I’m putting a close on nearly three weeks in Greenville SC, and I must say that I could stay longer. The weather has been pleasantly warm though there’s been quite a bit of rain here in the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills. I’m not complaining though, as it’s amazingly green, and the dogwoods and azaleas are in full bloom.
Greenville was once a textile mill town, and in the 1970s, a community group came together with a vision to revitalize the Reedy River and downtown areas. Falls Park, the city’s central playground, ties downtown to the historic West End, and you can see the growth continuing for a mile or two. Part of their success is it’s a place that welcomes artists, young entrepreneurs, retirees, and big businesses like Michelin, GE and BMW. The locals are quite friendly and polite, though I did hear the word “Yankee” once or twice, and saw the Confederate flag flying as well. While there’s still housing opportunities here, if you want to live in the chic locations, bring a very large check.
When I landed in Greenville, I had a two-week WorkAway scheduled with a young couple who are renovating a 1902 house that had been vacant for ten years! They are also creating a self-sustaining lifestyle, and have chickens, rabbits (not pets), and raised bed gardens. There was never a lack of work to do from yard clearing and gardening, to sanding, painting, and floor prep.
In exchange for 25 hours of work, I lived for free in a tiny house that they built a year or so ago. While I used the kitchen and bath in the main house, it was great to have my own little haven in the backyard. Meals were also provided, and were fresh and healthy, from picking greens right out of the garden to homemade cheese, kimchi, and wheat-less pancakes. Beth is a wealth of info on nutrition, wildcrafting and permaculture, and I left with some great resources for the future.
In my spare time, I explored as much as possible – the park, downtown, museums, and more. The house is just a mile to the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 21-mile (and growing) multi-use greenway that I cycled to see the sites. While Greenville doesn’t have an interconnected bike network, the Trail currently runs from Falls Park to the quaint town of Traveler’s Rest, home to George Hincapie’s Hotel Domestique. I don’t want to give the impression that Greenville is picture perfect. Once you leave the downtown radius, it has its industrial areas, strip malls, and mill housing neighborhoods. That said, I wonder what it will look like in 5 years!
I’ve now put up my homestead at Paris Mountain State Park, just five miles from downtown. Originally land of the Cherokee Indians, private ownership was taken by Richard Pearis of Virginia, before it became the source of water for Greenville from 1890-1916. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps built the Park, which is over 1500 acres with 14 miles of hiking trails. The air smells like honeysuckles.
Tomorrow, I pitch the tent at Stone Mountain in Roaring Gap, NC for a week.
I've never spent any time in the hills of Georgia so I found a spot that looked interesting, and landed in Irwinton, just East of Macon. The draw was a hostel called "The Blue Goose" that caters to cyclists. I expected to arrive to a house full of spandex-clad riders that would help me up the hills, and perhaps share some fun social hours, too. Little did I know that my timing was off -- I had just missed the Blue Goose Road Race and was a bit too early for the Banana Puddin' Festival & Puddin' Pedal.
Rolling out of Florida, I was fortunate to have an invitation to visit friends (formerly of Easton) at their new home on Dataw Island. It was a fun-filled, packed couple of days of Thai food, foreign film, cycling, a dinner party, and playing tourist.
Dataw Island is just East of Beaufort, South Carolina, and offers calming, scenic views of Low Country. Native Americans arrived here around 2500 BC, followed by the Spanish in 1514. Over 200 years, the English replaced the Spanish, and in the late 1700's, William Sams selected Dataw Island as the site for his indigo fields, which became Sea Island Cotton fields. The remains of his family's tabby home are preserved in the community today. Just a few bikeable miles soutth lies the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, a place for preserving and celebrating the Gullah culture of the area.
I'm now onward to the hills of Georgia.
On my last stop in Florida for the season, I had to return to the coast, and was lucky enough to get four nights at Fort Clinch State Park on Amelia Island. I had no idea how lovely and interesting this island would be, and I already plan to return next winter!
While the Civil War-era fort is the main attraction, this 1400+ acre park stretches along the shores of the Amelia River, the Atlantic Ocean, and Cumberland Sound. There are on and off-road bike paths, and the speed limit in the park is 5 - 25 miles/hour. I love it. In fact, all of Amelia Island is bike-friendly and you can ride north into the Fernandina Historic District, along the beach, and south for 22 miles along pathways to Little Talbot Island.
While doing an amazing job of keeping all of the retail ugliness at least 3 miles out of town, they have also preserved a 50-block area at the north end of the island that exudes charm. The town of Fernandina was established in 1811, and named for King Ferdinand VII of Spain. The "new" Florida railroad built in 1853 brought the subsequent tourism boom.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover