Cellphone in one hand and a partially-eaten pickle in the other, Monique Rey leaned over the table underneath the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. tent.
She looked back toward her camera and hit the button.
The avid cycler froze a moment in time.
Seconds later, she spotted the pickle train.
“This has been the best stop,” said the Spotsylvania, Virginia, 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 took a rest Friday in Mount Olive before they settled in for the night at River Landing in Wallace.
Now in its 22nd year, the Mountains to the Coast ride ended Saturday at North Topsail Beach.
“It’s been really nice,” Rey said. “We’ve been able to avoid all of the storms and that’s been fantastic. The accommodations have been a little muddy and wet, but a lot of fun.
“The people who organize this make it fun and profitable for little towns. You stay in hotels, eat there and stuff.”
In 2013, picturesque Cliffs of the Neuse State Park served as a rest stop for cyclists. The group toured Westbrook Park in Mount Olive.
This time, the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, the town of Mount Olive and Mt. Olive Pickle Co. handled festivities on an overcast day. Riders either dined on fresh pickles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or purchased entrees from Skullies Street Q food truck.
The town’s parks and recreation department provided the pickle train. Director Josh Phillips and his assistant, Will Shearin, took turns taking 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 cyclists from Michigan.
He took a brief rest.
“Topsail is my home,” Moore said. “It’s been great. The routes have been good and the people at all of the stops have been wonderful. Mount Olive is a great town.”
While nostalgic tunes from the ’70s and ’80s blared from the speakers, Chapel Hill resident Cynthia Suggs found a corner to apply some sun screen.
An avid cyclist since her childhood days, Suggs participated in the Century Ride, which covers 100 miles daily. She eagerly anticipated stopping in Teachey and visiting Elizabeth’s Pecan Shop.
“I like pecans,” Suggs said.
Echoing most of the riders’ sentiments, Suggs prefers a bike to a car when traveling through small towns.
“Because you’re going slower, you notice things like beauty berries [shrubs] and the blooming Crocus along the side of the road,” Suggs said. “In a car, you’re probably not going to do that. All you can really say ‘hey’ to are the cows and dogs.
“[Biking] you just notice a little bit more.”
Cycle NC organizers provided drinks, snacks, portable restrooms and bike maintenance services at each stop. Some bikers sought help with either their bikes or their shoes.
Others munched on pickles as they milled around the parking lot. Some stuck their heads through a wooden cutout of Mr. & Mrs. Pickle. A majority of the riders left their signature on a door that will go on display in town.
The turnout and support amazed Julie Beck, president of the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce. Lynn Williams, public relations manager at MOP, said the riders from 41 states visiting the sleepy town nestled in southern Wayne County was a “really big dill for all of us.”