Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Off Island Riding–Bluffton and Palmetto Bluff

 

The Low Country 2012 – Days 1 and 2
The Low Country 2012 – Day 3

Day four of our Low Country 2012 Rest and Recharge week entailed the Woodman and I heading off island for some riding and exploring in nearby…

Bluffton, SC. A mere 10 miles or so from Hilton Head, Bluffton is another South Carolina coastal community that has apparently taken cycling to heart. Once we left the high speed multi-lanes roads leading to Hilton Head, we were welcomed with signed bike lanes on either side of the road heading into Old Bluffton.

We spotted a plumbing supply shop that had ample parking and limited business at the moment and used it as our starting point. The road leading into Old Bluffton was 4 lanes with a center turn lane and the aforementioned marked bike lanes. We encountered only one delivery vehicle parking mostly in the actual parking spaces but also taking up half the bike lane as we approached the main intersection. We received a friendly welcoming wave from a local law enforcement officer parked on the side of the road. This set the tone for all of our interactions with the local folks.

After the short ride of a quarter mile or so, we made a right hand turn at the main intersection and started a 6 mile run toward Palmetto Bluff. The quality of the road fell off rather quickly once we ventured past the town limits. The roadbeds were still wide enough for bike travel and there were rumble strips embedded right on the white fog line.

In a number of places the roadbed was giving way to gravity and becoming an irregular surface on the edges. It wasn’t enough to slow us down but it did require constant attention. I noted that the rumble strips initially had breaks in them about every 20 yards but that soon devolved into an uninterrupted application of the rumble strips. I unintentionally veered over them a couple of times and received  jaw rattling feedback quite quickly.

The run out to Palmetto Bluff was the longest opportunity the Woodman and I have enjoyed to get up to a reasonable touring speed and maintain it. As I’ve noted previously the bike paths on Hilton Head are very frequently broken with access to local businesses creating a stop-an-go riding effect. It was nice to have several miles of consistent pedaling. At one point along this segment of the ride, a car pulled up into the bike lane as we were approaching, realized we were passing, actually backed up and waved at us as we passed. It was another pleasant interaction with a local motorist.

We made our way to the turnoff into Palmetto Bluff and rode to the Guard’s gate to inquire if they still allowed cyclists to ride their grounds. On last year’s trip, we had been directed here by our home away from home, Road Fish Bike shop. This year we received an equally pleasant greeting and assurance that we need only register to ride down to the village and enjoy the bike paths and trails of Palmetto Bluff. As neither of us had saved our stickers from last year, we filled out a couple of forms and received new stickers before heading out on the bike path.

Palmetto Bluff bike path

(The bike path of Palmetto Bluff)

The bike paths run parallel to the main road leading down to the village but they are separated by many trees and bushes so you don’t see the actual road except in one or two places. It is only about 4 miles down to the village so you get there rather quickly if you aren’t lollygaggin’. If you are, it is a great place to enjoy a quiet ride. On this day, we were the only cyclists coming and going on the paths.

A deserted bike path

(Not exactly crowded to say the least…)

On our way out of Palmetto Bluff, I spoke with the guard thanking him for their courtesies of sharing their wonderful system of bike paths and trails and took the opportunity to inquire if we could come back with the Navigator and Sherry Shazam and ride down to the village to dine. He indicated there wasn’t really a good place to park outside the gated area but suggested that we simply drive down, after registering of course, and then ride to our heart’s delight before or after dining. He simply suggested calling ahead to let them know we would be doing such. The Woodman and I had spied a couple of nice looking eateries in the village so this idea may percolate into another trip to Palmetto Bluff.

Our ride back to the vehicle in Old Bluffton entailed some tail winds, some head winds, and a couple of interesting diversions around trees growing right where the bike lane would have gone. Rather than remove the trees, the powers-that-be thankfully chose to reroute the bike path. Our trip back was uneventful but pleasurable.

For those so interested, here is a link the ride’s metrics: http://www.sportstracklive.com/track/detail/gr8smokieszeke/Cycling/Bluffton,-SC/768589

Day four ended yet again with a nice soak in the hot tub followed by the Woodman’s excellent grilling skills as we stayed in for the evening and enjoyed some great steaks from the local Fresh Market…

Until later,

- Zeke

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