It’s amazing how much faster the landscape flies by when viewing it at 70 mph from inside a bright red rental Kia Soul. What would have been 7-10 days of bicycling flew by in a long afternoon. The most interesting sight was going through Mt. Olive, North Carolina, the home of Mt. Olive pickles. It’s worth a Google. The town promotional materials point out that there’s nary a hill nor any olive trees in the town. There’s even a University of Mt. Olive (UMO), not what I would have guessed had I seen those initials by themselves.
It’s good to be home. It was fun until it wasn’t. Right now rest and recovery are the agenda. Thanks for following our adventures and for all your good wishes.
We had quite a discussion about our future route last night because the Greenway diverges in Wilmington. We had always assumed that we would take the more easterly route because it seemed to go through more towns. And those of us that do not camp sort of need towns in order to find a place to sleep. But the Greenway zigzags instead of going directly. For example, Jacksonville to New Bern would take us 2 days on the Greenway, but it’s only 40 miles if you take the hypotenuse of the triangle (admittedly all on undesirable Route 17).
We decided we might try a little going off route, e.g., Jacksonville to New Bern by the shortest distance and New Bern to Greenville, etc. Regardless, our day today was planned to be a short one: 31 miles on the Greenway. I think that includes the ferry distance, because at the end of the day, RidewithGPS showed 24 miles, I showed 25, and Roy had 28 and we were together the entire time.
Why so short a day? Well, we were staying at a B&B, and breakfast is usually at 8:30. Immediately thereafter came a ferry ride and the ferry only runs every 45 minutes. Finally, both Roy and I were scheduled for 10 a.m. conference calls.
It didn’t look like we’d be riding much before noon. The weather forecast was better than yesterday’s: 50% chance of rain, but considerably cooler. It was sunny when we started out. But as we waited for the Southport to Fort Fisher ferry, it clouded up.
Behind the ferry thick clouds were coming up fast.
While we were riding through Fort Fisher, those rain drops caught up with us. We stopped every couple of miles to add more clothes. Pretty soon I was dressed as I was to leave home on March 9.
We saw two young women bicycle tourists heading toward the ferry. They shouted that they were from Baltimore. Depending on how far and fast they travel each day, they must have been riding through some chilly weather while we have mostly been enjoying early spring.
We stopped at Kate’s Pancake House in Carolina Beach for lunch. That was fun. Unfortunately the sun came out while we were eating and the rain resumed as we returned to the road. We determined that our original plan for a short day was a good one.
If it hadn’t been so cold, it wouldn’t have been so bad. We stopped to contemplate waiting out the rain, but it was colder sitting still than moving. So we slogged on.
We aimed for the Hampton Inn at Wrightsville Beach. Unlike most Hamptons, this one has virtually no street presence. So we missed it the first time. We arrived about 2:30. One of the clerks who checked us in is quite a biker, so she was quite interested in our travels.
Roy’s back is really bothering him tonight. Even after a hot shower and a rest, he limped the whole 200 feet from our hotel to the adjacent restaurant. It’s painful to watch. Backs are unpredictable, so we aren’t making any definite plans tonight: rest day, rental car, and continuing on are all options at this point.
Either a bowling alley had opened over our room or it was thunder that woke us up this morning. It was raining as we walked downstairs to breakfast. The TV weatherman was going on about gale force winds and giant hail and severe thunderstorms for the rest of the day. Roy wasn’t buying it. His weather app said no rain until at least 2 p.m. Why, we could get at least 25 or 30 miles down the road before then, to Shallotte, if not to Southport!
As we debated this possibility, blue began appearing in the sky and so the choice was obvious. We packed up and headed out.
The sandy road was mud this morning, but fortunately we only had to cross the street to be on drying pavement. After following a detour for a few blocks, we were back on fresh, smooth pavement for several miles. It was warm enough for bare legs and fingerless gloves. Within minutes even our jackets came off.
As we left town, I told Roy that I forgot to mention that North Myrtle Beach proudly proclaims itself the home of Vanna White. He said everyone knew that, so I needn’t bother.
It didn’t take long to bag another state. It felt like a homecoming of sorts. Half my family is from North Carolina and we have spent a lot of time here.
Notice the slight rise. Today we encountered actual hills for the first time on this trip. The pavement became smoother and the shoulders were cleaner. We were loving this route. We were especially impressed that many of our turns were marked by Bike Route and East Coast Greenway signs. We almost didn’t need our cues and wayfinding apps. For once, they were pretty much in sync.
At Shallotte we had a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich because we didn’t want to lose any time while the weather was perfect. Roy’s app had pushed the thunderstorms off until late afternoon. We had tailwinds (but not gale force) most of the day. The straight line into Southport is not an app error. Route 211 may be the straightest road not built by Romans.
Most of the day I ride with my phone in airplane mode to preserve the battery. Everytime I turned airplane mode off today, there was an email or a message from friends worrying about our day and wishing us the best. Thank you all for sending us good karma today. It really worked.
We got to Southport about 2:30. We are staying in a lovely B&B, the Robert Ruark Inn. Apparently, Robert Ruark was a famous author in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. His grandfather owned this house back in the day. It is only a block and half from the waterfront and, in the opposite direction, an excellent restaurant, Mr. P’s Bistro. Our hosts made reservations for us. We couldn’t believe that was necessary, but the place filled up while we were there.
We had time to walk down to the waterfront before dinner. You can see how the weather changed. The photo actually shows more of a horizon than we could see–everything seemed like mist beyond the rocks.
Fortunately, the B&B stocks golf umbrellas by the front door. It was raining and thundering during dinner. We were grateful to stay dry.
Friends to the north of us, we are thinking about you and hoping that this spring snowstorm finds you safe and warm with plenty of electricity and not too much inconvenience.
Thank goodness for calendar reminders. Otherwise we might have left before Roy’s 9 a.m. conference call, which lasted until 10:30. The day began misty and rainy.
It was the kind of misty, moisty morning you don’t eagerly go out in, but if you are caught in, you realize it’s not so bad. The rain lasted about 11 miles. If we had started earlier, we would have been riding in the rain longer. Let’s blame the weather on missing our first turn. Even that proved lucky, because where we made our wrong turn we were only a few feet from a bike shop where we were able to borrow a pump to inflate our tires.
Our wrong turn took us by Pawley’s Island town hall, a cute little one room building, but nowhere near the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway we were looking for. It was a nicely manicured bike path well off US-17. We stopped to use the facilities at a Bi-Lo in Litchfield Beach, and ate our peanut butter sandwiches at table they provided out front. The sun was out, the skies were blue, and we stripped down to bare legs.
The afternoon put us on a sheltered trail that paralleled US-17. You can see a car through the trees.
The warm afternoon necessitated an ice cream stop. You can see the dorky work-around for loss of DaBrim.
Beach towns have a certain look, don’t they? Where else do you see several mini-golf courses per linear mile? In our funny signs department, Duffy’s advertises “Hot Beer, Lousy Food, Bad Service” and “Free Beer Tomorrow.”
When we got to North Myrtle Beach, we discovered road work season. Ocean Boulevard is nothing but sand, and reportedly has been this way for six weeks. Our hotelier is hoping that the street will be paved before Bike (as in motorcycles) Week in May.
The closest good restaurant, Benny Rappa’s Trattoria, was was interesting inside and out. The food was good too.
Although today was only 56 miles, it seemed as hard as the previous two long days. While our DC friends and relatives are watching out for snow tomorrow, we are wondering about thunderstorms. Roy’s and my opposite natures are illustrated by our dinner discussion–Roy is looking forward to the strong SW winds. I’m wondering where I can hole up against the rain.
Inquiring minds have asked how many more miles we have left to go. The answer is we’re not sure. The Greenway is at least 675 miles from here to DC, taking the inland route. We can’t force the website to calculate the distance up the coast, but it appears slightly longer.
We are finding that the Greenway does not take the most direct routes because they want to use existing bike paths, which are delightful, but sometimes out of the way. Fortunately, we are not on a schedule, and we are not wedded to staying on the Greenway–which we don’t always seem to be able to do even when we are trying to.
We woke up early this morning and were on the road by 8:30, our earliest start yet. It was the first day that wasn’t preplanned, other than the destination, Georgetown, South Carolina. We had 3 different sets of directions: RidewithGPS said it would be a 66 mile ride, Google said 70 something, and the Greenway cue sheets led me to believe it could be well over 80.
Today was also the first day that we started out in shorts, with a light jacket, which we shed within the first four miles, while climbing the Ravanel Bridge. The bridge was beautiful and had a wide sidepath that was divided so that cyclists and pedestrians had separate lanes. The day was so gorgeous the cyclists and runners and walkers were out in force.
Immediately after getting off the bridge, the 3 sets of directions diverged, or at least confused me. This led to a loop through Patriot’s Point, where we could have taken a trip to see Fort Sumpter. Roy turned on Google and navigated us under Route 17 and down parallel roads that kept us off Route 17 for miles. When RwGPS and the Greenway cues converged, we followed them. We were on lovely side roads that added miles to the shortest estimates, but they gave us a feel for farm neighborhoods, suburbs, and some wealthy areas.
Even the stretches on Route 17 weren’t too bad because Sunday morning traffic was light and polite, and there was often an adequate shoulder. We had done 47 miles by lunch time.
Lunch was actually three stops. First, we checked out a diner that Google said was one of 12 places worth a drive from Savannah. On walking in, we discovered it was a Sunday fried fish buffet. The people in line assured me it was good, but it wasn’t what we were in the mood for. When we came out a couple wearing blue church T-shirts was admiring our bikes. Kim was just getting into cycling and had a lot of questions. They were joined by another couple who recommended that we try the place next door, which we did. It was rustically modern–lots of unfinished wood, but, for example, a stylish farmhouse sink and low flow Toto toilets in the restroom. Their menu was sandwiches and salads, no desserts.
That necessitated a third stop because today was the first day it has been warm enough to contemplate ice cream, which faithful readers know is a magic elixer that makes extra effort possible.
After lunch, the Greenway said we should diverge from route 17 for about 10 miles, but a few miles in, Dupre Road turned to dirt, so we made out way back to Route 17 and refused to take the next suggested detour off of 17.
When all 3 routes agreed that we should take North Sawtee River Road, we did. Only the Greenway knew what the roads actually were like. It said it would be a 15 mile loop. The other two thought we should take unpaved roads that would considerably shorten the trip. Google even suggested we turn where there was no road. It was a beautiful detour with all kinds of long unpaved driveways leading to some plantation or other, but few houses were visible. Here’s one gate that didn’t call itself a plantation.
A few miles further on, there were beautiful gates for three intended golf communities that apparently never quite got beyond entranceways and a few roads. Maybe in the early part of this century, Georgetown was expected to be a retirement destination?
The approach to Georgetown from the south is fairly industrial and not very attractive, but the historic downtown and waterfront are charming.
We were glad to get to a Hampton Inn at the extreme end of town. It violates our rule of being close to restaurants, but so does every other motel in town, so we had to walk almost a mile to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. Roy posed with the chips, but I ate them.
I know Roy answered Judy’s question about losing DaBrim, but I wanted to say this. For the entire way across the country and last year in Florida, I never forgot I was wearing it. I was always slightly self-conscious about it. This year, I was wearing a cap under the helmet as well as DaBrim, and I was much more aware of the cap. (At home, in winter, I don’t wear DaBrim when I wear a cap under the helmet and I not infrequently doff the neck gaiter without taking my helmet off when the temperature warms up.) I guess I was confused about what I was wearing. What is funny to me is that Roy rode behind me for miles and we stopped in a park so he could answer a phone call, and he didn’t notice anything different until I did, when I took my helmet off at lunch time. Familiarity breeds invisibility, I think.
So even though we spent the day going in unnecessary circles, we rode 80 miles, admittedly standing up for a lot of the last 5 miles or so. But we couldn’t have done it without a rest day.
Finally, our routing gave us back-road alternates to Rt. 17. A good part of our day, the majority, was delightful back roads that paralleled Rt. 17.
On the one hand, no cars, it’s quiet, you can ride side by side and chat On the other hand, not a lot of scenery. On balance, it’s infinitely better than scooting up the narrow shoulder on Rt. 17 with cars whizzing by at 60 mph.
Getting out of Charleston, we had to cross this mammoth bridge with both a bike and pedestrian lane. Lots of joggers and cyclists out on Sunday morning.
We had 47 miles under our belts when we decided to stop for lunch in McLellanville. There were 3 choices: the diner, Buckshot’s and the Bent Rod. We passed up the Diner, despite the shiny Harleys parked outside which I take as a sign of approval. Buckshot’s was serving a traditional Southern buffet dinner, with fried chicken and numerous overcooked offerings that did not appeal. We went next door to the Bent Rod where I had a salad with shrimp and Marie had hers with alligator. The alligator tasted like chicken, only with more texture and maybe a bit more flavor. They didn’t offer dessert so we went up the road a bit and got ice cream at the convenience store. Our first daytime ice cream break of the trip and it did the trick of giving us the will to go on.
Georgetown is an industrial mill town, not a beach town. Check out the skyline:
After dinner we walked down to the historic waterfront and did the River Walk. The town is very pretty, with wide streets and gracious homes and lots of churches (incuding a reform synagogue). There are a lot of cemeteries including a Jewish one where 3 of Georgetown’s 6 Jewish Mayors are buried (according to a sign). We recognized a lot of names from bridges, roads, etc.
I always check out the courthouse:
I would say the azaleas are not in as full bloom as they were in Florida a week ago. I love it when the azaleas are not quite in full bloom because they hold such promise for the future. Once they are full or past full bloom, there’s a sense of loss and something irretrivably past. Plus you know the hot weather is just ahead.
Like any industrial town, there’s some economic distress here. One casualty was the waterfront restaurant right next to our hotel, Eddie Chacon’s. After checking in, we learned that it has been closed for 6 months and that the next-nearest decent restaurant is El Cerro, a Mexican restaurant, 0.8 mile away. The red sign “Hampton Inn” is our hotel so it would have been very convenient to have a nice dinner on the waterfront overlooking the marina.
Judy asked how Marie lost her DaBrim. Well, I was trying to be discreet about it, but SOME nosy readers have to pry into our more embarassing moments. And since we promise you the truth, here it is: Marie was wearing a neck gaiter one cool morning, but as the morning wore on we started getting hotter and hotter so she stopped and pulled the neck gaiter off over her helmet. We were on Rt. 17 so we were both a bit rattled and neither of us noticed that when she pulled off the neck gaiter, the brim just popped off and I guess landed in the grass. It’s easy to make these kind of mistakes when you are hot and bothered, which we were at the time.
Tomorrow they are calling for rain in the morning but light winds from the east, so we expect to make it to North Myrtle Beach. We might even push on into North Carolina to bag another state line sign; we’ll see how it goes. We’ve cycled 461 miles so far and our legs were good for 80 miles today so that’s encouraging. However neither of us could have endured our saddle any longer. Our blog title is no joke.
Today was spent watching the St. Patrick’s Day parade, touring the Charleston Museum and the Heyward-Washington house, riding the free shuttle bus around the city and taking a nap. Touring is exhausting. At the recommendation of my law partner Phil, we dined at 82 Queen in the French Quarter. I’ve now had enough shrimp with grits to last me for a while. There were a lot of people wearing green, and long lines outside the Irish pubs, and generally a party scene prevailed in Charleston.
Last night I tried staggering the photos but that put a lot of extra spaces in the blog so I’ll just keep it simple.
The parade lasted for 40 minutes and had various car clubs, commercial organizations, first responders, and a variety of Irish-related bands, musicians, charities, and so forth. St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal here too, we learned.
Here is the most typical “Charleston Single House” with covered piazzas or galleries, but with a formal door from the street opening onto the piazza. You can see we got a bit of light rain today.
The most interesting thing about the Heyward-Washington house was the fact that in 1794 it was sold to the father of the famous Grimke sisters and the family lived there until 1803. Sarah and Angeline Grimke were the subjects of the historical novel “The Invention of Wings”.
We see some funny signs and from now on I’ll try to capture them. The other day we saw one “Firecrackers 25 cents and up….mostly up”.
Tomorrow we plan 75 miles to Georgetown SC and regrettably, the tail winds have gone away, so it’s a good thing we’re rested.
Today’s ride was 76 miles (notwithstanding Ride with GPS’s estimate of 73 miles) but because we had bodacious tail winds it was only the moral equivalent of 50 miles. We had a wide variety of delightful bike paths at the beginning and the end of the day, and a varying degree of shoulders on US 17.
Finally, some nice quiet back roads for the first 20 miles.
Here we have a relatively narrow shoulder, strewn with gravel and debris, and a teeth-chattering rumble strip if you strayed on it. Relatively OK and safe but grungy.
Now this is a shoulder. Notice that the rumble grooves are integrated into the fog line. And bicyclists have a full lane of pavement all to themselves. Now, it must be admitted, these are still flat, straight roads with not a lot to look at. But we are accomplishing the mission of getting from one place to another safely.
We had a delightful lunch at the Full Moon Cafe in Jacksonboro. They had a southern-style buffet for $13 but let’s face it, overcooked anything is not all that appealing. So Marie ordered pancakes and I ordered an 8 oz. hamburger off the menu (cooked “as chef recommends”) and both meals were fantastic. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of the owner/chef and his wife/partner. She was dressed all in green, with gold combat boots and blonde dreads. He was tall and lanky and covered with tatoos. Super nice people, they own another restaurant called the Harvest Moon and decided to give this location a go and see how things went. Both restaurants had signs out in front “Start seeing Motorcyclists” so I’m going to assume he/they are riders.
After we left Jacksonboro, Rt 17 lost its shoulder entirely. We were riding in the road, there was absolutely no shoulder. The ironic thing is that when you ride in the road, people give you the whole lane when they pass. When you ride on the shoulder, even tractor trailers just blow right by you, 3 feet away. But still, it’s scary to ride in the road knowing that someone could just plow into you while they are texting and that would be that. In fact, I deliberately did not take a picture of the road with no shoulder because it would freak you, our dear readers, out. So we tried some work-arounds to the prescribed Greenway Rt. 17 using both Google maps and Ride with GPS. They both recommended we turn off 17 on Minnow Drive and then take Old Jacksonboro Rd. which parallels Rt. 17. Sounds reasonable. Looks reasonable, right?
Here’s reality: This is the intersection of Minnow Dr. and Old Jacksonboro Rd.:
Here’s the view down Old Jacksonboro Rd:
M LsoNot exactly passable in sand on bicycles,even though we could ignore the gates. So, back on Rt. 17 with no shoulder, for another 20 miles or so. Our bikes have daytime bright red flashers on the back and we wear bright colors but still, if someone is staring at their phone, it won’t matter what we are wearing.
We are staying in downtown Charlston near tons of restaurants and other activities. Tomorrow is a rest day so we will be off the bikes, resting our tired tails. Also rejuvenating our mental enthusiasm for riding. We’ll post tomorrow night anyway, it just won’t be a ride report.
I mentioned that we have these new iPhone holders, which make way-finding easier; however, one disadvantage is that they hold the phones so securely, it is difficult to remove them to take pictures.
We mentioned the Amelia Island car show, and we have seen quite a few vintage cars tooling around the back roads every day but today. Do we have pictures? Nope.
Yesterday, in Savannah, we had to wait for a freight train at an unguarded crossing in the middle of the city. The train had containers of glass products, tank cars of “molten sulphur”, and tank cars of sulphuric acid–going through a residential area! We saw carloads of paper products leaving Amelia Island a few days ago. Today Roy asked “where are all the Rails-to-Trails down here?” I said they are still using the rails, so they won’t be converting them to trails any time soon.
Georgia seemed to be all about ports–in Brunswick and Savannah–cars, paper, and lots of unidentified containerized products coming and going. Today, we passed a huge sugar refinery in Port Wentworth. It seemed weird to see signs for sugar shipping and receiving.
We stopped at Laurel Hill, part of the Savannah Wildlife Refuge, just over the border in South Carolina. It used to be a rice plantation. That raised the question of which swamps were natural and which were due to deliberate flooding to grow rice. I wouldn’t know rice in the field. I assume it looks like grass. And there are lots of grassy swamps.
These coastal areas have lots of birds, including water birds and quite a few vultures. Today was the first day we didn’t feel like the vultures were circling us.
Ride with GPS is confused: our real distance was 53 miles and please disregard the straight line, we rode the squibbly line from Savannah GA to Beaufort SC. Bright sunshine and a tailwind all day long so it was a pretty easy 53 miles. The obligatory state line sign as demanded by our loyal readers:
The Port of Georgia was a bustling place with tractor trailers hauling containers everywhere. The drivers were very courteous, as most professional drivers are.
SC was actually better than GA, I think. Everyone we met was incredibly friendly. I loved both billboards:
The top one, entirely in Spanish, advises pregnant women to take vitamins to prevent birth defects. The lower one advises to watch for bicyclists. Both tell me that SC is a progressive place.
Around lunchtime, we stopped Okatie to buy some bread and I asked the folks at this bike shop to inflate our tires, since it has been about 3 days since they were filled. Not only did the owner hand pump our tires, but he gave us some apple-pie “Bonk Breaker” bars in case we got hungry, and wished us well on our journey. Earlier in the morning, we stopped at a convenience store for a break and they were so nice to us we bought some things we didn’t even need. All day long, whether in the museum, the hotel, and everywhere else we went, people were unusually friendly. I pointed out to Marie that our innkeeper is from Massachusetts; she said “It rubs off.”
Above: nice shoulders, nice bike path, fascinating museum about the Spanish attempts to colonize East Coast in the 1560’s. Growing up in Virginia, you are taught that history begins in 1607 with Jamestown. Not so. Since we got into Beaufort about 3 pm we had a good hour in the museum (long enough for one’s back to tire!) The museum is a converted Federal Courthouse so that made it even more interesting to us.
Beaufort was occupied by the Union at the beginning of the Civil War so its houses and building were spared destruction. It really is a beautiful place.
Another great dining experience, this time at Panini’s, in a converted bank building. We both had shrimp, which is the local delicacy. My dish had small slivers of lemon peel as a garnish and that made it very memorable.
Our hotel is right across from the marina where we watched the sun go down. All in all, our best day so far.
Tomorrow will be a long day to Charleston SC (75 miles or so) where we will take our enforced rest day. This time we are following our own recommendation to rest every seventh day.