Over the years, I've found that there are only so many days of riding I can do in a row before my body gives me an ultimatum: Either take a day off, or I'm going to steer this bike directly into traffic. A week straight is just shy of my arms taking subconscious control and turning sharply into a passing semi. By the time I reached Cayce, I was seven days in, pressing my luck, and running on fumes, caffeine, and ibuprofen.
By the time I left Cayce, after spending a lot of time plopped on a couch (and some on a bar stool), I felt a lot better. I felt better, but didn't look better as I was now rocking two knee braces and, for the first time in my life, an ankle brace. I was used to my knees hating me, but now my achilles tendon appeared to have caught a case of tendinitis. I have since learned that all of these problems may be rooted in a lack of hip stretching. Or stretching in general. Getting old sucks.
Aside from purchasing an ankle brace over my days off, I'd also bought some instant cold packs for the road. I figured they were worth a try since I was increasingly achy at the end of each day. The only option after that would be to motorize my bicycle. I could probably find a weed whacker in someone's front yard (I was in the South) and pull the motor off if I needed to. I really hoped it wasn't going to come to that but wasn't above it.
Learning from mistakes of the past two starts, my first day after the long break was not going to be a full century. It wasn't even going to be 90 miles. My ankle and knees thanked me for finally thinking a little.
And that was it for South Carolina. One long day riding in, one not so long day riding out. Next stop, North Carolina. This time, not in beautiful Asheville, but outside of presently rioting Charlotte. In Monroe, specifically. There would be no camping at the end of this first day back on the road, not so much by choice but by dearth thereof. My only reasonably distanced option would be a cheapo motel, which seemed lame after spending three days relaxing indoors, but didn't seem half bad once I started dripping sweat ten minutes into my ride. It was still Southern hot out even if it was almost October.
Nothing to really report from that day, with the exception of me being knocked down a peg or two during a rest stop. Around lunch time, I stopped at a little strip mall gas station convenience store for a sandwich and a caffeine re-up. Standing outside of the store were a bunch of hard-hatted dudes eating lunch around their pickup truck full of tree trimming tools. As I leaned my bike against the store, one of the guys asked where I was heading from. I told him I was coming from Cayce, but that I'd started in Mississippi and was ending in Philly. Based on the reactions of other folks I'd met on the road over the years, I assumed I'd get a response like "wow" or "cool" or "doesn't your butt get sore?" That wasn't what I got.
Instead, I got a story of how he'd met a fella just like me a while back who'd been riding for over 10,000 miles. That guy even kept a blog of his travels so people could keep track of where he'd been and where he was going. Yup, that was one cool bike riding dude.
Whatever, man. I'm pretty cool too. With my knee braces. And ankle brace. Sure, I may not guerrilla camp, but, like I stay at really cheap motels and State Parks which are barely above sleeping in a ditch a few hundred feet off the highway. Ugh. Nothing impresses you people. Stupid South.
By the time I reached Monroe, it was way late and the cheapo motel I'd found online had a sign out front that said "No Vacany" (sic), confirming my assertion that the South is stupid.