Let’s talk about the weather along the Road to Discovery. Frankly, I had questioned the wisdom of riding through the Deep South in July, which is hurricane season, mosquito season, and generally swamplike from my experience. But we have been (mostly) pleasantly surprised, with the exception of several violent afternoon storms which have forced us to time trial to the Hampton Inn in whichever destination city is on the agenda that day. (An aside: We are staying mostly in Hampton Inns, all of which have the EXACT SAME CARD KEY. Each of us has been locked out because we were in, say Mississippi trying to use the card key from Kingswood, TX. The new m.o. is to leave keys as we leave hotels. That being said, I tried to use a Mississippi Hampton Inn key today, at the Best Western in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Sigh.)
The two photos above are from the same day in Alabama. We (it’s always me on the bike with Greg when this happens) got drenched, causing the clerk at the front desk at the hotel to shout, “Baby, whatchoo doin’ ridin’ bikes in the rain? LAWD!” as we walked in.
The rain pattern has meant overcast skies for the most part, and that’s kept the temperatures down. It’s also made a swirly wind pattern that has given us a weird headwind for days at a time. Still, we start riding between 4 and 5 in the morning, so there’s generally decent bike weather for a few hours anyway. It’s been a long time since I have ridden bikes in the dark (I think since the LAST Greg Crawford cross-country trip I worked, two years ago), and I think it’s really fun. It feels like you’re going really fast and it’s a little spooky, but fun spooky. (Except for the time I rode with my friend, Larry, at night. He was ahead of me and at one point said, “Whoops.” I smashed into a median or a curb a second later. “Whoops?” What the hell is “Whoops?” P.S. I didn’t crash. It actually made me laugh.) But I digress.
The last few days have been big ones: 137 miles today, 114 yesterday, 103 the day before. Patrick and I split the riding and driving the chase van, but Greg rides the whole thing. We are navigating with maps put together by Destination Cycling and they’re mostly really good. But sometimes, you can’t avoid dirt roads, which make long days even longer. Today’s dirt/sand road was kind of fun, even though it sucked the energy out of us. The faster you tried to go, the harder it got. You had to laugh.
We swung through Auburn, Georgia, where none of the students could tell us what a War Eagle looks like.
And we had one of the best meals of the trip at a delicious little Southern cooking place called Pannie-George’s Kitchen in Auburn. It was recommended by hometown girl and WFTV anchor Vanessa Echols (Thanks, Vanessa!). It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but don’t let that deceive you. The fried chicken was perfect, the yams were cinnamon-y and not too sweet, and the sweet potato pie. LAWD!
From food to friends. Thanks to Facebook, I have been able to reconnect with a couple of old friends (so far) who live along the route. I saw former WESH sports anchor Guy Rawlings and my old Orlando adventure racing partner, Downhill Dave Martinez in Atlanta. And talk about serendipity: Greg was looking for a professional photographer, and Dave is a sports photographer. Great stuff!
We’ve now left Georgia. (We missed the sign coming in, so we crossed in to South Carolina and turned around to take the sign as we were going out. Don’t tell anybody.)
Now we are in South Carolina for a few days. This is what happens when you try to take a selfie, but you’re too short to get the sign in. It was either me or the sign.
One of the best parts about seeing the country like this is that you REALLY get to see the country… places you might never have seen. We are discovering places and restaurants and people we’ll never forget (like the guy who owns an alligator processing plant. I think he said he has 20,000 gators. WHAT???) That being said, we are off to Charleston tomorrow for a rest day. That has never sounded so good. Well, maybe it has, but you get the picture.