Trip Log – Day 290 – Atlanta GA to Marietta GA

to AtlantaAugust 21, 2016 – Partly cloudy, 80 degrees

Miles Today: 28

Miles to Date: 14,863

States to Date: 41

 IMG_6791I woke late to overcast skies and coasted down five flights of parking ramp from my host’s apartment to the streets of Atlanta. Atlanta is to Georgia as New York City is to upstate New York or Seattle is to western Washington. The principle city is at complete odds with its country cousins. Southern Breakfast at Bantam + Biddy is a smaller portioned, locally sourced counterpoint to the Waffle House All-Star, at twice the price. Parking lots are packed at nine on Sunday morning, not at the local church, but at LA Fitness. The Prius to pick-up ratio is flipped. I spent the morning loitering at the upscale Ansley Shopping Center in Midtown; I even indulged in a rare treat of a donut. I felt slackerlier than I do hanging at a McDonald’s because everyone around me was so purposeful in their food and fitness.

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After noon I headed off to explore Midtown, rode through Piedmont Park and went to the High Museum, mostly to see Richard Meir’s 1983 building. I suppose it was a victim of its own success, for in the 1990’s the High added a significant infill addition by Renzo Piano that pulls the museum and adjacent symphony hall together in an outdoor space currently filled with circus-like sculptures. The planning is very good, but the Meier Building is now a trinket along Peachtree Street rather than the heart of the place. I strode up the monumental ramp only to discover it doesn’t get you anywhere anymore.

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IMG_6797I headed out of town, which meant hills and more hills. I waited out a downpour on the narrow front porch of a model home in a new subdivision without triggering any security alarms. The Paces, a neighborhood of well-heeled estates, has many beautiful homes, and a few garish conceits as well. I was pleased to find a little library at one intersection, since I recently finished my paperback. I traded it out for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which seems more appropriate to my way of living then anyone who lives there.

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Trip Log – Day 289 – Decatur GA to Atlanta GA

to AtlantaAugust 20, 2016 – Sunny, 85 degrees

Miles Today: 18

Miles to Date: 14,835

States to Date: 41

My warmshowers hosts, Laura and Mike, rode me to the Carter Center to kick off my day of Atlanta sightseeing. The Jimmy Carter Library is the seventh I’ve visited along my route. Nestled in a gully, the building is unassuming as the man. The museum focuses less on Carter’s Presidency compared to the other libraries. This makes sense for a man whose single term was a mixed bag of successes overshadowed by the Iranian hostages, but who’s post-Presidential is more influential than any other.

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I cycled through some vintage Atlanta suburbs, stopped by the Martin Luther King Jr. Historical Site, toured downtown and Centennial Park and managed to duck indoors when a mammoth afternoon storm drenched the city.

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A pair of friends hosted me in their Midtown apartment; a sprawling complex of several hundred high-end units wrapped around a five-story parking garage. I had never seen that arrangement before; very handy to drive to the level of your unit. Bruce and DFior both work in the travel industry and fly places virtually every week. The big draw of Atlanta? Direct flights to everywhere. Fortunately for me they were home on Saturday night and cooked up pungent crab boil and braised Ox-tail.

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Trip Log – Day 288 – Athens GA to Decatur GA

to AtlantaAugust 19, 2016 – Sunny, 85 degrees

Miles Today: 67

Miles to Date: 14,817

States to Date: 41

 IMG_6762Truth in blogging: I am getting too old to drink beer at local bars with Millenial’s and then pedal hard the next day. Sure, I had elevation climbs and a steady headwind, but too much beer and too little sleep made the cycling harder.

The first leg took me through Athens verdant neighborhoods and through a series of small siding towns along one of the main railroad lines climbing to Atlanta. However, from Lawrenceville to Decatur, I simply persevered thirty miles of exurbs and suburbs and ever bigger, gaudier houses.

IMG_6767I did take a break to snack up at Aldi, a Costco meets Trader Joe’s chain I’ve seen along my routes but had never visited. Funky foods in cardboard cartons with a friendly staff.

Despite the slog, my endorphins eventually kicked in. I arrived at my hosts, showered, and enjoyed a wonderful evening sharing stories with Laura and Mike, a truly thoughtful pair who gave me a fascinating introduction to Atlanta.

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Trip Log – Day 287 – Augusta GA to Athens GA

To Athens GAAugust 18, 2016 – Sunny, 95 degrees

Miles Today: 97

Miles to Date: 14,750

States to Date: 41

Some long riding days are so satisfying. Get up early and on the road before the heat sets in, stay focused on progress but take breaks to meet interesting folks and stay fresh. I logged a lot of miles, climbed over 2,000 feet into the Georgia foothills, and had several local adventures.

images-1I savored my first Waffle House experience in Thomson. The entire staff called out, “welcome!’ when I walked in, though my waitress was surprised I asked for a menu. Waffle House is all about repeat customers and pretty much everyone orders the All-Star breakfast: two eggs any style, two sausage patties, two slices of toast, grits, plus a large waffle. Next time, I won’t bother with a menu. For seven bucks, the All-Star breakfast rocks.

IMG_6752I needed all those carbs along the Whitesboro Road, a scenic country road to an early Quaker settlement. Just past the few remaining structures the pavement turned into a dirt logging road. Fortunately, Georgia red clay makes a pretty sound road surface.

 

IMG_6753Washington is a town with many beautiful historic houses, but I didn’t linger at any of them as thunderclouds threatened in early afternoon. For the rest of the day I dodged storms that raged all around me.

 

IMG_6756 IMG_6757But I did stop to visit with local farmer Libby who grows and sells Muscadines and Scuppernongs, two delicious local grapes, from a farm stand with a welcome breeze. These plump fruits are certainly healthier than Waffle House fare.

I was already in Athens by the time a thunderstorm finally caught me. I ducked into in a car wash stall until the skies cleared and I pedaled to my host’s on time.

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 4.19.35 PMJon Pierson is very gregarious guy and regular couchsurfing host who recently moved to Athens. He organized a couchsurfing meet-up at the HiLo bar in Normaltown. Eight other people showed up, commandeered a corner table, drank great local drafts, and talked about all things couchsurfing, Athens, University of Georgia, and tomorrow.

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Trip Log – Day 286 – New Ellenton SC to Augusta GA

To Thomson GAAugust 17, 2016 – Sunny, 95 degrees

Miles Today: 30

Miles to Date: 14,653

States to Date: 41

 IMG_6730Welcome to Georgia! I took an easy day and got my bike a 2,000 mile check-up at Andy Jordan’s Bike Shop in Augusta. Tom got a new pair of shiny red pedals after the factory standard plastic ones cracked and the shop was out of any subtle colors. Just another way for me to stand out on the road!

I rode along the Augusta canal system and then took a long afternoon break in McDonald’s. About 2:00 I realized the dining room was full of young people. Turned out to be interview afternoon. IIMG_6731 overheard the manager give a dozen or more personal interviews – the exact same questions to all applicants. A few candidates spoke right up, but most slumped through the ordeal. With so many applicants, shy folks won’t make the cut.

On my way to Hearth Table catfish buffet I came upon a confused elderly man in an electric wheelchair. He showed me his nametag: Sylvester Dawson, Richmond Summit House. I goggled his apartment, discovered it was more than a mile away, and asked him what he was doing out on such a hot day. “Getting lost.” So, I walked him sixteen blocks through Augusta’s eviscerated inner city. Many streets had no sidewalks, but his low-boy wheelchair navigated the blacktop better than concrete anyway. We made quite a pair. I let my bright shirt and saddIMG_6736lebags stand between Sylvester and what little traffic there was.

A husky back woman, his wife Linda, waited at the lobby of a questionably respectable apartment house on Augusta’s aging Broad Street. Despite his Alzheimer, I could tell the poor man was in for a good scold.

I finally got to my buffet, famished, just before a torrential downpour flooded the city and barely lowered the thermostat a notch. No worry. The catfish was excellent.

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Trip Log – Day 285 – Walterboro SC to New Ellenton SC

To New EllentonAugust 16, 2016 – Sunny, 95 degrees

Miles Today: 83

Miles to Date: 14,623

States to Date: 40

A great day of cycling out of the Low Country and into the gentle hills of upland Carolina. The pines got taller along my route and provided a good deal of shade, except in areas where recent harvests were replaced with saplings.

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IMG_6715South Carolina has the highest per capita population of people in mobile homes. However, there are few of the large mobile home parks we have in the northeast. Instead, there are many compounds of mobile homes grouped together. Apparently, a family group often shares them.

IMG_6711Finally – a shoulder in South Carolina! US 278 west of Barnwell was one of the best road s of my trip; smooth pavement, a wide shoulder, and a groove strip to keep the passing cars at bay. I sailed into New Ellenton with ease.

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Trip Log – Day 284 – Charleston SC to Walterboro SC

to WalterboroAugust 15, 2016 – Sunny, 95 degrees

Miles Today: 51

Miles to Date: 14,541

States to Date: 40

Monday morning! First day of school! Traffic galore heading east into Charleston! But I am pedaling the other direction, turning the fourth corner of my odd-shaped box around the United States.

IMG_6697I took at big left turn in Belfast ME to head west, another at Seattle to go south, a third in San Diego to return east. After recalibrating my rehab my layover in Boston, I cycled south. Today I turned west again to commence what I call the ‘inner loop’: Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky, Missouri and Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, with a few ‘revisits’ to states I’ve already touched along the way.

Wait a minute; that leaves me one state short. True. I have yet to cycle in Florida. I hope to complete Arkansas in November and peddle back through Dixie to the Florida Panhandle in December when the weather should be fine. My odd shape box has a fifth corner, when I stop going west and turn south and east once last time.

IMG_6702In the short term, today was a good day to go against the flow. No shoulders anywhere. For the most part, drivers were patient with me. A few times vehicles lined behind me so I pulled onto the grass to let folks by. Big trucks are never a problem; they are professional drivers. It’s the pick-up drivers and clueless min-vans that give me angina.

When I could savor the scenery, I appreciated Ashley River Road’s canopy of trees and stately plantations. The land began to rise, the forest turned to tall pine, and the scent of pinesap filled the air whenever a logging truck passed by.

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Walterboro is a lovely, if sleepy, burg. All of its commerce has been sucked dry by I-95, four miles to the west, where I stayed under a Red Roof for the night.

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