In our effort to discover new areas of riding in the Hilton Head Island zip code, we stopped by an excellent LBS, Road Fish Bike shop, and asked for some direction on riding that wasn’t characterized by constant stop and go. As I’ve noted before, HHI has really made cycling from place to place for transportation, commuting, and shopping quite easy. The separated bike paths along major roads like William Hilton Parkway keep cyclists relatively safe from the speeding traffic, which is often quite heavy. From a fitness point of view, the downside of the paths however is…
that at every business entrance, there are small signs for cyclists to stop and allow the faster moving auto/truck traffic ingress/egress to the businesses. This is absolutely understandable as the motorists are leaving 45+ mph roads and decelerating into the parking lots.
What I’ve noted over a couple of years of visits now is that the cyclists tend not to stop and quite often seem oblivious to the approaching vehicles. Yesterday morning, for example, we watched a husband/wife team (that’s a guess at the marital relationship) leave the bike path to enter a primary intersection. The husband looked one way but not the other and the wife, following his track, didn’t look up at all. A vehicle coming from their left could have crunched them both quite easily. I don’t know if the majority of the cyclists are tourists and not used to these paths or if they are locals who have become complacent about safety. Either way, it seems like a formula for injury.
But I digress… The point of the visit to Road Fish was to ask for some local cycling guidance to find a more open space for riding. We were directed to a couple of places off the island. Our belief that such a placed didn’t exist on the island was validated by the staff member at Road Fish as he reviewed the map with us.
Of the two choices, we decided on Palmetto Bluff near Bluffton, SC. A 35 minute drive took us to the location, which turns out to be 30,000 acres of forested land and development. We stopped at the Operations building and asked permission to park and ride the area. A very pleasant young lady directed us to some proper parking, told us to enjoy the trails, and have a good time.
We quickly discovered 10’ wide paved and separated bike paths that took us parallel to New Riverside Road. Signs along the way indicated that cyclists and pedestrians should stay on the paved path and not be in the road. As you can see from the following image, the pathway wasn’t exactly overburdened this day with users.
(Clear spinning ahead in Palmetto Bluff)
I kept expecting to pass other trail users but on our 6.5 mile ride out to the end of the path, it didn’t happen. In fact, the most crowded area we encountered was a small bridge on the path where a mother with her 4 young children were hanging over a small tributary.
(The Wood-Man passing a young family)
We enjoyed the solitary ride back toward our vehicle and didn’t see another soul on the path until we met two approaching cyclists near the parking area. This section of the path was primarily a connector to several housing developments along New Riverside. We ventured into one of them and I formed the opinion that the economy had taken its toll on the development aspect as you could see partially prepared lots for houses where work seemed to have ceased.
After returning to our starting point, the path turned east toward the Atlantic Ocean so we decided to follow it for a period of time. Very shortly, we came upon the main gate to Palmetto Bluffs proper. We stopped and chatted with a very pleasant young man, who was the security guard and on his 3rd day of work in his position. We enjoyed some conversation with him, filled out a short registration form, and was given our decals for permission to ride the trails. The decals did not have to be affixed to our bikes but would need to be shown if requested by security personnel. They cost nothing other than a moment or two of time to fill out the form and will now grant us access in the future to the trails. Keep in mind this is a private community opening up their trails to non-residents.
After resuming our ride, we quickly came into an open marsh area where dozens of White Heron were preparing to roost for the evening. This was the largest gathering of the bird that I’ve seen in one place at one time. It was difficult to get a good image of the group as we were moving at about 15 mph at the time and I took the picture from the moving bike.
(Solitary White Heron keeping a watchful eye)
This section of the bike path took us through heavy canopied trees filled with Spanish Moss, across brick paved access roads to gated homes, and beside small bay-like areas of water with fine homes overlooking them. Another 4 miles took us into the small village that is Palmetto Bluff where we encountered our second security guard of the ride. Again, a very pleasant and helpful young man, who was mounted on his bicycle. I asked him if he got to ride around on his bike all day for his job and he replied, “yes, pretty much… Well, I also have a truck if the weather is bad.” Tough work but somebody has to do it… Both of these young men were very pleasant and took their time to speak with us, which is in such direct contrast with a security guard with whom I had the unfortunate pleasure to meet two years ago while I was on a ride. But, that’s a story for another day.
According to this young security guard it was almost too hard to tell us where the path would take us because the path literally goes everywhere. He made some suggestions for looping around the village and getting closer to the ocean, which we will follow-up on another day. The sky was beginning to sink lower in the sky so the Wood-Man and I headed back the 4 miles to our vehicle as we knew The Navigator and Sherry Shazam were wanting to dine out. Our uninterrupted ride back to the cars brought us to the conclusion of a 20 mile ride in which we had enjoyed virtually no “stop and go” riding and had even been able to expend some energy getting the Fargo and Wood-man’s mountain bike up to 20 mph sprints.
We topped our evening off with a meal at the Red Fish restaurant on Palmetto Bay and Archer roads. Despite the parking lot being pretty well packed, we were seated quickly and enjoyed the ambiance of the room, which is mostly a collection of wines sold by the restaurant. The Navigator and I enjoyed blackened Mahi Mahi over jasmine rice with either a vegetable medley or asparagus. The food was good – not great- and priced reasonably for this area. The selection of wines was outstanding. Our server was a young man, who worked as if it were a Monday evening following a long weekend. Well, o.k. it was a Monday evening…
A Brief Word About Fargo…
The decision to bring my new Salsa Fargo rather than my Fuji CCR3 has turned out to be a good one. The Fargo is exceeding all of my expectations in performance and comfort. The Schwalbe Big Apple tires are similarly turning out to have been a good decision. The ride is smooth and quite comfortable. Even with my new Brooks B17 saddle in the “breaking in” stage, I was never aware of any discomfort yesterday or any other day for that matter.
All in all, a very satisfying day here in the Low Country of S.C. …