till Plymouth and spur our bikes over the west side of the Dismal Swamp on Highway 32 toward Bath. This road invites us to open the throttle wider than allowed and its surface has incredible grip, which is important when swooping through some extreme sweepers. There are only a few of them, but they're great fun.
Highway 264 and 92 leads us to Bath and before we arrive near the alleged site of "Ed's" house (Plum Point), we cross a small bridge spanning Bath Creek. My eyes wander over the creek to The Pamlico River flowing into the Pamlico Sound.