Every other weekend, I make the five hour trip back into Kinston so Kalista can visit her mom. Then I drive another hour east so she can see her other grandparents for a night, before heading back to Greenwood on Sunday. It’s a lot of driving.

I’m not going to lie. Because I am pathetic, most of my thoughts on these voyages are consumed by the Buffalo Bills. I generally have a solid game plan in mind by the time we get wherever we’re going. On Sunday, I listen to the games on satellite radio and hope for the best. They generally lose.

This past weekend was different because they weren’t playing for a playoff spot. Nothing they did had any bearing on what the future holds, including the upcoming playoff. So my mind tended to drift elsewhere, and I suspect that will be the case more often now that their season is over.

Road rage was up. Apparently, in South Carolina and North Carolina, using the left-hand lane on a highway to cruise is fine, even if the vehicle in the right is going the same speed, causing the cars behind the two to get bottled up, bumper-to-bumper and pissed off.

It’s also okay for local-yokels to pull out in front of oncoming traffic at their typical ho-hum pace. It’s also okay to drive below the speed limit, stop in the middle of the road to tell someone hello or throw whatever trash is in their car out onto the shoulder of the road.

While I witnessed even more infractions I believe the Highway Patrol should take more of an initiative to prevent (Hell, at this point it seems troopers don’t give a damn as long as people aren’t driving too fast), I did get a chance to see something else.

How beautiful eastern N.C. is.

I decided this weekend, after three months in S.C., that it’s a shame I didn’t take more advantage of the Old North State while I lived there. Sure, the hills where I live now are a nice change of pace and I’ve recently learned make for great mountain biking, they also block the long shadows of the evening. And there are fields here, but none that are cotton and look like they’re covered in snow.

And the reason I blew the dust off my mountain bike this weekend? Because I’m about done with trying to do a 50-mile cruise on the road bike around here – busy roads are one thing, but busy roads without even a shred of shoulder equal a death sentence. Plus the rednecks seem more aggressive here, and I got hit by a full beer by one when I lived in N.C. I fear those “keep honking, I’m reloading” bumper stickers have some truth here.

Probably the best ride I’ve ever taken was from Kinston to Trenton and back, sticking on all back roads where absolutely nothing happened. The entire time all I saw – for the most part – were pavement, fields and trailers, which were set off by the occasional tiny community that yielded barely any traffic.

Of course, that could have had something to do with my mood. I recall being nearly as happy on some rides in New Bern … and the runs from Wilmington to Fort Fisher, taking the ferry over to Southport and riding back into Wilmington (through the downtown district, usually at sunset) were pretty nice.

Again, could have had something to do with my frame of mind when I set off. Or the stage of life I was in – Lord knows, I’ve become a lot more cautious in my old age, and I can’t say for sure whether I’d attempt these today.

Or it could be that I just haven’t settled in here. Or maybe I don’t like it altogether. Maybe it gets worse every year I spend away from the home of the Buffalo Bills – where it snows and the leaves change colors and there are big, broad shoulders on the roads and people are sarcastic – and my latest landing pad‘s not getting a fair shot from me.

Could be. But one thing is for sure: No matter where I end up, I’m sure I’ll always look back fondly on my time in eastern N.C.

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