To Hurdle Mills 87km
To Winston Salem 143km
It's Mothers Day. The supermarkets and Florists are doing a roaring trade, flowers and "Love you Mom" balloons seem to be the gifts of the day. The churches are all really busy as well. I've already talked about how many there are, sometimes in small villages, there is a different one on each corner of the main crossroads. You have to wonder where all the congregation come from? What is also apparent, is that almost all the churches are segregated, with black, or white, congregations. I'm told you can tell the difference, because the white folks car park will be empty by noon, whereas the black worshippers stay on..... until it's done..... and then they have a meal.
I've stopped outside a church, having a break. A car pulls into the carpark next to me labelled: "Visiting Pastor". A tall, well over six foot, black dude climbs out. He is wearing a bright pink, sparkly shirt, a large chain with a heavy silver cross around his neck. His purple suit fits his height, but is about four times two wide for his slim build. He is wearing a wide brimmed purple felt hat. He is either a pimp, a drug pusher, or a pastor. He comes over to me. "Hello there Bossman. My name is Pastor Samuel J Claxton. Where you'll coming from? New Zealand? My Lord. Gracious me. You'll come from NZ on your bicycle? Lord.... you da Man. Gracious me. Where you'll going Bossman? Los Angeles, California? Gracious me. Is that even possible? Dang. You really the man. Oh Gracious me..... may the Lord make you safe. Dang." This could only be the USA.
I have to really focus on what these people are saying, otherwise I cannot understand their English. Standing behind two black guys in a supermarket queue, and I could not fathom what they were talking about. One firefighter introduced himself to me as "Gre". I asked him three times, and was no wiser. His mate translated. .... "Garry". Usually, when talking to me, they slow down, and with alot of concentration on my part, I gather the gist of the conversation. When they talk between themselves, I've got no idea. I may as well be back in Central Asia.
Three hours into a head wind, and I've had it for the day. I pull into a town, and spot a Fire/EMT Base. I'm in Henderson, and Yep, I can pitch my tent, or claim a bed in the crew room..... I choose the tent site. Not long after, "Curly" (bald), and "Slug" (like a bullet he says, like a snail his mates say), invite me to barbecue dinner..... hamburgers and hotdogs. They want to know why I'm here in Henderson. " No tourists come here. Don't you know that we have the highest homicide rate in the state, the most shootings per capita, and more heroin overdoses than any of the surrounding four states? Why would you come here?" I explain about my journey, about following my nose, meeting people, learning. ...... I tell them I'm from New Zealand, and started cycling from there two years ago. Faces turn blank. "Where the heck is New Zealand? " I get out my map, show them where NZ is and my route so far. Jaws drop. They are astounded. Suddenly, I'm a visitor of importance, not just some crazy old man on a bike. And when they hear I've been a Volunteer Fire Fighter and an EMT, they totally open up. I'm a member of the family.
The whole crew, three fire fighters on one appliance, and six EMT's on three Ambulances, plus a few Volunteers manning various "Rescue Vehicles" are on a 24 hour watch. Wives and families join us for the BBQ, it is Mothers Day. It's a wonderful atmosphere. We all share food, talk about jobs, family, hunting, (Slug is a keen Turkey hunter), and so much more. I'm in my happy place...... but it's QUIET. (You never say that word when you're working Emergency Services) The guys are getting fidgety. The Sheriff has delivered some confiscated illegal fireworks to the station, for the Fire Service to dispose of.......... "let's light some." "Woohoo". We return to the squad room. The large TV screen on the wall records all 911 calls, so the team can be prepared for call outs. The latest 911 call? "Shots Fired. Beckett Street". Damn.... that's us. The Sheriff turns up. The Chief says...." Yep we all heard some noise. Not sure whether they were shots. Not sure where they came from. Might have been fireworks. Might happen again. It is Mothers Day." Sheriff leaves. "Let's fire off all the rest....." Woohoo". For the second time tonight, the TV screen notes "Shots Fired. Beckett Street". Just another normal day in Henderson, North Carolina. Love it.....