I woke up in my hotel room in Charleston knowing that I was going to be entering my penultimate state that day. I was for the first time at peace with myself; I didn’t have the usual one thousand and one thoughts clogging up my mind like in previous mornings. I went downstairs for breakfast…stale Fruit Loops, milk on ice in a polystyrene shot glass they called a bowl. I didn’t complain anymore, it made me smile.
I was feeling pretty good I had started taking my NSAIDs at 2/3pm with food that I’d pick up from my routine CVS check ins. The medication would kick in just as I’d finish my cycle and had dinner so it meant that I could have a relatively restful sleep.
Today was the day that I was going to be surpassing the 100mile mark, well just about. I was travelling 110miles south on US17 to Savannah Georgia a place that I had only heard great things about. I was staying at a bed and breakfast called Los Robles, run by a senior gay couple. The place was recommended to me by a lady I got talking to the day before whilst I was fine dining at Burger King across the street from my hotel. After checking the reviews out online I messaged them, told them what I was doing and that I’d be passing through and they waived the nightly fee for me. Talk about benevolence.
So I ran across the street to fill up on water and Gatorade, I crammed them in to any available space in my panniers and hit the road that hot September morning to Savannah. When I set off down US17 all I heard in my head was Marks voice echoing “South Carolina is going to be one boring ass cycle, it’s a boring drive in a car.” He wasn’t kidding, I was thankful that it was all flat though, that was the only reason that I upped my mileage the past few days. If I could give a quarter for every time I heard the joke, “its ok since you’re going south it’s all downhill” I’d be a burzillionaire.
Apart from the most part of US17 and downtown Savannah I found Georgia and South Carolina to be incredibly bike unfriendly. I found bike lanes and hard shoulders hard to come by and when I did find one motorists seemed perturbed that I was using them. I got a few horn beeps and trash thrown out the window at me on a few occasions but it was ok they all had the throwing arm of Curtis Painter.
So after a stop at CVS to take my NSAID and one further along the way at Walgreens (yeah I know I’m a traitor but I was thirsty) I decided to check my phone to see how many miles I had left to go. It turned out that the road I was on was called ‘Alligator Alley’. Let’s just say I didn’t look at my phone, slow down or stop until I had to after that… I just had lunch I didn’t want to be it.
Savannah was beautiful, flat, green and you could see for miles in the distance. The trees all had this funny ‘fuzz’ dangling from the branches something I later learned was called Spanish moss. I fell in love with the south from that ride on, it was so laid back, time went by slower, roads opened up and the heat, boy the heat. It was so humid yet comfortable and it really did feel like it was helping my back, keeping everything relaxed. I was sweating like mad now but cycling at a walking pace trying to take in the beautiful town, the architecture was just incredible.
As I approached my destination on East 34th street I turned a corner to Martin Luther King Blvd. Now I’ve cycled down/through/across a few Martin Luther King Blvds on my cycle down and they have all been, how do I put this kindly… A less than desirable street to live on. It just makes me wonder for a guy that did so much for the world why name such decrepit areas and streets after him? Maybe there’s a reason behind it, a historical fact I’m missing but that’s my 2 cents.
I approached Los Robles in the late afternoon, must have been 4 or 5 o’clock because the sun started to lower. As I unmounted Ursula to knock on the door I winced with pain, cramp in my right hamstring was an everyday occurrence after a long cycle. I limped up the stairs and knocked on the huge orange door. The house was stunning, the garden was populated with tropical plants and there was an old tree hanging over the yard with Spanish moss creating some much welcome shade.
A few seconds later the door opened and a big dog came running out to greet me.
“Geordie! Get back here.” I heard an old man cry out.
“No worries I love dogs.” I said whilst still waiting to put a face to the voice.
When the door finally opened out some more there was an elderly gentleman standing there with a big welcoming smile on his face.
“Hi my name is Robert come on in!” He said with an outstretched hand.
I shook his hand and asked him if I could bring my bike in he said sure. The place was stunning, fire places, unusual paintings, memorabilia, pianos I didn’t know where to look first. The only thing that could come out of my mouth was, “thank you thank you thank you so much for everything”.
Robert would reply with, “No problem, what you’re doing is great.”
A tour of the house and many licks on the ankle from Geordie later I pulled my pannier off the bike unpacked my essentials in my room and had a shower. The whole house was like a museum, everywhere you looked it was mesmerizing there was always something to read or discover. It felt like I was in Mrs. Madrigal’s house on Barbary Lane.
After meeting Robert’s partner Richard later in the day they took me out for a tour of Savannah; man that city is beyond beautiful. All those old squares populated with old oak trees, hanging Spanish moss, local art students doing their projects on the grass all enclosed by traditional architecture, it was a photographer’s dream. It was funny driving past the square where Tom Hanks sat and ate his chocolates in the opening scenes of Forrest Gump. After checking out the town we went for dinner at a great cabin diner overlooking a swamp, everything Savannah did she did it with a view to remember.
The next morning whilst Richard was at work Robert said he wanted to try something on me for my back. I was having my usual morning niggles in my lower back so I thought why not. As I sat down on a chair in the living room facing the huge bay windows overlooking what looked like a scene from Avatar Richard stood behind me….My eyes did not leave his reflection in the window for one second.
“Mmmmmmmmm ahhhhhhhhhhh mmmmmmmmm ahhhhhhhhh.” Richard chanted whilst he hovered his hands over my shoulders.
Ok what the — I was getting ready to nose dive straight out of the window like Michael Phelps.
I sat there and looked at Geordie whilst he rested in his chair, he almost gave me a “Yeah they do that shit” kind of look before he put his head back down to rest. Richard never actually touched me, he just chanted, breathed heavily and waved his hands over my shoulder, neck and back for about 3 minutes.
“Ok I’m done.” He said with the assurance of a handy man. As I sat there in disbelief I noticed that I was sat up as straight as an ironing board, I never sat like that and as I rotated my lower back my aches and morning niggles were gone. I didn’t know what was scarier, what just happened or that fact that it worked. He said it had something to do with negative energy, the alignment of the stars and gravitational pull. This was one of those crazy places you could never forget no matter how hard you tried. And as I came to think about it, why would I? I didn’t have a bad word to say about them, they were awesome people. The place was so beautiful; the people were so ‘out there’ yet pleasant and incredibly hospitable to me. If I didn’t strike up conversation with that woman in Burger King the night before I would have missed the opportunity to meet and see such genuine people and memorable surroundings. That to me from that point on was what life was all about, appreciating those moments when you don’t choose but bury your hands into box of chocolates.
After having the first decent cup of tea all journey and a long chat about the history of both Richard’s family and Savannah I packed my bags for Brunswick Georgia. There are some moments in life where you meet people who share words of wisdom you know you’ll remember forever. Richard and Robert were amazing folk and what they did for me and the cause was beyond incredible, I promised that I’d keep in touch I’m just annoyed with myself that I didn’t take a picture with them for the site.
We said our goodbyes in the lobby by the huge piano as Geordie looked up at me with his big brown eyes. I thanked them for about the 100th time and took Ursula out onto the porch. I turned around to give them one more wave goodbye as I mounted my bike en route to Brunswick Georgia 78miles down US17.
I stopped at the next CVS I past and loaded up on Gatorade and water. Its funny 78 miles seemed like nothing to me anymore, it was great that it was flat land all I kept thinking of was how disastrous the ride in Connecticut was. I sweated like a pig that day I remember it clearly, I finished my water supply within the first 15 miles and had to stop 3 more times to hydrate myself. In a weird way I loved it. I always love sweating hard especially at the gym, I don’t leave until I sweat, it means I’ve done work.
It was interesting to see the different types of road kill the further south I went. First of all it was squirrels, then possum, then skunk, then raccoons and now armadillos! They look like aliens up close….gross.
The whole ride there I couldn’t stop thinking about where I had just been. How a chance conversation in a food joint with a stranger led me to an unforgettable memory. Its crazy how a lifelong memory can hang on the edge of nothingness, something so beautiful could never be witnessed and missed forever. That stay at Los Robles could never have happened and I would have missed such beauty by doing what I was used to and staying in a Holiday Inn. The house really was spectacular and there was an energy about it more than anything, that for me was the most memorable part.
I got to my hotel a little after 3pm and jumped straight into the shower. My body was covered in grit and sand. My ears were sore from where my shades had been rubbing the grit onto my skin. I did my laundry, walked to iHop, had the biggest omelet I could find on the menu and came back to relax in my suite on the bed.
I was one more ride away from Florida my last state of the journey. It’s funny how quickly I went from wanting the ride to be over to wanting it to never end. I was enjoying the south, the people were über friendly, the heat was making my life with AS a whole lot easier and man was I enjoying the lessons I was learning.
I lay down on the bed looking at the stains on the ceiling… I loved this new page. I appreciated everything that was going on, everyone I was meeting, every message I was learning. Nothing had physically changed from my time in Emporia Virginia but I felt that the time between now and then had helped to change and shape my perspective on life forever.
Like a box of chocolates I never did know what I was going to get…that, I loved.
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