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Surviving South Carolina – Alligators, Hurricanes and Other Obstacles


Copyright Tyson Brooks. Tyson finally arrives in the welcoming state of South Carolina.The thought of being in South Carolina was fantastic. Finally, a new state to explore full of friendly Southerners. First stop was a nature park with more wild alligators than tourists. (A little bit scary on a bicycle considering that the 14-foot beasts would at times be a mere 15-feet from the road.)

 

Next was a ride to historic Beaufort with its collection of painted fiberglass cows that pose around town. En route, truck traffic was high and shoulders non-existent. The farther I cycled the worse it became. By Beaufort (70 kilometers from the border), I was cursing South Carolina and every driver who had attempted to run me off the road. Towards the end, they did succeed in running me off the road every five or so minutes. Road construction only made the problem worse. So, fearing for my life and still cursing South Carolina, I took a bus from Beaufort to Myrtle Beach some 200 miles up the road. This time, to my surprise, the bus drivers were actually courteous and helpful.

Copyright Tyson Brooks. Though Tyson did not find any bicycle signs, he did find one that reads 'Caution: Tanks Crossing Roads Day and Night.'Myrtle Beach is a touristy dive. Tacky restaurants and souvenir shops line the ugly streets. The town has no personality. Luckily, I soon found myself in North Carolina where bike routes abound, even though they are the kind where they put up a sign but don't bother with shoulders or anything else to make your ride marginally safe. At least the roads were relatively quiet.

The highlight of North Carolina was the Outer Banks. On my way to the ferry, I enjoyed a beautiful 'car-less' ride through rural areas and little towns with old pretty houses and roadside cemetery plots. In each plot, the gravestones displayed the same last name, and recorded the histories of families in each small town. Soon I had reached the ferry that would take me the two hours or so to a ribbon of land far off the coast. Ocracoke was the ferry's destination, an unspoiled town surrounding a crystal clear circular lagoon where Blackbeard used to hang out. That night, rain and wind threatened with the sinister intent of Blackbeard's ghost.

Up until this point, rain was almost nonexistent. The night before, a wild lightning storm cut through the darkness like a disco strobe. Intense flashes came with rapid frequency and gave the impression of a wild storm to the north, but it did not bring even a hint of rain. Three nights before, a storm had hit that was so intense I could feel the thunder resonate through my bones. The accompanying rain soon permeated my tent and I was forced to huddle into a ball to avoid the rain that was soaking through the floor and dripping from the ceiling. Outside the rain was so intense my raincoat would have been useless. I could barely see the picnic table through the deluge.

A gusty day the pier in North Carolina's Outer BanksThe next day the wind strengthened. It threw sand in my face and occasionally forced me off the road onto the incredibly soft shoulder. My pace slowed to 5 miles (8 kilometers) per hour and I sought shelter in a store on top of a long pier. A gauge on the pier showed that the gusts were peaking at 70 miles per hour (74 miles per hour is considered a class one hurricane). The swaying of the pier was enough to ring the wind chimes inside the store. When the power went out, the shop closed and I was back on the road. Rain now whipped through so hard I couldn't see. The rain didn't appear to be falling any more. It blew in horizontally from the west.

Not even a motel would accept me. The locals were unsure of what to charge or how to charge with their computer systems down. As the sunlight faded, I stuck out my thumb and hoped for the best.

A couple stopped to help but they were low on gas and the gas stations were closed. Desperate, soaking wet and barely able to keep my balance, I stood there as my panniers and bike acted as a sail for the wind. The couple soon returned and invited me to stay the night. I was very grateful.

The next morning the wind was still strong so they offered to drive me to the hostel I'd been trying to reach when they gave me a ride the day before. There was a real fear that the wind and waves would breach the fragile Outer Banks. The land is so unstable that the army builds sand dunes to ensure that new inlets aren't created. Such inlets have been disastrous for the local economy and are expensive to bridge or fill in.

In Kitty Hawk, the oceanfront roads were closed. Trucks were removing deep layers of sand from the roads and locals were out shoveling their driveways. The sand was over a foot deep in places. Elsewhere, parts of the town were flooded and downed trees littered the area.

At last I reached Virginia Beach, a tourist town complete with boardwalk. An Elvis weekend was in full swing with flying Elvises and Elvis parades (a little bit tacky but fun). The concerts, however, where pathetically amateur. The street performers were much more entertaining. The highlight was a jazz band with a 9-year-old drummer. His solo was fantastic.

Having logged over 1,370 miles (2,200 kilometers) on my bicycle, I have now finally reached the end of my American journey.

Copyright Tyson Brooks. A few of the not-so-friendly Southerners. P.S. Southerners were far from friendly. They appeared to be only interested in money. Some campgrounds tried to charge US $25 per night for little or no facilities. The only people who showed any kindness (often incredible kindness) were tourists from elsewhere. I can't wait to be back in Canada.

Read the next part of Tyson "Adventure" Brooks' trip, also included in this month’s issue, as he takes his bike across the border and into Canada.

When You Go:

Visit the official South Carolina Web site, hosted by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, at www.travelsc.com or call them at 888-205-8866.

For information on where to go, what to do and where to stay in North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Division of Tourism's Web site at www.visitnc.com or call them at 800-VISIT-NC.

For information on North Carolina's communities and weather, as well as free maps, directions and vacation guides, visit www.ncguide.com.

Not even a motel would accept me. The locals were unsure of what to charge or how to charge with their computer systems down. As the sunlight faded, I stuck out my thumb and hoped for the best.

A couple stopped to help but they were low on gas and the gas stations were closed. Desperate, soaking wet and barely able to keep my balance, I stood there as my panniers and bike acted as a sail for the wind. The couple soon returned and invited me to stay the night. I was very grateful.

The next morning the wind was still strong so they offered to drive me to the hostel I'd been trying to reach when they gave me a ride the day before. There was a real fear that the wind and waves would breach the fragile Outer Banks. The land is so unstable that the army builds sand dunes to ensure that new inlets aren't created. Such inlets have been disastrous for the local economy and are expensive to bridge or fill in.

In Kitty Hawk, the oceanfront roads were closed. Trucks were removing deep layers of sand from the roads and locals were out shoveling their driveways. The sand was over a foot deep in places. Elsewhere, parts of the town were flooded and downed trees littered the area.

At last I reached Virginia Beach, a tourist town complete with boardwalk. An Elvis weekend was in full swing with flying Elvises and Elvis parades (a little bit tacky but fun). The concerts, however, where pathetically amateur. The street performers were much more entertaining. The highlight was a jazz band with a 9-year-old drummer. His solo was fantastic.

Having logged over 1,370 miles (2,200 kilometers) on my bicycle, I have now finally reached the end of my American journey.

Copyright Tyson Brooks. A few of the not-so-friendly Southerners. P.S. Southerners were far from friendly. They appeared to be only interested in money. Some campgrounds tried to charge US $25 per night for little or no facilities. The only people who showed any kindness (often incredible kindness) were tourists from elsewhere. I can't wait to be back in Canada.

Read the next part of Tyson "Adventure" Brooks' trip, also included in this month’s issue, as he takes his bike across the border and into Canada.

When You Go:

Visit the official South Carolina Web site, hosted by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, at www.travelsc.com or call them at 888-205-8866.

For information on where to go, what to do and where to stay in North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Division of Tourism's Web site at www.visitnc.com or call them at 800-VISIT-NC.

For information on North Carolina's communities and weather, as well as free maps, directions and vacation guides, visit www.ncguide.com.