Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Carolina Whirlwind Tour

Whirlwind, literally!  So, been awhile, I'm still alive.  The past couple weeks I've been rambling round the Carolinas, reconnecting with Stevie and Missy, riding out a hurricane, having the bejeesus scared out of me on some awful North Carolina road (but surviving), experiencing a genuine poo geyser, and, well, hard to name what all else.

Some habits die hard:
Steve and I climb a tree

Let me think back now, I left the ever rainy Charlotte under grey skies that thickened into rain as I climbed steadily into the mountain, Black Mountain specifically, for my visit with Steve.  By the time the rain stopped kidding around, I was was humping it up my first mountain on a gorgeous dirt (ok, mud) road, only to shed that elevation and do it all over again.  Yup, real mountains.

But the reward at the end, well worth it: I arrived to hear Steve laughing before he even opened the door, where upon he explained that he'd told Lisa I was probably going to arrive on an 80's vintage bike wearing wool.  Does this guy know me or what?

He and Lisa, along with Zinnia and Linden, have carved out quite the homestead with an impressive garden, chicken coop, and bee hives that kept me well fed during my stay.  The rain continued, but well, we just went ahead and got wet, with Steve showing me around the land and projects as well as some waterfall (good weather for that) exploration.  Truly a stellar time.
Come Monday, it was time for the three day stint on the road to my southern terminus of Charleston for a visit with Missy.  While I kept hearing how much worse SC would be than NC for riding, with the exception of the true mountain areas near Steve's, I have to disagree.  While the roads certainly aren't designed to accommodate bikes and cars at the same time, the drivers (for the most part), do seem a little more accepting of this fact and were (generally) good about waiting to pass until they could do so safely.
So of course, mixed into this ride, were all the forecasts of impending doom in the form of Hurricane Joaquin, and seriously, it was no joke, but I managed some amazingly perfect timing.  While camping outside Spartanburg, I kept hearing thunder in the distance and later learned that someone died that night in flash flooding.  I had managed to pass through town around 4pm.  Onward to Columbia, I rode in overcast, but clear weather, making it to my warm showers host dry and sheltered for that night's heavy rains.  I had apparently poured in Charleston all day, and Missy was checking in with me if I'd need a ride, or at least had snorkel gear.  Still, this was just the weather pattern before the big storm, and with a pre-6am launch the day, I was able to ride tailwinds into the low pressure system, arriving barely wet by late afternoon.  It poured again that night, and the next day, and the next....
Yes, a sewer geyser.

So, what to do in a new town under heavy skies?  Think like a duck and walk around.  It was fantastic!  Not only did the weather keep the crowds away, there was immediate kinship with anyone I met on the street.  One woman on her way to work at the hospital (heart attacks still happen in bad weather, as she explained) snapped my picture wading knee deep water, and another couple jokingly asked me where everyone else was.  We agreed, it was a great day to see the city.

So, with the rain passed, I took one day of dry but overcast (perfect) skies to expand my exploration of the area by bike before departing Wednesday morning.  Honestly, the rest is mostly tales of busy roads, a few miles of very cool East Coast Greenway bike path, some fantastic sneaky campsites, getting filmed for a sorority scavenger hunt on the UNC Wilmington campus (another great campsite), and meeting Devon, a thought provoking gent without a home who takes fantastic photos.
Devon, good man,
and unfortunately, 
more evidence military service can mess a person up.

And with that done, I rode a ferry and made it back to Virginia, but those tales are for another day.  I'm just into NJ with a few miles to go before I sleep.