Folly Beach vacation cycling, part deux
When you have a 1-year-old and a pregnant wife, you ride when you get the chance, no matter how short a ride, or how hot the hour, or how touristy the route. You ride because you ride, because making perfect circles with your feet makes perfect sense to you even when no one else understands.
With that in mind, and recognizing that now, in the air-conditioned comfort of my living room on my first afternoon back, the rides blurred together some, here is how the rest of my Folly Beach cycling time went. I would go in the morning, after Eli had awakened and eaten his breakfast. We were delighted that he made huge strides in managing finger food this past week, especially when eating toast. This is huge - it means we can set him up in his high chair and he can simultaneously feed himself at his own pace AND amuse himself for a considerable length of time while doing so. Those of you who have or have had babies will understand completely. Anyway, then we would troop down to the beach for a short, 20-minute or so tramp along the water's edge sans sunscreen. Badger 30 spf + baby + sand = messy meltdown in the tub with much wailing and gnashing of baby teeth, don't you know. After that, he'd go down for his nap and I'd change into shorts and a jersey and head out.
The route didn't deviate too much, really - I'd head west down Ashley, sometimes staying arrow-true all the way down to the county park at the west end of the island, other times winding around on the assorted parallels that started around 12
th St. I came to know and love E. Cooper, just as arrow-straight and stop-sign-free, but with much less motor traffic. Erie and Hudson and Huron, how I love your little dumpy beach shacks, stubbornly resisting the march of the enormous beachfront mansions and balcony-laden condos. Not a single dog barked or chased me. Motorists all gave me 3-foot clearance or more when they passed me, and I returned the compliment when I passed them on the long narrow strip between 13th and the 1500 block.
I was surprised when I nearly collided with a rat down on W. Ashley, and concluded they were exceptionally bold due to a distinct shortage of cats - I saw exactly one during my whole stay there.
On my way out to the west end on Friday, I overtook this couple on recumbent trikes. The first time, I said, "hey, there's nothing to draft off of behind y'all!" They were amused, and told me they liked their low-riding machines just fine. We chatted briefly, then I pointed the old Peugeot back to the east.
I swung into the yard at Folly Beach Pedal Pushers, a combination bike rental and bike taxi service. The owner was a friendly enough guy wearing long swim trunks, a ponytail and many tattoos, who seemed genuinely sorry he didn't have any vintage French parts or leather saddles in his stockpile.
"Just beach cruisers and bmx, man. No older quality stuff, but thanks for asking." Foolishly, I neglected to get a photo of him with his velo pile - you've never seen so much scrap iron masquerading as bikes in your life.
Back down to the east end of the island now, passing one truck one morning, drafting off another on Friday. The big ring, the 52T, the dinner plate, whatever term you want, that was what I spun along on down that long flat with the prevailing wind at my back. I actually used the 52 x 14 combo, the top gear, 100.3-in, a gear big enough to win races when I was a small boy, and the old bike would leap under me until I tired and began shifting down, down to the 16T, then down to 52 x 18, something in the mid-to-high 70s, but still feeling good all the long way down to the barricade and the path to see the Morris Island lighthouse.
One morning I stopped and leaned the bike against a pole while I rested and swilled down plastic-tasting water from the bido
n. Whups, I realized, Folly Beach is broken glass central. You've never seen so many shattered bottles in your life. Then I went to move Django and lo and behold there were three of the nastiest, gnarliest cacti you've ever seen in your life attached to my front tire. The thorns were sharp, slender, and longer than most sewing needles. I very respectfully detached them from the tubular, having visions of a puncture and a shame-filled walk down the road.
Our last night there, my brother-in-law encountered the cacti the hard way - as in, he deviated from the path to get a better photo, then looked down to discover his sandals were covered with the beasts. By the time it was all over, two of my sisters-in-law also had thorns buried in their hands and were waiting for the tiniest needles to emerge on their own.
Another morning I rode down all the way to where the pavement turned to sand and walked up the path, pushing Django through the loose sand up over th
e dune to the viewing spot. The lighthouse was cool, and I took a couple of classic bike-geek photos that would have been the very thing for a cover shot of Bicycling! magazine, back during the years when they had the exclamation point in the title.
Earlier today, we packed everything up and drove back, Eli in his rocket seat, trunk packed full beyond belief, and the ancient Peugeot strapped down to the rack. For a change, it didn't rain. On the way out of town I saw bunches of club riders heading out towards the island, humorlessly sucking each others wheels and dropping their buddies behind just like the bike magazines say you should do.
Total mileage on the bike last week for me? I dunno, maybe 60 miles or so over four rides. Who cares, right? Seek to amass, not miles, but experiences, and all that.
Folly Beach, or The Cyclist On Vacation
We drove to Folly Beach to take part in the big extended family vacation. Seeing as this is a cycling-oriented blog, it's enough to note that it's been a lovely vacation so far, and it's nice to see everyone again.
On the road, it was my wife, our 1-year-old son and yours truly, with Django the incredible patinated piebald Peugeot PX-10E riding on the rack at the back of the Prius. Of course it rained with increasing heaviness as we approached the coast, finally just thumping down in great wet thuds on the windshield. I've learned the hard way that if I carry a bike somewhere on a car rack, it's gonna rain. This time around I had double-wrapped the saddle and saddlebag with plastic shopping bags tied 'round the seatpost. When we got to town, we called Ana's mother and learned that the keys provided by the realtors didn't work. Ahem. Ana's cousin managed to find a way in, and we were able to unload about the time the rain stopped.
The next morning I slipped out for a ride. I pointed the bike towards the western end of the island and found myself down in the drops and fighting the wind, going back and forth between the 45x20 and the 45x18, depending on the gusts. When I hit the tree-lined part of East Ashley, I was able to turn the bigger gear with greater ease.
At the intersection of Ashley and 12th, I slowed, waited for traffic to pass, and looped back for a second look. Yup, it was a bike in a trash heap at the side of the road, a yellow Specialized Rockhopper from 20 years back. No wheels, bottom headset race missing crucial bits, some rust, torn saddle - the usual. It had the infamous BioPace chainrings and a U-brake attached under the chainstays. I wavered - but no, it's not my size, I have enough bikes in the basement anyway, I'm on vacation, and this one time I could pass up the opportunity to trashpick a decent bike.
Of course, if it had been my size, say, or something old, French, and made of good tubing - but no, no. Ride on, and so I did, down the leafy tunnel of road past houses that became smaller and "shackier" as I approached town. I stopped for the traffic light, then bumped across the intersection and continued on. Finally, I reached
the park at the end of the island. I turned around, and immediately could feel the wind at my back. Up onto the big ring, then settling into the 52x18, occasionally picking it up to the 16T during sustained gusts.
The tubulars sang, despite the bumpbumpbump of the lump in the back tire, and the old bike floated over the not-so-great pavement. Birds exploded away from the trashbins by the side of the road as I zipped along, occasionally overtaking couples and families on hybrids and cruisers and mountain bikes. I would occasionally see riders going the other way on road bikes or tandems, and unlike some areas, these riders actually waved - take note, Greenville wannabe racers.
I rode back past the house, bound for the other end of the island, the wind pushing me along, down in the drops and feeling nicely warm. Down past the last house to the cul-de-sac, and then working my way through the barricade and following the cracked old asphalt towards the beach, stopping where the pavement ended and turning back. I went back a ways and explored the side streets, digging the laid-back ambience and the older, funkier places before riding back to the house in time to watch my son play with his aunts and his grandmama.
I have no clue how many miles I had for the day - no electronics on this bike, and there's a lot to be said for that some days. No directeur sportif, nobody paying me to ride the bike, not even some jerk feeling the need to be alpha dog and lead a testosterone-fueled, drop-yer-buddies, eat-the-wounded, Buycycling-magazine-influenced hammerfest. Just one guy in this 40s riding a beat-up old racing bike like the one he wanted when he was a kid, and having a wonderful time.
The return of the Peugeot
Earlier this week, I managed to hook up the brakes on the PX-10. Last night I went down into the basement and glued on the tires, wrapped the bars with some old Bennotto tape scavenged years ago, fitted toe straps with buckle pads, and attached a handlebar mounted bottle cage.
My plan was to ride the fixed-gear Mercian on today's ride with Ainsley. It didn't seem prudent to ride a bike that hadn't been tested yet. But after I put Eli down for his morning nap, the lure of metric-gauge Reynolds 531 was just too much to resist. I had time for a quick spin around the block, just long enough to tell me that I wanted to adjust the saddle height. I ran back down into the basement and grabbed a 12 mm box-end wrench, a 6 mm allen key, and a multi-tool and threw the lot into a jersey pocket. A second water bottle went into the middle pocket, and wallet and pencam went into the last pocket. I was going to risk it.
Heading back out, I ran into Ainsley. We both said hello to Dr. Fox, who was tending the edge of his garden by the road where we met, then bolted for downtown. Vonona drove up behind us on Grace Street and passed us at the intersection near the two churches. A moment later, I was working my way through the narrowing gap, then weaseling around the blocked-off area set aside for a vintage auto show.
We snapped a couple of shots while waiting for Vonona to unpack, and I adjusted my saddle angle and height for the second time that morning. After a brief discussion, we decided to set off for Ninety Six.
Going down the rail-trail conversion, I mentioned to Ainsley that the handlebars felt awfully narrow - which is period-correct, right? The drops might have been 42 cm, but the tops felt like 38s, which might have made Daniel Rebour happy, but the jury was still out for me. I also wondered if I had a bent pedal spindle, or if the bike was aligned correctly.
I wonder, now. Moments later, the bike felt - right. Like, really, really, just right.
"Ainsley, you know that theory that things take on aspects of their owner's personality?"
"If there's any truth to that, whoever owned this bike before liked to make it go fast."
And it was true. There's no telling where Joe B-Z got this bike from originally, but I know PX-10s from this era were popular with the Metropolitan Cycling Association back when. The ancient, battered Peugeot has the same vibe as Stripe, my equally battered old Mercian Colorado racing bike. It just wants to GO, even if I don't have what it takes to make it go fast.
Near the intersection of Scotch Cross and 25, Ainsley said, "Dog right." And sure enough, a middle-sized canine came rushing up, barking and running alongside for a moment before veering back off. I snapped something impolite at him, then realized what I'd said and laughed.
"Ainsley, I can tell I'm riding a Peugeot. I just cursed at a dog in French."
He thought that was pretty amusing. We slowed up and waited for Vonona, then headed down the long hill towards Ninety Six. When we passed Pembroke Road and started down the fast part of the slope, I dropped down into the hooks and shifted up onto the 52t ring. Again, the bike just wanted to GO, and was surprisingly stable and secure.
Ainsley took the long way into town, while I escorted Vonona in past the golf course. A few minutes later, we pulled up at the
bakery. I snapped a couple of pix of the bike, doing what I could with the pencam. We hung out waiting for Ainsley, who wound up getting a package of their fresh sticky buns and a loaf of bread - and yes, it all fit into his Carradice saddlebag.
I asked the proprietress about whole wheat stuff and was told they're working on it. I'll keep my fingers crossed - local whole wheat bread could be very good. After a while we mounted up and headed back towards town. I fiddled with the shifters, finding the crossover point in the gearing and grateful I'd ridden fixed as much as I have. It occurred to me that of all the PX-10s I've had, this was the only one I'd ridden with stock gearing. I had a few sloppy shifts - 30-year old Atom freewheels don't always mesh well with modern chains - but in general, everything worked very nicely.
As always, with any new bike I have to come up with a name. "Django" seems to fit, and this bike is a keeper. Repeat, a keeper. Just really nice handling, and lots zippier than people give PX-10s credit for - especially the ones with original geometry unchanged from c. 1953. It was a pleasant ride, and I wound up with something around 25 miles for the day - sorry for the lack of precision, but I haven't fitted any electronics to the bike.