Day 20 - aliens, blown tire, and blown rim
This morning I discovered that my BRAG T-shirt was missing. I looked in the
shower where I may have left it, but it wasn't there. I can't imagine how
someone could have found it and kept it, but that must have happened. This
is the first thing I have lost in a campground, so it's king of disturbing.
On the way to Ridgeville I stopped in a country store. This was more than
just a convenience store because had more than beer and Spam. They even had
men's pants and a table full of T-shirts. I almost bought an Adidas shirt
to replace my lost one, but I'd rather not pay to advertise for someone. The
women running the store looked at me like I was an alien. I said "Hello," and
they just stared. A bit later I said "Good morning!" a bit louder, just in
case they didn't hear me, but the response was nil. This was the oddest
response I have received yet.
The morning was otherwise uneventful until I was a few miles outside Moncks
Corner. I thought "That's odd. The road has a regular bump." After a minute
or so I realized the bump was on my bike. I looked at the front wheel and
found nothing wrong. Then I looked at the back wheel. The tire was cut near
the rim, and the outer belt was coming loose. I started to pray that the tire
would get me to a bike shop, which was 100 miles away on my route.
Just outside of Moncks Corner the tire blew. I knew there was no patching it,
so I started pushing the bike into town. My guardian angel was working for me,
because I had only pushed the bike a hundred yards or so before a man stopped
in a pickup truck to see if I needed help. His name is Lefty. Lefty was headed
into Charleston, and he offered to take me to a bike shop there. I was glad
to accept. The odd thing is that Lefty would normally have left 15 minutes
earlier, and he would have missed me.
Mike's Bikes in Charleston had a tire that worked for me, but there was bad
news: the rim was coming apart. The mechanic said I could probably ride on it
for a while, but I knew that wouldn't work. We started looking for a rim, but
they are primarily a mountain bike shop and didn't have anything suitable. The
hearest place with a suitable rim was New Charleston Cycles in Mount Pleasant.
Mike and the mechanic (?!) were very helpful, and they didn't even charge me
for a quick truing job on the rim because they said it wasn't really fixed.
Mount Pleasant is across the Cooper River from Charleston, accessible only via
a 3 mile bridge with no shoulders and no sidewalk. This was the most scared I
had been since I was near Disney World. Cars were passing me at 55 mph or
faster within inches of my left side. And I knew I had a bad wheel that could
break any time and leave me stranded. I lived to tell about it, but I don't
recommend the ride.
On the way to the bike shop I passed a guy named Doug who was walking with his
bike and a friend without a bike. They were going to pick up a bike for the
friend (whose name I didn't get). We talked about bicycles and touring, and
Doug offered to chauffeur me around in case I had to leave my bike at the shop
overnight. He gave me his number and I thanked them as we split up to go to
different bike shops.
Ed at New Charleston Cycles built me a wheel with a Mavic rim, which I could
see was much better than the factory rim. He finished it in a couple of
hours because he was the only person in the shop and had to wait on customers.
I had lunch at Schlotsky's, made a phone call to my sister, and went to the
Food Lion to get some sunscreen - SPF 15 was the highest they had.
Ed had a mate to the rim he sold me, but I didn't want to wait until the next
day for him to build it into a front wheel - the shop was closing soon. We
figured out a way for me to strap it on top of my gear, so I took it with me
with the idea that I would build it up myself or find another bike shop down
the road to do it for me. While we were talking, Doug called to see if
everything was OK. I have met a lot of very nice people today.
I finished the day by riding about 30 miles outside Mount Pleasant to Francis
Marion National Forest. I'm at a picnic area/campsite with no shower, but
also no fee. This is good, because the new rims blew my weekly budget.
I rode 63 miles today, despite having the bike broken or in the shop for
most of the day. And I have a new addition for my odd collection of gear
strapped to the back of my bike.
Today I told a couple of people that the thing I like least about the trip
is the uncertainty of not knowing where I will get my next meal or where I
will stay the night. We seldom get a chance to ponder our own words, but on
a bicycle you have lots of time, so I thought about it.
I realized that just as excitement is the same thing as fear, so adventure is
the same thing as uncertainty. We experience excitement when we put ourselves
in a scary situation where we know nothing can really go wrong, that we can
not lose anything of importance. Likewise, we have a sense of adventure when
we put ourselves into uncertainty with the knowledge that nothing really bad
can happen, that we can not lose anything of importance.
Where does this knowledge come from, that we can not lose anything of importance?
Some call it faith, but it is not a blind faith. It is a trust in the love of
God or divine providence or the universe or whatever you want to call it. It
is mixed with an understanding that nothing physical on this earth is of real
importance, and that the things of real importance can not be touched. I say it
is not a blind faith because although nothing truly important can be touched,
it can be felt if we open ourselves to it.
So what does all this mean? For me it means that I'm changing my attitude
about this trip; I'm going to worry less and have more fun, remembering that
this _is_ and adventure and that I _asked_for_ the uncertainty.
A recurring image through the whole trip is mockingbirds chasing crows. I don't
know what their quarrel is about, but I've witnessed the chase many times. It's
especially odd because the crows are so much larger. Mockingbirds are feisty!
While heading to the campsite, I stopped to check my maps and a boy rode up on
a bicycle. He wanted to know where I had been, and he asked if I had been in
Columbia. I tried to explain that I had come out of Charleston, but he said
if I just went back down the road a bit and turned right, I'd be in Columbia
and it was only a short (!) way to Atlanta. He may have never been more than
20 miles from his home, if my guess was right. His little brother (I asume)
came over to watch the odd man on a bicycle, but he never said a thing. Mean-
while, their grandmother kept calling them home. She said to tell me to go
up the road to the store for directions.
Day 21 - bargains, broken bridges, and bad nights
I took my time getting going this morning, letting everything dry well
because I expected to be in a hotel tonight. Things often turn out very
different than we expect.
As I was leaving the national forest this morning, I kept getting a glimpse
of some familiar but unusual plants along the road. It finally hit me that
they were pitcher plants - carnivorous plants that capture insects inside
a pitcher-shaped stem. They consume insects to compensate for nitrogen-
poor soil. They're about 6 to 8 inches tall and grow in groups. This is
the first time I ever saw one outside a botanical garden.
A bit up the road I passed through Andrews, which has a factory outlet for
the Oneita clothing manufacturer. I stopped to see if they had any T-shirts
and found that they were having a going-out-of-business sale. I found a
nice mottled gray T for $5, so I went to pay. The sale was 1/2 off, so I
bought the shirt for $2.63, including tax! I shouldn't get so excited over
such a small thing, but lots of other things on this trip have surprised me
the other way.
The day was otherwise uneventful until I came to Pleasant Hill. I was taking
a rest break when a guy drove up in a pickup and asked me where I was going.
I said "Conway," and he said "Did you know the bridge is out?" South Carolina
is having a lot of problems with its bridges. This time I could not just do
a little detour and go around. The only two options were to go south to
Georgetown or north to Johnsonville. I briefly considered trying to get
someone in a bass boat to ferry me across, but it would mean 28 additional
miles if it didn't work.
At first I wanted to go to Georgetown, which is a much bigger city, but I
would have had to follow US 17 up the coast. US 17 is a major route to and
from the beaches, so it gets a lot of traffic. I headed for Johnsonville.
At Hemingway (5 miles south of Johnsonville) I checked the price on a hotel,
because I was getting pretty tired. For 40 dollars I decided I could go a
bit further. I went north and connected with US 378, which my pickup-driving
friend assured me would have light traffic. Never trust traffic info from
someone who doesn't ride a bike.
US 378 east of the Pee Dee River (I'm not making this up) is redneck heaven.
Perhaps it was just because I was very tired, this struck me as my least
favorite road so far. Even the passing cars seemed to look at me as if I
were an oddity to stare at instead of a stranger to greet. Plus there is
nothing in this area besides the highway. There are no significant back
roads, nothing out of sight of US 378. There are no hotels, of course,
because no one would visit here for fun. Plus there didn't seem to be any
good places to sneak out of the way to camp.
I eventually passed a house under construction, and I decided this was the
ideal place for me to hide out for the night. I could get behind it and be
shielded from the road, and the grounds were relatively smooth. I pulled
in and had dinner, resting a bit before setting up camp. Then I heard a
woman's voice, sounding like a real estate agent showing off the place. I
never expected this at 7:30 on a Saturday. They didn't go behind the place,
so I thought I was home free until they drove behind the house to leave. I
They didn't say anything, but I figured they would send the cops, so I just
hung around for half an hour. Nothing happened, so I started setting up my
tent as the sun was going down. I had just unrolled my air mattress to let
it inflate when a pickup truck showed up with the caretakers. They asked me
to leave, so I started packing up. The driver said "Where are you headed,
mister?" When I said "Conway," he said "That's 19 miles up the road." I
guess he thought it was no big deal to just hop on the bike in the dark and
ride for 19 miles. Well that's just what I set out to do.
I started walking the bike down the shoulder, hoping to find someplace I
could camp, but I couldn't see a thing. I started riding in the crazy hope
of making it to Conway, but I had no tail light. I had to get off the road
every time a car approached, in case it didn't see me. One time when I was
off the road I realized that there were no houses or people around. I shined
my light down the embankment, and the ground seemed solid, so I set the bike
down and walked down to check it out. I figured I could rest down there
until traffic eased up. Yeah, like I was going to wait until 3 in the
morning. Obviously exhaustion was impairing my reasoning.
After I huddled there on the ground a few minutes, the mosquitoes found me.
Not just one or two, they came out in flocks. I smacked quite a few before
I realized I had repellent, so I smeared it all over my body, as thick as I
could, even in my hair. I fell asleep for a few minutes, until the temperature
dropped and the repellent started to wear off. I decided to wrap up in my
sleeping bag to warm up and keep the mosquitoes off most of my body. It worked,
but I must have killed 40 or 50 that tried to land on my head. More repellent
and then the head net helped, but the mosquitoes never gave up.
Now, keep in mind that the ground is not flat. I'm lying partially up the
embankment in my sleeping bag, lying on branches and sliding down the hill.
I don't think I got more than 4 hours of sleep, because I kept waking to
the sound of mosquitoes buzzing or a truck passing just 20 feet away, up the
hill and over the shoulder.
I rode 82 miles today and had to lube the chain (2890 miles). The trip
total is 952 miles.
I had to stop to get a picture when I passed the "Hellhole Wildlife
Management Area." Now I can really say I've been in a hellhole and survived.
When I stopped to get groceries, some teenage girls in a parked car asked me
about my trip. They asked me if that was how I got so skinny, and I'm not
sure they were happy to hear I was skinny before I got the bike.
Physically, this may have been the worst night of my life. There were times
in Boy Scouts thay may have been worse, but I've blocked out the memories :-).
Fireflies like strobe lights. I'm used to fireflies that have a slow on/off
cycle, but tonight I saw some that looked like flying strobe lights. They
stayed on for a very brief period, almost like a flash bulb.
Changes last made on: Fri May 31 17:50:58 1996