I am sure someone out there said, “you’re a moron.” I have to agree, but add a few letters next time. I do feel like an oxymoron by loving food, but also enjoy riding my bike to get there. This past weekend, I checked my tires, filled my Camelbak, and headed for the winding Neuse River Trail and biked from Raleigh to Clayton for Deep River Brewing Beer and Belgian Waffles.
John (The Triangle Explorer) and I come up with some crazy stuff. I won’t go into all them, but the one’s worth mentioning are the Active Food Challenges. The first one I can remember is the #beantobiscuit challenge that Triangle Localista coined when the American Tobacco Trail officially connected over I-40 by Southpoint Mall in Durham. On one side, Bean Traders Coffee (the Bean) and on the other side, Rise, a Donut and Biscuit stop (the Biscuit). The idea was to run (or lightly jog in my mind) from one to the other.
The other physical challenge was to wait for the other Triangle-area long trail to complete, the Neuse River Trail, and ride bikes from Falls Lake to Deep River Brewing in Clayton. The project is scheduled for completion later this year, but I was incentivized to hit the scout the trail earlier than completion. The new Belgian Waffle truck, Belgian Waffology, (@BeWafflology) was at Deep River Brewing on Easter Sunday. I hadn’t been to Deep River and do I need to really offer a valid reason to go to a Belgian Waffle truck. For those not convinced, Food Truck, Belgian Waffles, and Beer. I rest my case.
I had asked a friend a work about the location and the surrounding area. Since I consider myself a crazy cycling enthusiast, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to see any surprises. He warned me to take a second look. Which I replied most of the ride is on the greenway, I’ll be fine. As I was getting ready my wife became interested. She, too, was lured by the thought of Belgian Waffles. So we pack the car with water, sports drinks, snacks, and bike stuff and headed for the trailhead.
We got to the trailhead and unloaded everything. I could sense apprehension in my wife. She hasn’t traveled as far as I have on this trail, so the thought of going the full distance didn’t appeal to her. She wondered what was my backup plan if we failed. I told her I had a few fail safes. But in my mind the only acceptable conclusion: beer and waffles.
The weather was pretty good this day temperature wise. But the wind was kicking out 10-15 miles per hour and it wasn’t helping push me there. Also, I had brought my DSLR to take pictures, which I did stop a few times to snap a few.
With some quick stops, my wife was still fading and we hadn’t yet reached the halfway point at Anderson Point Park. When we arrived for a quick bathroom break (the only real rest stop), she could foresee that today was not the day. She decided she’d ride back to the car and meet me at Deep River. Anxious to get back on the trail, I jumped back into the saddle and I began to pedal.
It was here I remembered the latter part of the trail can be challenging. Too bad, I got excited biking alone and overexerted some much needed energy. With the wind coming at me, some of the open parts and hills called for more might. I can walk away relieved I never stopped, but I did have to ride at a very low gear to keep moving. As I battled winds and some slow hills, I passed the last point I traveled one-way on trail at 28 mile marker (in actual distance this would be the 20 mile mark, since the trailhead I is around 8 3/4). As I pedal further into unknown territory, uncertainty came over. And I wondered, how much further is it going to be?
I reached that end of the trail, which at some point changed names to Clayton’s Sam Branch Trail. As I left the gravel lot, I was now staring at a busy country road, O’Neil Street. On my right, a sign marking the Town of Clayton. I turn my head to the left toward the central section of Clayton and my legs winced. A narrow (no shoulder) road, S-curving and going up a hill. I thought to myself, this is what my co-worker warned me about. And I thought, I’ve come too far for beer and waffles are not much further. So, I walked across the busy road. Tired and uncertain of what was after the S-curve hidden by trees, I decided it might be best to walk up this hill. As I got closer, my impatience convinced me to low gear it up the hill. I did, until I saw the next S-Curve along a narrow road. The optimistic side of me noticed the speed limit was lowered from 55 mph to 35 mph. I kept pedaling, trying to stay on the very thin shoulder. Soon the top of the hill presented what I had seen in my research, a residential neighborhood, wider roads, and a sidewalk. I continued on where a traffic light in distance became a marker to focus on. And soon, I could see what looked like Downtown Clayton and I thought, “wow I am actually going to make this.”
As I turned onto Main Street, my legs started to have a little pep in them. When I saw the brewery and waffle truck, I began to feel exhilarated. Is this what it feels like to win a stage? I recognized my car and yell, “I made it! I made it!” and my wife smiled. I look at my iPhone and looked at the final tally – almost 35 miles (I later checked via Google Maps and it came back 26 miles). While it is not a personal best, given I’ve been off my bike during the winter, I thought it was pretty good.
Now for the Rewards
Deep River Brewing is a local North Carolina brewery based in Clayton. While I had not given it the full tour, I really like the inside and the bar staff was pretty nice. Before I went in, Francois of Belgian Waffology, mentioned Deep Brewing did a Belgian Wit. Well there’s your perfect pairing for the waffle!
The Belgian Wit (Twisted River) was pretty good, especially after a long ride, being cool and refreshing. It felt familiar to the Belgian-style with citrus flavors and orange-yellow color. If you like Belgian beers, you will easily enjoy this one. The other beer I’ve had here is the Double D Watermelon Lager. While a friend kept convincing me that it tastes like watermelon, I gave it a taste to believe his conviction. Well, I’ll be… it does taste like watermelon. Deep River does the watermelon one as a summer seasonal, so be on the lookout as the temperatures go up.
So far I’ve had the Liege waffle on the Belgian Waffology truck. If I was going to grab and go, this is my go-to waffle. It’s not messy, easily portable and delicious. Since I am hanging outside Deep River, I figured I can go after the loaded ones. The Ooolala seemed like a trophy worth reversing all the good fitness I just did. You can customized the waffle, which I stuck with Liege, but Ooolala is stacked with chocolate, whipped cream, strawberries, and bananas. That’s right – Ooolala! After eating this, I don’t think I can go into a diner and order specialized waffles again.
Belgian Waffology also has two savory customizations. I really enjoy goat cheese, honey, and apples. So the Bouc (pronounced like book) is fresh for a savory waffle. This one is served with the Brussles waffle, which is very similar to what Americans think of waffles. Francois likes this specialization as it reminds him of school time sandwich – only on a waffle. If you are looking for a tasty, but not overly sweet this is your waffle. There is honey and apples, which is more of a subtle sweet.
Outside the brewery a few cyclists were there. They, too, biked the trail and were glad to see another Raleigh cyclist making it out to Deep River. I had to cower back to my car, since I decided to drive back to Raleigh. I think I could have done most of it. But with the amount of time I took to get there, I was afraid of ruining Easter dinner or arriving during the dark. Though, noow that I know I can do it, watch out Chris Froome!
If you decide to re-enact this, I’d recommend being an intermediate rider. This means you have to enjoy hills, long distances, and confident on steep inclines with narrow roadways. Even if you are walking through the grass, you have to be comfortable of cars whizzing by you (I think 45 mph is more a guideline). You can cut 10 miles off the trail by parking at Anderson Point Park. Some of the secondary roads along the Neuse River have parking lots and trail entrances. You also want to bring plenty of water and snacks. Also, there really isn’t bathrooms along the way (Anderson Point Park seems to be the only one).