Leg; 696 miles / 1,120 km
Total; 9,921 miles / 15,966 km
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Our Atlantic Coast ride started through the three states Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina – formally part of the Province of Carolina. As an ex-British colony, the area is rich with history and culture, with many references to old Blighty. Georgia was not an easy place to find campgrounds. We spent our first night at a dilapidated motel – our cheapest of the whole trip so far at $45 – and our second night camping next to a rural gas station. Eventually we made it to Savannah, where we spent a day exploring the fantastic architecture of this historic city. We also got very wet! We were caught in a torrential rainstorm that soaked us to the skin. And drowned Chris’ iPhone in the process…
We left Savannah as we entered Georgia; on the awful Highway 17. We were warned about this road by many cycle tourers, but like those who rode it before us, we took it anyway as the detour is ridiculous. The main problem with the road is it has a very narrow shoulder, 90% of which doubles as a rumble strip. And remarkably its part of the Eastcoast Greenway; a project to connect Florida to Maine by bike.
South Carolina also proved to be a tricky place to camp. We’d heard about cycle tourers camping at fire stations and we decided to give it a go. Our first attempt was easy; we met a fireman called Bernard at Coosawhatchie fire station and he said we could pitch up anywhere. The next night we took a detour to the picturesque Edisto Island. It was a stunning ride along old oak lined roads, but the state park was full and they turned us away. We tried the town fire station but they also turned us away, as did a few other local businesses. It was getting dark and we decided to turn around and head for a fire station we’d seen on the ride down. We were in luck! The two guys there thought we were mad and let us pitch up on their land.
We’d heard good things about Charleston and our wonderful Warm Showers host Lenny was happy to let us spend a rest day there. He gave us a tour of the local area and explained how the city was the site of some of the earliest civil war battles. We visited the memorial at the Shipyard Park and spent about two hours in the Apple Store sorting out Chris’ drowned phone….
From Charleston we inched our way along Highway 17 to the Outer Banks. Within two days of leaving Charleston we both fell causality to punctures from giant roofing nails, and one of Ties’ spokes pinged, which turned out to be a threaded nipple. We quickly got the mechanical issued dealt with and took the opportunity to replace Ties’ cassette which had already gifted us over 12,000 miles; not bad at all!
The Outer Banks (or OBX as the locals call them) is a series of barrier islands connected by short ferry rides and causeways. They’re an excellent place to ride, with well paved roads and good shoulders. We found out we were there at an odd time of the year though, as much of the campgrounds, motels and even shops weren’t open. The OBX is famous for its lighthouses, including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse which is the tallest stone lighthouse in the US. Even more remarkable is that in 1999 the whole lighthouse was stuck on girders and moved a few hundred feet to a more suitable location away from the shore!
The ride along the northern beaches was spectacular. The roads are lined with huge sand dunes and the highway takes you right through a beautiful wildlife refuge. We also got to see the Wright Brothers Memorial and had the honour of staying with Pat, a phenomenally generous Warm Showers host. We enjoyed a great rest day hanging out in her modern waterfront home and playing with her adorable min-pins and Jack Russell / chihuahua cross. We left the OBX and headed to Virginia, wondering what the ‘lovers state’ had in store for us.