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June 9th, 2013 | Georgia

Thwarted by Andrea…!!

I had checked the weather channel before going to bed, and the presenter was warning of “possible flooding” and “up to 4 inches of rain in places”. She did not mention which “places” would receive the heaviest rain, but ended her broadcast with a cheerful “Look0ut Jacksonville and Brunswick !!”, as if announcing that a wonderful form of entertainment was on the way !!

Just 10 minutes into my ride, I had to stop and get the rain-gear on.

Just 10 minutes into my ride, I had to stop and get the rain-gear on.

I was on the bike before 7.00 am, and zooming down the I-77,  planning to hook up onto the I-20 just north of Columbia and head out towards Augusta in Georgia, keeping away from the coast and the path of  Tropical Storm Andrea…

I began taking note of road-signs that one does not see very often in South Africa, and one’s that sometimes brought a grin to my face. Such as “Pass Safely” (I always do…) “No Passing Zone” (whatever that means…” and “DO NOT PASS” (probably meant for users of four wheeled motorized transport…).

And of course there was always the Big Fella’s personal favourite : “No Parking”, a sign that he seemed to be fiercely attracted to, while invoking the usual “I’m exempt !!” rule…!! It’s a foreign thing, which few Americans seem to understand !!

Although it had rained most of the night, this morning it was overcast, and humid, so I decided not to put the rain-gear on, in the hope that I would miss any heavy rain.

A very forlorn hope as it turned out. Just a few miles south of Richburg, I rode into a steady drizzle, which turned into light rain a few minutes later. I pulled over and kitted up, and then got back onto the highway.

The drizzle cleared up for a while and I followed the lead of most vehicles around me on the highway, by traveling at between 10 and 15 miles above the speed limit… I figured it was best to stay with the herd in the hope that one of them would be caught speeding rather than me…

“Bogey at 6 o’clock !!” came the sharp warning from the Big Fella. “He’s hanging back in the traffic a few cars behind us…”

I watched the patrol car holding station about 200 metres behind us, partially hidden by another car. I slowed down a little at a time and finally came down to about 5 miles above the limit, and sat back to see his reaction… The cars around me had done the same and the officer did not seem in the mood to bother anybody about it…

I pulled over into a rest area to take a break, and the patrol car followed me in… He stopped a short distance from me and the officer got out and made a phone call while I stood drinking my Gatorade and chewing on a Snickers… Then he slowly walked over to where I was and took a long look at the bike…

He greeted me in a friendly manner which made me a little suspicious. Usually traffic officers stop to chat to me about mundane matters such as speed limits and other rules and regulations which they seem to want me to understand. This guy just wanted to chat about the bike and where I had been… Or so it seemed… He was genuinely interested in where I had been and what I had seen.

After listening intently to my replies, he nodded his head and turned as if to walk away. Then he stopped, looked back at me and said,

“Say… Do you know the meaning of the term “Safety Corridor”…?? His right hand was on his hip, uncomfortably close to the handgun he wore there. I briefly wondered if he would shoot me if I got the answer wrong…

I had seen the sign a few times along the highway, and it was normally close to junctions where traffic entered and exited the highway. The speed limit in these “safety corridors” were usually at least 10 miles lower than the normal limit applicable… Under the “Safety Corridor” sign, there was usually another sign which said something about “Speeding Fines Doubled”, whatever that means…

Let's dance !!

Let’s dance !!

He seemed to be in a good mood, so I looked down at my feet with a frown and then looked up as if the answer had just come to me…

“Yessir,” I said, “The safety corridor is the stretch of carpet between my bed and the bathroom door, after I’ve had a hot curry for dinner !! It should be kept free and clear of all obstacles !!”

He let out a bellow of laughter and took his hat off with one hand, smoothed his hair with the other, and said, “You might just have made my day, fella !! You ride safely now, hear !!”

“Have a great day yourself !!” I called after him as he got into his car and drove off.

I was smiling to myself and wondering when my sense of humour would fail to impress an officer and result in more trouble than I could handle, but so far, a smile and a joke had got me out of many a tight spot, and I figured to continue in this vein until my luck ran out…

It rained steadily from there on, and just before Columbia, I got trapped in the far left hand lane alongside a long line of trucks, and missed the turnoff to Augusta…

As much as I wanted to see Augusta, the weather to the west of me seemed even worse than that to the south, so I just let the Big Fella roll on and let Gi-Gi recalculate a new route down I-26 in the direction of Charleston.

I figured I’d rather be riding down a wet and windy interstate highway, than negotiating the smaller and narrower country roads, as much as I prefer them to the multi-laned and boring highways.

Shelter from the storm. Ridgeland, South Carolina.

Shelter from the storm. Ridgeland, South Carolina.

The rain hardly ever let up. Just west of Lake Marion, we turned onto I-95 and began the long last leg down the coast to Brunswick. We passed places with interesting names such as Yemassee and Coosawhatchie, and just before Ridgeland, the heavens really opened and the visibility was so low, that even I decided it was no longer safe to ride !!

Cars were pulling over under bridges, and traffic was crawling along at less than 40 miles per hour !! Every vehicle was driving with their hazard lights flashing. I took the turnoff to Ridgeland and stopped under the roof of a service station, seeing people shaking their heads and pointing in my direction, pity etched on their faces. I smiled back at them, pretending that I did this every day, just for a lark !!

A very wet welcome to Georgia, and I have staying alive on my mind !!

A very wet welcome to Georgia, and at this point I had I have “Staying Alive” on my mind !!

After refueling, and watching the rain until it eased slightly, I decided that if I was going to make it to the airport in Jacksonville in time, I’d better be getting on my way.

A short distance later, I crossed over into the state of Georgia, still in pouring rain. The broad Savannah River forms the boundary between South Carolina and Georgia, and empties into the Atlantic near the city named after the river.

Savannah is also a major port, and has a rich and interesting history, none of which I was in the mood to see at that point, as I was being buffeted by high winds, to go with the heavy rain !!

Storm Andrea arrives earlier than expected...

Storm Andrea arrives earlier than expected…

The next 100 kilometres was a bit of a nightmare to ride in, and quite soon after leaving Savannah, I realized that I was never going to make it to Jacksonville in time to surprise Patricia… Bummer !!

It seemed that the weather forecasters had got their facts wrong again, as Storm Andrea did not wait for late afternoon to cross Florida, but had made her way overland during the night, eager to make my acquaintance on I-95 !

It was quite possibly the heaviest rain I have ridden in, although as I get older, memories of previous heavy rains have receded somewhat ! Visibility was down to less than 50 metres in most places, and overtaking trucks which threw up waves of spray and water made for dangerous riding conditions.

And maintaining decent speeds was almost impossible… Almost…!! All that I can say, is that for long periods of time, we actually stuck to the 65 or 70 mile per hour speed limit !! The big trucks just plowed their way through the weather, while smaller cars and their nervous drivers were far more erratic, and needed to be avoided as much as possible.

Breaking through the spray thrown up by trucks was a bit of a lottery at times... You never know what might be waiting for you on the other side !!

Breaking through the spray thrown up by trucks was a bit of a lottery at times… You never know what might be waiting for you on the other side !!

If they hit a puddle of water on the highway, they would brake and then slither around for a while before regaining control, and when this happens right in front of you, and especially if you’re riding a motorcycle, it can be rather disconcerting !!

People I passed kept indicating that I was crazy and that I should pull off, but I just grinned back at them and gave them the thumbs up to show that I was dealing with the inclement weather the only way I knew how, and that was to keep riding until I got out of it !! Optimism is a strong motivator !!

I reached the turnoff to Brunswick at about the same time as Patricia’s plane was landing in Jacksonville, 90 km to the south. It was still raining, but not nearly as heavily as it was before. I rode down the main street and stopped opposite the City Hall building right outside a place called “Hungry Hanna’s”. I had not eaten since the night before, and after expending so much energy fighting through the rain, I was ravenous !

I was sopping wet, so just pushed open the door of Hungry Hanna’s and stood outside of it, hoping to attract somebody’s attention. I did not want to walk into the establishment dripping water all over their floor. An elderly lady with long gray hair tied in a ponytail, looked up disaprovingly from behind the counter as I stood there.

“Hi !!” I said, “I am very wet and don’t want to mess up your floors…”

“I can see that !” she said, looking me up and down. “You can’t come in here like that !!”

“Is it possible for you to bring me a cup of coffee that I can drink outside here ?”I enquired hopefully.

“I’m not making you a cup of coffee !!” she said sternly, and then looked back down at whatever she was reading before I came in…

So much for the southern hospitality I had heard so much about…!!

I stood outside the restaurant for another few minutes, trying to decide what to do next. It was still raining, and although I knew that Patricia’s sister Mimi’s house was just around the corner, I knew that there would not be anybody home until after 4.00 pm. I decided that there was nothing else to do but stand and wait for another hour until Patricia arrived.

While I was fiddling about with my I-Pod, a small white car pulled up to the curb and the driver called out to me.

“Ronnie ?? I’m Charles… I live at Mimi’s house. I saw your bike as I was driving past and thought that it had to be you !! We were only expecting you tomorrow !!”

 Parked outside Mimi's beautiful home in Brunswick, Georgia

Parked outside Mimi’s beautiful home in Brunswick, Georgia

I followed Charles down Union Street, and parked outside a beautiful old Victorian home, mostly hidden behind huge trees. Charles, who is a chef at a nearby restaurant,  advised that the house was over 100 years old, and directed me up a flight of stairs to the first floor and the bedroom we would using during our stay.

Richburg, South Carolina, to Brunswick, Georgia. 2nd leg of my "South and Eastern US Tour" complete.

Richburg, South Carolina, to Brunswick, Georgia. 2nd leg of my “South and Eastern US Tour” complete.

I shed most of my wet gear on the wide front porch, before sitting down to await the arrival of Patricia. Mimi’s neighbours and close friends, Rusty and Catherine, happened to have business down in Jacksonville on the same day as our arrival and collected Patricia from the airport. They arrived barely a few minutes after I had settled down on the porch.

Rusty’s southern drawl was jarringly different to Catherine’s strong Irish accent, and with my South African accent, and Patricia’s “Nu Yawker” thrown in, I was amazed that we understood it each other at all !!

Rusty suggested I park the Big Fella under the roof of their car port, where it would be out of the rain and not long afterwards, we were enjoying  Jameson’s, which just happened to be Rusty’s favourite whiskey, and a brand that I am rather partial to !!

Mimi had not only offered us the run of her home, but her husband David, had very kindly agreed to let us use his car, a beautiful Audi TT convertible !! I knew that this car was David’s pride and joy, and that very few people got to drive it, so was understandably surprised and very grateful for this gesture !! Many thanks David !!

I will certainly adhere to all stipulations regarding and pertaining to the usage of said vehicle, especially “Sub Section 3, Paragraph 1”, which clearly states that Patricia’s fingertips may not come into contact with the steering wheel of said vehicle, for any reason whatsoever…!!

I was looking forward to meeting Mimi’s many friends in Brunswick and on St. Simon’s Island, and listened carefully while my following few days were being mapped out by Patricia. It seemed as though our days here would be filled with places to see and people to visit !

©GBWT 2013

4 comments to Thwarted by Andrea…!!

  • Mark Behr

    Good thing you are not a Generation Y baby – you would melt in such a storm. Enjoy some time with your lovely lady!

  • Charmz

    Glad to see you arriving at David and Mimi’s home in one piece, albeit sopping wet from that long ride. You and Patricia will have lots of fun in the few days that you are there. I’m sure she has loads planned for you. David and Mimi’s 100 year old home looks absolutely magnificent. It was great to skype with you guys again. Enjoy that sunshine, its freezing back home.

  • Murray

    I am very glad you are back on the bike – not to mention the great stories to go with them. Please keep them coming.

    Cheers… Murray
    Brisbane, Australia

  • Kim

    That wasn’t fun!!! Thank heavens for a Jameson – it’s 11am and I’ve just had a neat double, or as Papa would say – “a Porra wake-up call”, after reading all about you meeting Andrea…….
    Patricia, only 4 wheels for a while -see….
    Glad you there safe and sound and when you’ve dried off – go back to that Hungry Hanna’s and give her a “PK” from me!!!
    BIG kisses

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