Eventful couple of days. Started in Point South, SC with a long ride into headwinds ahead of me. I packed up my tent in the predawn hours when I heard a rustling in the woods. As it got closer, I shined a light and an armadillo emerged. It continued waddling steadily and confidently (it is armored, after all) towards me until I made a noise, at which point it took a wide track and scrambled by. (No picture: it was dark.)
I then set off and made it through a cool, humid South Carolina morning and arrived at the Georgia border after the sun rose. There was condensation on my lens so it may not be clear here, but the Georgia border sign was the first one I saw on this trip with bullet holes clear through it. Milestones!
The Georgia roads were smoother and less busy than the South Carolina route, so I enjoyed the rolling hillsides and giant dog and verdant farmland and giant barking dog and serene ranchers and giant barking dog on road next to me and gaining on me.
I believe this was my first time being chased on a bike by an angry dog unencumbered by fence or leash, and this canine was cartoonishly evil-looking: a mutt with coat speckled in black and white, a large head, and a curb weight of about 80 pounds by my fear-induced reckoning. (My snarkier readers are free to assume it was a teacup poodle.) Adrenaline set in and I picked up speed, but I was not sure I would have enough to outlast it. I fiddled for my pepper spray (which I carry for just this purpose: I do not want to cause lasting damage to dogs, even ones chasing me, so it will hopefully act enough to distract a dog until I can get away). I also answered its barks with my own, which was somewhat effective. After a few seconds of pursuit, it stopped. (As did a second, smaller dog further behind, but that one barely registered in comparison.) I continued pedaling furiously for a while until I settled back down a bit and put my pepper spray in an even more accessible location. (No picture: was being chased by a dog.) These incidents (I had a couple more today, including a couple junkyard dogs who were undeterred by the busy highway; the other was a large, well-groomed purebred in front of someone’s house who may have just wanted a romp but one of course never knows) are apparently a fact of bicycling life in the American south. I have not had to use the pepper spray itself yet: I had packed it out of an abundance of caution, but it now seems quite likely I will need to use the stuff at some point. Depending on the dog, I may first fire a warning shot from a water bottle, though.
The rest of yesterday had fierce headwinds and some hills but was a pleasant, uneventful ride. I arrived at the home of Jerry and Shirley, my Warmshowers hosts for the night. I do have a picture of them: we tried to include their magnificent touring tandem but it required its own separate framing:They have an absurd amount of touring experience matched only by their hospitality, which extended to both me and the bicycle! Shirley made a dinner anchored by fried chicken and grits and eggs for breakfast, while Jerry helped me troubleshoot some bicycle issues and even did some light maintenance. They also shared advice and stories (including about dogs, of course) from the road. It was wonderful to hear so much received wisdom firsthand: I have not met many tourers in my life, so I was grateful for every word.
This morning promised favorable winds so, while eating the aforementioned grits, I waited for the rain to stop before riding at a much faster pace than the past couple days. I passed a vineyard and some small towns.
The maps I am using have “matchlines” at the end of every fold to show you where it connects to the next installment and let you reset your trip odometer accordingly. One matchline today was at an intersection featuring cattle on both sides, who watched and mooed as I re-folded the map. Here are the cows that were to my right:Once situated, I started riding again. The cows and calves to my left started to follow: a cattle stampede!Zoom.
One final moment of silliness for this post: I came upon a sign that said the road was closed in a mile and that it was open only to local traffic. Naturally I passed it by. A mile went by and no closure. Many more miles went by, and you know what happened next: a “Bridge Out” sign and a crane looming in the center of the road. I pedaled closer. It did not look passable, but a heavy equipment vehicle was rolling down a parallel dirt road below. I followed that road until it was cut off by a murky creek that would have been no problem for the construction vehicle but was not going to work for me. Fortunately I saw some wood planks and pallets nearby and I started dragging one in place so I could walk the bike across. At this point a bemused (and probably amused) construction worker realized what was happening and shouted directions to get back up to the bridge and across the portion where they had already laid concrete. I had not been able to get their attention before and was glad for the easier way across. I shared some details of the trip, confirmed there was not more construction ahead, and went on my way. Here is the scene looking back, with the dirt road on the left.
After that, it was smooth sailing (well, those junkyard Rottweilers) to my stop for tonight. More on that to come. On toward Florida tomorrow!