Bumped into Anthony & Rachel in downtown Georgetown, which was quite swanky, where they bought me an Italian ciabatta and brownie (both were to die for) for my packed lunch. Shucked down my trousers and donned shorts for the first time in a fortnight, as it was in the upper 50s, or even 60. Sadly my 'farmer's tan' has been fading fast. Feeling a bit weird and trying to mentally prepare myself for a return to a non-cycling civilian life; living out of drawers, rather than plastic bags; enjoying my home luxuries, rather than other peoples, or the bare minimum of my own necessities; being able to eat, sleep and go to the toilet when I want; etc. I had a Zen moment; maybe this isn't the end, but only the beginning. Maybe cycling isn't a holiday for me; maybe it's the rest of my life, and the bits in between are the holidays. One long trip. Trip being the operative word. Journeying in my head, never arriving, just moving. Silver threads lighting up grey matter. Don't see my bike as a means of going, but a means of being; not metal and rubber, but a dream maker, a portal, an experience enabler, to take in the world's physical beauties and lap up the comforts of strangers. Meeting, sharing fleeting moments and then always moving on. Newness and differentness in favour of boredom and stultification. Packing things in bags, needing little and travelling with my home, snail-like. Life as a series of tableaux; impressionist paintings to be enjoyed but once.
Easy riding today on the last leg to Charleston, almost the entirety on straight and flat Highway 17. It started out relatively traffic-free (with two lanes for cars to cross to the inside lane as they passed) then it grew busier and busier. Approaching Charleston it was hellish; the worst section of road I have experienced in 4,700 miles. A nasty, shoulderless two-lane, with snarling traffic, in a mad rush to be home for Thanksgiving. Well, I wouldn't give them any thanks. Someone beeped at me, as I rode along a white line between the outside lane and a diverging exit lane, with rivers of fast-flowing metal either side of me. I can't make myself any thinner goddamnit! Where am I supposed to go? Ignorant, selfish b***ards in their gleaming tanks, behind armour-plated black glass. Where do they think they are anyway? In a war zone? Well, they're right. I'm going to write to Barack Obama as soon as I get home and offer my services as Secretary of State for Bicycles. I'd paint cycle lanes on every road in every state. Take away the right to bear arms except for cyclists, who can shoot to kill any drivers in their lanes. I'm actually surprised that some SUV's aren't fitted with gun turrets that could swivel and shoot down any pedestrians or cyclists who even give them a dirty look.
Thought I was safe when turning off into lesser Rifle Range Road, but the cars still shot past like bullets. I was pushed off onto the sidewalk for the FIRST TIME since starting out from Seattle two and a half months ago. There was no choice as the automobile must be obeyed. Gas is God. I had to put up with cracks, wait at intersections for bloody cars and make way for damn pedestrians. Why do cyclists come last in the pecking order? We're the good guys for crying out loud! There was a rarity in the form of a roundabout, at a simple crossroads, where there was a sign telling motorists that the road they were on continued straight ahead and not at a right angle to the left or right. How stupid could they be? Very, very stupid indeed. Only in The Land of the Free would you get a sign telling you the road you are on continues straight ahead. Except it's not the land of the free for the people who only feel safe in their private, gated residential areas or in their tanks.
Deep breath. Calm down. This is it; this the final destination, and I wanted to enjoy it.
Crossed a beautiful mile-long arching suspension bridge and I was in the city of Charleston, about which I had heard so many good recommendations and had looked forward to so much. I was also relishing the opportunity to be spending not one, but two rest days in a place – and they weren't really rest days, more like holiday, as it was all rest from now on. More difficulties finding my Pixie Pit host's address, as her street was split in three sections. I turned left and then right into the first section. I couldn't see any numbers anywhere, turned back onto the original road, carried on and turned left up to the section section. Here I found the apartment block where she lived, but no apartment numbers or way of how to gain access. I stopped and asked an inebriated man, who tried to help, but was unable to, before he climbed into his car and drove off. Then I found an intercom and punched in the room number. Candace asked me where I was, which seemed like an odd question, but actually the intercom rang her phone, so I could have been anywhere.
Candace was not only lovely and welcoming, but she had a very fancy apartment, which was modern in its construction, combined with old-fashioned furnishings – notably the gorgeous carpets. Candace was retired, and so was her husband, Dick. They had lived all over the country and also had a house in Florida. Soon we were joined by Candace's three children, Sarah, Christian and Matt, who all lived elsewhere in the Carolinas. Candace's lasagna was so tasty, that I had a second helping as large as the first, followed by black walnut ice cream and cookies. Dick retired early and left Candace, Christian and I to play two three-handers on the old Scrabble board. I had the great letters which had deserted me during the Anthony series and won comfortably after bingoing with UPSTANDS and landing my X on a two-way triple letter. In the second game Christian came to the fore with TATOOINGS, which neither Candace or I challenged, but should have done as it is spelt with two Ts and doesn't take an S. Sarah and Matt arrived during these games and helped themselves to a late dinner. All three children worked in or studied in the sphere of business. They were extremely friendly and polite, and permanently upbeat. I don't know how they did it. They were just so nice to each other, unlike the sarcasm and bickering that exists between my siblings and I. For example Sarah said to her mother, “I'm so excited you put raisins in it (oatmeal).” To which Candace replied, “Sometimes I even put toasted almonds in it.” This was over breakfast, following a night on an air bed in Dick's study.