The final leg of the trip inland to avoid the flooding brought me back to the coast at Charleston. Another straightforward ride through cotton fields and small towns with a stop for lunch spent listening to gospel music at a community soul food place run by a local church.
Charleston was splendid once I figured out that all the interesting stuff happens a bit north of the historic district. A Sunday evening of fine cocktails, music and conversation covering everything from Instagram retailing to Kentucky horse breeding was spent at The Cocktail Club.
A straightforward ride on easy roads through cotton fields with a spot of light gravel here and there. Stopped for lunch at Gene's Restaurant in the small town of Chester where the people were friendly and the main businesses seemed to be the cafe and the bail bond shop.
In Columbia, drinks were at Pearlz Oyster Bar where talk was of working in automotive repair and dreams of opening a restaurant.
The ride from Greensboro to Charlotte was more suburban than the rough and ready countryside of the last couple of days. Less visually interesting but less likely to get rushed by a pack of pitbulls so swings and roundabouts I guess. As I move further south the visual urban landscape changes, with more and more brick rather than wooden houses.
I stopped for lunch at Hendrix Barbecue and I have to say that I am really enjoying the roadside food down South, whether in general stores, roadside bbq joints or just gas stations with a grill and a couple of tables. The kind of simple place where a working guy can get some eggs and a mug of coffee has pretty much disappeared in England where nowadays there is not much to fill the space between chain fast food and hipster pretentiousness.
Drinks were at the Cowbell Burger & Whisky Bar where talk was of Lidl's US expansion strategy and how to make it as a professional golfer.
The people round here are really friendly, whether chatting in person or just exchanging greetings as you ride by. The dogs and the paper mill truck drivers however.......
I hardly saw another cyclist as I passed through this part of Virginia and North Carolina and the number of whoops, hollers and shouts from passing vehicles suggests that cyclists are a rare enough sight as to be worthy of verbal exclamation.
Greensboro seems like a fun little town that is growing but I didn't get a chance to explore much. It's another student town and conversation in the bar was of student and small town life.
When I rolled into Howardsville General Store and ordered a southern style hotdog I asked if this meant that I was officially in the South? "Hell yeah, you're in the South!" came the reply. So I guess I am in the South. The hotdog was splendid.
Riding-wise it is great to be back in the countryside and the riding was fun again in the morning with rolling hills, country roads, gravel tracks and even the occasional knee deep river crossing.
With the fun came the slight frisson of danger that comes with cycling in the American countryside - I am back in angry dog country. Quite what it is that lurks in the American countryside that means that people need angry dogs to charge out of their properties and accost people on the public highway I have no idea, but there is an aggressive edge to the American countryside that you don't get in more pastoral England. Maybe it is just because they have animals more scary than badgers and cyclists are just caught in the crossfire.
On a quiet evening in Lynchburg talk in the bar was of wrestling and Christian universities.
After Washington I decided to head inland to avoid the flooding in North Carolina and set of for the small town of Louisa. Splendid though Washington was, the riding the day before and the day after Washington were probably the least interesting riding days so far, full of bland highways and tedious bike-unfriendly junctions. Nevertheless, things picked up in the afternoon as I hit the country roads of rural Virginia and headed towards Louisa.
Beers and meat loaf were taken in the only bar in town, the Court Café & Pub where talk was of neighbours, friends and acquaintances, motorbike maintenance, trouble at the local trailer park and a fund raiser for a local family who lost their home in a fire.
I may have slightly neglected to remember the drink slow part of the tagline in York so I limped slowly and painfully into Washington on a shortened and frankly not very interesting route. The final run-in to Washington down bike paths was nice though.
Washington was fantastic and the bars various and most enjoyable, the highlight being the Quill at The Jefferson where bar, company and conversation were wonderful.
I was surprised at how many of the conversations were about politics and policy. London is our centre of government but it doesn't seem to dominate in the same way, I guess because London is also our centre of pretty much everything else as well.
The morning's ride was through Pennsylvania Dutch farmland; fields and field of corn, men and women working the land in traditional dress, driving horse-drawn buggies and using horses to work the land.
In the afternoon, the ride was more urban as I passed though the outskirts of Lancaster, across the Susquehanna River and into York.
In the evening, after some jazz at the Holy Hound Taproom the barstaff at a nearby cocktail bar regaled us with tales of their romance and then it was on to the $2 beer bar, which may have been a mistake...
After coming out of Stroudsburg down small country roads the rest of the morning was spent on the canal path between the Delaware River and the Delaware canal. Pleasant, although a little samey after a while.
In the afternoon the route went back to country roads into Philly, finishing with a trail which brought me right into the heart of the city pretty much traffic free.
I took a rest day in Philly and the bars and conversations were numerous and varied, ranging from discussions of Catalan identity to speech therapy to the London and New York music scenes. There was also much talk of travel, pretty much all of the Americans I have met have been pretty well traveled. Hopefully I will be back to spend more time in Philadelphia in the future as it is rather splendid.
Across New York State and into Pennsylvania today. After an early morning blast down main roads I crossed the Hudson river at Newburgh and carried on through a mix of industrial and urban landscapes and scrubby farmland.
In contrast, in the afternoon the route took me on quiet, wooded country roads down the Delware River valley, crossing the river at Dingman's Bridge. After short diversion up the Delaware Water Gap to look at the view I finished in Stroudsburg.
On a quiet night in Stroudsburg, due to the inclement weather, I chatted to John about the difficulty of finding a middle ground in contemporary American politics, combining economic and social liberty and of the differences between English liberalism ans American libertarianism, among many things.