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The Herald Friday, June 7, 1991
First miles are sometimes the hardest of bike tour
Choosing a destination for a bike tour is as easy as studying the map. After countless hours of deliberation, I decided Topsail Island, N.C., looked good.
I asked everybody I knew about the place and nobody had heard of it. Finally my good friends, the Mallaneys, magically produced complete and current tour guides for the area, and I was set to go to Surf City, just across the drawbridge on N.C. 50. What followed was a great 570-mile ride that would be everything I hoped for.
NASCAR guys who have won a race say the last lap is nerve-wracking. They hear every small noise the car makes and they are scared to death it'll break. For me, leaving town on a long trip is similar. There are new creaks and pops -- genuine noises, but in my case insignificant. Bags and gear have to settle into position for the long days ahead.
Once on the road, I made my first stop in Pageland, where I was interviewed by half a dozen locals. "That's some bike. What's that thing made of? How come the back wheel don't have no spokes? I'll bet you have $4,000 in that thing. I bet it's light as a feather."
They all had a ball checking me out, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
In Chesterfield, I talked with an ex-Marine who narrowly missed being involved in the 1983 terrorist bombing of the Marine headquarters in Lebanon. He had left just days earlier. He sort of drifted off at the end as he described the circumstances, and then shook his head in grief.
As I was mounting up to leave, an empty flatbed truck roared by on the highway dragging a loose tie-down strap. The strap looked like it was skiing behind the truck, swinging from side to side and making an awful racket. There's a highway hazard I'd never imagined, getting whacked by a jack strap.
Past Cheraw on S.C. 9, a billboard for a motel/restaurant beckoned, " 40 miles to civilization". Around the next curve, I suspected the sign was right. I could only see open road and horizon. I hoped my three water bottles were enough.
After more car-dodging miles on 9, I turned onto S.C. 79 and headed for Laurinburg, N.C. This was a great riding road. As a rule, a road's riding quality is equally proportional to the number of cattle grazing beside it. Country means solitude, and 79 peacefully delivered me to my first night's stop in Laurinburg.
The only drawback to rural roads like 79 is the pavement quality. The surface was rocktop and rather bouncy. This produces a dramatic holdback effect on narrow road tires like mine.
Mother Earth, it seems, doesn't care that you're riding a futuristic spacebike, not as long as you still have to pedal it. An onboard distance/time computer and a compass/thermometer are really no help at all.
While on 79, there were several stretches where I could only muster about 14 mph. Confused by this, I made some comments into my voice recorder which I found to be funny after I got back home....
"I'm going downhill with a tailwind, and I can't make any speed. At least it looks downhill and it feels like a tailwind. Maybe I need some more electronics, a wind speed indicator and an uphill/downhill meter."
Moments later -- "I know what the problem is. I'm getting tired. 73 miles and I'm worn out. I guess I should join the Seniors Tour."
Last of all -- "79 just turned from rocktop to asphalt and I instantly gained 5 mph. Maybe I'm not getting too old for this after all. I'd still like to have airspeed and grade indicators, though."
Boys and their toys, I chuckled at the thought as I went to sleep in Laurinburg, 86 miles from home.
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