Untethered, Unworried

A destination: Beaufort, where Penny, Sharon and Mason were visiting Tom and Alison for the weekend.

A means: A bright blue Suzuki V-Strom with a new set of rubber and 9,000 miles on the odometer -- just broken in, really.

And the magic words:

A Google Map led me down to the Lowcountry, without once setting tire on I-26 or I-95. From my home in West Columbia through towns I'd never heard of -- some with funny names ("North, South Carolina," Norway, Denmark, Bamberg), most with people strolling along the side of the road, and almost all with a Chinese take-out place -- I took my time on a long and winding ride to See What I Could See. When I noticed something interesting, I circled back and took a picture.

There's something about a two-lane road. A thread of asphalt through the woods, a tightrope to walk with two wheels, a quiet stream of scenery that goes forever and never overwhelms you. You slow down as the towns draw closer -- Bells, SC, 35 mph -- get a moment's lingering glance at the lives playing out just off the main drag, then accelerate out the other side... 45, 55, 70. Reflecting, projecting.

On an open stretch, without having seen a person for miles, you open it up. The motor's muffled yell pounds at the walls of your helmet as the pines blur by at 90, 100, 115. Bumps and divots in the pavement kick through the seat, stifled impacts and a "curve ahead" sign slow you back to a cruise.

In the next town, you stop for gas, and smile to the curious locals in line, trying not to look strange in a reflective cordura suit and full-face helmet, shield flipped up, wires snaking around your neck from carefully situated headphones. One woman says hi, and you reply to her greeting quickly, surprising yourself at the sound of your own voice.

By Lodge, SC, I had a text message on my phone. Penny: GOING TO THE BEACH. MEET US THERE.

Now I had a new endpoint. Hunting Island. A perfect beach, in my opinion. Wide, but not so wide that the trees are far behind you. Gentle water, but not so gentle that you may as well just take a bath. And scenic, but somehow untouched by too many other people.

After four hours in the saddle, I am fishing through my pockets for the four-dollar beach admission fee. I only find two, but the lady in the booth says they take credit cards now. I'm in.

I walk up to Penny and Alison and report on the journey. Peeling off the suit and my boots, I stand on the beach in jeans, feeling the warmth of the sand on my soles. The water is tempting.

I quickly give in. Mason shows me the secrets of boogie boarding as I drag through the water in soaked denim, heavy on my legs as I walk out to sea, gradually starting to float.

After a few runs on the plastic board, a few good waves caught and ridden up close to the shore, I paddle back out and just drift. My legs dangle below me, toes skimming the sandy ocean floor. I look back to the beach and see Penny, and Alison, sitting in the sun, smiling. Penny waves.

I slip down on the board so only my the top of me is out of the water, arms folded across the warm plastic of the board. I close my eyes and lay down my head, exhausted from the ride and the runs up to shore and back. The current twirls me slowly as the tide recedes; I can feel the sunlight passing across my face with each gentle turn, and I hear Sharon in the water several yards away, calling to Mason that she sees good waves coming.

Each one lifts me up, and lets me down. The sun dries the ocean off my face, leaving my skin placid and sticky. I rest and almost sleep, and wonder how such a day could have drifted into my life. I wonder about it for a few moments, but not too much, and soon I am back to just floating, and drifting, and smiling in the sun.


-T- said...

Nice post. I want to ride...

Alison said...

Maybe I will let T get a bike...

Pen and I look WAY cute! :)

Anonymous said...

Well, since you mentioned it, Alison... it looks like somebody posted a pretty nice SV650 (the sportier version of my bike) on the Charleston craigslist this morning...



Anonymous said...

Perfect description of delight.

Lauren Groblewski said...

I've passed through many of those tiny rural SC towns and driven down what seems like hundreds of those roads underneath the spanish moss. My mom grew up in Bamberg so my family visited there often in the summers as a child.

I love the feeling of being swept back in time by those humble towns and friendly people.

Thanks for taking me back.