September Gone Wild

I just realized that today is the last day of the month. So I took a look: 1,742 miles of bike riding. I’m pretty sure this is some sort of personal best. 58 miles per day. Lordy.

Most of the riding is from my tour: 1,413.5 miles. I also did a farewell ride to the Rock Creek Trestle that was 55 miles long. And the 50 States Ride day which ended up being 65 miles. It was an unexpectedly difficult ride but the company was great.

So far this year I’ve ridden 7,478 miles. Dang. Assuming I ride all the way to Key West, I’ll be well over 8,000 miles by November. 

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No Way So Hey – Day 19

The good news is I had a fantastic tailwind for about 50 miles. The bad news is it rained like a bitch for over two hours. 

After laying waste to the breakfast bar, I rode US Route A1A to the coast. It has about six lanes. And a bike lane that comes and goes. Skies were overcast and the winds were against me. 

The bridge over the Amelia River have a fantastic view. I’d have taken a picture but I was more interested in not being road kill.

Amelia Island is a lovely coastal resort. The roads are flat too. The road South connected to Big and Little Talbot Islands. Winds were now pushing me which was great fun until I caught up with the rain. Small warm raindrops were actually refreshing for a while.

I needed to take a ferry across the St John River. I thought I missed it. When I turned around it was as if I was riding into a fire hose. After asking directions from a marina employee, I turned back around. I found the ferry. The ferry was right there about to leave but the gate was locked. Then a ferry employee spotted me, found a key, and unlocked the gate. Unreal. 

The ride took about ten minutes. The rains stopped but the tailwind continued. I decided to keep riding until I ran out of gas. The route took me through a succession of beach towns.  There was debris along the road, probably from hurricane Irma.


Some of the towns were very posh with gated communities and exclusive clubs. The rest were garden variety east coast beach towns.

Once clear of these towns the road runs down the coast. A dune running along the road screened me from the ocean. I could hear it raging though. 

Once the dune ran out I could see the heavy surf. Just outside St. Augustine I caught up to another storm, a bit more violent than the morning’s storm. 


The winds were stronger too. Many beachfront houses were under repair. Siding and shingles can flying off a few of them. 

 By the time I got to St. Augustine, I was soaked and I could hear rumbles of thunder. Time to get off the road. The hostel in town was booked full so I checked into the first hotel I saw, an ancient Howard Johnson’s. I thought it ran out of business years ago.

I was going to contact my friend Wendy’s cousin for lodging but I would have had to ride another 2 1/2 hours in the storm to get there.

The room was nice but my bags and tent were soaked. I have been using Ortlieb roll top panniers for over ten years. I bought a new pair just for this ride. They are supposed to be waterproof but one of them leaks. I am writing this shirtless. My shirts are hanging up all around the hotel room. 

For the sixth day in a row I broke 70 miles. The tailwind made it the easiest 71.5 miles I’ve ever ridden.

1413.5 miles so far. 506 miles to Key West. It should take about a week. Then I somehow double back to get a train or a plane North. 

Tomorrow I want to check out the old castle here in town. Then I point my bike south. 

No Way So Hey – Day 18

Nahunta, GA isn’t much to write home about so let’s just leave it there.

I hit the road after breakfast at Subway. They cut my breakfast sammie in half so I could eat the rest for lunch. 

The route took me on River a Road. I have no idea what river I was roading but it was a pleasant enough road with the occasional bad dog. One chased me pretty persistently until I looked him in the eye and BARKED at him. He was completely stunned by it and disengaged from the chase.

River took me past a private sector prison. It had more razor wire than I’ve ever seen. I’d have taken a picture but I heard bangs coming from a building and wasn’t altogether sure a shooting wasn’t going on. 

Folkston came and went. I diverted from the main part of the Atlantic Coast route to check out the Okeefenokee Swamp. The road to the entrance was no different than dozens of others I’ve been on. Pines, fields left where pines have been logged, cotton, onions, swampy patches. 

I thought about not going in then I said “You came all this way, you moron!” 
Did I mention it was hotter than hell?

So I went kn. The access road is three miles long. I got in for free with my old person’s National Parks pass. I took a 7 1/2 mile ride on Swamp Island Drive.

It was swampy.

There was a 1 1/2 mile walk on a boardwalk through the swamp to a tower. So I did that.   
Before I left I refilled my water bottles. They had a water fountain with a dispenser that encourages the use of reusable containers instead of throw away plastic bottles. Great idea..
I rode out of the park and realized that my planned 71 mile day was now going to be 87 miles. 

Did I tell you it was hot out?

The next 15 miles were on straight road. This nearly always means rolling hills. Oh joy, let’s add some climbing to this madness. 

I arrived at the end of this slog near death. A candy bar was vaporized. Two bottles of sports  drink simply vanished. 

I headed east to rejoin the main route. After I crossed into Florida I was hoping to see a welcome to Florida sign for a triumphant new state picture. No dice. I had to settle for a seatbelt law sign.


Right after this, I found a wallet on the side of the road. I picked it up and turned it on to a police officer who was on duty at a weigh station. 

They didn’t weigh me.

I headed north, then east again, back on the main route. Sucking wind all the way to my planned destination, Callahan FLA. the promised motel looked skivey so I called a Comfott Inn 11 miles to the east and booked a room.

Now I was racing the setting sun. I couldn’t see anything but the sun in my rear view mirror but it didn’t matter; I had a wide, if bumpy, paved shoulder to ride on. 

I pulled in to the hotel pretty damned exhausted. My planned 71 mile day had turned into a 99.5 mile battle. My back hurts. My knees hurt. But my head is happy. 

Trip miles so far are at 1,342. I need to dial it back for a day to recharge my legs. 

Tomorrow I hope to camp at a state park on the ocean. 

No Way So Hey – Day 17

The day began with a 1 1/2 mile ride to a diner where I stuffed myself with all the things. 

Belch.

Then I went back to the campground, packed up, and paid. I got a senior discount. Woot!

I hit the road late, 8:30, and I knew I would pay. The early morning hours have pleasant temperatures but some uncomfortable humidity. From about 10 to 2 the sky is cloudless and the heat wears on you. After that the sun is low enough to cast shadows across the road and the puffy white clouds lend a hand.

Today’s ride was more of the same. Farms and swamps. Run down shacks and beautiful country homes. I saw some peach orchards today. At one of my rest stops I asked the clerk for done bananas. We don’t have any. You should try our sliced peaches. Holy crap. I hoovered them. Just perfectly sweet and juicy. 


And I saw a cotton field that looked ready for picking.


Toward the end of the day I saw farms with livestock and chicken houses. I was also chased by a big mean dog who didn’t have the leg speed to keep up with The Mule. Instead of “Beware of the Dog” signs, some people put up “Bad Dog” signs. This made me think of putting up a sign that says, “Dog of Poor Moral Fiber”.

Hills have made a reappearance too. I don’t mind. Just drop to a lower gear and spin.

For the first three or four days your brain is all monkey mind. After that you just become kind of mesmerized by the sound of the chain, the turning of the pedals, the pumping of your knees. Your brain goes off on tangents then it locks back in on chain and pedals and knees. 

I’m getting closer to the Okeefenokee Swamp. The Saltilla River seems to be everywhere. I stopped to take a picture of the swamp trees with their wide bases.


I cruised into Nahunta Georgia just before 5 pm. I’m staying at the Knox Hotel which looks like something you’d see in Mayberry or Petticoat Junction. 

The hotel incurred some minor hurricane damage to its roof. The owner told me she took in many people displaced by Irma a few weeks ago. 

After 85 miles on breakfast, convenience store food and peaches, I’m ready for a shower and dinner. 

Total miles 1,242.5. 

Tomorrow the Okeefenokee Swamp and Florida. 

No Way So Hey – Day 16

I left Savannah a little after 8 because I stopped at Clary’s Cafe for breakfast. I wanted 15 minutes trying to find it because the Google lied! 

The Savannah Pensione was a funky little place, just right for my bike touring vibe. I wouldn’t bring Mrs. Rootchopper there though. Too bare bones.

The ride out of Savannah was every bit as awful as the ride in. Savannah had a huge seaport and trucks carrying containers are everywhere. I managed to miss a turn and rode tight to the port. Ack! I am little. Container trucks are huge. Kudos to the drivers who were very careful around me. 


I corrected my error only to make another goof. My 50 States team is probably laughing as they read this. 

I got back on track and spent the next seven hours sweltering on my bike. I took Lesly’s suggestion and stopped for Coke and bananas from time to time. 

I back tracked over 60 miles to get back on the main North/South route. (Savannah lies to the east of the route.) 

I began to notice that the roads weren’t so level anymore. I had to get to my campground by 5 so I was grinding up the inclines (“hills” would overstate the topography).

I begged for clouds to cover the sun. They complied. The last 15 miles were not exactly pleasant but I did manage to arrive before 5 at Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park. This place is much nicer than the mosquito invested campground in South Carolina. 


It also has a diner nearby for breakfast and a Dairy Queen about 200 yards from the entrance. (I went right after I ate the sammies I bought en route. Large vanilla shake. In air conditioned comfort.)

My upper back is sore. Not from riding but from lifting the bike over curbs at convenience stores and restaurants. I can’t believe how much this beast weighs.

I am ready for some reading and some sleep. My total today was 93.5 miles. Trip total is 1,157.5. 

No Way So Hey – Day 15

Although this picture was taken yesterday it does give an idea of what some of the farms are up to in these parts.


And I’d be remiss if I didn’t show one dirt road. It’s sand and clay which explains why pick up trucks with aggressive tires are the rage.


Statesboro didn’t impress. I didn’t do my usual bikemeander because I was biked out when I got there. The main drag is cute enough but there didn’t seem to be much else.

The hotel was comfy. I slept nearly 8 hours thanks to a dose of Advil PM. 

The day began with a free see-food breakfast. I was on the road in the cool of daybreak.

The roads here are much, much better than two days ago. I made my second turtle rescue of the trip. Then I came to a fork in the road. 


I didn’t take it. Vultures like road kill armadillos. They like them so much that I’ve seen several road kill vultures.

Speaking of road kill, I’ve averaged a close pass every other day. Today was an old Chevy that blew by me at high speed only inches from my left elbow. Hell-oh!

There was no sit down food all the way to Savannah do I made do with my big gut breakfast, convenience store snacks, and a beat up apple from two days ago. 

The ride into Savannah was on a busy highway. Ten miles of trucks and roadside debris. No fun. 

Savannah was totally worth it. Oh my God the old part of Savannah is gorgeous. Huge oaks (according to my lodger) draped with Spanish moss line every street with shade and character. Old buildings of every architectural persuasion make you want to take a picture every ten feet. Squares with little shady parks line the old part of the city. They beg you to grab a seat on a bench and chill. So I did.


I booked a room in the Savannah Pensione, a funky old house walking distance to parks and food. 


So after check in and a shower I made my way to 5 pm lunch. Only pizza and beer would suffice. After 15 minutes I found a Mellow Mushroom. I ate it ALL.

Thanks to my friends on the interwebs who recommended other places to eat. Alas they were to late. 

Another 74.5 miles in the books. Add that to 989.5 and I get 1,064 so far. 

No Way So Hey – Day 14

Two weeks on the road. I’m in it thick now.

I broke my no McDonalds food rule and ate dinner next door to the hotel. I ran into Jason and George and we had a long chat.

The free breakfast at the hotel was actually pretty decent. I fueled up like I was going trekking in the Outback. On the way out I grabbed an apple and a banana for the road. 

I was directly in route so I wasted no time. The roads are getting better and better in terms of surface, traffic, and lack of rumble strips. Today’s start was a bit late owing to my need for sleep. The wind was at my back and the skyscapes were picture pretty.

I was just rolling along heading mostly west. The landscape was significantly less boggy. There were more pine trees in the woods I was passing through. 

I entered a new state after 25 miles. Although the South Carolina roads did get much better this morning, they can’t compare with the roads in Georgia. They are smoother and wider. Only at the end of the day did I have to deal with rumbles strips. 


I stopped in a country store at the state line.  It was in an El Cheapo gas station.  

After a few miles my perfect skyscape was obstructed by smoke. I was worried that I had stumbled into a forest fire but I never saw the cause of the smoke.


So I rode on. After 50 miles I was running out of gas. A gas station had a shop with eat-in “food”. It was fried chicken with fried potatoes and mystery rice. (The rice had stuff in it that didn’t belong there so I ate around the alien objects.) I followed that disgusting gastronomic experience with a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.

Burp.

Back on the rode I lasted a couple of miles before seeing a Dollar General store. They are ubiquitous in the south. They are a five and dime store that looks like a grenade went off inside. If you look long enough you can find what you are looking for. I found some insect spray with enough deet to kill a pterodactyl, some sun screen, and some lotion for my dried out skin.

I rode into Statesboro. There doesn’t seem to be much here. It’s an east coast version of Gertrude Stein’s Oakland.

I was going to camp but the campground only seemed to have expensive cabins so I’m holed up in a hotel a half mile from town. It’ll do.

Tomorrow it’s on to Savannah. I plan to go another hostel. I haven’t heard back from the owner yet. 

No sign of Jason and George today.

71 miles for the day. Tour total is 989.5. 

No Way So Hey – Day 13

I awoke before most of the mosquitos and made a hasty exit from the campground. I was tired, smelled of bug spray, sweat, and sunscreen and just not really feeling very spunky.

It was a lovely morning despite my disagreeable nature. And so I rode. Much more of the same. Tunnels of trees. Farms. The blight of rural poverty sprinkled around truly lovely estates.

About 7 miles into the ride I passed the Horseshoe Lake Farm which according to my maps has a free bunkhouse for bike tourists. I couldn’t get ahold of the people by phone so I decided on Mosquito State Park instead. Maybe for free you get more mosquitos. I am not sure that is physically possible though.

The only difference between today and the last five days was the fact that the roads, at least for the first three hours, had very little traffic. Everyone was either at church or, from the looks of all the beer cans on the side of the road, home sleeping off a night of partying. The only thing more depressing than the trash was the sight of so many road kill armadillos. One of them was fresh and being enjoyed by a vulture when I rolled by. Nature is icky.

 

Riding through a long stretch of woods I was surprised when four steer (steers?) emerged from the trees as if preparing to cross the road in front of me. Maybe they were sprung from captivity by vigilante vegans. In any case, when the spotted me, the three smaller ones turned and fled into the woods. The biggest one, closest to the road, just looked at me with ennui.

The road I was on ran through some pretty impressive swamps. Still no sight of a gator though. After the swamps came some gently rolling hills. For the first time in hundreds of miles.


I ate convenience store food. A day old tuna salad sandwich, a banana, an ice cream cooking sandwich. I was riding with shade and a tailwind. I was bonking nonetheless, probably because of lack of sleep.


I came to Points South, an actual town, with an actual Waffle House (with two “f”s). I ate all the things. The food did nothing for my energy level. I was faced with a choice of five hotels (since the road I was on intersected with I-95) and a KOA campground. I decided to treat myself and stay at the best of the lot, a Hampton Inn.

As I was riding the 200 yards to the hotel I met two Dutch cyclists, Lucas (son) and George vanRijn, who were rolling into town on a trip from New York City to Key West. They didn’t seem the least bit chatty but I could see they were using the same maps as I. Like me, they are bound for Statesboro, Georgia tomorrow.

I rode 49 miles so my total is 918.5, still a tad over 70 miles per day. Also, it’s the farthest I’ve ever ridden on a bike tour.

No Way So Hey – Day 12

The hostel was not such a great idea as it turned out. One of my roommates decided to listen to hippety hop music at 2 am, after I left the room to use the rest room. Maybe I should have started singing I’m Still Here or some other Crowded House obscurity to change his ways. Fortunately, the other six roommates came in shortly after and calmly talked him into being a decent human being and turning the crap off.

The promised breakfast was coffee and oatmeal, make you own of course. No thanks.

I rolled out at daybreak taking a winding course through Charleston. I came to the Fort Sumter National Monument. Fort Sumter wasn’t there. (I know, it’s on an island in the middle of the river.) So I checked out the sunrise.

 

Speaking of Civil War things, I have seen four houses or cars with confederate flags so far. Many fewer than I expected. The Ravenel bridge out of Charleston was packed with runners enjoying the early morning humidity before the late morning heat. This looks like a running town to me, so many obviously fast runners.

I retraced my route from yesterday for about 35 miles. I stopped for one of those sausage on a biscuit things at a gas station. It was disgusting but it was portable and kept me from bonking. I turned off one road through the Frances Marion National Forest onto another. This area is also an Indian reservation. Other than a roadside sign it appears no different than the rest of the rural, wooded, swampy environs. Also, the roadkill now includes armadillos.

 

My turn put me on a halfway decent road with light traffic nearly all the way to metropolitan Moncks Corner. It was 50 miles into the day so I stopped at an Arbys (the first restaurant I came upon – selectivity is all important in bike touring) and ate mass quantities topped off with a vavilla shake. All the food gave me a massive surge of energy and I headed out at 11 miles per hour because The Mule is in charge of speed.

My route maps are pretty good but there have been many changes to the roads around here so I am stopping to check the Google whenever I am in doubt. I often do this to make sure I haven’t fallen into a trance and missed another turn.

Not knowing where I’d stay for the night, I kept buying food at every convenience store. The roads had now lost their rumble strips and their traffic so the riding was pretty joyous. Level, shaded, puffy clouds blocking the sun. Sweet!

I came to Givhans Ferry State Park and called it a night in one of the tent sights reserved for hikers and bikers. The site came with sand, electric hookup, water, and 10 billion goddamned mosquitos. My head was in a cloud of the pests. Setting up camp was insane. I used the bug spray Mrs. Rootchopper had provided. If I am going to camp again I need a can of Off that I can tow behind my bike.

 

After I was all set up I headed off for a shower. It was outdoors next to a playground. With a spring loaded faucet that you had to hold in the on position to get any water. I rinsed off as well as I could without getting charged with exposing myself to the little kids on the swings. I headed back to the tent for an evening of repose. I stayed up until the sun set then closed my eyes and rolled around for about 8 hours. My left knee was shrieking at me all night. (For me this is not abnormal, just an old volleyball injury reminded me that I am an old fool.)

I did manage to get about 2 hours of sleep at about 4:30.

Even with the mosquitos, this was a pretty successful day on the bike. 85 more miles for a total of 869.5.