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Plaster deer, et al.


I don't know much, but I do know quite a bit about riding a bike across North Carolina, and how to swallow a large airborne bug.

It could have been a scene from a cartoon. I was leaving beautiful Mount Airy, on a bike, "gittin' it" downhill, all the way out, 29th gear, when the bug flew right into my open mouth and hit the back of my throat like a peanut M&M shot from a gun.

I swallowed the muther and kept right on breathing. It might have been a small bird, but I didn't taste any feathers.

From Mount Airy, this year's 430-plus-mile Cycle North Carolina rambled along the roofline of the state, on yet another mountains-to-the-sea route with host cities Winston-Salem, Reidsville, Roxboro, Henderson, Roanoke Rapids, Edenton and, finally, Elizabeth City.

Contrary to popular assumption, bikers on tour are not Tour de France balls-to-the-wall superathletes racing from point to point. Bikers on tour smile and stare over the handlebars, chatting small talk with lots of "Passing on your left. Good morning; doin' OK? Tucking in. Car back."

It's one of the few sports in which everyone wins. The 7-year-old girl crossing the state on a tandem with Dad was every much the hero as the 78-year-old (proud to proclaim it) "old fart on a bike" when the thousand-strong rolling swarm of locusts arrived in Elizabeth City.

Having written a book, Autumn Across Carolina, about the first cross-state odyssey from Murphy to Manteo and shot video on the second venture from Boone to Wilmington, I was intrigued as to what separates these folks along the Virginia border from all the others in our beautiful state.

And then it hit me.

Lawn Adornments! These folks are into their lawn adornments like no other culture on Earth.

Would you quit it with the concrete eyeless geese that seem to be pecking the lawn or clearing their nostrils? Why is there a burning desire to have a plaster deer (with relatives) in your yard? What are you trying to say by putting up a statue of the Virgin Mary cradling what appears to be a French baguette? Lawn jockeys were OK in the '60s, but even politically correct ones and/or those holding Bibles should not be next to your driveway, please.

No more plywood silhouettes of people leaning against trees, dogs chasing cats, bears, elephants, parrots, Dutch children chasing each other, cardinals, families of bears, raccoons and/or more deer!

And no more little plaster-cast Tom Sawyer-like boys fishing. When the fishing poles aren't there, they seem to try to cover holes drilled in their plaster crotches.

Stop with the lighthouses! People living at the beach don't have miniature tobacco barns in their front yards.

Thanks, though, for the patriotic outpouring, a steady restatement of God Bless America. I counted 218 signs with those words on this tour.

God Bless America.

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