Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride
Friday, March 14, 2008
I'll confess right up front - we cheated a little. Our planned route was to end in Camden, SC today and we were to have a short 40-mile ride from there to Columbia the next day. Because we lost a couple of days in South Hill, VA and the friends we were staying with in Columbia had plans for Sunday, we decided to skip the Camden-Columbia leg and got a lift from Camden. So we got to relax and visit with our friends the way we'd hoped to. It looks like the weather will cooperate with this change in schedule, too; a big storm is due in Saturday, the 15th, and it's supposed to be nice again on Sunday when we head back out.
We started Day 11 at 7:45 with a thin layer of clouds and temperature in the mid 50s. We hit a 9% hill within 4 miles. It was a lot easier than the one last night, which was encouraging. After that, the road was more level for the rest of NC. We crossed into SC about 12 miles out and the soil almost immediately got sandier. We came into Chesterfield, a quaint little town, in another 5 miles and had a great breakfast at the Olde Towne Restaurant. Everyone noticed our bike and it got to be the topic of conversation during our meal - someone would ask us a question, someone from another table would ask another, and soon everyone was listening and chiming in.
We heard from an Asheboro tandem biker that it would be hilly between Chesterfield and McBee, and that was true in spades. We had one long, steep hill after another for the next 20 miles and were really looking forward to getting to McBee. We limped into another great restaurant, The Company Store, in McBee and got into conversation with another roomful of people there. The area around McBee was dominated by a few large areas of grass and many acres of peach orchards. A big farm company owned thousands of acres there.
A lot of the road between Chesterfield and McBee was lined with the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, filled with Longleaf Pine trees. The woods were clearly managed forest - the trees were all more uniform in size, lined up neatly, with little brush or other types of trees mixed in. Large tracts had been fairly recently burned - part of the management program. The roads were still 2-lane, no-shoulder, light traffic, and the South Carolina drivers proved to be just as patient and courteous to us as their northern neighbors. There were several churches, as there had been in VA and NC, many with a small graveyard attached. We are clearly in the Bible Belt - there seemed to be a church for every 5 houses or so.
After McBee. the hills were much tamer but the head winds kicked in on schedule. Still, we made much better time in the last 30 miles to Camden. We arrived at the hotel where we had planned to stay at 4:50, a little more than 9 hours total, going 66 miles in 6 and 1/2 hours of bike time. Not a great average, but not bad considering all the hills. We were picked up at the hotel and got to Columbia around 6:30, soon afterwards sitting down to a delicious dinner served by our gracious hosts. More about them tomorrow.