The complimentary breakfast at our Beaufort hotel buzzed with cyclists half-woke, half-dressed wearing a pungent o-dear that was reminiscent of yesterday’ ride, walking straight toward the make-it-yourself waffle iron, the trays of english muffins and miniatures dollops of peanut butter where peanuts were the last of a 12-ingredient list that began with the words ‘corn syrup’. Today’s breakfast was our best by far — it included jellies that were close-enough to be considered fruit, and we slathered sugar-slime onto miniature brown and yellow muffins with more unrecognizable ingredients. Someone cut in line, a fellow biker with mismatched socks, and we waited patiently while he grabbed a second slice of wonder bread mumbling “bless his heart”, because after all it was Day 6 of hard riding. Everyone was growing weary, and that’s how one rolls in the south.
The second phase of breakfast turned to amateur-medical-hour, where those with bumps, rashes, hemotoma’s, The Limpers, and those with large chunks of missing skin turned to their fellow cycling-non-medical-professionals asking the standard fare of questions in-between bites of Wheaties. “Do you think the hemotoma is worse than yesterday?” one cyclist inquired and we all took a look and provided healing suggestions, based on our own experiences back-in-the-day. “Have you ever seen a mosquito bite this large?” another would ask, and we would all look close, and no, we had never seen a mosquito bite as large as a pancake, and one rider suggested it might be West Nile while another suggested she should apply more sunscreen. “Do you think my deep wounds should be draining like this?” one rider asked to no one in particular. Many of us wanted to look, but couldn’t, and insisted that whatever it looked like it was perfectly normal.
At that point the true medical professionals — fellow cyclists with actual medical backgrounds — arrived, and the walking injured waited in line, first to speak with the nurse. And one by one, her response to all sounded like “Gee, that looks pretty bad, you might want to get that checked out when you get home”, which inspired the injured to work their way up to the next available PRO for a second opinion. The retired Physician’s Assistant could surely add more insight, and her responses to the riding-injured sounded like “y’all must hurt with that?” and just the way she said it with that southern twang was enough to make one feel just a tad better. But, there was still time for a third opinion from the Team Doc. The same Team Doc who rode the entire week with a torn rotator cuff. The same Team Doc who quoted his grandmother saying, “Not all of the crazies have been captured” never once thinking grandma may have been referring to grandson. In between fork-fuls of downing his DIY waffle, he took the time to look at each of the injured, long and hard before making eye contact as doctors do when they want to make sure there is no mistaking the message. “You’ll live. Next.” Comforting, in a binary type of way, and that was all the injured riders needed to hear. Return to your bicycles, there is one more day of riding.
One by one, we checked our bags onto the U-Haul truck, pumped up bicycle tires, turned on headlights and backlights. We watched one rider whip out a brillo-pad and wipe down her bicycle tires removing any glass or sharp fragments — assuring us her ritual prevented flats — and thinking note-to-self what a smart idea. Someone suggested that we stand in the sandy-grass area for the group photo, and while there were no ant-hills we allowed the photographer no more than 2 photos, before racing back to the pavement, instinctively inspecting our lower legs for ants, and itching just at the thought.
We departed Beaufort along the beautiful Spanish Moss Trail — away from cars with views ranging from marshland to old oak trees dangling long strands of moss. Riding as a large group, we picked up conversations from prior days rides, and took the time to learn one or two more nuggets about The-Who of our riding companions. Riding amongst us included: A world fencing champion (back in the day), MIT graduates, Harvard professors and some of the finest thought provoking conversations that can be had while trying to focus on potholes, a national ski champion who could not help but to consider road cones a slalom course, a self-described non-foodie who booked a Farm-2-Table reservation precisely 28 days in advance and still considers himself a non-foodie, several retired school teachers and one couldn’t help but to wonder how lucky it must have been to be a student in their classroom, a rider who rides to stay healthy after a nasty battle with pneumonia, another who lost her home to fire, yet still dots fellow-riders with a daily dose of happy. It’s clear that there is something magical to being surrounded by this group of people riding bicycles 5-8 hours per day, with more of their stories to unfold for future blogs.
Cycling in a large group, you didn’t dare to stop and take pictures — to risk losing your mates — so we etched the memories of these giant trees with long grey hair, and wondered how cool it would be if the final cut of the East Coast Greenway would include this kind of trail all the way to Savannah.
We quickly returned to busy-road-reality, bunched up into a large peloton, and with the assistance of support vehicles, our group was flanked front and back, consuming a full lane along busy highways, where safety of the riders was paramount. A special shout-out to Brent, Marybeth, Bob Q., Mister Alan-Master-Bike-Mechanic, Niles, Chris and Carol for blocking traffic with their cars, and the team of Andy, Anne, Lee and others who used their bodies as human shields to help our group cross busy intersections. There were no solo riders, no riders left behind, truly a group effort.
The final section of roadway was along Alligator Alley — a busy two-lane road, high volume truck traffic that cuts through a natural preserve – a preserve filled with alligators. We split into two groups — those riding 18mph or faster, and those on the 15mph version. Inspired by the thought of alligators poised in the grass, waiting for a taste of cyclist-roadkill, I’m pretty sure the 15mph group rode at a 20mph pace, and the 18mph pace group hit 25. We flew past the Port Wentworth police station, and our escort vehicle raced ahead. Our police escort — typically escorting funeral processions — blocked the busy intersections and our peloton breezed past the Georgia border, into Savannah. We arrived at the finish, downtown Savannah, hungry, yes, tired, yes, in need of a shower, yes, and stunned at our accomplishment of bicycling through some very challenging stretches of road.
As road-pioneers for the East Coast Greenway, we learned about roads that have a-ways to go to become bicycle friendly, but we also learned how to ride safe, we adjusted our rides to accommodate the roads, and we relished in the thought that we ARE making the Greenway happen for future bicycling generations. Cheers bike-mates!
A fellow cyclist and blogger shares her perspective on this day.
Addendum: A hawk had an unfortunate encounter with our shuttle bus enroute from Savannah to Wilmington, his low-flying flight pattern took out the windshield. RIP Mr. Hawk.
For a PDF of the Full 2017 Trip: ECGWay_2017_Wilmington_to_Savannah
Congrats, Jane, on completing an amazing week and kudos on terrific blog reporting, unfailingly entertaining and leaving me wanting to read so much more.
Hope to be with you on next year’s WAY and to get in a Brooklyn ride between now and then
Thank you, Buzz, for joining us virtually! You were missed this year, and thought of often. It was a challenging ride no doubt, but each day we grew into more of a pack, and the final days one giant peloton. Keep riding, Buzz — and look forward to seeing you next year (or before)!
Honest, the fast group did not hit 25! When I got to 19, I was told to dial it back! (And then Andy took over).