Currently sitting in a comfortable coffee shop in Beaufort, South Carolina on a fine, rather blustery afternoon. As anticipated I arrived early; earlier even than I expected, thanks to a 31 kph average over the first hour-plus.
Having left Jacksonboro not long ago, I came to a cute little pie shack off the side of the highway near where I was to make the turn eastward, where I would then be crushed and swallowed up a bit by the winds gusting relentlessly westward. The shack was one of those slightly kitschy little places one must stop, where the provender is assumed to be delicious and of local supply. I bought a mini pecan pie and a chocolate chip cookie. They were good—not the best I’ve had, but not the worst either. Everything in the store was tempting. The cider was tempting. The jellies were tempting. The chocolates were tempting. The other snacks and baked goods were tempting. Ultimately, I thought the pie and cookie more than enough, as I am attempting, and failing, to stick to a nebulous budget, and so I left with only them.
Prior to this, as I was pedaling along Highway 17, a splash and a heavy flapping of wings I abruptly and suddenly heard. I looked up in time to see an enormous, grey bird glide swiftly and fluidly off into the forest, weaving between the gaps in the trees with the precision of a hawk or any other bird that would exemplify the gracefulness and nimbleness of flight, rather than the sure-footed, keen-eyed, stately patience of a bird known for wading on long, stilted legs. It was a bit like watching an aerobatics pilot weave his way through an obstacle course in a narrow canyon, or the speeder bike chase in Return of the Jedi. The weaving of a weft in the warp. Of the mind coming to an understanding. The whole experience was mesmerizing; the perfection of symbiosis along the edge of disparate worlds.
Leaving Beaufort, and to enter Bluffton it was necessary again to pedal eastward—not something to be looked forward to. And what did I do it for? A picture of a tree. Not just any tree, of course, but the tree that is known as the Secession Oak. Robert Barnwell Rhett gave the first speech encouraging South Carolina’s separation from the Union on July 31, 1844 under this tree, which is estimated to be 350-400 years old, and it looks every bit of it. Ancient, glorious, majestic, colossal. It’s branches create a serpentine labyrinth when gazed upward at from beneath—the sky a bluish-white lightbox against which the twisting, turning limbs of the great tree are silhouetted. The Spanish moss hangs in wide curtains. Broad branches carpeted in resurrection ferns. It’s only unfortunate that this tree is in someone’s yard, down a long private drive—something I didn’t know when I went to take a look. One would naturally think an icon of such historical importance would be on city-owned property to be made more available for public consumption, but, alas.
The day ended with a double flat, and swarming gnats, but as I was on my way to find an appropriate site to setup camp it wasn’t too bothersome when I looked to my right after repairing the punctured tube to see a nicely tucked away spot down a slope just off the highway. It was on the grounds of a funeral home, but I’m not one to quibble over details like that when the evening is getting on and the day had been as long as it was. In actuality I couldn’t have asked for a more convenient spot to catch a flat.