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The Herald April 19, 1991
Even the unplanned stops can be glorious
After my ride to Utah, there is a huge gap in my mileage logs.
What happened? I rode to Myrtle Beach and back last May, but was blase enough to not write about it. The highlight of that trip was the 10 glorious miles I cruised up and down Ocean Boulevard after I got there.
For the first time ever, my destination was more vital than the travel. For a touring cyclist, this outlook is blasphemous. It would prove to be my last trip for nearly a year.
I attribute the whole problem to burn-out. I had done more miles more quickly than was natural. A man I work with described it best by saying "You can drink enough milk to kill you."
Well, I'm finally thirsty again. Looking forward toward a week-plus 500-mile tour in med-May with my good friend, Bruce Lucas, I dusted off my road machine and started training a few weeks ago. After a series of short rides, I felt cocky enough to install my bags and do an overnight thing.
When I left my place in Lancaster I was one bad dude. My already radical bike now sported a road fairing (A.K.A. windshield), along with a $5 department store miracle--a compass/thermometer. I was seriously high-tech.
About 64 miles down the road, Superdude's futuristic road machine ran out of gas. The engine had expired in the gloriously quiet and personable community of Wedgefield, just west of Sumter.
The (only) quick-stop store in Wedgefield was the subject of a column I wrote more than two years ago. This is where two rattlesnake skins are mounted near the cash register, along with the saying, "This year's hunting tip: see one, think two."
At the back of the store is the "Braggin' Corner," a bulletin board usually covered with photos taken on site (this is a big-game check station as well). On this visit there were a few fish pictures and a yellowed copy of the column I wrote. Wow. It this isn't gratifying, I don't know what is.
I introduced myself to the lady who runs the place, and she was evermore glad to meet me. She said a bicycling couple from Greenville brought them the column when they stopped by on their pedaling way to the beach. Who says The Herald is just a local newspaper?
I got my camera out and photographed the snakeskins, and the lady told me to get a shot of the sign behind me. It was a military barracks sign brought back from Saudi Arabia. She had photographs to go along with it.
Three guys from Wedgefield were stationed in Saudi, loading smart bombs onto fighters deployed from nearby Shaw AFB. These were the guys who put graffitti on the bombs: "To Saddam-Postage Due- From the Wedgefield Rebels-Wedgefield SC."
She even had a photo of a camel in the back of a mini-pickup truck. Trust me folks, an S-10 pickup will hold exactly one folded-up camel, with no room left over. The camel was visibly smiling at the prospect of finally being a passenger rather than a vehicle.
After absorbing all the current Wedgefield memorabilia, I sat in front of the store watching in awe as a half-dozen fighters from Shaw wreaked imaginary havoc upon a bombing range down the road. What a show.
Every local who walked by turned out to be my best friend whom I had never met. Just six hours from home, that drug-like "road high" had returned.
I limped over to Sumter for a comatose night's sleep after a poorly trained 78 miles. Despite my fatigue I thought, "You idiot, why did you ever stop riding?"
The government missed a good chance when they recently levied all the new luxury taxes. Bike touring is still a wide-open field for frolic, and the season is upon us.
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