Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another Sunny Day

85.1 Miles – Winnsboro, SC to Florence, SC

I again opted to start a little later than I normally might, but I had some things to take care of the kept me up. Shortly after leaving town I saw a sign for the South Carolina Railroad Museum. I thought it might be interesting, I only hoped it was open on Sundays. Not only was it not open on Sunday, it is only open two Saturdays a month between June and October for a grand total of ten times a year.

At least it was another beautiful morning. The morning just cruised on past. It wasn’t necessarily my intention, but the morning was all business. I was 35 miles deep before I even bothered to check my distance. I had stopped once, but that was to take a photo.

One thing I have been seeing on a regular basis on my ride is the Dollar General store. KKR, their parent just had an IPO for Dollar General this past Thursday. While Dollar General has 8,362 stores (at 2008 year end), plans to add another 450 and had 13% sales growth, they are also saddled with 4 billion in debt as well as lease obligations on its existing stores. What is unique about the IPO is that KKR was also one of the lead underwriters of the deal. It seems that Dollar General could be one of the early efforts of private equity firms to cash in on investments made during their heyday of acquisition…but enough about Main Street to Wall Street.

By midday any and all hills ceased. I was near enough the coast that there was nary a bump in the road. There were however numerous dogs that wanted to come out and play, no fewer than a half dozen incidences. I am growing as tired of these chases as you probably are reading about them. I am down south; people don’t have lap dogs here. Having a pet run off property at large is a misdemeanor in most counties in South Carolina and comes with a fine. Mind your pets people! I have already seen one dog get hit that chased me out in the road.

As long as I am focusing on the negative of the ride, I was nearly run down head-on by a clueless driver. As I was sitting at a stop sign waiting for traffic so that I could cross the road, a woman making a left turn on my road was trying to beat the cross traffic and cut the corner very short, not even noticing that there was a guy on a bike waiting patiently to cross the road. Thankfully, she took notice of me (though a bit too late for my liking), swerved, and nearly ran herself into a field. Put down the phone and pay attention.

As I rode along I pedaled past a rather large tract of farm land. The plot seemed out of place as I hadn’t seen that much farmland since being in Iowa. On my left was the remnants of corn stalks that had already been harvested and on my right, soy beans. It made me think about the times I had ridden days on end through nothing but farms. There was one instance on my 2005 ride where I couldn’t see anything manmade other than the road and what I had with me. Other than that it was corn as far as the eye could see.

While passing through small towns, many of the gas stations had signs proclaiming that there was no ethanol in the gas they were selling. Up to 10% of the fuel mix at the pump at any given gas station around the United States can be ethanol (fuel made mostly from corn). The addition of ethanol to gas was touted as a clean/renewable way to reduce dependence on foreign oil. The logic is that if 10% of the gas you pump is ethanol, it is 10% less foreign oil we require. Ethanol isn’t without its problems though, most notably a reduction of gas mileage. In addition, there have been complaints that ethanol destroys engines. One of the characteristics of ethanol is that it forms deposits should it sit around for several months. There is also the consideration countering the environmental benefits claiming that processing ethanol pollutes far more than production of normal gasoline. Lastly, I would be remiss were I not to mention the havoc ethanol production has wreaked on agricultural prices. As you might imagine, the larger demand for corn due to ethanol production raised demand for corn and hence price. To participate in the increase in the price of corn, some farmers choose to grow corn as opposed to soy beans or other cash crops that they have traditionally raised. With fewer farmers growing these other crops there is a lesser supply and hence higher prices for these crops. This, obviously, is an oversimplified generalization, but it is intended for those people who do not necessarily have an economics background. It is all supply and demand.

In again trying to stay on back roads for the day I had my share of problems, mostly in the form of dirt roads. After having taken my detour around the rockslide 11 miles along a dirt road several days earlier, I wasn’t about to ride another 11-miles on dirt, or even 11-inches. As there were many roads in various states of repair, or rather disrepair in the area, I hunted and pecked my way along the roads to make my way east.

To end my day I needed to ride along a major highway, however, as it was Sunday traffic was light. I was pleased to arrive at my destination which was going to be my last night before completing my ride.

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