Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Grouchy Truck Drivers

Springfield, Georgia to Little River, South Carolina (Miles 758-992)

The bridge on Highway 119 is downhill into South Carolina, and I coast into the new state with a feeling of trepidation. Unlike Georgia, which builds roads with wide shoulders, South Carolina roads are often shoulderless and highly dangerous. I stop at a t-intersection and look at my map, try to figure out if I'm supposed to make a turn to the right. Starting today, I'm attempting to follow Adventure Cycling's route up the Atlantic Coast. I don't have their maps, so my attempt is a combination of comparing their overall map to Google Maps and trying to make my best guess on their road choices.

I make the turn and travel a road with little traffic—very low stress—and ten miles along realize I'm on the wrong route. Backtracking is no fun, but I do it anyway. Sheeze, if I keep getting lost this journey might take 3 years instead of 2. I eventually find the right series of roads and cycle until dark, pull off into swampy woods and cook a meal of Lipton Noodles. Where is my hot sauce? I dump out my panniers and search my gear. No luck. I eat my noodles and pretend they're spicy. My taste buds call me a liar and I give up and suffer through the blandness.

The next morning, on Highway Alt 17, a logging truck rumbles past inches from my handlebars. There was no traffic in the opposing lane, so the driver could have swung out well away from me. I resist giving him the "you're number one" salute and cycle onward. Unfortunately, I soon discover there is a testy relationship between the truckers and cyclists on South Carolina roads, and in the next few days I'm nearly run over by more logging trucks, dump trucks, and waste haulers, all piloted by drivers who seem to delight in scaring the crap out of me.

Tuskegee Airmen Memorial

I glide into a convenience store in Ridgeville and strike up a conversation with a man who introduces himself as Dewy. My first question?

"So, what's it like living as a black man in South Carolina?"

Dewy grins and tells me it's pretty good.

My second question?

"What do you think about these folks flying the confederate flag?"

He pauses, and I can tell he's carefully choosing his words.

"I understand it's part of their heritage," he says, "and—"

"Everyone I know who flies that flag uses the n-word."

Dewy pauses again, looks at me with serious dark eyes. "Well, when I see that flag I know to stay out of those places."

We talk some more, sharing school integration stories, and he tells me things really have changed in the south.

"People are seeing each other as people," he says. "And that's a real good thing."

He has to go and we shake hands and wish each other well. I wish the truck drivers had that attitude toward cyclists, wish they saw us as people instead of objects in their way. Perhaps, if they had Dewy's attitude, they'd think twice before they intentionally endangered our lives.

Dewy and Brother Love


I near the coast—riding Highway 90—which has a narrow shoulder and a medium stress level—stop and watch a group of boys jump off a bridge into black river-water. The temps are approaching 90 degrees and I almost get off my bike and join them in their fun. 

Bridge Diving

I ride on, wanting to get to a library and check my email, do just that and discover Adventure Cycling has agreed to supply me with their maps at no charge. No more getting lost! Least I hope there's no more getting lost. Regardless, I deeply appreciate the overture.

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