Internal Detours
Saturday, June 28, 2008
  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 12th 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 bidon. 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 the 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.
 
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