7/16/20 – The Carolinas
The day started in Greenville, South Carolina. From a great many bike trails in and around the city I chose the Swamp Rabbit Trail, partially because of its 30-mile length but mainly because of the beguiling name. It was a nice trail to ride, an abandoned railroad track similar to the Silver Comet in Georgia, though one-third its length. It went from the countryside all the way into downtown Greenville.
Along the way there were a great many families out enjoying walking, riding, and picnicking. I used to think South Carolina was a sleepy southern state with not too much happening. If ever that was the case, it’s not anymore! Runners were flying down the path which in places was rubberized just for them. People walked and talked with purpose. Some conducted business. I overheard one woman on her cell phone giving instructions to her manager. There were cranes in the downtown area building new high-rise buildings.
Greenville is the home of Furman University, one of the South’s great universities along with Emory, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and many, many others. The South is in no way backwards as I once thought, it is bright and new, and a place for progress and innovation. I slowed down as I approached a little girl veering sideways on the path trying to get control of her bike. She looked up at me and said, “I like your bike.” Her approval sweetly punctuated my pleasant morning ride.
Later that day I arrived in Asheville, North Carolina, a beautiful, friendly city set on the hills like a little San Francisco, with the Smokey Mountains rising in the background. While riding around town, a man in a car beeped me a thumbs up. Another cyclist with two small children on the back of his bike nodded hello as the little ones waved. I remembered how people in this part of the country are naturally friendly. Southerners in general are; but the Appalachians seem to be the epicenter of friendly folk in America. In most places Americans are respectfully friendly and polite; but here, people are drawn to each other, even strangers. There’s a distinct genuine quality to every warm and genial encounter.
I felt myself sitting a little taller in my seat on my way to meet Sarah from WLOS, the local television station. This was the third time Sunride had attracted TV coverage. The first was a Fox News station in Salt Lake City, and the second AIB, a cable station in Atlanta. After a short but effective interview, Sarah had me ride the bike around Vance Memorial Center, our meeting place, a bit like a town square in the middle of the city. There were demonstrators on the square for Black Lives Matter. People in town watched curiously as I glided around the square for the camera five or six times without peddling. Sarah folded up her filming equipment and told me we’d be on the six o’clock news. It was 3 p.m. in the heat of the day when we wrapped up. The trail I’d chosen for Asheville, the Erwin Linear Trail, would have to wait till morning. Below is the link to the broadcast – scroll down until you see the title, “Cyclist travels across the country on solar-powered electric bike to raise awareness.”