Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Does that leaf blower have a snooze button?

Day 7 - Sept. 22, 2016 - A.H. Stephens State Park > Cayce, SC

Is there any nicer way to wake up in the woods than to the sound of a leaf blower outside of your tent?  You are correct if you pointed out that I was in fact not in the woods, technically, but in a nearly $30 a night State Park.  I hadn't yet paid my camp fees, though, and the thought crossed my mind that maybe I shouldn't.  Yes, at around 8am, a member of the park staff rolled through the campground attempting to loudly blast away the fallen foliage.  For those that did not inspect the photo of A.H. Stephens State Park that was included in the last ride post, most of the trees in the area were of the pine variety, meaning that this dipshit was attempting to leave blow pine needles.  Was he doing a bit?  At 8 in the morning?  Are you serious?  Beat it, Kaufman.

I had a long day ahead of me and I hadn't planned on starting it so early.  There were over 130 miles standing between me and my layover in Cayce, SC (just outside of Columbia), and the Southern ACOE and State Park systems gave me little choice but to handle this portion of the ride as a lone segment.  Honestly, though, I'd rather spend the $30 camp fees on cheap beer than help pay for park employees to leaf blow pine needles.

Since I was staying with friends in Cayce, I was going to need to plan my arrival time accordingly.  I figured my best bet of them being home would be earlyish in the day, as they have jobs and lives and whatnot to attend to during the day.  Based on my previous days' rides, I figured if I left around noon, took breaks for dinner, a few rest stops, and breakfast, I could be in bed in Cayce by 7am or so.  That would give me 13 hours of riding and 6 hours of wasting time.  Also, if I had any bike troubles, that padding wouldn't be a bad thing.

I'm sorry to say that I paid to stay in that park.  It wasn't even easy to pay, as I had to ride around a lake to find the office and there was no way the staff had even seen me until I walked in through the front door.  The staff was even in the middle of the office counting the night's money, almost as if to show me how they were already well funded and that my money was definitely just going into the leaf blower gas fund.

It was a long day of riding, which gave me a lot of time to stare at my map and wonder.  All around the South, I'd been passing lakes that had the most peculiar, jagged edges.  In my experience, lakes are usually round in nature, with erosion working in a somewhat uniform manner.  But down here, it was not like that at all.  Unless you've seen what I'm talking about, it can be tough to imagine.  So here, take a look:

Click on the image to see a bigger version, yo!

Ok, in that screenshot, the following super jagged lakes are visible: Allatoona Lake, Carters Lake, Chatuge Lake, Hiwassee LakeLake Blue RidgeLake Burton, Lake Greenwood, Lake HartwellLake Lanier, Lake Murray, Lake Rabun, Lake WylieLake WoodruffNottely Lake, Tugaloo Lake, Yonah Lake, and honestly I'm tired of making this list so I'm just ending it here but you get the gist.  Looking at that map for the first time, you're probably thinking the same thing I thought: What up with those jagged lakes, yo?

Well, I'll tell you, yo.  After looking up info on each of those lakes, I started to notice a trend... none of those are natural lakes!  They're all reservoirs and dams and other human made/altered structures.  Even the Savannah River has been dammed and leveed into it's current state.  The website even flat out says:
Most of the lakes you will visit in Georgia — Lake Sinclair, Lake Chatuge, West Point Lake and so many more — are man-made. These types of lakes are usually created when humans build artificial dams in an existing river or stream. Builders sometimes protect smaller reservoirs from seepage by compacting the loose soil around it or lining the reservoir with fabric or compacted clay.
That made so much more sense!  We were the jagged makers, not nature.  Well, physics more than nature, but nature is easier to anthropomorphize.  Physics would definitely wear glasses, though, were it to be a humanized entity.  And it would be all, "nice jagged lakes," and then probably laugh it up with Chemistry and Biology.

It was after midnight when I stopped in Ridge Spring, SC for a late night dinner break.  Nothing was open in the tiny town of less than 1,000 people according to internet, but there was a nice park with picnic benches and lights.  Tired of bagged pump water, I had hoped there would be a gas station or convenience store, but just having a place to sit down was a fine compromise.  As I sat there eating my dollar store noodles, I checked my route.  I still had about 42 miles to go to get to Cayce, most of which appeared to be downhill, meaning if I kept my current pace I'd reach my destination at a terrible hour.    Getting to the house at 5am would be a bad idea.  The dogs would start barking, waking everyone up, making them all mad at me, kicking me out onto the street, sleeping in a gutter because I was so tired.  Then I remembered I was in the South.  I could just find a Waffle House to kill time at.  That or a Walmart.  Who doesn't like walking around a South Carolina Walmart at 5am?

I should have known that after washing down cheap noodles with warm, metallic water while battling a swarm of mosquitoes, I'd find a 24 hour Circle K convenience store a short distance away on the outskirts of town.  Better late than never, I guess.  I leaned Tibor up against the glass and headed in for some coffee.  That was when I met a store clerk that had to have been bored out of his mind.  I'm assuming, at least.  How stimulating could the night shift at a podunk Circle K be?

He struck up a pleasant conversation as soon as I walked in.  He even made a fresh pot of coffee for me.  When I went to pay, we started talking about the unusually high prices of the different goods at the store and about how big chains swoop in, push out the smaller shops, pay less to their employees, and charge higher prices to their customers.  But that was a function of the 24-hours of operation.  A lot of hours to be running lights and paying employees.  A lot of hours of no customers walking through the doors to buy coffee.  So to keep those doors open for the very occasional late night customer, he had to work later for less and I was going to have to pay more.  The big winner will always the corporation and its shareholders, but at least I got coffee at 1am in the middle of nowhere.

While we talked, and we talked for a while as neither of us had anywhere to be any time soon, his girlfriend and her friend walked into the store.  They'd just gotten off of work around the corner and came over to say hi.  When they saw me standing their in my lycra, the questions started.  Where was I coming from?  Where was I going?  Does my butt get sore?  Was I scared to ride at night?  Was I scared of cars in general?  Did people harass me?  Did I get stopped by cops ever?  I said that nobody ever bothered me, really.  That the closest I had to trouble was getting buzzed by some hillbilly pickup truck in Alabama.  And that all the cops I'd run into on bike had been nothing but nice with the exception of a cranky cop in California a few years back who'd been a little gruff.

That was when they pointed out an obvious fact.  I was white.  They were black.  My never running into trouble had nothing to do with my bicycle, it was because I was a white guy on a bicycle.  I paused for a second to think, and then agreed.  They were completely right.  I told them so, and that I had no idea if they would be harassed by cops or other people.  I really didn't have to worry about that much as a white male in my mid-30s without face tattoos.

We shot this breeze for a while longer, with me encouraging the girlfriend's friend to get into distance riding as she'd expressed an interest, and a little after 2am I hit the road.  I was about 40 miles from Waffle House, meaning I could get there by 6am, eat a slow breakfast, and get to my Cayce home by 7 or 8am.  Then sleep.

Being a white guy in America really does come with a lot of advantages.  Especially if you're born into the middle class with a stable, non-dysfunctional family.  Anyone that argues otherwise is lying, deluded, or a real dope.  I'm not saying it's a guarantee of happiness or success.  I'm just saying, it's a really good opening roll.  But race, gender, nationality, sexual preference, etc. are all Earth-based social constructs used to hold some people down while boosting others up with zero regard to the content of their character and their personal capabilities.  Do you know what cares little for social constructs?  Physics!  Yup, the great equalizer!  All Physics knows is that 1,500lbs of metal, plastic, and rubber traveling erratically down US-1 at 70mph do not have the consciousness required to create reasons to dislike someone before they ever get to know them.  Physics knows that all humans squish the same when a great mass accelerates through their XYZ coordinates.

Based on previous discussions, it seems to me that most people feel that night riding is dangerous.  Yes, it's more difficult to see at night.  Yes, you're more likely to encounter tired or drunk drivers.  Yes, ghosts of kidnapped children will try to lure you into the woods and off a cliff.  But one nice thing about night driving is that you can tell what's going on behind you by the headlights that appear around you.  While riding on US-1, headlights that were still a good distance behind me were aimed very close to where I was on the shoulder instead of in the middle of their lane (where they belong).  I looked back and could see a sports car that was angling out of its lane, drifting towards the shoulder.  Not wanting to see where this was going, I pulled as far over on the shoulder as I could, entirely off the road to be safe.  I was pedaling in the grass when the car, still 50-100' back realized that I was up ahead and swerved hard to the left.  It then blew past me (I was plenty safe from where I stood), and fishtailed wildly for the next few hundred feet before pulling off at the closest exit and speeding off.  The driver was either drunk or distracted.  In either case, I was happy it was night time so I had some sort of warning.  Also happy he or she was now off the road.  My skin wasn't going to save me from that math equation.

By 5am, I was only five miles from Waffle House.  My legs felt like they were going to fall off and my stomach was rumbling.  I couldn't wait for some waffles.  Please note that if you ever find yourself in a position where Waffle House sounds good, it means you're delirious.  Waffle House is not good.  Ever.  I was clearly delirious.

I parked at 5:30 and walked into that Southern breakfast chain with its trailer park charm and ordered a waffle, hash browns (capped and peppered), and a coffee.  When I took my first sip of coffee, I was reminded of the same thing I am reminded of every time I eat at a Waffle House: Oh god, why did I think this was a good idea?  The coffee tasted like soot, the waffle was paper thin, and the hash browns were soggy.  Yup, I was in Waffle House.  It's the grossest, but I always go back.  Me and Biz.  I've even chipped a tooth at a Waffle House.  Why do I do this to myself?

After killing an hour in that booth, I headed back out.  I got to the front porch of my vacation home around 7am.  There didn't appear to be anyone awake, and the dogs were quiet, so I parked my bike and fell asleep on the porch.

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