Day 4
April 3rd, 2004
Garden City, Georgia

I anticipated a long ride today, through a mixture of urban sprawl and quiet country, and that is what I got. I was a little disappointed I failed to get an early start.

The morning found me on I-95 north, trying to overcome a late start and the 40 miles I failed to get in the day before.  The weather was holding steady to the pattern of the last 3 days-sunny, cool, and windy.  Traffic was fast.  I stayed on I-95 till I reached US 17 north, and then exited for Charleston.

The ride from here to Charleston was good.  US 17 transported me past farms and antebellum plantations.  This area of South Carolina is known as the "The Lowlands." The landscape was turning to wetlands and swamps as I closed in on the coast.  A ride like this is one of the reasons I wanted to tour my native south.  I was in an area that I previously knew little of.

Soon, I entered the suburbs of Charleston, a city that defines southern living and prosperity.  It is Saturday morning, and the pace is picking up as folks begin their weekend activities.  It was slow going through the traffic lights and assorted congestion.

At last I made it to the Ashley Memorial Bridge and crossed into the city into the historical district.

Charleston is a beautiful and historical area.  I took the 13 down from US 17 to visit the city.  The homes and businesses of old Charleston seemed to blend into 1860. It was along these streets aristocratic Charleston walked and lived their lives.  The homes along the harbor are well kept and neat.  Dwellings were freshly painted, bordered with bright flowers and trimmed green yards.  I contrasted sunny and frolicking Charleston with the downtown areas of other cities.  Places from the rust belt like Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Cleveland, with their dark buildings and cold, gray skies.

​Downtown Charleston
​The well kept homes in downtown Charleston.  Colorful
and inviting.

The streets were narrow, and reminded me of a cleaner, more organized French Quarter.

I connected several streets till I located Battery Park.  It was here the Civil War started when the cannons located at this point fired on Ft. Sumter.  I studied the cannons then looked out in the harbor at the fort, almost 2 miles out in the water.  This was the view the southern gunners had when they opened fire on the fort. 

Actual damage was slight, and only a couple of soldiers were wounded in the bombardment, but the ramifications were far reaching.  Those shots started America’s bloodiest war, and the aftermath united us like nothing else.  I am not ashamed of my southern heritage, it is a part of who I am, but as I’ve said before, above all other things, I’m American, after that, let the chips fall where they may.

I gazed out in the harbor and back to the cannons.  As I sat there on the bench, I thought our about our troops locked in battle in Iraq.  There, you won’t find blacks, whites, southerners, northerners, or anything else, just Americans.  The reason that can happen is the Civil War put an end to regionalism.  Does that mean things are perfect?  Of course not, we still have a long way to go, but we are on the right path.  I can be American and at the same time southern.

The cannons that fired on Sumter are now silent, and are nothing more than objects for children to play on.
​Fort Sumter
​Children play on the guns that ushered in the Civil War
The Cooper River Bridge 10K run took place today, and when the race was over it choked downtown Charleston with cars and pedestrians.  It took me awhile to break free.  I finally made it out over the Cooper Bridge and landed in Mt. Pleasant where I topped off the gas tank and bought something to drink.  The Union 76 station was busy and it took me awhile to find a quiet place to rest.  After dealing with all the traffic and crowds, it was a nice break.

Feeling rested I continued on US 17 toward Myrtle Beach.

The tentacles of Charleston are long, and it took many miles to break out into the open and put some distance behind me.  I had a good feeling when I entered the Francis Marion National Forest that the scenery would be better, and it was.  I called on the 13 to blister a few slow moving cars along the way, and it gladly obliged.
A message scribbled on a truck trailer in Georgetown- "This is Graffiti."

Riding into the Myrtle Beach area proved to be a mistake.  The region is quagmire of tourists, fast food joints, car lots and shopping centers, and that was on the by pass. Because the resort is located halfway on the Atlantic coast, it is home to miles of urban sprawl.  For folks in the northeast, this is the closest warm water beach, so they flock here in unprecedented numbers.  Better here than Destin.  It took me over an hour to cover 20 miles.  I looked at the 13’s clock and realized I probably wasn’t going to make my goal of Oracoke Island today, but I’ll do the best I can.

I stayed on US 17 north Out of the Myrtle Beach and into North Carolina.  The riding was better but it didn’t last long because I was soon in Wilmington, another tough place to get out of.  I saw a number of bikes in the city, but no touring bikes.

I was going to skip lunch, but changed my mind when I saw a McDonald’s near Folkstone and pulled in for chicken nuggets and fries.  It was a quick lunch.

When I finished eating, I got out my map.  My notes told me to go through Jacksonville, but I could see on the map a short cut through Camp Lejeune would save me miles and time.  How did I miss it last night?  A short ride after McDonald’s I veered onto SR 172.  The route slices across the Marine Corp base, so I wasn’t surprised when I was stopped at the checkpoint.  A polite young marine asked- 

"Your business on Lejeune sir?"

"Just passing through"

"Thank you sir, be watchful of military vehicles, maneuvers are going on in the area"
"Thank YOU"
His eyes looked wistfully at the 13 as it quietly left the checkpoint.

The ride across Lejeune was fun.  I saw a few tanks parked in a field, and hummers were on the move in the both directions.  I respected the 45 mph speed limit.  It was late afternoon, and the sun dipped in the pine trees.  The 13’s air temp gauge read a nice 62 degrees.

SR 172 took me SR 24, my last route change of the day.  The last ferry to Oracoke was long gone, so there was no use trying to hammer it out to Cedar Island.  I decided to call it a day as soon as I reach Morehead City.

I didn’t know what the gas situation was on the Outer Banks, so I played it safe and gassed up at a roadside Exxon station on 24.  At first I thought the 13 gave as good as mpg as the 1100, but that is not so.  The 13 is delivering in the low to mid 40s, not bad, but not as good as the high 40s and low 50s of my 1100.

At long last I came to US 70, and I knew Morehead was not far off.  I scanned the area for a campground but nothing looked appealing, so I continued on to the city to look for a room.

Morehead City in the off season is a sad looking place.  The parking lots of the shabby looking motels were empty, and the wind whistled through town like a western ghost down.  The day had turned semi cloudy, and it helped paint a picture of bleakness.  For some reason, the city reminded me of Mackinaw, Michigan.
I caught glimpses of the shoreline nearing Morehead City.

I covered 380 mediocre miles today.  It was not the best of days, but I saw some interesting things, and it was certainly better than working.

I rode up to the office of a foreign owned motel and asked the rate.  When the clerk said 49 dollars I said, "no, the cash rate," she looked back at me unimpressed and said, "doesn’t matter, 49 dollars."  First time I can remember being shot down so fast.  I turned around and walked out.  Noway I’m paying that much for this roach hotel.

Down the street I saw another motel and what appeared to be the owners out in the in the parking lot.

"y’all own this place?"


"I’ll give ya 30 cash for a room"

"We don’t have any 30 dollar rooms." Could have fooled me, not one looked over a 10 in my eyes.

If I was going to pay big money I was going to get a nice place.  I saw a Comfort Inn on the way in so got out my phone and booked a reservation for 60, and then rode over and checked in. The walk in rate was 80 something.
Once again I had nice ground floor room.  I threw my stuff down and took a shower. When I finished I took a walk to a Pizza Hut for supper.  I had garlic bread and small pepperoni.  A table with a several families with loud kids was next to me and made for an unpleasant meal.

I worked on my journal and edited a few pictures, but the noise was too great to hang around very long.

On the way back I stopped at a local fire station and chatted with the guys. There were only 2 on duty, not much they could do if something caught fire.  I found out in my 30 minute conversation just how good I have it in Prattville.  The newest truck was a 88 model, and I was making twice as much money as the Lt on duty, with better benefits and more lucrative retirement.  The fire station was like the rest of Morehead, drab and depressed looking.  I wished them good luck and went back to my room.

I picked up the ferry schedule in the motel lobby.  I was chagrinned to learn the ferry at Cedar Island leaves at 7am.  I was still an hour away from there, so I would have to leave out before the sun.  I HAD to be on that ferry, but I was going to get double whammied.  Daylight savings time begins tonight, lose 1 hour sleep there, it was also eastern time, lose an hour there.  Damn 2 hours gone just that quick.  Realizing that, I squared away as much stuff as I could, and got ready for bed.

I cleaned the 13’s windscreen and wiped off the Arai.

Lights went out at 11pm, and I was asleep 10 minutes later.