I left Charlotte late, as is my standard, but still managed to put in the 50 miles necessary to make it to the town of Chester, SC., though it wasn’t long before my groin was nagging at me again, even after the five days of rest. I stopped at a Food Lion after a couple hours, sat down on the concrete outside the store, and had some lunch in the shade, as it was warm and uncomfortably humid in the sun. I was really feeling irritable about pretty much everything regarding the trip at this point and didn’t really feel like going on, but there wasn’t much else to do, really, so…
There were periods of cycling through some brilliant green, bucolic farm land, and the largest, most open landscapes I’ve seen thus far (well, that would likewise be the farm land). I got my first look at cotton fields, most of which were picked clean, though there were a few that had not been harvested yet, and the roads which were nicely flat made for easy and speedy cycling.
When I arrived in Chester it was already past dark. The town was decorated for Christmas with large, wire-framed, light-wrapped Santas, angels, reindeer and what have you scattered throughout the tiny center of town. Again, at first glance it seemed a charming place, what with the Christmas decorations giving it a sense of merriment, and some of the houses on certain streets being quite grand in appearance, but only so long as I didn’t look too closely at the empty buildings in the town center, which I did of course, and then came to the conclusion that I was in another ghost town. I can only wonder for the reason of the town’s, and the many others like it that I’ve written of before, economic downfall. What was the town’s past source of economy? Where has it gone?
The ground being soaked I didn’t feel like camping. It was also night, as I mentioned already. Actually, at this point of the trip I was quite sick of camping altogether, regardless of the state of the ground. Probably my overall frustrations with everything from my bike not shifting properly, to the crappy saddle I’d been sitting on for nearly a month uncomfortably, and my sore groin (again)… and that probably covers it. Physically sore = mentally sore. Things not working properly = a constant source of agitation.
I stayed at the EXECUTIVE Inn on the edge of town. A nice enough place, as all these “cheap” inns and motels are. The shower was naturally fantastic, as was being able to write in comfort. There was even an awful restaurant right next door where I could, and did, have dinner. I’ve forgotten the name of it already, but it was named after the city: the Chester some such something or other. It was one of those lugubrious places with a wooden fish nailed in place over the entrance denoting that they do indeed serve seafood. Immediately upon entering I was assaulted by the smell of old grease and deep fryers. Whether open or closed I imagine that aroma has permeated every table, brick and seat in the place, and it probably reeks of it morning, noon and night. I was then greeted by the host, standing at her station by the cash register to the left. She seated me in a booth and supplied me with a glass of water. Now, this booth was no ordinary booth. The padded seats were merely busted mattress springs wrapped in dull, red vinyl, and the surface of the table a faux-wood laminate such as one might find in an elementary school. The restaurant was essentially one long feed hall, reminiscent of a low barn. At one end was the kitchen, hidden behind a wall and a door, and the register. The rest of the place was just row upon row of booths or tables, all obviously of the lowest quality. On the far wall opposite the kitchen was a nonsensical juxtaposition of a white board side by side with a flat screen tv. Above these two fixtures was a captain’s wheel framed by two large harpoons. Hanging on a column in the center of the room was a life preserver, and all throughout the restaurant were framed pieces of “modern art” one might find at a Big Lots or similar store. Some photographs of a bunch of nobodies’ faces, and a twenty foot long mirror that probably hadn’t been cleaned since the place opened.
I wasn’t expecting much after sitting down, taking a look around, and then looking over the menu, but even the low expectations that I had were disappointed by the meal, which was probably the worst I’ve ever had. However, for $6 (!!!) and free hush puppies, which, until I got to Charleston, I could only describe as breaded, deep-fried balls of insipid, uninspiring, doughy calories, it’s maybe hard to complain. And the service was friendly enough. Actually, more so than at a lot of other places. It saddens me that this is the type of food that people find to be normal, or good in so many places throughout the country. Nothing fresh. Everything canned or frozen, and trucked in from a warehouse somewhere. No wonder obesity is so rampant here. I didn’t linger for long, despite having brought a book with me to read; I could do that easily enough back at the motel, and so I did.