Saturday, July 17, 2010

REPORTING FROM THE LOW COUNTRY…

We are in our 3rd day in Dave Moulton country, the low country of South Carolina. We’ve been enjoying the Isle of Palms and our quite nice site at the Mt. Pleasant KOA campground. Normally, I’m not one for commercial campgrounds but this one has proven to be a notch above others. We’re not jam packed awning-to-awning as happens in so many of the commercial campgrounds. We’re beside a nice small lake. Our air conditioner unit has gotten a good workout for the first time in its history. Given the temps of mid 90’s or higher each day, the AC has been a must for our survival. I am, after all a mountain man, not used to these temperatures on a daily basis. Actually, it isn’t the temperature as much as the humidity. We’ve had the same temps this summer at home in the mountains but not the same humidity “stick to your skin” heaviness in the air.

Crossing the IntraCoastal Waterway(The Navigator grabbed this shot as we crossed the Intracoastal Waterway) 

Most of our time until today (Saturday) has been spent with the Wood-man and the Navigator’s sister at their accommodations at Sea Cabins on the Isle of Palms. While the Navigator and her sister enjoyed a crowded beach on Friday, Wood-man and I were out and about on a 24 mile ride around Mt. Pleasant, Patriot’s Point, Sullivan’s Island, and the Isle of Palms. After watching Friday’s stage of the TdF, we headed out across the bridge connector from Isle of Palms to Mt. Pleasant.

Marsh view from Isle of Palms Connector (The marsh between Isle of Palms and Mt. Pleasant)

The bridge provided the only climb of the day. My bike computer measured it at 5%. We briefly had a 3rd rider on our rear wheels but, when an opening in the traffic pattern occurred, he headed out on his own. I don’t know if he was starting or ending his ride. Our ride began around 1:00 p.m. and 93 degrees in temperature. After crossing the connector, we turned south behind one of the major shopping center complexes on Mt. Pleasant and made our way to Rifle Range Road.

The roads leading up to Rifle Range Road were quite broad and dual lane so traffic was very accommodating to us. Most traffic seemed to recognize S.C.’s 3’ law passed last year. Once we made it through a couple of traffic circles and found ourselves on Rifle Range Road, the landscape changed quite significantly. The road narrowed and there were no shoulders. It was tree lined so we did enjoy some break from the sun. It was along this segment of our ride that we’d experience the only unpleasant part of the ride. Someone laid down on his horn behind us for way too long, pulled up beside us, could be seen yelling at us, and was giving us the international sign we’ve all come to love and enjoy – the one finger salute! As he passed us, we noted he wasn’t even from S.C. but was running New Jersey plates leaving us only to contemplate the mysteries of holding up a tourist for a few seconds.

A few moments later, a van ran alongside us and the occupants yelled out some words of encouragement that could have been “Way to go Mr. Zeke. You and the Wood-man look really, really outstanding on your bikes. We bet you could probably ride competitively in the Tour De France. We hope you enjoy your stay in our lovely State” or they could have simply yelled “Get off the damn road.” I’ll leave it to your imagination as to which it was. 

The pleasantries of bike-to-car communications aside, we did shortly find ourselves on Coleman Boulevard making our way toward the Cooper River Bridge that spans, amazingly, the Cooper River and takes travelers across to Charleston proper. Along this stretch we discovered bike lanes that made for less irritating travel. Oddly, the bike lanes would go on for a couple hundred yards and then end only to be restarted in seemingly another couple of hundred yards. It was the same road and the same width so I didn’t understand why the gap in striping the bike lane portion. Nevertheless, traffic drove as if the bike lane still existed and we simply kept the same line going as if did exist.

Patriots' Point roadway(Cruising Patriots’ Point) 

Just short of the aforementioned bridge, we came to Patriots’ Point, home to a U.S. Naval Museum, the College of Charleston athletic facilities, and a nice looking golf course. Several cyclists and joggers were out and about here enjoying the day. We circled around the Point and took in some views one of which turned out to be numerous signs warning of the presence of Coyotes. The signs noted that the creatures were smart and should not be trifled with! It just goes to show that the Coyote can adapt itself to pretty much any environment. I’ve never seen Coyote warning signs before. I should have, but didn’t, get a picture of one.

I did get a picture of the U.S. Submarine Monument however.

U.S. Submarine Memorial

Submarine Memorial Plaque

Patriots’ Point turned out to be our turning point and we headed back to Isle of Palms. While we did retrace some of our route, we took the 2 lane road back over Sullivan’s Island again crossing the Intercoastal Waterway.  Traffic was building as it was a Friday and folks were beginning to find their way to the islands for the weekend ahead. The bridge over the I.W. here rotates rather than raises. It was damaged quite a bit during Hurricane Hugo some years back but has been fully restored to its functioning level now. At the time of Hugo, my recollection is that it was the only road over to Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island and that created lots of problems in the aftermath of the massive Cat 5 hurricane.

On Sullivan’s Island, I made my “bone-headed, dumb cyclist” move of the week. We had come to a T-intersection and were at a full stop as we should have been. A break in the traffic let the Wood-man across and I quickly determined that I was in good shape to get across in front of a vehicle stopped on my right. For some reason, my brain was thinking that traffic was only coming from that direction so I made my way across and then realized it was a thoroughfare. Unfortunately for me, there was an elderly lady coming from my left. While I still had plenty of room to accelerate in front of her, it did shock her to see me come out and she blew her horn at me. I fully deserved it for not making a safe move. So, to all elderly female drivers, who remind me of my mother, please accept my apologies for an unsafe move and thank you for not running me down!

Drama over, the Wood-man and I made our way safely back to Sea Cabins and the end of an enjoyable ride around the islands. It was time to turn our attention to the evening meal. My sister-in-law wanted to have her birthday meal at Huck’s Lowcountry Table on the Isle of Palms and had already secured a reservation. As I wrote in my previous post, I was on the hunt for Shrimp ‘N Grits.

Upon arriving at Huck’s, we were ushered to our table and informed that the menu had changed from what was currently published. To my inquiry as to whether Shrimp ‘N Grits had been dropped, the waitress quickly stated that couldn’t happen or they would be run off the island and out of business. So, my order was in and I was ready to taste test yet another version of the Low Country’s marvelous meal.

Huck's version of Shrimp 'N Grits(This is for the Mountain Turtle!) 

This image doesn’t do the presentation justice. The bowl you see was massive. I could have bathed a small child in it! Shrimp ‘N Grits is one of those meals that can be so individualized by the Chef that the experience is simply different from one Chef to the next. In this case, Chef JJ Kern, prepared a spicy version of the meal. The grits, as must be the case for a proper meal, were creamy and the shrimp were properly cooked – not overcooked as is so easy to do. The roux was where the spiciness came in. I questioned as to what ingredient Chef Kern used to spice it up and was informed it was merely Texas Pete! Hey, a readily available ingredient and allows for increasing or decreasing the level of spiciness per consumer preference. All in all, this version of Shrimp ‘N Grits was quite good. I would certainly choose it again but probably not make a special trip to eat it, as I would to Magnolia’s on the Battery of Charleston for their version.  Recipes abound on the internet for this Low Country dish so if this tickled your palate, find one and give it a go!

CONGRATS TO BRO DAVE!

Just prior to departing for our weekend, Bro Dave informed me that his purchase of the Salsa Fargo was made and he had just made his first ride of 10 miles on it. He purchased the large frame version, which initially felt to big but he reports that he adapted quickly to it. He is looking forward to commuting to work at the FOX Studios this summer.

Until later,

- Zeke

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