Day 42 Charleston, SC to Beaufort 72 miles 840 feet
The Palmetto Tree, AKA Sabal Palm, adorns the South Carolina State Flag, South Carolina License Plates, and is the State nickname, “The Palmetto State”
Trunks from Palmetto Trees were use to build the walls of the first Fort Moultrie in 1776. They were selected because the soft Palmetto logs did not crack when hit by cannonballs, instead they either absorbed the shock or even caused the cannonballs to bounce off.
We had another early start today for a planned rendezvous and van convoy at mile 28 on our route to follow riders on a 5 mile section of US-17 that was considered perilous. Once again I slept in and allowed the slower riders to depart way ahead of me. When I hit the road just before 9AM it was marginally warmer than yesterday, my Southern California skin was still freezing but at least I couldn’t see my breathe. The first 7 miles of the route were on the West Ashley Greenway, a mostly paved path that ran fairly parallel to US-17, initially through a residential area but then through marshland. There were frequent grade crossings and the posts to keep motor vehicles out were too close together. I stopped at one crossing and measured barely 6 inches clearance on either side for my handlebars, which left little room for my hands. That clearance might be fine if you were crawling along but if you are cruising at 15-20 mph it is sketchy at best. There were some small family farms in the residential area and a collection of colorful bee hives.
As I rode through the marshland I could see why rice was grown down in the Carolinas during the early days of our country. The topography was nearly identical to the topography along the Mekong Delta.
By mile 10, I was back out for another day on crowded US-17. Once again the route offered several options to bypass portions of US-17. I chose to press on and ride the highway, shoulder or no shoulder, this turned into a blessing in disguise. The earlier riders discovered that one of the bypasses involved a dirt road that turned into nearly a mile of deep unrideable sand. A few walked their bikes in the sand, others turned back and rode US-17. I am a fatalist at heart, I believe when your number is up it’s up no matter where you are or what you are doing. Similarly, if your numbers not up, it doesn’t matter what you are doing. You need to have faith, and a lot of trust to ride on an interstate highway with cars and trucks whizzing by at 60+ mph. Part of the trick is feeling comfortable actually taking the lane so cars and trucks are forced to change lanes and ride around you, rather than try to squeeze by you in the same lane. On the first 10 mile stretch of US-17, I noticed no road kill and I assumed that meant one of three things. All the animals along the highway had already been killed long ago, the animals were smart enough not to run out onto the highway, or the drivers were actually paying attention on this highway. I chose to believe the last option and rode comfortably in the middle of a highway lane.
At mile 23 I turned off the highway to meet the other riders and our van. I arrived at the rendezvous point just ahead of our slower riders. Our guide was beginning to cue up riders for the van to follow and escort for 5 miles through the sketchiest section of US-17. I felt comfortable riding on the highway without an escort, which would have required me to ride at 12 mph, so I set off on my own. I checked my phone navigation system and noticed the following cue: “For the adventurous, stay on Old Jacksonboro Road, eventually ride past a gate onto unknown road surface.” How could anyone pass up an opportunity like that. About half a mile down the road I came to said gate. There was no way around the gate but it was barely 3 foot high so I lifted my bike over the gate and hopped over myself. The “unknown” surface was mostly well compacted sand, strewn with coarse angular granite rubble up to 2-3 inches in diameter. I needed to slow down to about 10mph and get out of the saddle as the bike hopped from rock to rock. It was actually quite fun and had me convinced more than ever that I need to buy a gravel bike when I get home. The sand and rock eventually gave way to wet grass and tree litter which was actually easier to ride. The area I was riding through contained swamps, marshland, and forests. It was obviously used for hunting as evidenced by several elevated blinds along the path.
As I was riding along minding my own business, a deer appeared running through the forest on my right side. When the deer spotted me he jumped, probably 12 feet across to the other side of the path and kept running off. He could not have been more than 2 bike lengths in front of me when he jumped. I was very thankful that he did not jump into me like the unfortunate cyclist hit by an antelope.
After my off road fun I was back on US-17 till mile 51, the shoulder was narrow and full of tire carcasses, but the biggest problem was the abundant gravel that just never disappeared. You needed to pedal smoothly, avoid any sudden movements of the front wheel, and above all, never grab the brakes. Occasionally the gravel would mound up and grab your front wheel like deep sand, thankfully it never lasted more than 5-10 feet. The ride along US-17 was fairly monotonous but occasionally broken up by river crossings, marshland, trees displaying fall foliage, and lily ponds.
At about mile 51, I departed the highway to meet our van for water then set off on a deserted country road through forests and small family farms. I sure hope the pig is a family pet with a cute name and not destined for market.
At about mile 65 we turned off the roads and onto the paved Spanish Moss Trail, so named for the abundant moss growing off trees. Apparently moss will not grow in polluted air so it’s presence is a sure sign that the air here is fairly clean.
Along an elevated portion of the trail I came across a fellow fishing over the side into what looked to me to be a swamp. I stopped and asked what he was fishing for, apparently crabs.
A mile or so of surface streets delivered me to the historic bay front district of Beaufort with many preserved antebellum homes lining the waterfront.
Beaufort was chartered in 1711, and is the second oldest city in South Carolina. It currently contains 3 military installations including, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, and the United States Naval Hospital Beaufort. The largest driver of the economy in Beaufort is the military presence in and around the region. Owing to it’s climate and fine historic sites, Beaufort has become a destination site for tourists, attracting nearly 2 million visitors per year, it‘s second largest revenue source.
Dinner was at Breakwater Restaurant & Bar, a fine dining experience. As usual, I was hungry, so I started with salmon sliders with bacon and caper aioli, a New York Strip Steak WITH black truffle butter, and finished with a fresh pecan tart slathered with hot caramel. I was in heaven, if I was drinking, I would have paired the meal with a fine California or Oregon Pinot Noir.
Twelve states down, 3 more to go.
Feet Climbed 79,902
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