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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Trip Log – Day 283 – Charleston SC

to CharlestonAugust 14, 2016 – Sunny, 95 degrees

Miles Today: 25

Miles to Date: 14,490

States to Date: 40

My rotogravure of an elegant city of the South that endures revolution and civil war, earthquake and hurricane, flood and famine, mass shootings and racist killing; a World Heritage Site that manifests all that is noble and tragic in the human condition: Charleston is resilient.

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The wall of doves stretches two blocks; a unity effort after the 2015 Charleston Church shooting

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The Eastside is the only remaining African-American community within the old part of the city. It boasts African-American monuments and cranes of encroaching development.

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On second Sunday, King Street becomes a pedestrian mall with many musical performers. I particularly like the narrow facades between actual buildings. Some are false fronts, others very narrow structures.

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The Copper and Ashley Rivers come together at the Battery to form the Atlantic Ocean.

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Gullah weavers command the corner of Meeting and Broad.

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Historical Preservation in this country began in Charleston, in 1931. The Preservation Society runs a boutique of local crafts.

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The city is littered with horse drawn carriage tours. On a bicycle, I get to hear multiple guides’ stories.

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The city has an assortment of prominent public buildings.

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But the private homes are most memorable.

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Trip Log – Day 282 – Summerville SC to Charleston SC

to CharlestonAugust 13, 2016 – Sunny, 95 degrees

Miles Today: 36

Miles to Date: 14,465

States to Date: 40

Nine months ago I spent a night in the original Sun City, AZ, the first US community exclusively for people over age 55 where, in 1960 an 800 square foot house cost $10,000; air conditioning was optional. People snapped them up as much for the community centers and golf courses as the concrete block cottages. Del Webb, Sun City’s developer, is long dead, but there are over fifty Del Webb communities in twenty states that reflect the evolution of active retirement, an evolution that parallels our national trend toward less community.

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Del Webb Charleston has a community center and swimming pool, organized parties and tennis courts, but no golf courses. Instead it features lagoons – fourteen of them – created by bulldozers shaping the swamp into buildable lots. The focus of development is densely packed individual homes. Garages dominate front yards. My hosts live in a 3-bedroom 2400 square foot house that is as unrelated to its Sun City predecessor as a McMansion is to Levittown.

IMG_6610The ride to Charleston was not pretty. North Charleston is a poor city. Vehicles funnel through the neck of highways and dashed commerce, racing to Charleston’s charming tourist center. I circled The Citadel campus where new plebes were being indoctrinated. Such a loud place. Yelling is an integral component of military education.

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Google maps showed that my host’s home bordered the Ashley River, but the reality was much more impressive. Deb lives in the last of a modest row of townhouses; the sunset views of the marsh from every room are spectacular. I asked whether her house flooded during the massive rains last year; rains that left much of the Del Webb community thirty miles upstream under water. Though barely two feet above high tide, her house had stayed dry. The difference between a natural marsh and a swamp dredged into lagoons.

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Trip Log – Day 281 – Florence SC to Summerville SC

to SummervilleAugust 12, 2016 – Sunny, 95 degrees

Miles Today: 92

Miles to Date: 14,429

States to Date: 40

 IMG_6600It was impossible to get turned around today – US 52 South for 75 miles, bear right on Alt US 17. I was looking forward to riding through the Francis Marion National Forest, but the tall trees and shady road I imagined was a far cry from the wide highway and mowed shoulders that kept me in full sunshine all day.

I love when a place shifts expectations, and so far, South Carolina is striking in one omission and one addition. South Carolinians appear to be as flag waving as any other Americans, but I have yet to see even one Confederate flag here. That may be one culture war we’ve left behind.

IMG_6599What I have seen instead are unexpected signs of recognition. Towns often cite favorite sons on their ‘welcome to’ signs; often sports stars or media celebrities. Along highway 52 I passed four small towns in a row that heralded their connection to more cerebral pursuits: an astronaut, the first African-American female college president, another college president, and a Nobel Prize winner.

Google Maps for bicycles has a penchant for mapping me on dirt roads. An intriguingly twisty line is not always good as it looks. My hosts for the night live in Del Webb Charleston, an active adult community of serpentine streets, one of multiple developments called Cane Bay that all share one vehicle access, on the far side of my approach. Google offered a route that carved seven miles off the highway. I was skeptical, until it turned out to be the best dirt road of my trip, firm sand reinforced with mesh. It circled the major retention lake of this swamp reshaped into dry land and lagoons. I could have been miles from any human being. Until I came upon a paved bike path that brought me smack into close-packed houses and direct to their street. Sometimes, traveling by bike can be faster than car!

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