Day 3 — 36 miles from Myrtle Beach to Georgetown

IMG_1166I’m learning a few things about the weather here.

You know how during a northern winter, your glasses fog up when you go inside? Here they fog up when you head outside in the humidity from an air-conditioned room.

And the rain!

The light showers are actually nice because it cools you off given the crazy humidity. And the rain is warm.

But when it comes down hard, it quickly floods. We’re at sea level so there is no place for the water to go. The drainage system can’t cope.

While a big rain today wasn’t as intense as Monday in Myrtle Beach, the amount of flooding from just an hour’s downpour was an eye opener. What happens when it’s a bigger storm? I’m not even thinking hurricane. (And yes, we again waited it out under cover.)

IMG_1167The flooding on this section of the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway covered a deep pothole that caught out a few of our riders. One took a tumble; another has a sore wrist from hitting it hard but thankfully didn’t go down.

And Georgetown? A cute but quiet town. I was curious about the Gullah Geechee culture. A short day before the big push to Charleston.

Of course, don’t just take my word for this day. Here’s my fellow blogger’s version of events.

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An East Coast Greenway ribbon-cutting in Myrtle Beach

IMG_1144So we’re only a year late.

Last year’s Week-a-Year ride on the East Coast Greenway was supposed to end with a ribbon-cutting for a new section of trail and a trailhead at the southern end of Myrtle Beach. Hurricane Matthew spoiled those plans, so city officials waited until we came back to hold this ceremony.

This is bigger than just another piece of trail in the East Coast Greenway jigsaw; Myrtle Beach is the first city (not to be confused with town or other form of government) to finish its section of the route.

That’s particularly impressive for a state that has completed a mere 14% of the Greenway.

Unfortunately, right after we pass this kiosk, we’re outside city limits and back on an ugly road. So there is still much to do.

Hats off to Myrtle Beach for a big turnout for this ribbon-cutting — maybe 100 or so people. Some arrived by bike. Here are some of the riders before they took off from Warbird Park. Props to those who can identify the plane in the background.

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We’re 2,000 miles down the East Coast Greenway

IMG_1141This East Coast Greenway mile marker is at the kiosk on the southern end of Myrtle Beach.

And Barb and Bev are among a handful of riders in our group who have biked all 2,000 miles from Calais, Maine, taking it one week a year.

Me? I’ve ridden south from Newark, NJ, plus 350 miles from Calais to Portland, Maine, and some of the Connecticut trails and the New York City route. Got a bit of catching up to do!

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Day 2 — 40ish miles from Ocean Isle Beach to Myrtle Beach

IMG_1132Wow did we get drenched today. Even though we tried to wait out the worst of it. And the flooding on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach … at one point I swear I biked through water halfway up my wheel. At least my chain got “washed.” And, yes, my shoes are soaked. I’m on the hunt for newspaper to help dry them out.

Thankfully the ride through heavy rain was only for 4 miles, with rear light flashing for visibility and almost no traffic to cope with. And it wasn’t a cold October rain like it would have been up north.

Still, when you show up at a hotel soaking wet, you are grateful for a hot-out-of-the-dryer towel and a warm chocolate-y cookie before you even check in. 300-and-some-odd calories be damned. Thank you, Lillie.

(Oh, and when you say that county name in the photo at the state line, it’s a silent H. Otherwise it sounds illicit.)

IMG_1135Photo of the day: an alligator in a neighborhood pond just off the road. How it got there… and why it can stay there … is beyond me. Last night, a kid at the general store’s fish counter explained to us how to hunt alligator (bait is bits of chicken dangling from a string, followed by a bullet to the head). He was selling a block of frozen Georgia gator meat for $17.99 a pound, but who knew North Carolina meat was so close? (Why you will pay that much for gator and then essentially turn it into chicken-like nuggets when chicken breasts are regularly on sale for $1.99 a pound is something someone still needs to explain to me.)

You never want to call a gator friendly, so let’s say this one was … curious. He kept drifting closer to where we were standing, as if wanting to check us out as much as we wanted to check out him.

And why do I say 40ish miles? It was supposed to be a 46-miler but at one point in North Myrtle Beach, some riders started following East Coast Greenway signs instead of our cue sheets. The signs date back to an interim on-road route with bike lanes that follows Ocean Boulevard rather than the new trail route further inland. Just another opportunity to debate the route! I ended up with the road group. Think the long side of the triangle. Maybe I lopped off 6 miles? But I missed the only real trail segment of the day.

We were just 4 miles from our Myrtle Beach hotel when some other riders called out from a meh beachside grill restaurant. Most of what was left of our group stopped to eat, figuring we could still find the trail afterwards — and then came the deluge. At least we could hide out and watch a bit of baseball; others were on the trail with no place to hide for quite a while.

Does getting soaked count as doing laundry?

Read what my fellow blogger has to say about the day.

 

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Day 1 — 62 miles from Wilmington to Ocean Isle Beach

FullSizeRenderThis photo, taken by another rider today, sums up why we need greenways — off-road trails like the East Coast Greenway that serve cyclists, runners, walkers and others of all ages and ability.

Look at that intersection. Wide roads, no bike lanes. How many would cross it on a bike? And with children?

And once we got past intersections like that, we were on roads that sometimes had tiny shoulders.

If people speeding by in their cars thought all these cyclists were nuts, would you blame them?

One rider in our group is a distributor for a major bike brand and says he’s not surprised by the poor bicycle infrastructure around here. Even in beach towns, there’s not a culture of bicycling to the beach, unlike, say. the Jersey Shore. And he doesn’t have a bike store between Wilmington and Savannah selling his brand aside from Charleston.

What did look familiar? People trying to slow down traffic in front of their homes. Beyond those commercially available red “Drive like your kids live here” signs, these two homemade signs in front of one house caught my eye (but probably not those speeding):

And today’s ride? All roads. The plan had been to ride East Coast Greenway trails in Wilmington, then follow the beach south to Fort Fisher, catch a ferry for a few miles to Southport and then make a big loop inland to cross a river before heading to the beach again.

Many of us were looking forward to the ferry ride. Only the state transportation department, which runs the ferry, decided that today and tomorrow (Columbus Day) was a perfect time for maintenance. And we couldn’t come up with a replacement service. So no ferry ride. (Shades of my first WAY tour in 2014 when the boats didn’t show then either!) Instead we were shuttled across a bicycle-unfriendly bridge and started riding a few miles outside Wilmington.

The flip side is that today was a 62-mile day instead of the 70 miles that had been billed. It was hot and humid, so a bit less is good as those of us from up north adjust to Carolina weather. Got to keep remembering to reapply sunscreen, including under the edge of my bike shorts (shorts ride up when you sit and that’s where the rash from too much sun shows up).

My roommate on this ride is blogging too. Here’s how she summed up the day.

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Day 0 — To Moores Creek, with a helping of BBQ on the side of the road

IMG_1099When all you had for breakfast is a Clif bar and you spot barbecue being sold under a simple white poop-up tent on the side of the road… of course you stop.

Good thing too, since the scenic route back from Moores Creek to Wilmington ended up on a different route, missing the planned lunch spot and stopping instead at a “famous” hot dog place after 45 or so miles, which most certainly wouldn’t have been what I was looking for.

This signed lured us in.

IMG_1093And this is what I got for $10. More than enough for breakfast plus lunch! Sorry, vegetarians, even the rice and okra had meat in it. No idea about the collard greens. Awesome ribs, with meat falling off the bone.

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We were told the sale was to help one of the workers get his own place. Just a mobile home, nothing fancy. Hope it works out.

The day’s ride was to close the gap from the end of last year’s abridged ride at Moores Creek from Elizabethtown and the start of this year’s in Wilmington. But with our detour, it was more than I bargained for — probably 60 miles all in, including my ride to and from the start.

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Virginia Capital Trail, part 2: around Richmond

IMG_1069First, the Virginia Capital Trail is a fabulous trail. I wish other areas would take a look and see how they can copy it.

This alternate route for the East Coast Greenway is asphalt, except where it turned into wooden boardwalks over watery areas. I’m guessing it’s 12 feet wide. Most of it parallels Highway 5, and even the serious Lycra cyclists use it.

Today I biked from Richmond to 4-Mile Park, or 11 miles each way without detours. That leaves a gap of 20 miles or so for another trip! The route out of Richmond goes past the old tobacco warehouses, now being turned into condos or new construction views of the James River. Nice to have a trail outside your door; not sure about whether you hear active freight lines.

IMG_1076.JPGThis (below) was being pitched as potential office space. Seems a bit of a stretch! And there was another, more cave-like structure, that could be turned into an unusual restaurant space. Uh huh. Do I hear money suck?

IMG_1079My big detour was to a National Parks Service site — part of the Richmond battlefield. Too bad I didn’t look at the sign that said the visitors center was 2.3 miles away, rather than, oh, 0.3 miles… and when I got there I discovered the visitors center was closed for the season!

But it meant I was back on the trail at 10:30 am and heading to the nearby barbecue spot, Ronnie’s BBQ. I had seen smoke on my way out to 4-Mile Park and was starting to get hungry …. Except it opens at 11! Ronnie (or I’m deciding it was him, or Ronnie Jr.) poked his head out of the store with a menu, but I must have looked so crestfallen that he said he could sell me the one thing that was ready — a pulled pork sandwich. Sold! And delicious! (The ribs, btw, got a shoutout on Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

You know that saying about finding a penny bringing luck? I had just picked up 10 from one spot on the road. Coincidence? And did I use up all 10 to get this sandwich? 🙂

IMG_1075Ronnie told me the trail is bringing extra business … and it should, given that it’s only about 5 miles from Richmond. Perfect for a short day trip. It’s also inspired him to get back on a bike, and he wants to build up to doing the entire route in one day.

Someone else is trying to benefit from the trail too:

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