Thursday, September 24, 2009

THE HILTON HEAD EXPERIENCE

Day 1: After dropping off Zeke and Orla at the kennel, we made our way over the next 4.5 hours to Hilton Head Island, SC for 4 days of R,R&R. (rest, ridin’, and relaxin’). I’ve never been on HHI so I was eagerly awaiting the experience. Friends, who have stayed here before, all speak highly of the locale and their stays on the island.  Upon arriving, first impressions were of a very busy multi-lane approach with an obvious planning requirement that eliminates neon signs and appears to require earth tones on the buildings all of which are offset from the main drag. There is plenty of buffer between the shops and the main thoroughfare.

Our first introduction was to the toll road that brings you on to the island. Just as we paid our toll and moved through the gate, I spotted my first cyclist. He was the first of many that we’ve come to see. Cycling is, by all appearances, an integral part of moving around this island. I noted bike paths on the way to the realty office to get our keys. Things began to get complicated…

After making a few wrong turns and meeting a couple of security guards, we finally ended up at our rental unit. It turns out that it is, in fact, important to understand the difference between the South Gate and the North Gate. Our unit is quite nice and was pleasantly cool upon our arrival.

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We noted quite quickly that there ARE LOTS OF RULES HERE! The rules cover everything from noting that cyclists must ride with the traffic at all times and cyclists must ride in the bike paths and stop at all intersections because cars always have the right of way. Good enough – Clear simple to follow rules. I like it but,then things began to get complicated…

It turns out that the sometimes the bike paths ONLY go in the direction facing the traffic and your only other alternative is to ride in the roadway in order to ride with the traffic. After being redirected by the Guard at the North Gate, I quickly began to determine that the rules weren’t quite so simple and easy to follow. Nevertheless, we had a nice rental unit.

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After unpacking and getting situated, the “Wood-man” and I broke out the bikes and headed out to work out some travel related kinks in our legs. The cycling infrastructure here is very notable as it keeps cyclists separated from the fast moving traffic of the island’s main road, which is a split lane thoroughfare. We enjoyed a nice 6.93 cruise along the bike paths as the sun was setting.

Golfing is what appears to be the principal draw to this island. I lost count of the number of championship golf courses developed by professional golfers that we passed. We even popped off the bikes long enough to walk over and touch one of the greens. It was smooth as a baby’s “you know what.”  I’m not a golfer and even I appreciated the quality of the green.

Day 1 ended with an outstanding meal at the Santa Fe Cafe, one of HHI’s oldest restaurants. My encrusted salmon with avocado topping was outstanding as was my better half’s grouper. We truly dozed off happy and satiated as the day drew to a close.

DAY 2: The girls headed to the beach earlyIMG_2461

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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and the “Wood-man” and I sat around drinking coffee and talking cycling among other things. Around noon, I’d reached my optimal coffee intake so we sucked down a sandwich and decided to ride to the Lighthouse on the island. “Wood-man” charted out our path and we began meandering along the bike paths because “cyclists must stop at every intersection” and “cars always have the right of way. (Rule 1.000a of the rule book for cyclists on HHI)

 

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As noted, the bike paths are everywhere and you can literally get pretty much from “point A” to “point B” on bicycle. Cyclists make good use of these paths and we met many coming and going.

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The “Wood-man” and I negotiated our way to the appropriate road to approach the Lighthouse. This is where things got REALLY complicated. As we were riding down the road, we came to a Guardhouse where the road split: one lane was for residents, which we weren’t and one lane called for $5.00, which we didn’t have. The “Wood-man” moved on through the gatehouse with the result being that the guard’s adrenaline seemed to flow more freely. Being in second wheel, I was clearly and steadfastly informed that cyclists weren’t allowed unless they were residents. Again, a clear and simple rule to follow… I stated my agreement and stopped where I was and waited for the “Wood-man’s” return… and waited… and waited.

After several minutes, I reached the  conclusion that the “Wood-man” wasn’t going to return. Knowing that the high flow of adrenaline had forced the Security Guard to call in reinforcements, I determined that perhaps being where I was at the moment was not in my best interest. I decided that “leaving no man behind” didn’t apply in this situation and removed myself to a safer more serene setting to await the “Wood-man’s” eventual return or capture.

Some 10 minutes later, the sound of loud voices reached me and I realized that the “Wood-man’s” return was imminent. Indeed, only moments later I see him spinning by on his big ring as he exited the grounds of the residential area. I quickly returned my helmet to my head and went after the Big Man! Unfortunately, he was gone and there was no sign of him anywhere so I determined I would return to our abode and await his arrival.

After crossing over the split lane highway and proceeding away from the scene of the “Wood-man’s” hasty retreat, I moved along smoothly on the surface highway. This is where things GOT REALLY, REALLY COMPLICATED. It seems the reinforcements had arrived and well, I was a cyclist in the vicinity of the recent dastardly invasion of privacy. The pursing forces in their 4-wheel vehicle with flashing blue lights had spotted me. They turned. They gave chase. They caught me!

The ensuing “yes you did – no I didn’t” dialog between myself and the head Security man went on for several minutes. Realizing that I wasn’t in a win-win situation, I politely said “yes sir” a number of times and felt lucky to have avoided incarceration in the fine State of S.C. After all, he had clearly informed me that the rules of S.C. were clear and simple – trespass and incarcerate!

After we came to a mutual understanding that I was clearly and simply an ignorant N.C. resident, we parted ways and I was secure in the knowledge that I should probably never ever approach this side of HHI again. (Note to self: this brings to two the locations from which I am forever banned. The now defunct local drive-in at home being the first.)

There being no sign of the “Wood-man” I returned to our really nice rental unit and awaited his return. Having covered 10 miles and about an hour of very low speed riding, I was happy to unclip and disembark my cycle. The “Wood-man” returned shortly and we toasted our day’s nefarious adventure. Shortly thereafter, our “better halves” returned from the beach and we took them to rent a couple of beach cruisers so they too could enjoy cycling at its best.

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Stay tuned: On DAY 3, the “Wood-man” and I intend to rent kayaks and attempt to improperly paddle down the wrong side of the lagoon…

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Until later,

- Zeke

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