Monday, November 16, 2009

End of Another Ride

77.9 Miles – Florence, SC to Myrtle Beach, SC

The city of Florence, SC is the tenth largest in South Carolina by population. It is also one of the cities that Amtrak passes through. After finishing the kayak trip the only option of getting a couple of 17 foot kayaks from New Orleans to New York was by train. On that lengthy train ride Kobie and I had some time to decompress, sort through photos and other data from our trip as well as reminisce over the happenings that had transpired the months prior as we paddled our way south. It was a pleasant, even civilized way to get to New York. It didn’t hurt that we had a sleeper car. Following that experience I decided it was how I would make my way from South Carolina to New York following this ride. It would be a reasonable way to transport a bike (without a massive surcharge as the airlines would levy), so I picked up a ticket while I was nearby.

As the city of Florence is quite busy and it was Monday morning it was an event to get away from the place. I followed a busy highway, two lanes in each direction, with no shoulder and heavy truck traffic. While there was a constant stream of traffic flowing past, at one point I looked back and saw two big rigs side by side in each lane behind me. For those of you that have seen the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, yeah, it looked just like that. I have found though that truckers are professionals and generally courteous. There are exceptions. As much as I don’t want them to hit me, it would ruin their day as well though not quite to the same degree.

The area around Myrtle Beach, SC, ever catering to tourists, had three visitor centers within an eight mile stretch. They were all legitimate visitor centers, not just someone that put up a visitor center sign in an effort to get you in the door and then sell you some poor quality tee shirts or other tourist kitsch. I have seen that all too often the world over.

I popped in one of the visitor centers in an hoping to find a better route to my destination. It was going to be the final day of the trip and I was hoping to enjoy at least some of it instead of having the constant concern of being run down by a vehicle. While they tried their best at the visitor center, I understand that most people don’t really pay attention as to whether a road has a shoulder and if the road surface is in good shape. I had little choice at least for the next several miles, so I pedaled on. My situation would improve significantly following the main turn off to get to Myrtle Beach proper.

I was able to get on a 25 miles length of little used road with only one small town interrupting the stretch. It was in the town that I was able to garner accurate intel as to the remainder of my route. When I stopped for a bite to eat a couple of the locals mentioned that had passed me on the road and wondered where I was going. Several of the people concocted a route that they claimed would be best for a bicycle to get me to my destination. I thanked them and was on my way. There is only so much I can tell about roads by looking at a map. When I started out this trip from Baton Rouge, LA I was on a road called “Scenic Drive”. It was a heavily traveled thoroughfare. I also pedaled along roads that were called highways and were entirely devoid of traffic. And clearly, a map will not let me know if the road has a shoulder, whether the surface is smooth or the level of traffic. It is what makes a long distance bike ride challenging. Anytime I would pass through or near a major city, as I did with Nashville, I would generally call a bike shop in the area and ask for advice. Bike shops can be a big help.

As I rode along my back road I came to a small intersection. At the intersection were no fewer than five signs pointing to various churches down the street. I wouldn’t think that area held the population to support five churches.

Further on, in the unincorporated village of Finklea of all places, I had a kid ask me for a cigarette. I wasn’t stopped on the side of the road or anything, I was biking along but was shouted at in request of said cigarette. To me that is funny several levels, but I will let you judge for yourself.

The last oddity of the day was as I stopped behind a school bus while is was discharging a child. I was behind a few cars so couldn’t see quite so well, but I noticed something by the mailbox of the home where the child was disembarking. As traffic began moving and I rode past, sure enough, it was a dead dog, right at the bus stop, right on the front lawn of this home. It was a big dog too; a pit-bull. It was fully rigor mortised, legs pointing straight out. Were someone to tip it upwards, it would have stood there until it rotted away, which it seemed to be in the beginning stages of doing.

The last 15 miles of the journey were elementary. Road conditions improved and despite a bit of a headwind I knew I would soon be done with my slated trip and didn’t have to ride the following day. It almost felt as if I were out for a series of day rides, rather than having covered 1,240 miles in six states. I wound through a neighborhood and when I arrived at my dad’s, he was sitting out front waiting for me. My 2009 ride was complete.

No comments: