Nearly a month after riding bicycles — through bouts of thigh-high ponding water, pouring rains, skinny shoulders, rumble-tumble-strips, the occasional trail, sand domes and fire ants, steamy temperatures, crossing busy highways, pelotons and caravans, dead armadillos, live alligators, bearded goats standing-on-sheds, getting lost, getting found, southern hospitality, hot towels and fresh cookies, high-octane metabolisms, daily ice cream, police escort thru the ‘Alley, hot showers in Savannah, and navigating conversations, potholes and vehicles — the memories are nearly as fun as the adventure. Below are the cyclists, who thrive for the ride. See you next year, ECG WAY mates!
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.
We departed downtown Charleston, with our morning ritual perfected. Drag luggage and bicycle to hotel lobby and park at the first open space making sure the other hotel guests had no access to the exits. Load water-logged (from sweat / humidity) luggage onto the U-Haul truck. Consume a Kind bar for breakfast. The same Kind of bar that will be consumed over the next 7 hours, and wonder if that is really a Kind way to treat your body. Check your bicycle lights, GPS navigation software, pump the tires and spin the wheels listening to the new whirring sounds that weren’t there before. Seek out the ECG bike mechanic and decide he’s too busy helping others. Decide to troubleshoot yourself. Or at least with select members of your riding team, those without advanced bicycle mechanic skills.
The morning ritual begins. Rummage through your bag looking for dry shoes and dry clothes. Wonder why all your clothes are wet, and realize the wet ones fused with the dry collection. Do the sniff test. Everything smells gamey. Open the hotel door to check the outside temperature, and watch the humid steamy air roll in. You feel your body temperature rise, and you instinctively wipe the steam off your forehead. Close the door, fast. Staying dry is out. It’s all about the nose. Choose the least gamey outfit and hope your bike-mates won’t draft too close.
After a long conversation with an Ocean Isle Beach native working the meat department at the town grocery, he assured me that not only are alligators good eating and taste like chicken, but they get ’em fresh from Georgia, which from my calculation was two states away.
Me: Will they chase us on bicycles?
The Butcher: Yes, ma’am.
Me: You, mean, while we’re riding our bikes, they’ll come out and chase us?
The Butcher: No ma’am. Only when you stop.
Whaaat? You’re doing what?
We are East Coast Greenway. Riding our bikes one week a year, to cover a segment of miles from Maine to Key West, FL – and this year, Wilmington NC to Savannah GA. Riding the congested east coast, as pioneers, bringing visibility to what roadways need to be more bike-friendly and tour townships on segments that include bike trails and low volume roads. The East Coast Greenway works with municipalities to form safe bike travels state-by-state – because who wouldn’t want to travel without a car?
Continue reading East Coast Greenway: Wilmington to Ocean Isle Beach NC
Day 6: Sometimes the challenge-du-jour appears where you least expect.
Navigating the hotel elevator: By 8:30AM, I would need two trips down the elevator from my 2nd floor hotel room, to get my luggage to the luggage truck (trip #1), and my bicycle to the outdoor world (trip #2). Trip #1 was easy. My luggage had wheels, and despite the fact that it felt heavier each day – at least the beast rolled.
All was going well during trip #2 (the bicycle). Except for one problem. I was also trying to hold a cup of coffee. Not just any cup of Joe. It had been a week since I had tasted good coffee. I clung to this caffeine treasure, and convinced myself I could also navigate the hotel elevator with my bicycle.
I boarded the elevator with my bicycle (front wheel first), and even managed to hold my bike, hold my coffee and press the “Lobby” button. Suddenly my front headlight fell off the bike and landed on the elevator floor. I stared at it – but that did nothing to return the headlight to my bike. I would have to somehow hold my bike, hold my coffee, bend over and pick up the light.
The elevator door opened as I reached the Lobby – but I couldn’t exit. I hadn’t figured out how to pick up my headlight. Now the doors have closed and the elevator is going back up. I had visions that I would be spending the day in the elevator. And, no – the thought hadn’t crossed my mind to abandon my coffee.
At the 4th floor, a lovely lady got on. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind holding onto my bike while I retrieved my headlight. She was apparently new to holding onto bicycles, and as soon as I let go, my bike crashed to the elevator floor. I managed to retrieve the headlight, but now had to pick up my bike, without spilling my coffee and some how re-arrange the wheels so that I could exit.
Reaching the lobby for the 2nd time, the elevator doors open, and the lovely lady departed. Unfortunately, I could not drag the bicycle out before the doors closed – so I travel back up to the 4th floor. Nobody gets on. I spend my solo elevator time trying to come up with a new game plan. If I could only get the front wheel of my bike closer to the elevator door. I work on re-positioning my bicycle while descending back to the Lobby and the doors open once again.
The third opening of the elevator doors at the Lobby was the proverbial charm. A fellow cyclist waiting to hop on the elevator offers to hold my coffee, hold the elevator door and I handed him the loose headlight for good measure. I dragged my bike away from the confines of the elevator, returned to sipping my coffee, and pretended that none of this happened.
Day 5: Our departure from Clarksville VA at 7:45AM was greeted by warmer temperatures and a bittersweet taste of excitement for what would unfold — and the realization that our cycling tour is closing in on the finish line. Including today’s ride — we have 2 days of riding before our ECG WAY Tour 2015 comes to an end. Today’s ride would take us to Durham – 61 miles.
For inquiring minds, here is the morning routine that gets you to the road:
- the alarm clock wakes you from the ‘dead zone’ at 5:30AM
- you fumble to turn the thing off — which can take up to 15 minutes
- you realize that time is not on your side
- you put down hotel-food-complimentary breakfast – which by the way does not include any vegetables
- you return to your room to clean your bike chain
- you hope you haven’t left any bike grease on the hotel carpet
- you find a set of clothes that appears clean
- you were wrong about the clothes and keep searching
- it’s day 5 and best you can do is a quick scrub of day-old clothing
- you line up the bike technology — the brick, the recharged headlights, back-lights and smart phone GPS
- you shove as much food that will fit into your bike-carry-bag
- you say good-bye to any hope of lally-gagging
- you pack your bag onto the shuttle truck
- you meet up with your fellow riders
- you attempt to stretch – not much bends anymore
- you hop on your bike
- you begin riding
- and you realize that there is no better start to the day
Day 4: Our route from South Hill to Clarksville Virginia was designed to reveal gems tucked away in rural Virginia. And we were not disappointed!
Departing at 8:30AM, our pack of 4 riders stayed tight as we maneuvered through major highway interchanges and busy traffic in downtown South Hill. All of that changed after 20 minutes, and we found ourselves riding along quiet roadways passing tobacco and soybean farms. The large tobacco leaves beckoned us to stop for a photo op – and a chance to pick up a stray leaf for good measure. Tobacco leaves are not your average ‘leaves’. They can grow up to 2 feet long in length and easily a foot wide.
Continuing south, we ventured through small towns – such as Boydton. Some of the landmarks of Boydton include – a water tower, a historic Main Street, 10 storefronts, few people and various Civil War landmarks. We would have stimulated the economy for a mid morning coffee break – but there were no coffee shops in Boydton. It is easy to see how small towns would benefit economically by embracing ‘active tourism’ — as part of a connected network – such as the East Coast Greenway! Despite the lack of caffeine, we hopped onto our bike saddles, and cycled our way back into farm country. Continue reading 35 miles of rolling hills and rural treasures mark the ride to Clarksville Virginia
Day 3: Our East Coast Greenway WAY bicycle tour made the upper fold of the local newspaper!
We had a long ride waiting for us today – 72 miles from South Petersburg to South Hill Virginia. Greeted with cool temperatures (50 degrees) and sunny skies, the stars are aligned for an perfect ride. We departed en masse from the hotel, and proceeded to weave our way southbound. Within an hour, the mass of 36 cyclists had re-formed into groups of 3, 5 and 6 riders, the car traffic had dissipated, and we worked together to get the best out of the ride.
Approximately 20 miles into the ride we reached Historic Route 1. Historic Route 1 parallels Interstate 85, which means that most of the traffic volume takes to I-85, leaving HR 1 mostly abandoned. For the first 10 miles on HR1, we passed many gas stations that were boarded up (likely due to not enough business), and it wasn’t until we had reached mile 30 (which was close in proximity to I-85) that we found a working gas station where we could re-fuel via snacks.
At the gas station, we encountered 2 proud Confederates (which is based on the size of their confederate flags that flew a top their pickup truck), who were apparently auditioning for a role in the movie “Proud to be a Confederate”, and made sure that anyone in a 1 mile vicinity could hear the music from their car (a confederate tune about the flag!). Watch Video! Continue reading 72 miles cycled through rural Virginia