We headed off to Greenwood, South Carolina, at noon on Thursday where we spent three nights and three days visiting with friends we only see a couple times each year and cycling with dozens of other tandem teams around rural areas with what are usually some interesting history or simply points of interest. Such was the case in and around Greenwood. The weather was comfortable with very warm but not oppressively hot temperatures and there was zero rain, so that was nice. The events we attended from Thursday’s social event to Friday’s ice cream social, Saturday’s catered lunch and evening banquet as well as our a few meals on our own that we shared with our riding companion for the weekend, Miss Lisa. Sadly, I didn’t take a lot of photos for some reason so I’m still waiting to see if I can poach a few more from others as they begin to pop up. But, without a doubt this year’s Southern Tandem Rally was one of if not THE best, right up there with the Tallahassee STR back in 2003 and the Charlotte STR in 2004.
Again, our thanks to those who always take lots of photos and share them via Facebook, etc., as without those this would be a visually uninteresting journal entry.
Monday: Getting the Triplet Ready for STR
My only must-do project for the day was getting our nearly 11-foot long, 3-seat tandem down from the ceiling-mounted storage hooks it rests on when it’s not being used and getting it ready to ride at next weekend’s Southern Tandem Rally (STR).
As expected, the bike was covered with a coating of white paint dust from Friday’s door painting project, so there was that to deal with. But, more importantly, I needed to finish putting new drive chains on the bike, move two pair of pedals over from our mountain tandem, reprogram a small computer and then test ride the bike to make sure everything is still working correctly before giving it a good cleaning. After doing all of my wrenching on the bike then tweaking the shifting and brakes to get them working smoothly the bike received a much-needed bath and is almost ready for the weekend. The one thing I still want to do is to change out both Debbie’s and my saddles to match the ones we now have on our tandem. Both of those saddles are showing their age at this point and it’s just a good time to change them since we can still get the same saddles we’ve recently installed on our tandem. I’ll do that tomorrow afternoon.
Wednesday: New Saddles for the Triplet & Getting The Hauler Ready
Today’s to-do list included heading over to FreeFlite bicycle’s to pick up new saddles for the triplet. I should note, during last year’s STR in Venice, Florida, a saddle rail on our 10-year old Selle Italia saddle on our tandem failed about 5 miles from the end of the ride making for a challenging finish on Saturday. Thankfully I found a suitable replacement at a local bike shop. However, as I pulled the triplet down from storage and got it ready for the weekend rally in South Carolina I was reminded that the saddle on it was a somewhat older version of the same saddle and likely nearing the end of its service life. Moreover, we’d just replaced Debbie’s Fiz’ik saddle on the tandem as the 10-year old cover was worn out and the saddle on the triplet was of the same age and in need of replacement. So, rather than tempting fate I decided it was a good time to buy replacement saddles for the triplet since the exact brand and model of Bontrager saddles we were riding on the Calfee tandem were still available.
Thursday: We Head to Carolina & Begin our 3-Day Tandem Rally
My day began at 12:30am when I found myself wide awake after getting about 4 hours of sleep. Rather than tossing and turning and disturbing Debbie, I got up and headed into my office and fired-up my laptop to see what was going on in the world and to get a head start on Wednesday’s journal entry. As the sun came up, I pulled our Toyota Tacoma truck out of the garage and went about getting the triplet up on top of the truck for our 3-hour drive to STR at Greenwood, South Carolina.
We left for STR around 12:30pm and had a fairly easy first hour’s drive across the top end of Atlanta on Interstate 285 and then North on Interstate 85 where we use the Express Lane with our Florida SunPass, keeping our fingers crossed it would work in Georgia as advertised. We made the last two hours of the trip on rural back highways with little to no traffic after we were out of the Atlanta metro area, which was nice. We made one stop so Debbie could take a bio-break and we also grabbed a chicken sandwich we split since neither of us had lunch.
After checking into the Fairfield Inn we made our way over to the Mill House for the rally check-in and reception. We had a really nice time seeing all of our old friends from previous tandem rallies and ended up staying there for dinner with our friend and riding partner, Lisa, as did many of the other folks from the rally.
Sadly, I went to sleep early and found myself awake at 11:30pm. I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning and wrestling with some lingering issues from our other interests and activities, somewhat wishing I’d have been back at home where I could have worked through the problems instead of letting a friend find his own way.
Friday: A Visit to Abbeville and the Ice Cream Social
After the restless night we headed down the hall for breakfast at the Fairfield lobby around 7:00am where we found our friend Lisa and others. It was 8:00am when we headed over to the ride start at the Holiday Inn Express, about a mile away. Rather than riding the triplet over I decided we’d leave it on the truck, unload it there and then hopefully be able to put it in the tandem storage / meeting room after our ride so we’d only have to put it back up on the truck once during the visit when we headed home on Sunday.
We opted to ride the middle distance of 46 miles, with a special “muffin stop” about 12-miles into the ride at the town square in Abbeville, South Carolina. I must say, Abbeville was a very beautiful place packed with all kinds of history, both in terms of architecture as well as events; from the city’s website:
Abbeville was settled in 1758 by a group French Huguenots. In 2008, Abbeville celebrated its 250th anniversary. The City was officially incorporated as a municipality within the State of South Carolina on December 20, 1832. Since then, Abbeville has experienced many exciting and turbulent events. The city played a key role during the Civil War, and that legacy remains pristinely preserved. Abbeville is known the “Birthplace and Deathbed of the Confederacy”. On what is now known as Secession Hill, the meeting which launched the state’s secession from the Union took place on Nov. 22, 1860. Five years later in 1865, Jefferson Davis and his cabinet decided to dissolve the Confederacy at the Burt-Stark Mansion, a stately home right off from Abbeville’s Historic Court Square.
We rode into town with a group of six other tandems that were riding along at a pretty good clip for the first part of the ride. The teams whom I remember being with us included Alan & Joanne, from Greenwood, SC, on their orange & purple Co-Motion, Mark & Char from Greer, SC, on their black & white daVinci, Grant & Susan from Ingleside, IL, on their yellow Santana, Lonnie & Carol from Anna, OH, on their white and black Calfee, Dwight & Donna from Charlotte, SC, on their Ti Santana, and Tim & Vickie from Pembroke Pines, FL, on their Tequila Sunrise Co-Motion. Our hosts, Roger & Eve, had a nice refreshment table set up in the lovely, tree-shaded town square next to their still-standing Confederate War Monument, and a local bakery kept the table stocked with delicious bite-size muffins. From there we headed out into the more hilly section of Friday’s ride and at some point our riding companions had dropped back and then split off on a ‘short-cut’ that locals Alan & Joanne new that eliminated most of the climbing. We encountered a nice couple from the Fox Lake area in Northeast Illinois named Grant & Susan, and also caught back up to Tim & Vickie who had rolled out of the Abbeville stop a bit ahead of us. We only learned that our friends had taken the shortcut when we pulled into a store stop in Due West, SC, and found them already there and looking somewhat relaxed. Due West is the home of Erskine College, founded by the Presbyterian Church in 1839. From there we made our way back to Greenwood and the Holiday Inn Express lead by Alan & Joanne who took us on a few more detours around some road construction and then up to Hodges, a small town with a quaint little store owned by a friend.
As hoped, we were able to find a space that was long enough to park the triplet in the bike storage room at the Holiday Inn so we’d be able to leave it there instead of having to put it back on top of the truck, which was great! We also had a chance to see our friends Ric & Marcia from Houston, TX, who were there providing support for the rally as they do for just about all of the major tandem rallies such as the Mid-West, Southeast, Missouri, Colorado, Southern and Georgia events. They are amazing…
From the Holiday Inn Express we headed the mile back towards our hotel and stopped at the Chili’s restaurant where we had lunch at their bar. Debbie and I split a very tasty Southwest Chicken Caesar salad, rehydrated with some frozen margaritas and our friend Lisa did nearly the same, substituting a craft beer for the maggie. From there we headed back to the Fairfield Inn where we thought we might spend some time at the pool and relax a bit before heading out to find a place for dinner and then heading to the ice cream social at the former Federal Building which has since been converted into the Greenwood Visitor’s Center and Art Gallery. Well, the pool was something of a bust as it was a very small indoor pool and spa in a very cold, dark space. Not exactly what we needed, so we opted to simply rest in our room for a while before heading over to the Holiday Inn to see where anyone else might be headed for dinner.
We ended up going to Montague’s Restaurant, a diamond in the rough. Opened back in 1985 in what was probably a newer, upscale shopping center that is now a bit distressed and anchored by a Dollar Store, Montague’s is a classic american “steak house” and bar that has the look and feel of Cheers, noting the clientele are mostly regulars who are all known by the seasoned barkeepers. Yup, this was our kind of place and as you’d expect, we took our dinner at the bar. Debbie and I split an amazing white and black sesame encrusted yellowfin tuna, seared and sliced and topped with a wasabi aioli and teriyaki glaze.
From there we made the short drive over to the Federal Building for the ice cream social and had a wonderful time visiting with old friends, noting this was our 19th Southern Tandem Rally since attending our first at Selma, Alabama, back in 1998. We’ve only skipped two that were held in North Carolina and cancelled on a third in Richmond, Virginia, as we knew all three would be rain-outs due to tropical storms and hurricanes that routinely pummel the Middle Eastern Seaboard during October. It was a great way to wrap up our first day in Greenwood and the 41st Southern Tandem Rally.
In a spot of good news, while checking my Email after getting back to our room I saw where SunPass debited another $10 from my American Express card to replenish my toll account. That new activity confirmed our SunPass was, in fact, working on the Atlanta area Express Lanes so we’d be good-to-go to use the Express Lanes for the drive home if traffic began to back-up in the “free” lanes along Interstate 85 and 75. Yes, it can add anywhere from $0.30 to $3.00 to the cost of a drive, but given that it keeps you out of stop-and-go traffic or other back-ups, it should be well worth it.
Saturday: The Siege of “96” and a Wonderful Lunch & Banquet
Sadly, it was another restless night for me and I’ll be darned if I know why. Thankfully, I stayed in bed and rested instead of getting up and killing time on my laptop so while I didn’t feel like I’d gotten enough sleep, I did feel rested when we finally got up and headed to breakfast at 7:00am.
It was 8:00pm when we met Lisa and drove the mile over to the Holiday Inn Express for the start of today’s ride where the historic highlight was a stop at the National Historic Site at the city of “Ninety-Six” where the British Army had established a fort in 1781 during the Revolutionary War. All three ride options would visit Ninety-Six and we originally planned to ride the 59-mile route, but were leaning towards the shorter 47-mile route since that’s what the majority of our riding companions would be doing. In addition the folks who were generally riding with us on Friday, we also had Richard & Karen from Simpsonville, SC, on their Ti tandem and Larry & Jennifer from from Moore, SC, on their white Cannondale and a few other couples whose names escape me.
Anyway, it was wonderful just driving over to the Holiday Inn Express and then pulling our triplet out of the bike storage room. After the usual pre-ride activities and riders meeting we rolled-out and about 18 miles and an hour later we arrived at the National Park.
Sadly, we’ve still not learned to stop and smell the roses on tandem rallies; instead, we go out for a brisk-paced ride and minimize the time lost during the ride so that we can reach our lunch stop or whatever the final destination might be as soon as possible. In doing so, we miss out on a lot.. but we’re hardly alone in this. So, when we arrived at the National Park it became very clear we would have had to dedicate about an hour of our time to properly tour the actual revolutionary groundworks that are considered to be the best preserved in the country. So, the stop essentially became a restroom break at the park facilities adjacent to the parking lot and my “tour” ended up being a virtual one I took on line after the ride; our loss to be sure.
Anyway, here’s a brief history about the “Star Fort” that was built during late 1780 and early 1781 by Loyalists and their slaves from South Carolina and the short but failed siege by Patriot forces under the command of General Nathaniel Greene that took place in late May and June of 1781 I pulled from Wikipedia:
The British Army’s “southern strategy” for winning the American Revolutionary War, which had been successful in taking Charleston and winning submission of much of South Carolina and Georgia, hit a stumbling block in March 1781, after General Lord Cornwallis defeated Continental Army General Nathanael Greene at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina. Cornwallis had suffered significant casualties and subsequently moved his army to Wilmington, North Carolina. Greene, whose army was still largely intact after that battle, took advantage of Cornwallis’ move to march into South Carolina and begin operations to eliminate the British from that state.
The Siege of Ninety Six was a siege in western South Carolina late in the American Revolutionary War. From May 22 to June 18, 1781, Continental Army Major General Nathanael Greene led 1,000 troops in a siege against the 550 Loyalists in the fortified village of Ninety Six, South Carolina. The 28-day siege centered on an earthen fortification known as Star Fort. Despite having more troops, Greene was unsuccessful in taking the town, and was forced to lift the siege when Lord Rawdon approached from Charleston with British troops.
The area is now protected as Ninety Six National Historic Site and was designated a National Historic Landmark. The surviving Loyalists were later relocated by the Crown and granted land in Nova Scotia, where they named their township Rawdon to commemorate their rescuer.
From the National Park we rode another 14-miles to where STR Co-Host Roger had a refreshment stop set up alongside the road where our group took a short break before knocking out another 12-miles to put us at the buffet cold-cut lunch in downtown Greenville. The pavillion was perfect for a group of our size and the city had set up enough tables and chairs such that none of the 170 or so folks at the rally had to go looking for a seat, noting that not everyone was there at the same time given the different ride lengths. The food was wonderful and fresh and hit the spot for a warm, Saturday afternoon. From lunch we had just a 3-mile ride back to the Holiday Inn Express where, once again, we were able to store the triplet instead of hauling it back to our own hotel on top of the truck.
As for our afternoon, we ran back over to our hotel to get into our swimsuits and returned to the Holiday Inn Express as it had a lovely outdoor pool that we, Lisa and a few other folks — Mark & Char, Wayne B. from Toccoa, as well as Dan & Dolores from Charlotte — took advantage of for a good hour or two. Frankly, we were surprised there weren’t more folks out there but, then again, tandem rallies draw a bit of an older crowd noting that we’re still riding with some of the same folks whom we met back in 1998 when we were the “kids” in our late 30’s and early 40’s.
After getting our fill of the pool we headed back to the Fairfield Inn and got ready for the Saturday night banquet at the Sundance Gallery, a two-story brick commercial building built in 1901 that has been completely refurbished and turned into a two-story special event building and art gallery where the owner, Jon Holloway, displays some of his photography. Our hosts provided beer, wine and soft drinks downstairs for the social hour and then we moved upstairs for the banquet. Everything was simply spectacular, from the space to the meal and atmosphere. Our threesome sat with our friends Bob & Jan from the Villages, FL and I believe it was Roy & Nancy from Gastonia, NC and Ray & Nancy from Dunedin, FL; again, just a great time.
Sunday: A Ride To Promised Land & Returning Home to our Sanctuary
After yet another sleepless night and hotel lobby breakfast, we headed over to the Holiday Inn Express to begin our 3rd day on the triplet. Once again, having the triplet stored in the bike room made the logistics a lot easier and you can rest assured that I won’t dilly-dally when registration for future tandem rallies open such that we end up in an overflow hotel instead of the host hotel.
After the usual pre-ride socializing and announcements we headed off the longer of the two ride route options, a 33-mile ride to “Promised Land” an incorporated city of just over 500 citizens. Again, a little background on the unusual name seemed to be called for so a quick search on the internet yielded the following:
Located just off S.C. Highway 10 south of Greenwood, this rural African American community was created by freed slaves in the early 1870s. Before Promised Land, the 2,742-acre tract of land belonged to the estate of Samuel Marshall, a white plantation owner. Marshall’s heirs sold the land to the South Carolina Land Commission in 1869 at a rate of $10 per acre. The commission divided the property into fifty lots of approximately fifty acres each and then sold them to freed African Americans. Eleven families purchased lots in Promised Land in 1870; by 1872 some forty-eight families resided in the community. The name derived from their “promise” to pay the commission for the land. The sale of the Marshall property gave blacks in the upstate a rare opportunity to acquire land, which to most symbolized the essence of freedom in the post–Civil War years. Descendents of these original purchasers occupied the land continually throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century.
It was a spirited ride with one optional stop at a purportedly haunted home called the Rock House, built in 1922 by one Thomas Tolbert.
The small, but massive-looking four-room house with it’s 18″ thick walls and floors was built entirely of stone and concrete such that it would not burn, noting two of his family’s former homes were destroyed by arson and a fire of unknown origins. So, he decided to build his home entirely of fire-resistant materials where all of the bachelor’s family keepsakes could be kept and even put the kitchen to a separate wooden structure behind the home. It was a simple structure with two rooms downstairs — a livingroom and dining room? — and two bedrooms upstairs that were also separated by a hallway. To get from the 1st to the 2nd floor there was a circular steel staircase in the middle of the hallway. Interestingly, he chose to live in the cabin with the kitchen instead of the house. He died in 1940 at 72-years of age after drinking his daily, afternoon eggnog that had been made with bad whiskey. His younger brother — who was also sickened by the fatal eggnog — was ceded ownership of the home but never lived there. When he died and left the property to his son in 1946… once again, the home was left vacant with all of it’s furnishings. Over time, vandals and other trespassers would go to the house for illicit adventures and by the 1960’s when family members visited the house they found the interior in disrepair with the steel circular staircase propped against an outside wall which eventually disappeared. The home and surrounding property which still belongs to the family has continued to fall into ruin ever since.
We should have probably stopped and spent time at the house just to give Debbie some much needed time off the bike, noting we were on our 3rd day of riding with an average speed of 18 to 19 mph for the 120-miles ridden thus far. Yes, we were definitely pushing a hard pace given our average riding speeds our our solo rides from the house are typically around 16 mph. Anyway, we pressed on and a few miles later got a short break at a small rail yard where a yard engine was shifting cars around and had the road blocked for a good 5 to 1o minutes. Once we were rolling again I backed way off on our pace and let our riding companions as well as the really fast riders who we’d hooked up with after their break at the Rock House ride on ahead of us. Again, a great ride but one where we may have been riding a bit too hard and pulling a bit too long a few times that eventually took its toll when we didn’t get off the bike for a break at the 20-mile point.
After rolling into the Holiday Inn Express I quickly got the triplet on top of the Tacoma for the 3-hour drive home and then we headed off to find our hosts and friends so we could thank them and say our goodbyes. After a quick trip back to the Fairfield and saying our goodbyes to Lisa, we grabbed a shower, checked-out and made a stop for lunch back at Chili’s… yes, it was that same Southwest Grilled Chicken Caesar.
We hit the road just before noon and the drive home was relatively uneventful, other than running into a bit of traffic that forced us off the rural highways and onto Interstate 85 far sooner than planned where we also ran into traffic at a construction site. Sadly, this was well outside the Atlanta metro area so there wans’t an Express Lane option just yet. However, having learned to use the “slow lane” when there are traffic back-ups with an occasional jump to the fast lane, we were able to keep moving through the back-ups and were only delayed about 6 minutes, all told. However, as we got closer to Atlanta the Express Lanes became our savior as we bypassed what would have easily been a 10 to 15-minute back-up on Interstate 85 and had an effortless transition off of the Interstate 275 “top end perimeter” to Interstate 75 once again using the Express Lane to bypass the 1.5-mile back-up in the two normal transition lanes. Frankly, we didn’t really need the Express Lanes after the Interstate transitions, but there’s just no easy way to get back on Interstate 75 once you’re on the Express Lane as the exits put you out on secondary roads that are often times a mile or so from the nearest interstate on-ramp. But I digress… Bottom Line: The Express Lanes are really nice and got me home with a lot less stress than I would have otherwise had on the Interstates today!
We arrived back at home at 3:15pm and began the process of cleaning-up and putting away:
- The cycling clothes all needed to be laundered, that’s three sets of everything: shorts, jerseys, socks, gloves, his bandana and her sports-bra.
- The triplet had to come off the truck, get cleaned and then put back up on the storage hooks where it will likely hang until next May and the 22nd Georgia Tandem Rally at Tifton, Georgia, about 3 hours south of home.
- The bike racks needed to come off the truck and be put back in storage as well.
- The tool box, spare parts boxes and cordless drill as well as my nifty new step ladder all had to be brought in and put back in their respective places.
- The cycling computers/GPS units all needed to be cleaned and re-charged, those go back on the tandem along with the seat back and taillights which also came off the triplet before it when up on top of the Tacoma for the drive home.
- The interior of the truck needed to be cleaned and the exterior washed before it got parked back in the garage, noting it goes into the shop for it’s 25,000 mile service and yet another attempt to get a drivetrain vibration diagnosed and repaired.
- The yard and plants were all in dire need of water as it hasn’t rained in 8 days and our last rain was only a quarter of an inch, so there was that to attend to.
Rather than heading out to eat or pick up groceries we did something we haven’t done at this house in a couple years: we ordered a pizza from Papa John’s for dinner. It was good and it allowed us to sit down and relax for the rest of the evening.