• gfeldstein

Day 47 Brunswick, GA to Amelia Island, FL 79 miles 689 feet

Today was slated to be 79 miles long but approximately 10 of those miles would be on a privately chartered boat across the Saint Mary’s River. The river crossing would at about mile 64, we were to meet at the dock at 2:40, and our boat was scheduled to depart at 3PM sharp. There is not much to do in Saint Mary’s, unless you happened to be stationed at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. I did not want to arrive too early with nothing to do so I searched online for a quality restaurant to hang out in. I found only one, 401 West, that had an upscale menu and was located right on the river. I timed my departure and riding speed to arrive at the restaurant at about 1PM which would give me plenty of time to eat, drink, and work on my blog if they had decent WiFi.

Our B&B was just a few miles from the Sidney Lanier Bridge over the Brunswick River. It is a cable-stayed bridge that spans 7,779 feet rises to 185 feet above the river surface. Thankfully it has a 10 foot wide dedicated shoulder for pedestrians and cyclists.

I stopped at the top of the bridge to grab a glimpse of a barge bringing the last remaining cut up section of the MV Golden Ray back to shore.

In September 2019, the Golden Ray, carrying more than 4,200 brand new automobiles, tipped onto its side and beached itself just off the coast of St Simons Island. A handful of cascading errors caused this capsize but luckily the captain had the presence of mind to beach her near shore rather than in the shipping channel. Allthough the vessel and all of its cargo was a total loss, not a single human life was lost. Four engineers who had been trapped below deck for nearly 36 hours were rescued by the Coast Guard who heard them banging on the hull and cut a hole through the hull to extract them.

In the 2 years since she beached a massive cleanup operation has removed most of the debris. The ship, and all of its cargo is sliced by a monstrous floating saw into slices like meat at the deli, only A LOT HEAVIER. The slices are then loaded on to barges and hauled to the Port of Brunswick. According to the press, the barge I saw coming in today was carrying the last remaining slice of the MV Golden Ray.

As I descended the bridge I remembered some advice that Brent, our ECG guide in Savannah had given us about sand at the base of the bridge where it met the asphalt road. In spite of my natural instinct to “let her roll,” I kept my speed below 30 and carefully scanned as far down the lane as I could see. There was no sand, but the shoulder was getting dramatically narrower and appeared to have a pair of 10 foot long serpentine ridges of asphalt overpour with maybe a foot to negotiate between them. At my reduced speed it was not challenging to thread that needle, I’m not sure I could have accomplished that feet at 40mph. I was riding on the recently widened and resurfaced US-17, and I must commend the Georgia DOT for making it very bike friendly. The shoulder was at least 10 feet wide with no rumble strips. The asphalt was so new that the chalk reference lines for the painted white lines were still visible. The white striped lines had been completed but the white fog lines remained to be painted and the “road turtles” had not yet been installed. A few miles past the bridge I rode alongside the Georgia DOT Port with hundreds of acres of new cars waiting to be loaded into the adjacent triple decker railroad transports sitting on multiple spur lines.

US-17 was pleasant enough to ride but the ECG took us on a 20 mile loop to the west. The scenery wasn’t any better but the road was practically deserted and you could comfortably ride down the middle of the lane. Almost since the begging of our journey back in Maine we have been praying for some tailwinds from the east. We finally got them today, unfortunately, for the first time on our trip, we were riding east instead of west. As the old saying goes,”be carefull what you wish for.” At about mile 37, just after we crossed the Saltillo River, we turned into a small park fronting the river to meet our van. Terry Landreth, a local bike shop owner and former ECG Member, met us and would ride with us to Saint Mary’s.

A short boardwalk along the river would wind under the bridge we had just crossed and place us on the Georgia Coast Rail-Trail. The water along the boardwalk was full of dune grasses and what I believed to be water lilies. On closer inspection, they were Grass Pink Orchids, Calopogon tuberosus, who’s golden hairs attract bees.

After a few miles on the Georgia Coast Rail-Trail, we were spit back out onto US-17 and a series of smaller highways that we would ride all the way to Saint Mary’s. A missed cue on my navigation system had me ask at the guard station for permission to ride through a military base. I have raced many times through the Marine Base at Camp Pendleton and ridden recreationally through the US Air Force Academy so I didn’t think it was odd that my route went through a base. When the sentry asked for my government ID, I handed over my California Drivers License. He chuckled and said I needed a Government Military ID. He was pleasant but stern when he asked me to move back to the parking lot to review my map. Given his sidearm in clear site, I did not press the issue. After the ride I did some research and found out why they didn’t want anyone on the base who did not belong there. Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay is the U.S. Atlantic Fleet’s home port for ballistic missle nuclear submarines armed with Trident nuclear missiles.

I arrived at my chosen restaurant, 401 West, 401 W St. Mary’s St, St. Mary’s right at 1PM. It was as upscale as it appeared on their website. It sat right alongside the St. Mary’s River and dozens of well dressed patrons were patiently waiting outside for tables. Feeling a bit shabby in my sweaty Lycra’s, I still climbed the outside stairs to the deck and asked the hostess for a table. There was at least a 30 minute wait but I quickly found a seat at the bar which had the same waterfront view. I had nearly 2 hours till my boat departed just a few hundred yards down the road. They had a perfect brunch menu, multiple IPA’s on tap to chose from, and a strong WiFi to allow me to finish yesterday’s blog. I had a sublime steak omelette with caramelized onions, arugulla, and white cheddar cheese paired with a local unfiltered wheat beer.

I inhaled the omelette and potatoes but nursed my beer and a pitcher of ice cold water while completing my blog. I arrived about 15 minutes early for the boat but noticed a large crowd just down the block. There was a muscle car show alongside the dock but that was not what was drawing the crowds. Instead entire families were arriving with little kids in full Halloween attire. The center of town was full with the annual Scarecrow Spooktacular, which had been canceled last year due to Covid. I couldn’t tell who was having more fun, the kids or their parents.

We carried our bikes onto the boat and shortly were on our way to Florida, our fifteenth and final State along the ECG. Florida and Georgia do not share any land borders and are separated only by the 123 mile long St. Mary’s River. We would be traveling for about 1 hour to Amelia Island, FL, some 10 miles in the distance. The husband and wife, captain and first mate, couple could not have been more congenial or knowledgeable. He was born in Gloucester, MA, and had grown up on the sea. His wife was born on Amelia Island and was the granddaughter of the first lighthouse keeper on the island. Her extended family grew up on the island and helped to start the shrimping industry in Florida. Though technically just on a passage from Point A to Point B, the captain turned it into a narrated guided tour of our transit, even deviating from course several times to impart some local knowledge on us. About halfway across, he pulled as close as he felt comfortable to Cumberland Island, home to over 160 feral horses, all descendants of the horses first brought over by the Spaniards in the 17’th century. It is also contains 3 of the original 5 lavish vacation mansions built by the Carnegie family. With the aid of a telescope we were able to spot a horse but he was too far away to photograph.

As we crossed the deep water channel and approached Amelia Island, we spotted a small pod of bottlenose dolphins slapping the water with their tails to stun a school of small fish. We motored to within 50 feet of the dolphins who had no interest in playing with our boat. It was dinner time and they were hungry, I for one can definitely relate to that. As we headed into dock we passed two massive paper mills and many abandoned shrimp processing plants. Shrimp, the most consumed seafood on the planet, has become a commodity. The Chinese and others in South East Asia produce them in fish factories at a price that local shrimpers just can not compete with. Paper on he other hand is a booming industry with over 500 logging trucks hauling pine trees to the mills everyday. We were well aware of this, as most of those trucks come barreling down US-17 alongside us. It seemed like nearly every other truck that passed us was a logging truck.

Our captain dropped us at the dock on Amelia Island and we bid him and his wife a-due. The island was originally named for Princess Amelia, the daughter of King George II. The island has been widely disputed and eight different flags have flown there including; French, Spanish, Floridian/Patriot, Green Cross, Mexican, Confederate, and U.S.

It was a short 4 mile ride to our hotel and after quick showers we went across the street to Sliders, 1998 S. Fletcher Ave, Amelia Island, for some pretty decent seafood and the best and only fresh key lime pie we have had to date.

Fourteen states down, 1 more to go.

The Cumulative Totals

Miles 2,532

Feet Climbed 83,167

States Visited Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida

For more details on my route, see my Strava Link

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