Thirsty­Girl and I took a break and head­ed for the coast. I had to see the ocean for at least a lit­tle bit… Our prox­im­i­ty to the oft-dis­cussed-in-motor­cy­cle-cir­cles “Tail of the Drag­on” ride on US 129 made it a log­i­cal start to the trip. The drag­on is well known around the­se parts, and is pop­u­lar with both auto and motor­cy­cling enthu­si­asts. There is much lore sur­round­ing the (report­ed) 318 curves on this 11 mile stretch of road, most of it sur­round­ing the num­ber of deaths this year (appar­ent­ly 8 already in 2012, but I don’t believe this to be accu­rate..).

See­ing this, I knew we were in for an incred­i­ble ride..

Road sign: Truck Advisory. US 129 South. Switchback curves ahead. Consider alternate routeRoad sign: Truck Advisory. Switchback curves ahead. Consider alternate route (US 129 South)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Edit:

I man­aged to get some video upload­ed.. This is a fair­ly high-speed ver­sion of the footage I shot from the front of the bike.  It’s pret­ty shaky due to some vibra­tion prob­lems I hadn’t antic­i­pat­ed and the real­ly twisty-turny stuff starts about 2:40..  Don’t feel bad about fast-for­ward­ing.. Hope you enjoy..

If you can’t watch, or per­haps can’t wait ’till the end, this is what I found at the end of my ride up the hill: Ooops.

Busted!

Around the cor­ner from my impromp­tu stop was the Deal’s Gap store which is real­ly the tail of the tail of the drag­on, they’ve got a motel, gas sta­tion and a whole pile of sou­venirs and tchotchkes to prove  you’ve been there!

Beyond Deal’s gap, I took a break from US 129 and head­ed down High­way 82 along the spec­tac­u­lar­ly beau­ti­ful shores of Cheoah Lake. I can say with­out a doubt that this stretch of high­way was even more enjoy­able than the first sec­tion of the day. The curves were equal­ly hair-pinned and bendy, but the dri­ve was just a bit more relaxed with­out the onslaught of oncom­ing traf­fic wan­der­ing across into my lane..

At some point along its length, 28 joins up with High­way 107 and con­tin­ued to inspire awe (at least on my part)..   I shot this pho­to around 5:30 PM,  just over the South Car­oli­na bor­der.

Highway 28 and 107 in South Carolina: Road, motorcycle mirror and open road

High­way 28 and 107 in South Car­oli­na

It was get­ting near­ly time to shut down for the night, but I had a few more hours of road to get behind me to keep mov­ing east..   For some rea­son every turn I made to head in the right direc­tion head­ed me back toward Atlanta..   The most detailed Rand McNal­ly maps I could find failed to list the pletho­ra of actu­al high­ways that line this coun­tryside, sig­nif­i­cant­ly adding to the con­fus­ing nav­i­ga­tion sce­nar­io..  Oh, iPhone maps, yeah, they’re much more con­fus­ing. I digress, but it’s pos­si­ble you’ll hear a rant about them lat­er.

Fun­ny thing with North­ern Geor­gia, in stark con­trast to the beau­ti­ful lit­tle farms that line East Ten­nessee roads, the coun­tryside here was real­ly bar­ren.  Devoid of hous­es, farms, cities and real­ly any pop­u­la­tion at all.. I final­ly found my way to the small town of Lavo­nia GA and bed­ded down for the night.

The next day of trav­el took me through more of north­ern Geor­gia and South­west­ern South Car­oli­na.  (I know this gets con­fus­ing, have a look at the map and stick with me!). I took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to stop and take a walk through a Civil-War era Con­fed­er­ate ceme­tery in McCormick SC.  For those of you who haven’t had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to wan­der through old-coun­try grave­yards, I’d high­ly rec­om­mend the expe­ri­ence.   His­to­ry comes alive when you start see­ing cru­cial his­tor­i­cal dates etched in stone. The thing that struck me was how long peo­ple were liv­ing back in the late 17 and ear­ly 1800’s.. Sev­er­al of the stones I read were peo­ple that lived well into their 80’s and 90’s, and that’s through the US Civil War!  Who­ev­er says we’re liv­ing longer today might want to recheck their stats. ;)

Robert Bayless Dean, PVT CO E 13 BATT, SC Infantry, Confederate States Army, Apr 3, 1837, Feb 18, 1905

Robert Bay­less Dean, PVT CO E 13 BATT, SC Infantry, Con­fed­er­ate States Army, Apr 3, 1837, Feb 18, 1905

Lewis Bozeman, Died May 2, 1859, about 88 years old

Lewis Boze­man, Died May 2, 1859, about 88 years old

Elizabeth T. Dean, consort of, Thomas Dean, Born April 8th 1795, Died, October 10th, 1865, Aged 70 years, six months, and 2 days

Eliz­a­beth T. Dean, con­sort of, Thomas Dean, Born April 8th 1795, Died, Octo­ber 10th, 1865, Aged 70 years, six months, and 2 days

Confederate Cross

The whole after­noon took me through some pret­ty eco­nom­i­cal­ly depressed areas..  I saw very lit­tle in the way of indus­try, com­merce, or any oth­er viable form of income save a bit of farm­ing..

Building for Rent: Bracknell's - This BUILDING may FALL but the QUALITY of our MERCHANDISE - WILL NEVER -

Build­ing for Rent: Bracknell’s — This BUILDING may FALL but the QUALITY of our MERCHANDISEWILL NEVER -

Often, I’d come across vir­tu­al ghost towns that looked recent­ly-pros­per­ous. It was simul­ta­ne­ous­ly sur­re­al and sad­den­ing. Cross­ing the state line between South Car­oli­na and Augus­ta GA was per­haps the most stark con­trast between have and have-not..  After a half day of pass­ing run-down farms and desert­ed towns, the sub­urbs of Augus­ta were incred­i­bly posh and well devel­oped..

Augus­ta itself has seen bet­ter days..   Both of my cam­eras had given up the ghost by the time I got there, but I man­aged to catch a few shots of the Augus­ta Pow­der Works build­ings where much of the Con­fed­er­ate gun­pow­der and muni­tions were made dur­ing the Civil War.  Much of the area around the pow­der works was incred­i­bly depressed and as I rode around I couldn’t help but think that it deserved much more explo­ration and time with a cam­era and an open ear.

ThirstyGirl at the Augusta Powder Works

Thirsty­Girl at the Augus­ta Pow­der Works (Now a cot­ton com­pa­ny)

Push­ing on, and after one more speed­ing tick­et (a lit­tle more than a hand-slap this time) I final­ly made it in to Savan­nah and got set­tled for a few days of wan­der­ing..  That, in the next post. This one is already get­ting toooo long. Read Part 2 here if you’d like to con­tin­ue!

 

– If you haven’t read it yet, you can click this link for part 1 of this post! –

Savan­nah Geor­gia turned out to be an incred­i­bly beau­ti­ful city to just walk around for  a few days (the old His­toric Dis­trict was at least!)..  Savan­nah res­i­dents seem to take great pride in the many treed squares and beau­ti­ful archi­tec­ture that fills the old dis­trict and they’re well worth an after­noon to wan­der through, or just to sit down and watch oth­ers do the same.  Those inter­est­ed in high-end antiques will delight in the pletho­ra of shops cater­ing to those with a pen­chant for ancient his­to­ry and/or mon­ey to burn.  Sad­ly, most of the books I found in the stores I vis­it­ed were writ­ten in Swedish or Ger­man lan­guage, nei­ther of which were par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful to me.

Savannah Harbour Diptych

Scat­tered about the same dis­trict are numer­ous build­ings belong­ing to the Savan­nah Col­lege of Art and Design (SCAD) an art school with a pret­ty great sto­ry. If you spend any amount of time in the area, you’ll undoubt­ed­ly come across the pletho­ra of art stu­dents going about their dai­ly lives.  Owing to the sheer num­ber of of art­sy-types, I couldn’t help the con­tin­u­ous loop of Lydia the Tat­tooed Lady play­ing in my head as I wan­dered about town. :)

The night-life in Savan­nah is plen­ti­ful and full of choice.  One of my favourites by far is the Bay Street Blues, a good, hon­est bar with freak­in-fan­tas­tic music!

I’m told there was a lot of real­ly great food to eat in town, and I did man­age to have a few good meals but with the way my tim­ing worked out a few snacks seemed to do me well for most of my two days here..  Paula Dean’s restau­rant did come rec­om­mend­ed, and indeed it’s pop­u­lar (so pop­u­lar in fact that it spans three floors and sports a wait­ing list).  Ms. Dean is well known for her south­ern cook­ing, and indeed the buf­fet sup­per her estab­lish­ment served was pret­ty tasty, the ser­vice and din­ing expe­ri­ence left a lot to be desired.

I try to be as pos­i­tive as pos­si­ble on this site, but my next stop at Hilton Head Island was, well, fright­en­ing (in a chil­dren of the corn sor­ta way).  I will say, that on my way out to Hilton Head, I man­aged to find a farmer’s mar­ket and food-fair in the small town of Bluffton SC.  Also found here was the posh­est choco­late chip cook­ie I’ve ever eat­en.  I mean, seri­ous­ly, who puts whipped cream on a cook­ie? Idun­no, but every­body should!

Posh Cookie in Bluffton, SC

So, yeah, Hilton Head Island. One of the odd­est (and odd­ly uncom­fort­able) places I’ve vis­it­ed in a long time.  As I drove the long park­way out to the island, I passed per­fect­ly man­i­cured medi­ans that led me to believe I’d head­ed into sub­ur­ban hell.   This was only the begin­ning.  Hilton Head, it turns out, is FULL of time-share con­dos and plan­ta­tion resorts..  I stopped in to a “tourist infor­ma­tion” cen­ter look­ing for a bed and break­fast or hostel with no luck.  Turns out that it was actu­al­ly a time­share sales office. Ergh.. I have to be fair though, the gal there was nice enough to send me to one place that did have hotel rooms too, and gave me some rec­om­men­da­tions for food and drink that night. I was still pret­ty exhaust­ed from an epic night out in Savan­nah, and called it quits after search­ing in vain for a place to eat some­thing healthy.  In the process, I learned that the plan­ta­tions (there are many) on Hilton Head have all banned motor­cy­cles from the prop­er­ty.  All motor­cy­cles. Huh?  Must be that only bad peo­ple ride motor­cy­cles.. Or some­thing..

Look­ing for that meal, I only man­aged to find a bar that sold food.  As I wait­ed for my burg­er (the health­i­est thing I could find), I came to the hor­ri­ble real­iza­tion that I was in some real­ly awful ’80’s sum­mer-par­ty-movie..  Real­ly. Awful.   Though my hotel was peace­ful, I was hap­py to get out of there in the morn­ing..

Head­ing north again, toward North Car­oli­na, I hap­pened across Cry­ba­bies Tav­ern (as I was search­ing for food again) in Beau­fort, SC. (not to be con­fused with Beau­fort, NC… One is pro­nounced Be-U-fort, the oth­er BO-fort to mit­i­gate any chance of mis­tak­en iden­ti­ty.. )

Cry­ba­bies is pos­si­bly the BEST lit­tle dive-bar I’ve ever had the plea­sure of drink­ing in. The bar­tender was awe­some, and the patrons were just good, hon­est, unpre­ten­tious, and hos­pitable. This place is well worth stop­ping in if you ever hap­pen to find your­self in Beau­fort (SC). High­light? The base­ball bat behind the bar. Win!

Crybabies Tavern, Beaufort SCThreat deterrence: Crybabies Tavern, Beaufort SC

Interior photo: Crybabies Tavern, Beaufort SC

I made my way up to Charleston North Car­oli­na, the site of the first shot in the US Civil War and home to the high­est den­si­ty of beau­ti­ful and fit peo­ple I’ve seen in the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca.  Yowza!   Take your ten, add about twelve and you’ve got your­self a good aver­age for Charleston.  In all seri­ous­ness, I did see an incred­i­bly high pro­por­tion of healthy-weight peo­ple here, in com­par­isoon to many of the oth­er places I’ve down in the US.  I’m not sure how the demo­graph­ics play in to this but suf­fice it to say, if you’re look­ing to find an active and fit pop­u­la­tion, this’d be a good place to start look­ing!

In Charleston, I stayed in a dorm room at the Not­so Hostel which turned out to be a refresh­ing change from the hotels I’d been stay­ing in.  I got a chance to min­gle with prop­er trav­el­ers and even some rel­a­tive locals dur­ing my two day stay.. The bagels and Nutel­la for break­fast were an unex­pect­ed bonus too!  All in all, def­i­nite­ly a worth­while place to stay.

With the onset of mug­gy, rainy weath­er a few days before, I’d been on the move to try and find nice weath­er. The prospects looked kin­da dim for find­ing sun any­where in North Car­oli­na, so I made the best of it and head­ed down to Fort Sumpter, the site of the events that real­ly kicked off the Civil War. It may not look like much now, but in its day, Sumpter’s walls were three sto­ries tall, and it boast­ed an officer’s quar­ters that were fit for a gen­tle­man, com­plete with mar­ble fire­places, canopy beds and par­quet floors.. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for the occu­pants, it was designed to with­stand attack from the ocean with 50′ mason­ry walls and posi­tions for some 130 guns most of which weren’t actu­al­ly installed yet. Oh, and the Con­fed­er­ate attack just hap­pened to come from the land-side.  It fell, and the war was on..

Fort Sumpter NC

Fort Sumpter NC

Undaunt­ed, but grow­ing weary of the poor, driz­zly weath­er envelop­ing the east coast, I made the deci­sion to head inland and get away from the rain.  I start­ed the five hour dri­ve in a down­pour and end­ed up in Asheville NC in near freez­ing tem­per­a­tures..  As I dragged my weary and weath­er-numb body into a restau­rant for a cup of cof­fee and a min­ute to regroup, a local cop men­tioned to me that it was sup­posed to snow that evening.   Crrrap!   I’m down here to avoid the snow, not find it!

Luck­i­ly, that pre­dic­tion turned out to be false, and I’d found one of my favourite hos­tels of all time, Sweet Peas.  If you’ve ever won­dered how to run a hostel right, this is the place to see. Upon check-in, you’re pro­vid­ed with a tow­el, face cloth, and a Sweet Peas stick­er.. Noth­ing like a lit­tle free adver­tis­ing!   The build­ing is super-clean, beau­ti­ful­ly designed, and well equipped.  I opt­ed for a pri­vate room because I had a whole pile of gear to sort out, but there are open four bed dorms and semi-pri­vate “pods” avail­able as well.  The beds were rea­son­ably com­fort­able and linens were pro­vid­ed on all beds–Nice!

Asheville itself is an incred­i­ble town (city?) full of ran­dom art at every turn and this alone puts me in a hap­py place.    Top that off with a daz­zling selec­tion of phe­nom­e­nal food, and a laid-back but super­cool nightlife, Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na and a con­cert hall that fea­tures the likes of (Cal­gary native) Leslie Feist  and you’ve got a hel­lufva hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, and I can imag­ine, a pret­ty great place to go to school!

Chicken Lane artwork, Asheville, SC

Ashville, NC Back Alley

Creative Addressing: Asheville, NC

Piano Garden: Asheville, NC

And even a lit­tle left­over from our afraid-of-the-Rus­sians days..

Cold War Remenants: Asheville, NC

The trip back to Ten­nessee to meet Chris­tian­ne is next on my update list, and was rel­a­tive­ly unevent­ful except that one time I stood Thirsty­Girl on her back tyre try­ing to merge back onto the inter­state..

Ooops.

Your map for this side-trip:

View Larg­er Map

I spent the day chas­ing around Cal­gary, mak­ing busy in the blow­ing snow (yes, snow at the end of April). After two day long appoint­ments came and went, and I returned home from a third, impromp­tu pho­tog­ra­phy SlushySnowwork­shop I real­ized that I’d an evening com­mit­ment for a birth­day cel­e­bra­tion.  Mind still buzzing from the day, I hopped into the car and head­ed down­town.

By the time I reached my des­ti­na­tion, giant slushy flakes of snow were blow­ing side­ways down the alley­way and I hud­dled deep in to my jack­et try­ing to iso­late myself from the bit­ing wind as much as pos­si­ble.. As I round­ed the final cor­ner, I noticed a man hud­dled in a dry cor­ner under an over­hang and made the delib­er­ate choice to walk past him with enough dis­tance between us to deter any con­ver­sa­tion about spare change.  I not­ed my choice and prompt­ly set it to the back of my mind as my pri­or­i­ty shift­ed to get­ting out of the slop­py wet­ness rain­ing from the sky.

After three hours of won­der­ful con­ver­sa­tion a few drinks, a shared plate of pou­tine, and a piece of choco­late cake that I didn’t need but real­ly want­ed, we all part­ed ways and I returned to my car past the same hud­dled man who by this time was lay­ing down curled up to stave off the near freez­ing tem­per­a­tures.

For the first time in years I found myself not just walk­ing by but actu­al­ly putting myself in to his sit­u­a­tion. Not out of guilt or any oblig­a­tion but because it felt like the right thing to do..  I felt com­plete­ly pan­icked by the prospect of spend­ing the night out there uncov­ered and unpro­tect­ed and as I walked back to the car I pon­dered my options and final­ly set­tled on dig­ging out a fleece blan­ket that I’d been using to cov­er my equip­ment when it sits in the back of the car..

I felt a range of emo­tions sweep through me and was sur­prised by how many relat­ed to my attach­ment to a blan­ket.  It was expen­sive, it was most­ly serv­ing a pur­pose, what was I going to replace it with? Then I con­tem­plat­ed whether one of the two emer­gen­cy sleep­ing bags in the back would have been a bet­ter option.  They were about the same price, but might have been bet­ter options. But then I need them for an upcom­ing camp­ing trip. But do I need both?

As I arrived home I wan­dered through the emp­ty house and con­tem­plat­ed why I wouldn’t have just offered this guy a place to sleep that was warm and dry.  I have plen­ty of  space, and extra bed and plen­ty of hot water.   The obvi­ous answer is root­ed in safe­ty, my own per­son­al, and the secu­ri­ty of my stuff,  elec­tron­ics, cam­eras, per­son­al effects etc..  I’ve pon­dered this evening, the lim­i­ta­tions of stuff and whether my deci­sion would have been dif­fer­ent had I noth­ing worth steal­ing kept in the house.  That led me to won­der­ing why I would imme­di­ate­ly con­sid­er some­one home­less a threat.

My only con­clu­sion at this point is that this whole sce­nar­io is messed up. I need to reeval­u­ate my own val­ues and con­sid­er what is real­ly most impor­tant. I’m near cer­tain right now that the ‘stuff’ will not win out in the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

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In respon­se to a request for gallery con­tent I’ll be assem­bling a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent pho­to series’ in the next mon­th or two..  I wel­come com­ments, sug­ges­tions or any oth­er input.

  1. Bel­ly But­tons
    • After an inter­est­ing exer­cise at the Lead­er­ship Cal­gary open­ing retreat, I’d like to explore Bel­ly But­tons, an anatom­i­cal fea­ture that every­body on this earth shares. My inten­tion is to explore the sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences of said BB’s to high­light our com­mon ori­gins.
    • Please send me an email if you’d like your navel fea­tured in this exhibit.
  2. Garbage
    • I was asked to exhibit a series of pho­tographs at a local cafe in Novem­ber and in doing so, I’ve decid­ed to cap­ture some of what we throw away and the places the garbage inevitably ends up..   I’d like to use this to encour­age peo­ple to con­sid­er the impact of their Christ­mas pur­chas­es this year, and in the future.
    • As with the bel­ly-but­tons, if you’d like to take part in this, please let me know..