Day 12

September 17th, 2010

Hauling all my bags inside the tent seemed to finally be enough to foil the evil raccoons of North Carolina.  At some point I heard one brush up alongside the tent, but there were no incidents beyond that, which meant I could sleep pretty well.

I got up in the gray light and headed down to the beach to watch the sun rise over the ocean.  It was beautiful and peaceful and some other people who had the same idea as me were there to improve my photos by unwittingly posing as anonymous backlit silhouettes.

The ride took us back onto our dear friend for the rest of the trip, US 17, with whom we have a love-hate relationship.  The mounds of deafening morning traffic inches away, heading to/from Myrtle Beach made it a “hate” phase at first.  But then after passing through Georgetown, traffic nearly disappeared, and it turned to “love”, as we were suddenly in the Francis Marion National Forest.  Gone was suburban hell, replaced by an almost-Western naturalness and emptiness.  However, this meant that the road was also empty of services: a nearly 40 mile stretch had only one or two gas stations.  This is normal out West, but on this ride we had been conditioned to expect services everywhere, so it was a bit of a shock to the system.  The worst part was when we finally exited the forest boundary, and started entering the outer suburbs of Charleston.  We passed miles of civilization, including a giant hospital, signaled intersections, big shopping centers buried far off the highway, but no place to get a cold drink! Where do all these people get gas?!?  So we just pushed on and on, and finally, heaven appeared, where Dennis stuck his head in the ice chest, and where we got ice drinks, ice cream, and stood in the ice-cold beer cooler.  Yes, there was some oppressive heat out there, and we needed a serious cooling.  At one point after leaving my bike computer in the sun, it read 120F.

A final push took us over the new cable-stayed Ravenel Bridge and into Charleston.  The bridge has a dedicated bike/pedestrian section, and it was really cool to see all the runners/cyclists out there taking advantage of it.  And cool for us to stop and take pictures and enjoy the great views of the city and harbor below.  Rising 186 ft. over the water, I’m pretty sure it’s the biggest bridge I’ve gone over on my bike.  A guy who stopped at the top told us he rides it just because it’s so flat everywhere else.

Our original plan had us camping a little west of downtown Charleston, but Dennis had the great idea to just get a hotel.  That would make it much easier to see the city.  I used my tried-and-true hotel-finding method: search for brewpub, then find hotel right near that brewpub.  That put us right in the middle of historic downtown Charleston, where the hard-bargaining clerk talked herself down from a $129 rate to a $99 rate.  Ok, if you must!

We spent some time strolling around the city, which is very pretty and European in feel (largely due to the “designed before cars” aspect).  Eventually we wander over to Southend Brewing, in an old historic building, where the beer was pedestrian but the food was excellent.  There was also a lot of good people-watching, from tourists to hot college girls out for a run.  It seems like a very active and vibrant city, and I was quite taken with it.

Back at the hotel, we used the business center computer to explore some route-modification ideas (ideas too wild and crazy for our phones to handle!), and once we came up with a new plan, went straight to bed without even writing up any journal entries.  The next day would be a long one!

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