Thursday, June 3, 2010
Livin' La Vida Un-Road
Even though I finished the Un-Road Trip about a year ago I still haven't been spending much time in cars. Now I'm on a sort of mini-car-free vacation in South Carolina. Before the trip I bought a folding bike that I'd been eying for a while and it's pretty awesome. As soon as the train arrived in Charleston around 5:30AM I unfolded my bike, hopped on it, and rode into town as I watched the sun rise. I hadn't done a ton of research before I got to Charleston so I was pretty much exploring the town with my bike and iPhone.
Downtown Charleston is fun to bike around- small streets, slow traffic, friendly drivers- though it's a little trickier once you get out of the center of town. Apparently South Carolina is ranked 33rd in the list of bike-friendly states and while some other SC cities (Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg) are working on building some infrastructure to promote cycling it doesn't seem like Charleston has started on that task. In my few days of riding I've seen two small stretches of bike lanes and a couple of "Share the Road" signs with a picture of a bicycle. Otherwise I've been doing my best to wear bright colors find wide shoulders and ward off reckless drivers. I've had to change a few of my plans after a man at one of the bike shops strongly recommend I stay off some roads, though I've been able to find plenty to do in the area.
Five years ago they did open the massive Ravenel suspension bridge that does accommodate a roomy bike lane:
One of the days I ditched the bike altogether and joined a bike tour to check out one of the many plantations in the area. It's pretty wild to see these places in person after reading about them in my elementary, middle, and high school history books. I love Oregon, but it certainly doesn't have the same sort of colonial, revolutionary, and civil war history that the Carolinas do. And there I was on the Magnolia Plantation looking at former rice paddies and rustic cabins that slaves used to live in. Pretty wild.
Coincidentally I planned my trip during the Spoleta Festival, an annual arts festival that's been going on for over thirty years and is somehow linked to an Italian arts festival. There were literally hundreds of performances happening throughout the week- from blues to jazz to plays to dance pieces to marionette operas. It was tough to decide what to check out, so I ended up seeing five concerts and a one-man-show. A few of the shows were free, so I didn't even have to shell out that much cash.
And after a sweaty nine mile bike ride through the hot and humid streets of Charleston I'm drying off at the Amtrak Station getting ready to board a train to my next desitination- Beaufort, SC- where I'll be reinstalling the Kazoo Museum after a few year hiatus. Stay tuned...