29th May 2016 Augusta, Ga to Columbia, SC 145.2 kms - 90.2 miles Up = 1072m - Down = 1102m
29th May 2016 - Augusta, Georgia to Columbia, South Carolina.
Our run of wonderful luck with the weather (since the snow, thunder and lightning in Flagstaff, Arizona – 35 days ago) – came to a spectacular end today!! So much so – that in the city of Augusta, home to the “The Masters” Golf Tournament – rain stopped our play today!!
We had a fabulous stay here with Anne and Todd Rhiens – and learnt so much about the city, and the amazing way that “The Masters” held at the Augusta National Golf Course operates within this very attractive city. The wealth of the Club is amazing – and the lengths they go to, to stop the prying eye of Joe Public equally as amazing. They also purchased an entire shopping centre almost opposite the main gate which is full of freezer rooms to store food for this event – held once a year!!!! For all that, to me the actual entranceway, is pretty much under-stated.
When I woke this morning – it was to the sound of rain – and checking weather forecasts it looked like we were in for a wet ride. Not to be deterred, we were all up early, had breakfast and were ready to depart at our now normal time of 7:30 am (mainly to beat the heat of late afternoon) as temperatures had been getting hotter - generally - but certainly not today!!
We pedalled off from Todd and Anne’s in the rain – but what we hadn’t realised from the extremely sheltered, highly treed position of their house – was how heavy the rain really was, and how strong the winds actually were!! Once we got the short distance up to Washington Street – both hit us with full force!! We had about a 2 to 3 mile ride down this busy road to the Golf Course, then on into the town before crossing the Savannah River to move into South Carolina.
To be honest – it was very, very scary!! Gutters were full, overflowing and running wildly, billowing water out onto the drenched roads. As all cyclists reading this will know – brakes become a whole lot less effective in this weather - and the white lines on roads, lethal! We seemed to be riding directly into it, and the rain pelted in on our glasses making it very difficult to see! Also impossible to wipe off quickly with both hands needed on the brakes. As for following my “cue cards” on where to go, or use googlemaps on my phone – both impossible.!!
One of my dreams of this trip was to get my picture taken at Augusta National – but I couldn’t put my fellow cyclists through stopping in pouring rain to do so – but – I know I was there – the pictures are in my mind, I just can’t share them!! As I cycled past the gate – I think I said to myself – I’ll be back – but not “onmybike”!!
There were about as many traffic lights along this stretch of road as there are on Great South Road in Auckland. So it was very stop / start – and when cars passed by us – “whoosh” we got covered in water from the side as well as what was falling from above!! It was very scary riding in such conditions!! There had also been some sort of accident somewhere as emergency vehicles with lights flashing and sirens blasting whooshed past us as well.
At the next stop sign I said to Annie we need to stop and re-assess the situation so when I found an area big enough for Pat and the van to pull into as well – we stopped, albeit I almost didn't and swooshed into a very large puddle before pulling up! My main concern is not only my safety, but the safety of us all. I think I am a reasonably bold rider – yet this was scaring me!!
I don’t know if readers will realise what a hard decision it is for me to make to hop in the van – but all things considered, I felt it was dangerous to continue so “stopped play”. Our “support vehicle” came into play again – and we found a verandah we could park under to re-arrange the van – not exactly an easy task in pouring rain to enable 4 adults 3 bikes and all our gear inside!!
We drove a loop around town – went to go on one exit to cross the river – but another lot of emergency vehicles seemed to be attending an accident (the opposite direction to the ones we saw earlier) and had the road blocked, so we circled around the city again before crossing the Savannah River and into South Carolina. There was no getting out to pose at the sign today!!! A quick snap out the window of the car was all we could manage. We are now in our 10th State, only one to go after this!! Instead of driving up Interstate 20 (the shortest and quickest) – we decided to drive the route we would have biked. Despite the rain it gives a better look at the countryside!
As we progressed the rain got heavier and the wind got really strong – and I mean REALLY strong!! We thanked our lucky stars we were in the van. Also what was quite concerning was that the majority of the roads recommended that cyclists take by Mr Google had absolutely no shoulder. It would have been so dangerous in these conditions. While in general I have found drivers here to be more polite that those in Australia and New Zealand – those 2 countries certainly have shoulders on 95% of the roads I have ridden on. Besides our safety as cyclists – should a motorist need to stop for any reason on these roads – it is pretty much impossible!
The rain eased from time to time but when we neared Columbia it absolutely bucketed down. We’ve been watching “Bonnie” for the last couple of days and managed to miss her, until today. She wavers between a "tropical cyclone" and a "deep depression" so she is not worth messing with!! We are hoping that she moves away by tomorrow – or at least lightens off a bit to enable us to progress. We would much rather be “onourbikes”.