By RUDY COGGINS
With a cell phone in one hand and a partially eaten pickle in the other, Monique Rey leaned over the table under the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. tent.
She looked back at her camera and hit the button.
The passionate cyclist froze for a moment.
Seconds later, she spotted the pickle train.
âIt was the best stop,â said the Spotsylvania, Va. Resident.
Rey was part of Cycle North Carolina, a group of 800 cyclists who began a seven-day bike ride Oct. 2 in the mountain community of Sparta. They rested at Mount Olive on Friday before settling in for the night at River Landing in Wallace.
Now in its 22nd year, the Mountains to the Coast hike ended Saturday at North Topsail Beach.
âIt’s been really cool,â Rey said. âWe were able to avoid all the storms and it’s fantastic. The accommodations were a bit muddy and wet, but a lot of fun.
âThe people who organize this make it fun and profitable for small towns. You stay in hotels, eat there and everything.
In 2013, the picturesque Falaises de la Neuse State Park served as a rest area for cyclists. The group visited Westbrook Park in Mount Olive.
This time, the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, Town of Mount Olive and Mt. Olive Pickle Co. hosted the overcast festivities. Runners either ate fresh pickles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or bought tickets to the Skullies Street Q food truck.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department provided the pickle train. Director Josh Phillips and his assistant Will Shearin took turns accompanying the cyclists on a short tour of the 151-year-old town.
Michael Moore joined the riders on Wednesday and rode with a pack of Michigan cyclists.
He took a brief rest.
âTopsail is my home,â Moore said. âIt was awesome. The routes were good and the people at all stops were wonderful. Mount Olive is a great city.
As nostalgic ’70s and’ 80s tunes blared from the speakers, Chapel Hill resident Cynthia Suggs found a spot to apply sunscreen.
An avid cyclist since childhood, Suggs has participated in the Century Ride, which covers 100 miles a day. She was looking forward to stopping by Teachey and visiting Elizabeth’s Pecan Shop.
âI love pecans,â Suggs said.
Echoing most of the sentiments of bikers, Suggs prefers a bicycle to a car when traveling in small towns.
“Because you go slower you notice things like beauty berries [shrubs] and the Crocus in bloom by the side of the road, âSuggs said. âIn a car, you probably aren’t going to do that. All you can really say “hey” to are cows and dogs.
“[Biking] you just notice a little more.
Cycle NC organizers provided drinks, snacks, portable toilets, and bicycle maintenance services at each stop. Some bikers have asked for help with their bikes or shoes.
Others munched on pickles as they moved around the parking lot. Some poked their heads through a wooden cutout of Mr. & Mrs. Pickle. A majority of runners have left their signatures on a door that will be on display in town.
The participation and support amazed Julie Beck, President of the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce. Lynn Williams, public relations manager at MOP, said runners from 41 states visiting the sleepy town tucked away in southern Wayne County were “a big deal for all of us.”