What you should expect from a long bicycle journey
Bicycle touring for a sustained period of time is a…
Day 27: Savannah – Richmond Hill (23 miles)
The morning was spent having a look around Savannah, exploring the sights and drinking a lot of of orange juice. Interesting place with amazing historical sights and architecture, and typical college-town contrast – the quiet town I was in, surely in contrast to that when the student population returns after the holidays. It seemed to now be mainly tourists walking around the popular River St and Broughton St. There are a lot of cyclists cruising the streets, and well thought out lanes, which is unusual for many of the towns and cities visited on this trip so far. After a few hours of typical-tourist stuff in the town, I began cycling out of Savannah at around 3pm, keen to get cracking with the aim being to find somewhere to sleep. In Richmond Hill, outside of Savannah, nestled between a Church and a housing complex was a football-pitch-sized field. That’ll do.
Day 28: Richmond Hill (3 miles)
All set for the bigger miles today, I woke up early to get going. Unfortunately I’d pitched in an ants nest. Not the best of starts.
It wasn’t a very eventful day other than a chance meeting. Quick stop to pick up supplies, and I bumped in to two folks called Frank Thompson and Ty Stowe, both from out of town. They were intrigued by the bike outside, and after chatting about the Vague Direction project, they mentioned what they were in Richmond Hill for. An unusual invite, there was no way I was going to miss this, so plans for the days cycling were halted, because…
Day 29: Richmond Hill – Fort McAllister (9 miles)
It’s 1864, there’s cannons going off. It’s the civil war. Thousands of William Sherman’s Union forces are preparing to attack a small number of Confederate forces, to take the strategic position of Fort McAllister. Only kidding, no time travel here, it’s still 2012 of course. This is a civil war re-enactment held in the same location as the Battle of Fort McAllister in December 1864, nearly 150 years ago. And this is what Frank and Ty were in town for. They, and around a hundred others, are Civil War reenactors, and were in Fort McAllister to recreate those 1864 scenes, play-by-play and in real time.
Having never been to a reenactment before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it was epic and the people were so friendly. A complete range of men and women, from retirees through to workers to students. Even a heavy-metal / hardcore vocalist. Whole families as well as individuals. Large groups walking round with huge muskets, in genuine clothing, and speaking in traditional ways. Cannons going off. Huge flags being waved. Orders being shouted. Everyone was really happy to share the story and incredibly welcoming, and really enjoying the battle. What did surprise me though, was the amount of people laying on the grass having a nap in the sunshine. Everyone has to sleep, but whole groups having a nap in the midst of a battle?!
It seems like after chatting to many of the reenactors, it’s a hobby that runs through families, generation after generation – a lot of the people were born into it and often their direct relatives took part in the actual civil war. Here’s a quick video with Ty, Michael Croft and Lawson Owens – in the fort and the traditional campground, looking at how they got into this, and what they enjoy about it.
After the battle was over, I spent time with some of the participants, which was great fun, and also some of the local people who had come to watch the Battle. Guns are common place in Georgia, so it was interesting to chat to one of audience members about personal security on this trip. He was shocked that I wasn’t carrying a firearm. And after explaining that in the UK guns aren’t common place, what followed was a slightly uncomfortable conversation about what positives carrying a gun can bring.
“You don’t carry a gun?! What if you have to defend yourself?”. He has a whole host of firearms, ranging from handguns that he keeps on him at all times, to shotguns and more. He mentioned that his house is covered in CCTV cameras, and he’s stockpiled ammunition in case one day it’s needed. I was hit by a sense that perhaps this all indicates an end-of-the-world paranoia, but perhaps the situation in the South is very different to that of the UK.
A unique and fun day nearly over, time spent with the reenactors was something I won’t forget. They were incredibly welcoming and once again it was a case of warm Southern hospitality. As the day came to a close, I found a park bench in the trees just outside Fort McAllister, and after the gun talk felt a sense of paranoia myself, with strange sounds (which turned out to be squirrels dropping stuff from the trees) and total darkness. Another night of spooky luxury!
Day 30: Fort McAllister – Jesup (56 miles)
Up at first light. Awful nights sleep. Bitten by bugs. Let’s go. Incredible empty roads to start the day’s pedalling.
But something was wrong with the bike. The chain was skipping every 7 pedal strokes. Strange, but something to take care of when stopped in a better place. Passing through Hinesville a little later, and getting annoyed by the skipping, the plan was to stop, get something to eat and then take care of the chain. So as I was pulling up to a shop, SNAAAP. Funny how things work. Chain snap number 2.
After a painless and relatively fast fix (and a thought that I really need to get the chain replaced asap), and now fuelled up, the next stop was Jesup after a few hours of easy riding on wide shoulders. The plan was to keep going further and to drop the miles to St Augustine, but after filling water I was offered a complimentary room at a local independent hotel, the Red Carpet Inn – can’t refuse that after the last few nights. People must really like bikes with a lotta’ bags.