In his autobiography Glow, Buffalo-native James Johnson (professionally known as Rick James) writes that during his time in prison he met a man he comes to know as Brother Guru. Brother Guru talked a lot to Rick about what he referred to as the “Me Monster” and a balance between anarchy and discipline; most interestingly he went into the idea of a “thin line between breakdown and breakthrough”. It’s highly insightful, especially here on day four – feeling out my physical condition after a few tough days followed by a relatively restful one. Like in that flick “The Program”, James Caan is asking me if I’m hurt or injured. I’m not dead, Sonny.
For shits and giggles, let’s hot tub it up this morning and timespace travel forward to when I’m spending the later afternoon in the shade of a train depot. I’m weighing my options. Like scales of justice. There’s an ice cold water fountain within eyeshot; I’ve filled my bottle threefold already. I decide I’m gonna flip the power lever on this box and hope for the best and whaddya know? I’m chargin my phone, whilst I’m on it. Weighing. Not literally – wait does the iPhone do that yet? Nah, I’m figuring where I want to sleep. I never plan these rides out much beyond the day to day. Ruins the fun. I could probably never do an organized tour. I’m looking at distances to my various possibilities. I’ve got good weather; I’ve got 35 miles of riding under my belt today. It’s getting later – 357 in the pee em in fact. This depot is super cool. Literally, old brick got the temp real nice in here. No more trains; just a hollowed out and preserved structure; old doors and windows; looks like it get used as an event space at times and I’m betting I could camp right in it if I wanted.
I wake up to hippy alarm clock sounds or something, There’s chimes, probably a vibraphone, maybe a didgeridoo. I’m on Debbie’s couch. She getting ready to go to work. I get up. I thank her again, she’s out the door. I’m into some coffee and a banana and I poop and pack up and move out. Next thing I know I’m on the side of the road — hoping to get into a pickup with a strange man. Huh? Well really, Debbie asked favor of her coworker at the school she works, a guy I only know as Coach Collins. Yup. I’m getting a lift over that shitty bridge. I think Coach’s name is Brandon. But I’m calling him Coach, because I’m ready to go and “let’s go Coach sounds” like a travel invitation and “let’s go Brandon” sounds like, er, um, nevermind. Thanks for covering those four miles of morning shoulder-less rush hour, Coach.
A couple miles of riding post-Coach and now my Thavannah counterpart Robert has got me and my Raleigh Sojourn in his pickup, speeding over another bridge and past what he has told was — and what I now see definitely is — construction for a future widening, yet a currently COMPLETELY shoulder-less situation. A very very tight tight tight setup of one lane in each direction. And heavy volume. I would not want to ride that. We whiz through it and into South Carolina at 60 mph. Thanks for covering those 15 deadly miles for me.
Decipher some Heptapod and we’re again late in the day at that weighing the options moment. So. About 20 miles up out of this depot lay the ruins of an abandoned church. This known attraction has developed a little clearing nearby due to 1) how fucking cool this place sounds, plus 2) lazy motherfuckers needing to put their car somewhere while being awesomely there. I’m guessing I can use this clearing for rent free tent popping under cover of darkness. Tits McGee. Robert hipped me to the spot because Robert is a motherfucking G. A goddamn Jedi. A scholar and gentleman. He knows the area for sure. Some call it ghost camping. Or stealth. My real ones know it as Remote Sleeping.
We definitely don’t need two Dakotas and I’m not sure we need two Carolinas either. I’m at the circle K and yes, strange things are a foot. Then again this isn’t Georgia anymore, so its probably normal as fuck here in “south” Carolina. I’ve traded Ray Charles for Stephen Colbert. I’m filling bottles and the muzack station blaring in here (strangely loud as fuck) simmers down into a “DJ” telling her listeners that 53% of workers are in favor of a 4 day work week. Like really — show me the other 47% who oppose so that we can put them on a candidate list to be drawn and quartered. Or maybe just define “workers” in your poll for me, hun. And oh yeah, it’s apparently still cool to use “hun” here. Alright sugar. Sweetie. Dollface. Baby. Yuck.
Pedaling through Okatie and then Beaufort South Carolina. I pass Hilton Head. I pass Parris Island. Paris Hilton? Al Pacino. Hoo Rah. Cadence is in effect. My legs are feeling solid yet sore so I’m healing and riding. Taking it easy. Moving at like 8 mph. There’s some getting in gear going on Greg. Whoever in the hell Greg is. Maybe he’s a Gregg. Dunno. Don’t care. I’m using my gears, the granny one specifically. Winds the last few days had been out of the NNE while I had been ride directly north-north-East – now they’re out of the east, I’m generally heading northeast – so only headwinds half the time. And much less strong. Much less. I have gears for this wind. I’m focused on going slow and steady and easy.
The lesson timing in my head is not pushing. Something I’m still figuring out for myself. Lin Yutang’s The Importance Of Living did a lot for me, this ride appears to picking it up on another wavelength. I need to keep it slow and easy and avoid my natural tendency to shift up and force myself into full injury. Rest helps a lot, I have to be able to ride while allowing for things to get a little better in my hamstrings specifically. So I’m not in my drops. Keeping the cadence up and resistance down. Tricking my brain into not doing what it normally does and go for it.
Fuck it, pick your favorite literary or cinema timespace travel device, put it in the comments, use it, and find me looking on my maps for what’s past the church ruins. Basically I get back on 17 and there’s isn’t much. At least not on listed on Google maps or on my ACA map. Realistically the only things listed are an RV campground and and a motel in Jacksonboro – 40 more miles from this baller ass Spanish Moss Trail Train Depot things. Thats a lot of miles my man. Whew. Makes being right here right now in this funky little bike path/train depot building feel all the more comfy. Those combination Wendy’s and Timmy Ho ain’t got nothing on this.
I like making eye contact with the operators of motor vehicles when I can. Really let ‘em know I’m here and not interested in dying today. Sometimes I get a nod back or a wave or a smile. It puts me in my safe space of not being killed by you. The full blackout tints of the south piss me off. I understand the thermodynamics at play… still though. If I wave a thank you at a driver I can’t see who yielded, are they really there? Do they exist before I see them. Maybe it’s a driverless car? Finally! Bring them on.
Stargate to me frantically scrolling around on my phones satellite map — the service in this brick shit house of a structure is thin — I’m searching for a “medium option”. Something between the 20-40 more mile options. There’s isn’t even a store on this stretch. No gas station. Nothing. I find a volunteer fire station that looks likes it’s also somebody’s personal home too. Yet it is 31 miles up. It’ll have to do. Three options exist.
It’s a lot right now. Like right now, right now. I go back and forth on all three options for a bit. Do I really wanna do 40 more? Should I? It would probably just get me a crappy and expensive motel at the end. Could I even make it in time? I weigh the cost and realize I couldnt care if it was $70 or $100 at this point. The church ruins sounds so cool and I do have all this camping gear. Fuck. I get analysis paralysis. So I say fuck it and I get on the phone and use all the fake texas-montana-southern-country-slang-accent-drawl charm I can muster with Dolores, who answers the phone number listed for Edisto Motel with “hello this is Delores”. She actually says Susan, but later when I meet her, she looks more like a Delores so that’s what she said. She tells me I’m in luck. I get cabin 8. Oh. And it’s $65 with cash. This seals the deal. I’m going for it. Let’s roll and get these 40 miles in!
After the remainder of the Spanish Moss Rail Trail, I see very little if nothing but marsh mania, super swampy, muck and mud. Maybe one store early in the 40 miles to Jacksonboro. The wind has shifted again for me. Now out of the south, so even a slight tailwind is working with me. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Breakdown” comes on. Of course it does. I put it on this playlist. Right on time. The irony is that’s it’s getting late and I’m chasing my shadow — my body is exhausted yet holding up fine on mile 65, I just really can’t afford a mechanical issue. It’ll put me into darkness on this highway. And just for the record, Tom Petty is allowed to you use the word “honey” in this song because it’s art. And he’s dead now. There’s context. Fuckers.
Im chasing my shadow. The advantage of long days. It’s fun. Until it’s not. Especially outside of cities, it gets dark quickly. And very dark. A second store pops up with 8 miles left. Im out of water. Im on fumes. Im going on. It’s twilight and there’s no time to stop. The sun sets on me and i finish the last few miles in darkness. The motel is actually dope. Cozy little room trapped in the 50s. The wifi password is backintheday. I pay Dolores. I crush some instant pho noodles. I crash. That’s all.
Jacksonville to Jacksonboro