On Wednesday, we awoke in Richmond to the sensational news that somebody had been thwarted in an audacious attempt to smuggle two blocks of cheese and some wire onto an aeroplane. Every news network was taking this security breach very seriously, apparently afraid that the cheese attack was a dry-run for smuggling something a little more deadly onto a plane: Dairylea, perhaps.
After dropping the cyclists to the south of Richmond to begin their 90 mile ride to Roanoke Rapids, I followed in the monster truck. The border crossing between Virginia and North Carolina was notable, as the speed limit on the motorways increased by 5mph to a heady 70mph, the first such limit since Michigan. In order to enforce this limit, the NC authorities did not promise speed cameras or radar; instead, they warned drivers that speeding would be enforced by planes. I didn’t see any of these planes, so I could only guess as to how they might work. Maybe they’d all been grounded by the cheese alert.
I pulled into a Burger King for my daily infuse of fat, salt and sugar, helpfully provided for me in three separate containers: burger, fries and Coke. The restaurant proudly displayed a notice that their sanitation rating is 92.5. Presumably this is out of 100, so I wondered which 7.5% of the restaurant was insanitary. In the car park a school bus had been painted white with bars across the windows and text along the side to indicate that it contained prisoners who’d been let out for the day in order to maintain North Carolina’s highways. One of the guards was inside buying food, though I hope he wasn’t their only guard.
I couldn’t check into the motel for a few hours, so I drove to the nearby town of Weldon. They had a grand, airy old Post Office, where I bought stamps before going for a wander around the town. Like most US towns, the economic centre had shifted from the town itself to an identikit strip of chain stores, motels and fast food restaurants on the outskirts of the town, so the town centre was disturbingly quiet. The high street looked to be struggling to attract custom (though the supermarket was taking orders for whole pigs), yet somehow supported two tax reduction offices – although one had branched out into low-cost loans.
I followed a canal trail out into the suburbs (where every other house seemed to be a church), but couldn’t find either a canal or a trail, so I headed back to our motel on the identikit strip outside of town. That evening, we went across the road to a buffet restaurant. Just as she was about to seat us, the waitress asked how long we planned to spend on the buffet as they were closing soon. We asked how soon and she said 9pm; the time was 8:56pm. We decided against a 4 minute buffet and settled for a nearby Pizza Hut instead.