Posted by: robinson2000 | August 20, 2012

Charleston, Here We Come!

17th – 18th August

After the relative luxuries of the riverside motel with its double beds, a TV, wireless internet and hot shower, we left with great reluctance at 8.30am in order to tackle the 85 mile ride we’d set ourselves for the day. In fact, we were facing back to back 80 plus milers in order to get us into Charleston in 2 days’ time. I had a blueberry pancake breakfast in a friendly local café where the waitress listened intently to our accents as we went over the route ahead. Again, it was a scorching day with the temperatures hitting the early 90’s so it wasn’t going to be an easy day.

We rode west out of Southport, along a dead straight stretch of road towards the State line. We were both eager to reach it as it marked out 12th State and one we’d both been looking forward to. Unfortunately for Chris, the cycle Gods were out to get him as we hit a stretch of rough road, which punctured his front tire. We pulled over and found some shade in order to change the inner tube just as a weathered old tourer pulled up and offered his assistance. He was only the second one we’d seen and was heading in the opposite direction. We exchanged a couple of road stories and he mentioned that due to South Carolina being the poorer of the two states, the roads were in awful condition. We bode farewell as Chris finished fixing his bike and found that his brand new pannier frame had a crack in it! Out came the magic string again as I secured it to the main bike frame. Fingers crossed it holds for the remaining 800 miles.

By 1pm we had clocked up 35 miles and had crossed into our 12th State of the trip. It was the only real landmark we hit all day as not long after crossing the border, we turned onto highway 17, a huge road that carved its way along the South Carolina coastline and passing the tourist hotspot of Myrtle Beach. It wasn’t the best of roads as we had zero shoulder to ride on and our progress was made difficult by the constant traffic lights. It was also incredibly boring, as our view of the ocean was obscured by high-rise hotels, and on either side of the road were endless fast food outlets, gas stations, mini golf courses and gentlemen’s clubs.

Our average speed was good as the miles kept on ticking down and eventually, at 4.40pm, we turned into Huntington Beach State Park and rode past the big alligator that was bathing in the last of the sunshine. Feeling very happy with ourselves that we had completed the 85 miles in great time, we strode up to the registration office only to find they were fully booked. I argued with the lady for a few minutes that there must be a small space that we could pitch up, but she was adamant that there was nothing as it was high season. We trudged outside and sat down on a nearby bench to rest and regroup. We had very limited options as they were the last campground for some distance and all the hotels in the area would be very expensive. Using the State Parks Wi-Fi, we found a few places on the internet but nothing was suitable. Just as Chris was about to book a golf resort, I nipped back into the office on the half chance that there may have been a cancelation and bingo, there was.

The park was lovely and had perfect beach access as we quickly pitched up and headed for the sea. We were both looked pretty disgusting as we’d cycled next to heavy traffic all day and on very dirty roads making us look like a couple of chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins. As we wandered over to the beach the dark clouds miraculously formed overhead, quickly soaking us and giving the beach a very dreary feel. It didn’t dampen our spirits as we dove into the grey water and probably making the sea even saltier. We got speaking with an old Kentuckian who began recommending landmarks in Miami to mark the finish of our ride. He suggested South Miami Beach as it contained lots of topless bathers. It wasn’t quite what we were after but we thanked him anyhow.

By nightfall, as we were eating the last of our dinner (soup, bread, noodles and a blueberry muffin), when the blood sucking mosquito’s, which seem to have the run of the East Coast descended on our picnic and forced us into our tent. We were both tired anyway but the tent was its usual uncomfortably hot self, meaning we had the choice of sweating profusely all night or being joined by the pesky mosquitos who packed quite a bite. We compromised by having the tent slightly open but we were still stifling hot. Chris interrupted a small racoon as it went through our rubbish in the middle of the night but it didn’t matter as we both slept appallingly.

With the rest of the campsite still asleep, we crawled out of our sweaty canvas at 7am to begin preparations for our second 85 miler. Although we were both sleep deprived and achy, the thought of having a day off the bikes and a soft bed to sleep in for two nights drove us on. This day marked the 26th day of cycling out of the last 27 so we were both in top condition for the ride. It began with a couple mile stretch to Applebee’s Pancake House, a hive of activity and a wonderful smelling breakfast to kick start our day. Chris wore his charity t-shirt, which garnered some wide eyed expressions from some of the diners as they quizzed us about the ride. In fact, Americans are easily impressed as just saying you’re from England brings out a “that’s amazing” comment.

We left Applebee’s just before 10am and pedalled hard to the town of Georgetown down Highway 17. We cleared the 16 miles to Georgetown in just under an hour, cycling though the industrial town at a rapid pace. At the 2 hour mark we’d cleared 30 miles and continued to push ourselves as hard as we could, rotating the lead cyclist every 5 miles in order to increase the average speed. By 2pm, we had completed 60 miles under the intense heat and had to stop at a restaurant to recover from our exertions and take on more liquid. After a bite to eat we slowed the pace down a little before we gave ourselves a heart attack and cruised the final 20 miles into Charleston. As we neared the city, I took us off the big highway and led us down some quieter roads in order to get away from the heavy traffic. The ride became much more enjoyable but the drivers became more and more agitated as they tried to overtake us, one very narrowly missing my left handlebar and more importantly, me. I charged after the cretin that had nearly knocked me off to give him a mouthful of abuse but he turned off at the next set of lights.  

We crossed the impressive looking Ravenel Bridge and free-wheeled down the other side into Downtown Charleston, which was made up off a collection of old and new style buildings. Some of the streets looked pretty rough and derelict but these were interspersed with pockets of student areas. We found our Sleep-Inn Hotel about 5 miles out the other side of the city and crashed out on the beds, both feeling quite weary from the 170 miles in two days. It was a great feeling as we’d calculated that with 11 more riding days after our day off, averaging just 66 miles a day, will get us into Miami on schedule.

Total Mileage: 1676 miles

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  1. Ben. I have just seen not one but two photos of you with your thumbs pointing to the sky – as we have discussed before this is not a cool look. Glad you are both safe. Love. Dad

    • Thanks for the comment dad. It just felt right at the time, but there will be no more thumbs up pictures for you to moan about. Moving into Georgia today. Nearly there. Love Ben xx

    • Gotta love your Dad’s comments! You do look like a douche when you do a thumbs up. That’s more Spicer’s thing……

      • Yeah he’s never short of fatherly advice. I still see nothing wrong with the thumbs us pose.

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