Even though we had planned to be on tour well into the summer, it was good to be home in the Puget Sound in mid-spring. Our trip north on the East Coast had been accelerated by the switch to automobile speeds, rolling the seasonal clock back to tree buds. At the same time, Facebook’s Memories algorithm enticed us with photos of our yard in springs past, in full bloom.
We missed the apple blossoms, dogwood, and the giant Rhody that gets full sun early, but most of the rest of the yard was just starting to bloom. The cat quickly adjusted to having her “regular” people at home, once more demanding a fire on chilly mornings and a warm lap until the room got cozy. And, we, too, settled into a routine that didn’t involve packing up and moving on, attending our fiber guild meetings and resuming our yoga practice, neglected while on our own, but easier to arrive at the Senior Center at the appointed time, mat in hand.
As usual, video documentation of our trip was sketchy and random, an afterthought rather than a deliberate production. The footage we hastily published while “on the road” got a post-tour review, with minor edits uploaded, and the “rest of the tour” documented with slide shows of still photos shot on walking tours of the old cities and historical sites, from the back of the tandem, and out the windscreen of the car.
Meanwhile at homewe reassembled the bicycle, encountering some adjustment difficulties that were best resolved by partial disassembly and a more careful reassembly. After five years, I have finally realized that the adjustments that affect the timing chain tension also affect the shift cable tension, and that a lot of futile adjustment of the shifters can be avoided by rechecking the fit of the frame tubes. And, finally, I got the new rack system installed on the car, ready for a summer of trail riding and distant events. One of the first things we did on arrival home was to sign up for the 30th anniversary NorthWest Tandem Rally, being held this year in Klamath Falls, Oregon in early July. We’ve ridden the roads around Klamath Falls before, in 2007, and are looking forward to socializing with the 900-1000 other tandem riders that show up for the event. We last attended (and for the first time) in 2012 at Salem, Oregon, with little training before the rally, so we hope to keep up with the slower groups this year.
Our route via the bicycle took us from Orlando to Folkston, Georgia, then from Savannah, Georgia to Walterboro, South Carolina, for a total riding distance of 597 km (370 miles). We rented a U-Haul truck to bypass bad weather and dangerous roads between Folkston and Savannah, about 170 km (110 miles).
We spent a day with a walking tour of St. Augustine…
Week 2 took us to Folkston, Georgia, where we trucked to Savannah in the rain for a trolley and walking tour of the city.
The Florida segment of this week’s route was the most pleasant of the trip, with actual off-road bike trails and a bike lane.
We stayed in Garden City just outside Savannah, which happened to be the rail, truck, and port area, and were glad to have shuttle service to the historic district from our hotel, since the 4-lane road outside was bumper-to-bumper and curb-to-curb with large, fast trucks. Choosing routes that minimized (but did not eliminate) truck traffic, we crossed into South Carolina through Alligator Alley and picked a route parallel to Interstate 95 for access to motels, but access to food was a problem. Weather and bad roads meant stopping at every town along the freeway. With our experience with urban roadways near Savannah and the prospect of long, arduous stages ahead through the rest of South Carolina, we decided to abandon our plan to cycle the entire East Coast, renting a car in Walterboro for the rest of the journey.
South Carolina didn’t offer much in way of scenery: Judy took lots of swamp pictures, and pictures of modest homes in poor communities, festooned with Trump signs. But, although the Deep South is deep crimson in their political leanings, we found drivers courteous for the most part: even though we had to “take the lane” on shoulder-less roads, overtaking traffic waited patiently behind us until it was safe to pass, unlike most of Florida, where we seemed to be invisible to motorists, who seemed to always be late and in a hurry. However, it may have had something to do with us mounting a small American flag on our trailer in Savannah, something suggested to us by one of our hosts in Florida. The reasoning was that, while “Bubba” (our stereotypical name for aggressive drivers of large pickup trucks) may hate bicyclists, as a Patriot, he won’t run over the Stars and Stripes, even if he wears the Stars and Bars on his truck. We actually didn’t see any of this type in the South at all.
The flexibility of the automobile allowed us to use our time to explore Charleston in depth, with a ferry to Ft. Sumter, a horse carriage tour of the University district, and a walking tour of the historic Market and Battery districts.
Our gasoline-powered tour took us quickly through the rest of South Carolina and into North Carolina, where we elected to drive the bridges across Roanoke Island instead of the ferries up the Outer Banks as we had planned. We did make a brief excursion to Hatteras Island before spending the afternoon at the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kill Devil Hill, where they tested their gliders before making the historic powered flights in December 1903, on level ground at the base of the hill.
Entering Virginia, we missed the James River Bridge somehow, and a coffee stop in a construction zone got us on the wrong road in Norfolk, so we wandered through back streets before finding our way back to the Interstate, through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, and on to Williamsburg and Jamestown, visiting both the recreated 1908 Settlement and museum, run by the state, and the Jamestowne historical site, a national archeological site. The next day, we were back on the I-95 for a quick trip up the Potomac to Mount Vernon, where we spent the day touring George Washington’s estate.
We elected to bypass Washington, DC this trip–the traffic on the Beltway was overwhelming even on a Sunday afternoon, so we pressed on north into Maryland, where we took time to ship our bicycle and camping gear home before crossing into Pennsylvania for a tour of the Gettysburg civil war battlefield and cemetery. A leisurely drive through the Amish and Mennonite country dumped us into the expressway rat race of suburban Philadelphia, arriving at Valley Forge too late in the day to tour the Visitor’s Center or the only historical building of interest, Washington’s headquarters. However, driving through the park brought us back out into the countryside for a relatively quiet drive to Allentown, with lots of pictures of stately old homes and well-preserved 19th-century city architecture in towns along the way.
After a tour though the Delaware Water Gap, and a hike to a waterfall, we finally headed west, a portion of the trip well-documented with photos in earlier posts. We’ve decided that our elder years will be best spent exploring bike trails: our days of jousting with trucks on narrow roads on long-distance treks should be well behind us. And, we can pick the distances we’re comfortable riding, with a minimum of baggage on the bike.