Here are videos taken from the past two weeks on the road leading to Charleston, and below, the story and some of the photographs of the past week of riding that got me here! The videos:
The day after tomorrow, I will drive (or be driven, rather) to the Charleston airport with my bike (in a box) to fly to Lisbon, Portugal. My mother, Susan, has come out to Charleston to see me off, and my Uncle Dave has made the journey to Charleston as well. I’m hopeful that my good friends Lyndon and Stephanie will be able to make it down from Northern South Carolina as well, so we’ll see – it’s an exciting time, and I’m glad to be surrounded with great people! The ride to Charleston was kind of neat because of some mechanical issues that cropped up with the bike that wound up pushing me to do much of the riding from Augusta to here at some very odd times of day when I’m not usually out. Before getting into those issues though, I should put in the highlight of the segment: Richland’s Bar in Greensboro, GA.
I was finishing out a long day, and I had set Greensboro as my target for the day’s end. It was about 6:30p.m. as I rode past the green sign signaling my entry into the city limits of Greensboro, and just after that, I spotted the small bar on the left. I immediately had a good feeling, and thought, “What better moment for a beer?” I couldn’t come up with one either, so I hit the brakes, rolled my bike in, and leaned it against the wood pile out front. I took a minute to turn off all of the various flashing lights that were beaming, flashing, and glowing on my bike, my handlebars, and my head, before entering the bar. I ordered a Budweiser and sat down. Richland’s is a small bar – just a few comfortable stools at a simple, nice bar, with a tv behind the bartender, and a couple of tables with a karaoke machine and a small stage. Once I got comfortable, the regulars, Patrick and David (I believe David was his name!) introduced themselves as did Barbara the bartender and John, the owner. We all spoke for quite a while about John’s history in show business in Charleston, Patrick’s work with trees – he is an arborist, or as he would say, a tree surgeon. And of course, I answered questions about Seize The World, which was fun.
A couple of beers later, things were slowing down a bit and we found ourselves hanging out by a fire – another great feature of Richland’s, a fireplace – and I was eating a delicious bowl of Deer Meat chili, compliments of John and Barbara. After having given me directions for a place to stay, I was about to head out when John and Patrick, who also helps out quite a bit, just told me that I should roll out my sleeping pad next to the fireplace and stay there for the night. Patrick crashed at the bar as well as he had to wake up early to work on trees the next day, so we played a couple of games of pool, and then I had a warm, cozy place to sleep before an 80-mile day the next morning to Augusta. It was a beautiful experience, and I wish that there were more places like Richland’s out there.
The ride to Augusta was exactly what you want a long day to be…no mechanical issues, consistent energy (thanks to consistent input of water, honey buns, and doritos into my body!), great weather, and no issues with traffic. I rode 80 miles that day, gave a small slideshow that night at the Augusta Public Library, and rode on the following morning toward Charleston. Didn’t make it very far before mechanical issues began to rear their head, but Augusta went smoothly! To begin the story, I was about 30 miles East of Augusta on highway 64 when I got a flat rear tire. No surprise there, and not even worth mentioning except for the fact that this particular flat tire was the cause of my rear wheel skewer breaking. I hadn’t been using quick release skewers up to this point in the trip, but rather I had opted at the outset for a product that gives a bit more security and only allows the wheels to come off with an allen wrench… The skewers are made by Hope, and they seemed to work pretty well through about the first 25 flat fixes or so, but whether from my over tightening, or from them not being greased, or from bad luck, on this particular day, the rear skewer broke when I was putting my wheel back on. It is not a problem I had ever considered dealing with. And without a skewer, the bike is totally incapacitated. I kind of said, “heh,” and with a little smile of frustration, arranged myself to hitchhike.
After 20 minutes, I found myself in the bed of a pickup truck heading north toward Aiken, SC. This was not the direction I wanted to go, but Aiken had a bike shop, so I rolled with it. I arrived at the bike shop, asked one of the mechanics for a skewer that would last for a couple of days, and she brought one back a couple of minutes later that has been holding solid two days later. Meanwhile I talked with the other mechanic about how to get from Aiken to Charleston. The riding was not ideal – i.e. lots of traffic, trucks, no shoulder, – and I found myself switching it up between braving the white line for intervals, toughing it out in the matted-down grass next to the highway for short stretches, and bouncing along on the railroad tracks above the highway for stretches. I was able to pick up intermittent dirt roads that paralleled 78, which I made use of where I could, and eventually I made camp under some power lines about 20 miles south of Aiken, hoping that the traffic situation in the morning would allow me to ride on the highway.
I had ridden about 50 miles total that day all things considered. That evening, however, I had cheerful plans. For the past two days I had been carrying two bottles of spray paint, two bottles of model paint (brush on), some sand paper, a roll of masking tape, and some rags. My plan was to paint my bike and weather it so that it looked a bit less flashy. Lucky for me, my bike came stock with a black paint job (albeit glossy) so all I had to do to convert this to flat black was a bit of sanding and a light coat of clear dull coat spray. Dull coat was one of the cans I was carrying. The other can was flat black – I used this to cover up all of the logos on the bike except for our SeizeTheWorld.com logo prior to putting on the dull coat. Before going on with this (no doubt fascinating) story, I should say that touring cyclists, and especially those cyclists who go abroad, seem to have a fixation with painting their bikes flat black. I don’t know why this is, but it is the case. Click here for an example of this phenomenon. I was not attached to black per se, but I simply wanted a color that would not be terribly flashy, and black was really easy because my bike was black to begin with. I get a lot of questions while I’m stopped, and one that sometimes makes me uneasy is, “wow, I bet that bike costs a lot, huh?” It does not usually make me uneasy in the sense that I worry that people will take the bike from me right then and there, it just makes me concerned that people generally see the bike and think, “expensive bike.” So, I thought that one easy thing to do to make it look cheaper and attract at least a bit less attention might be to get rid of the gloss finish. Then I thought, why stop there? That’s why I purchased a bottle of brown paint and a bottle of steel-colored paint for painting mud onto the bike and for “chipping” the paint job with steel-colored paint. One of the most impressive bikes to come through my stand when I worked as a mechanic in Boulder was a hideous swamp-green and mud-brown colored Fuji road bike which had been painted with latex house paint to achieve a three-dimensional paint job – i.e. the paint was laid on thick. It took me a solid two minutes to figure out that the bike was actually a decent bike, but until then I thought that it was a piece of junk. I didn’t have the heart to drench my bike in multiple coats of latex house paint, but I hoped to get on the same road as the owner of the Fuji that I’d seen last year… Here’s how it all went down:
1) I decided at 5:30 or so that I’d had enough bouncing around on dirt roads and railroad tracks, and that it was time to make camp while there was still some light.
2) I broke out my paint supplies, and found a clearing of sorts underneath some power lines which was sheltered (mostly) from being seen by cars on the highway.
3) I strung a piece of cord from my tent between two trees at a height of 6 feet or so, and drew it tight.
4) I removed the wheels from my bike (a fateful decision as you will read about soon).
5) I hung the bike (now without wheels) by the saddle from my improvised workstand (the cord between the trees).
6) I sanded the frame with fine sand paper – at least, I sanded everything I could get to. I didn’t worry about bits that were inaccessible such as underneath the front derailleur, etc. This was a quick and dirty job.
7) I also sanded logos off of all places where I could find them – cranks, derailleurs, brake levers, brakes, etc. This made the metal look visually worn out and less shiny.
8) I wiped down the bike, and sprayed flat black paint on all logos on the frame. I also hit the white parts of my lights, and shiny parts of my computer and front light. Also I got the tops of my brake levers.
9) I painted “mud” onto the bike with brown paint and put “chips” into the paint with steel-colored paint. It started raining right as I was finishing this step, so I hung out in the tent for an hour or so and played gameboy.
10) I came back out and coated the frame with dull coat. Right as I was finishing, the rain started again. Looking at the bike now, the rain kind of worked in my favor – each drop that landed on wet paint looks kind of like salt corrosion or something.
11) I photographed this entire process for your viewing enjoyment.
12) The following morning I broke down camp, then put my wheels back on. As I rolled bravely onto highway 78, I heard a clank on the front wheel, indicating that the skewer was loose; after an hour and a half spent working on tightening it, walking to someone’s house to borrow pliers, and trying to scavenge parts from the rear skewer, it finally broke completely.
So, I found myself in virtually the same situation I had been just a day earlier – broken down and unable to mount a wheel on my bike. I put my thumb out and had a ride within five minutes. My driver told me not to worry about the beer he was nursing, and that it was just his first. I said that’s fine. We got to talking, and he said that he could take me as far as Barnwell, about 20 miles down the road, where he knew that Wal Mart sold QR skewers (later I found out that this was not the case, and wound up walking about 2 miles back to town from Wal Mart to create a make shift skewer at the hardware store). My driver crumpled up his can of Natural Ice, as well as the paper bag it was in, threw it in the back seat, then popped open another one. He pointed to the crescent moon and palmetto tree stickers in his rear window. “See them stickers? I’m actually in Lawnforcem’nt. If a Patrol car or another officer rolls up, they see those crescent logos and they know to send me on my way. In other parts of the world it might not work that way, but here in South Carolina, we still have kind of a good ‘ol boy society in many ways. Do you drink?” “From time to time,” I told him. “Aw man, I’d offer you one of these if I had one, but this is my last one.” “Really, that’s no problem at all.” I was just happy to be getting a ride and that he seemed to be driving pretty well all things considered. “Sum’ Bitch! You see that squirrel just ran ‘cross the road?! That was a fox-tailed squirrel! Them things is rare, even ‘round here! I’d love to shoot that bastard and get ‘im mounted on a piece o’ driftwood over the fireplace! GawDA**it, if I only had my pistol! Oh well. Anyhow, I think what you’re doin’ is neat man. You must get tired out there sometime I bet though huh?” “Yeah, I definitely do get tired out there sometimes!” “Yeah, yeah….you know I really wouldn’t be drinkin’ if it weren’t for my divorce…” And so on. Driving down 78 in that truck was one of the more colorful and enjoyable experiences I’ve had along the way. And I was happy to not have to ride that stretch on my bike. When the officer dropped me off at Wal Mart, he put a $5 bill in my hand, and told me to be safe, and to stay in touch. I hope that he stays safe himself and that he weathers the road ahead well, with his divorce, and his work, and all of the other factors that will provide him with challenges.
Back to the here and now, I look forward to my next two days in Charleston, and still have some busy work to do here. The biggest task is boxing my bicycle for its plane ride to Lisbon. Besides that, there are some other random things to do…hunt down some small bike parts, find a power converter for Europe, and things like that. It’s going to be an adventure, and I’m glad that you’re along for the ride!