East Coast Greenway lures cyclists

Special to The Sun City PacketJuly 1, 2012 

  • The East Coast Greenway is a developing trail system, spanning nearly 3,000 miles as it winds its way between Canada and Key West, linking all the major cities of the eastern seaboard. Over 25 percent of the route is already on safe, traffic-free paths.

    Dave Kimball of the Sun City Cylers has been involved with the East Coast Greenway project for 10 years.

    He says, "One of its most difficult aims of the trail is to provide a safe route from Charleston to Savannah. Highway 17 is the most direct route but also the most dangerous at this time. Within two years the new sections of Hwy. 17 from Jacksonboro to Garden's Corner will offer a wide shoulder for bicyclists. However, still to be resolved is a safe route from Charleston to Jacksonboro, and from Beaufort to Savannah."

    Learn more about the East Coast Greenway at www.greenway.org

I recently had the pleasure of riding a two-day segment of the East Coast Greenway as it winds through the Lowcountry, with a group of four cyclists I joined in Savannah. Three were riding the East Coast Greenway from Miami to Portland, Maine. The fourth rider was going from Flagler, Fla. to Washington, D.C.

Although these riders had been on the road for ten days, they were smiling, enthusiastic and ready to go. I immediately felt comfortable with them. A bike mechanic drove a support truck for us, and sponsoring company Cabot Creameries Co-op of Montpelier, Vermont, sent an event planner to meet the group each night.

Day One: 56 miles from Savannah to Yemassee

In Savannah, we threw our bags onto the truck and cycled to River Street to catch the water ferry to the Westin Hotel on Hutchinson Island. After crossing the river, we rode off the island onto S.C. 17, heading north to Hardeeville. Since this section is bumpy with high traffic, the support truck followed us as we pedaled the first seven miles. We stayed on SC 17 to Hardeeville, then followed Old Purrysburg Road and SC 321 to Tillman. From there it was a quick ride over to Ridgeland and lunch at Jasper's Porch. After lunch, we followed frontage roads paralleling I-95 until we arrived at our day's destination--a hotel at the Point South intersection. This route was a short cut I suggested. The recommended route for this day headed northwest out of Savannah and crossed the Savannah River at Clio, Ga. for a total of 86 miles, so I think the group appreciated saving 30 miles on a hot day.

During the day's ride I got to know the group. Myron and Cathy Skott from Atlanta rode recumbent bicycles. Their friend Basil from Athens, Ga. also rode a recumbent. He was riding for three weeks and planned to stop in Washington, DC. The fourth rider, Bob, was from New Hampshire. I enjoyed getting to know them and hearing about some of their cycling experiences.

Day Two: 72 miles from Yemassee to Charleston

We left at 8:15 a.m. on a foggy morning. Bob and I rode together at a 14-16 m.p.h. pace while the recumbents stayed together at 10-12 m.p.h. We followed back roads and secondary highways to Jacksonboro, then stayed on Old Jacksonboro Highway most of the way to Charleston. This road switches from paved surface to hard-packed dirt without warning. On a road bike with skinny tires, I couldn't ride on the dirt. Each time we encountered a dirt section I went back to SC 17 and rode on the shoulder.

Bob and I eventually arrived in Charleston about 3:30 p.m. and the others arrived about 4 p.m.. That evening, the rest of the group attended an event put on by their sponsors, while my wife and I dined sumptuously at Magnolia's on Bay Street in Charleston. It was a wonderful two days on the bike for me.

Bicyclists define this type of riding as "bike touring." I highly recommend it as one sees things on a bike that are never seen by auto. Your five senses come alive. Biking is healthy, gets you outdoors, and promotes camaraderie with fellow riders.

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