Friday 20th January – Rocking Chairs on Porches

Best. Camp. Yet. I only woke up once during the night when it was raining so I quickly went out to get my hammock out of the wet then I was straight back to sleep. I caught up on all the sleepness hours I’d had and was happy to wake up a little too warm under my sheets. I ate breakfast in my hammock and watched as a fisherman crossed the reservoir. I find it amazing in a world that isn’t so very big any more and in a country as populated as America, I could still be the only person in a place like this. Making the most of the isolation, I had a shower before I head off.

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I kept following the waterway that runs between Georgia and South Carolina, crossing in and out of each state too many times to keep count. While I did a few hundred miles to get to the coast, I broke up the driving with various errands. Near Augusta, I sussed out a few different grocery stores to see if they could compete with Walmart. None could, not even close. On the south side of Augusta, I became compelled to start solving my ignition timing problem so looked for a wrecker that might have a new ignition control module (ICM). Don’t be alarmed, this is a long-standing problem that makes the engine run not-so-smoothly around 50 mph, normally not such a big deal, but driving on single lane highways were the speed limit is around that it becomes a huge pain in the ass.

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I found a “Pick-N-Pull” and was excited for my first experience. Instead of simply walking in, there was an involved sign-in process that required me to hand over my license and then you’d normally pay $2 for admission to the yard, but since it was my first time, this was waived. They had only one Chevy Astro in the yard and it had been pick-n-pulled to pieces. It became very clear to me that I would not be finding an ICM in a place like this. It is so easily accessible that it wouldn’t make sense for someone to leave it behind. I wasn’t too disappointed though, I had a poke around for something else I might like, but I fear this van was in a state of disrepair long before it ever found its home in this place. I was happy for that experience, I think I was the only white person there and I was definitely the only chick. Quite a few prospectors with their free-to-use wheelbarrows asked me if I needed assistance but no need! I even found a sweet van for someone looking to buy (though I can’t vouch for anything but the exterior. A steal at $1,000 and a Chevy just like mine, only with more headroom! I require a 10% finder’s fee.

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I stopped for petrol once I got out of the big towns and intot he small communities along highway 78. I felt like I’d stepped back in time at least forty or fifty years. Every house I passed was on a large patch of land, right near the highway. Most houses I passed had a porch out front, some big, some small. EVERY house I passed that had a porch had at least one rocking chair sitting on it. I could just imagine an elderly couple sitting out in the heat with a jug of lemonade between them, watching the world go by.

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I stayed on the country roads as long as I could, but eventually merged onto a four-lane highway which I did NOT like. My anticipation grew as I neared Charleston. Soon, I would be seeing the ocean again! Maybe the longest I have gone without seeing the ocean in my life, it made me realise how much I missed having it close by. I’d said goodbye to the end of the earth when I left LA some three months ago! The signs directed me to the visitor’s center at the heart of down town and the first glimpses I got of the historic town under a brilliant blue sky gave me a good impression. At the VC, I asked the normal questions and the lady behind the desk was not very helpful so I went on my way with a map.

It was just after 4pm so following VC lady’s suggestion, I thought I’d grab my bike and ride over the bridge that connects Charleston to Mount Pleasant. I parked close to the bridge, took my bike off the roof and happily rode away. The bridge was around three miles long and rose up over the bay and there it was, the sea. While I would have preferred walking up to a beach for my first look, this was pretty damn good too. I stopped at the peak of the bridge to watch a container ship slowly motor into port, enjoying the seabreeze on my face. I continued down the bridge (at great speed) to Patriot’s Point where there was a huge boat parked. I thought I’d wander up for a look, but it soon became obvious to get close would come at a cost. I spoke to the attendant at the start of the pier and he told me the ticket was $22 to tour the Yorketown but also included entry to another ship and a submarine. When I asked which boat he was talking about, “Is it the big boat?”, he seemed to emphasise the word “ship” when he pointed out which was which. Ha, ha, he probably thought I was a complete idiot. It was an impressive boat anyway, a huge aircraft carrier with all sorts of planes atop its deck looking fierce with the sun setting behind it.

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After watching a small helicopter take off from the grass, I rode down to the marina and felt like a bandit amongst the rich and famous taking to their boats for a Friday afternoon cruise with drinks in hand. Oh how the other half live, such wealth.

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With the sun starting to change colour, I went back to the bridge. Just as I reached the peak the sun was tipping below the horizon. Absolutely gorgeous, I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

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Knowing it was likely to rain the next two days, I put my bike in the car and wandered into the city to see as much of it as possible in good weather. I was thankful for the fading light as I walked downtown because I took some streets that I made a point to avoid on my way back. I was quick to find out that there are some very derelict neighbourhoods in and around Charleston. I was happy that I’d stashed my bike inside the car and not left it on the roof. I think all the locals are black, which make the white tourists like me stand out.

Staying out of trouble, I walked along Meeting St and saw many old-style buildings that had been beautifully worked into modern apartment complexes, shops and taverns. Once I hit Market St, I was disappointed in my VC friends because they’d told me the market was open until 10:30pm which was completely false. It was deserted. After finding a few more dodgy streets, I decided I’d circle back to a pub I’d seen for dinner. I took King St, the shopping street, and found it deserted, much like Market and Meeting streets. I didn’t understand, it was Friday night and the weather was stunning, where was everyone?

At the Sticky Fingers pub, I had a pulled pork dinner while I watched coverage of Donal Trump’s inauguration on their TVs. I was glad to see a snippet of it, witnessing history and all that. Dad suggested that maybe the inauguration was the reason for Charleston being a ghost town – everyone was at home watching? I lingered in the pub a while, posting some blogs and switching between the TV screens, most showing the Trump show, but they still had one dedicated to “The Wheel of Fortune”. I can’t believe that show still exists!

After treating myself to desert (pecan pie), I hit the streets again and talked to Dad the whole way home which made me feel much safer. I drove over to the Mount Pleasant side where I was happy to see a very nice Walmart carpark with a quiet area under some trees that seemed purpose built for people like me. There was another van a few doors down, which is always comforting. I used the facilities then talked away the rest of the night to Lizzy who I hadn’t caught up with in a long time.

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