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November 30, 2015

By meriwether, Nov 30 2015 01:48PM

It looks as though November has come and gone.

I rode on Thanksgiving . . . from Savannah to Hinesville, GA. It was only about 40 miles. I say “only” because it was an easy 40 miles thanks to a steady and faithful tail wind which allowed me to clip along at 17, 18, 19, even 22 mph. My thanks to Mr. Tom Turkey who I m certain sent it my way - definitely a blessing to be thankful for!

This past week I got a bit of a rest on Hilton Head Island courtesy of Scott Moffitt who has a very nice condo there which he offered to me as a rest stop on my journey southward. Scott is the son of my old teaching colleague from Arbor Hills Junior High, Tom Moffitt who is now in the Cinci area. Tom has served as the Executive Director of The Ohio To Erie Trail, the cross state bicycle trail that traverses the state of Ohio from Cleveland to Cincinnati.

After a few days enjoying some sunny but cool temps on Hilton Head, I bicycled the 40 or so miles to Savannah which afforded me a good opportunity to wander the historic district along the Savannah River. Enjoyed exploring through the shops along River Street on the waterfront, taking note of the bi-level topography of this historic section of the city, with East and West Bay Street which runs parallel to River Street, about 30 to 40 feet above it. To get down to the river level you can take any number of historic stairways which drop you down to the level of the river - but you are also cautioned to do so at your own risk!

I ended the day in an Irish Pub along the waterfront with a good Irish Brew and a bowl of Irish Stew . . . . and some wonderful brown bread for sopping up the stew. Pretty tasty!

My bike has passed a milestone of sorts - the 10,000 mile mark. 3800 of those miles were from 10 years ago along the Lewis and Clark Trail from St. Louis to Astoria, Oregon. And this current meandering is approaching 3200 miles. And I swear by all that is holy and the Blarney Stone that when I mounted my two wheeled friend this morning, there was a bottle of champagne hanging from the handlebars. And my bike had the greatest difficulty indeed in maintaining a straight and steady line as we negotiated today's first few miles.

This Thanksgiving calls to mind another Thanksgiving 30 years ago when I was also far away from home - much farther in fact. It was November of 1985 and my plane had set down in Bombay, India (now Mumbai). I have never felt quite so alone, standing there in the airport in Bombay with my partially disassembled bicycle. As I set to work to assemble it, a huge crowd of Indian people gathered around me. Not a word was spoken - all just stared and watched to see what I was about. Finally ready to ride, I broke out of the huge circle of curious faces surrounding me, and pedaled away from the airport into a huge slum which has surrounded Mumbai’s airport for decades - ramshackle dwellings constructed of scraps of wood, tin, canvas, duct tape, rope. The “lucky” ones had drainage pipes in which to reside, the ends of which could be covered with a sheet or piece of canvas to provide a bit of privacy. I will always remember that 20 mile ride into the heart of peninsular Bombay, unable to read any street signs when I could find them - unable to stop for long to look at a map since when I attempted to do so, I was much like a magnet attracting a suffocating circle of disbelieving and gawking onlookers. I could easily have been swallowed up by that slum, never to be heard from again. But the Hindu gods smiled favorably upon me, and I eventually found a refuge at the Red Shield House, a kind of traveler’s hostel operated by the Salvation Army in the heart of Bombay - just down the street from the Taj Mahal Intercontinental Hotel which was attacked by terrorists in 2008. I spent about two weeks in Bombay, and one of those days was Thanksgiving - a Thanksgiving like no other in my experience. And then . . . there was my role in an Indian movie while in Bombay . . . worthy of an Oscar I might add, but that’s another story . . .

Sorry for the digression. In my mind as I ride, I’m always drawing comparisons between this odyssey and my other journeys of days gone by.

Riding in these coastal areas of the Southeast has been a challenge and sometimes quite dangerous. The infrastructure for cycling in the Carolinas - at least in the areas I have traversed - is deplorable and often virtually nonexistent, especially along a busy federal highway like U. S. 17 which often times is the only ways to get from Point A to Point B because there are no alternate routes for cyclists without having to go long miles out of the way. I have written to both Carolina Departments of Transportation to complain about their negligence - which is exactly what it is - and have included photos to illustrate their lack of progress in providing infrastructure for alternate modes of travel. The photo I will include with this post shows the abysmal state of South Carolina infratructure regarding providing safe cycling conditions on U.S. 17.

The "Share The Road" sign must be SC's idea of a joke when there is no place to cycle safely with traffic moving at 60 mph very close beside you.

A pleasant surprise was Georgia’s treatment of U.S. 17 - broad berms and often times dedicated cycling lanes, for the most part. Clearly, the Carolinas as well as many other states have much work to do in providing safe conditions for alternate methods of travel along major as well as secondary thoroughfares.

On this Thanksgiving, I’m truly thankful for all my donors who have brought my combined totals for Habitat For Humanity and Save The Children to $7,500, and for some new donors who have added their names to the list: Bernie Camp, Roy Hill, Linda and KC Hufford, Jeff and Tammy Wagner, and Jerry Mills (who was on my list previously, but donated again).

Georgia is a pretty fair sized state, but I’m peddling this short southeastern stretch along the coast, which means Florida is just over the horizon. Actually I’ve been tending to the westward ever since Maine. If you look at a U.S. map, you definitely notice the eastern seaboard angles to the southwest. So by the time I reach the panhandle of Florida, I will be just as far west as Toledo longitude wise.

So the Westward migration has begun, and as always, I am Proceeding On.

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