Day 38 Southport, NC to Myrtle Beach, SC 73 miles 1,312 feet
Southport was explored by the Spanish in 16’th century and settled by the British in the 18’th century. Fort Johnston was constructed in 1748 at the mouth of the Cape Fear River to protect the region from invading Spanish pirates. The town, originally called Smithville, grew in the shadow of the fort. Initially a fishing village, Smithville changed its name to Southport in 1887, in a failed attempt to promote the town as a major shipping port. Today the town is known most as a relaxed waterfront tourist destination. Numerous TV series and movies were filmed in Southport, including Nights in Rodanthe, starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane.
At 8 AM in Southport most of the tourists are still fast asleep and the locals are just beginning to open the cafes. The charming boutiques, art galleries, ice cream and salt water taffy shops, as well as many other sundry tourist destinations are still locked tight. Golf carts are a major form of local transportation. I saw several mothers delivering their children to kindergarten via golf cart, just as I have witnessed on Catalina Island back in California. The town is also full of fine examples of Victorian architecture and abundant flowering plants.
After a relaxing jaunt through Southport the ECG rolls for over 15 miles on NC 211, a 2 lane high speed highway connecting Southport with US 17, the major north south artery along the coast, more on US 17 to come. Along most of its length, the shoulder on NC 211 is barely sufficient and frequently disappears entirely as pickup trucks hauling trailers and huge 18 wheelers wiz bye with barely inches to spare. I was too focused on the narrow shoulder and my rear view mirror to pay much attention to the scenery. The only thing I did notice was some roadkill on the shoulder, a small alligator who must have crawled out of the adjacent drainage ditch. At around mile 17 we finally turned onto some country roads that would wind us around the Shallote River Estuary. At about the 43 mile mark we are welcomed into South Carolina and introduced to US 17.
Our introduction to US 17 was not a pleasant one, the 4-6 lane high speed highway has no shoulder and there are deep rumble strips carved into the white fog line. Thankfully, we only needed to ride the highway for 3 miles, but it was complicated by a necessitated merge across all 3 lanes to turn left without the benefit of a traffic light. At about mile 48 we would cross the Intercoastal Waterway via the Captain Archie Neil “Poo” McLauchlin Swing Bridge. As usual, I would arrive just as the bridge was swinging open. The vast majority of bridges over the Intercoastal Waterway are operable and open on a fixed schedule to allow larger motor vessels and all sailboats to transit. They typically open hourly, at a set time, or on demand when required. Locals know to time their trips based on bridge opening times and will frequently route their trips over adjacent bridges with differing opening schedules.
Shortly after crossing the bridge the ECG routes you onto North Ocean Boulevard as you enter North Myrtle Beach riding along the ocean. The homes are much grander here, and elevated on posts to improve the ocean views and protect from coastal flooding during storms and hurricanes. For the most part, deciduous trees and flowering plants have been replaced with multiple varieties of palm trees, dune grasses, and even banana trees, most definitely a tropical montage. In the distance you can make out the distinct outline of the downtown high rise hotels and condominiums.
As I rode through downtown it was warm but there was a pleasant cool ocean breeze blowing through the openings between the high rises, carrying with it the unmistakable scent of Coppertone. It is shoulder season, but unlike White Lake, which shuts tight after Labor Day, Myrtle Beach is just beginning to welcome its returning Snowbirds. Whether they are returning from Minnesota or New York, they are easily recognizable by their ivory white skin and their Members Only windbreakers. Riding through town I am amazed to see the number of miniature golf courses. I am instantly transported back to 1964 on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, playing miniature golf with my family before an evening show. My youngest brother accidentally hits his golf ball onto an adjacent hole and runs over to grab it back. Unfortunately, in doing so he grabs a total stranger’s ball. Later that evening at the water acrobatics performance, 2 divers wearing a horse costume, jump off a platform on the pier into the Atlantic Ocean. My brother, who was probably 5 at the time, was amazed and asked, “Is that a real horse?” It never ceases to amaze me how my mind can wander while riding my bike. For the next 10 miles or so, the ECG keeps winding east and west across Kings Highway through very commercial strip malls. I grow tired of this route and plot a new route along Ocean Boulevard alongside the Atlantic Ocean. I arrived in plenty of time for my First Supper at the hotel restaurant on a deck overlooking the ocean.
After eating, I kicked off my shoes and went for a walk in the ocean.
Dinner was at the Carolina Roadhouse, 4617 N Kings Hwy, Myrtle Beach, a fine steakhouse. I had perhaps the best ribeye steak I have had on our trip, perfectly charred on the outside, moist and medium rare on the inside.
Desert was at Kirk’s 1890 Ice Cream Parlor, 2500 N Kings Hwy, Myrtle Beach. They had too many flavors to count, or capture in a single photo.
Twelve states down, 3 more to go.
Feet Climbed 77,041
States Visited Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina
For more details on my route, see my Strava Link