Thursday, 21 January 2010

Day 978 - Charleston, South Carolina

In the Twelve Tribes community Shabbat is celebrated from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Friday evening is a special occasion for them. The gathering is similar to normal, but guests are invited and there is more singing and dancing. All that is followed with a seated 3 course dinner and on this occasion there were about 65 of us including other foreigners from South Africa and Canada, though I was still the only guest staying here. It is their way of sharing their culture with the outside community and gives people a chance to ask questions and see how it all works, it made for an enjoyable and social evening.

Saturday was forecast for a 60% chance of showers during the day and 100% chance of heavy rain overnight. By the time the morning Gathering and breakfast was over the rain had already set in, so with an invite to stay as long as I wanted there was a 0% chance of me leaving. It rained pretty much all day but with it being a Saturday there were always people around to talk to. I enjoyed long talks with Doresh, who I was sharing a room with, Anav and others whose names I have already forgotten. During a discussion with Anav he told me that he believed God wanted mankind to live as they were living, i.e. living and working for each other rather than for yourself, but I pointed out that I honestly think I am living right now as God wants me to live “We can’t both be right” I told him. We were interrupted and Anav had to leave, but later he answered my question, it was pretty obvious and straight forward, we probably were both right. I won’t tell you his answer, you can have a little think about it. It continued to rain all day and by evening the weather forecasters were 100% right, it was raining heavily and was very glad that I had stayed another day. Saturday evening brought another longer Gathering, then the children had story time, a long story, a sort of padded out bible story, they all listened intently. At the end of it each one had to stand up and say something, though to be honest I was sat a little too far away and couldn’t hear what any of them were saying. There was an evening celebration to which guests are not invited so Doresh and I went down to the ship.

After breakfast on Sunday I said goodbye to those who were still around, nobody stays in one place for very long around here! The longer I stayed with the community the more I liked it, it seemed a nice healthy lifestyle to me, very open and very welcoming. I said when I arrived here that it was a sort of a cult, but that is being unfair to them, they are just living an alternative lifestyle that they believe is the right way to live and the way that God wants them to live. It had rained in the morning but had stopped by the time that I left, but it was so much warmer, about 18c. I headed out of Savannah and had to cross the river. Typically when I arrived at the bridge there was a sign saying “No pedestrians or cyclists”. I am getting a bit cheesed off with bans on bridges so I chose to ignore it, I carried on. As I headed up, coming the other way was a runner and as we passed each other a police car passed us without stopping, clearly they are a bit cheesed of with the ban as well. I could see no reason to stop us crossing, there was a wide shoulder that wasn’t on the road leading to it, so in actual fact it was safer on the bridge. The day got better as it went on with only one longish shower all day, I even had a good tailwind, progress was swift. The roads were through remote areas though surprisingly busy the whole time. Only when it came to finding a campsite did I fully realise just how heavy the rain had been last night. Each time I left the road the tracks were soggy and off the tracks were either waterlogged or so squishy that my feet were getting wet. I pulled off a number of times before at last hitting the jackpot and finding a gravely track to take me away from the road. I went under the gate and cycled about 150m before grinding to a halt. There wasn’t as much gravel as I had expected and the clay like soil had stuck to the tyres and clogged up everything. I got off and pushed but within a few metres the wheels stopped turning altogether. I lay the bike down and tried to move the wheels but using both hands on one wheel but I could not budge it in either direction. I cleared off the worst of the gloopy mess by hand and made another bad decision to continue down the track as time was running short, find a spot to camp and clean the bike properly in the morning. Within metres it was locked solid again, I changed my mind and decided to head out, the gate seemed so close but took me over half an hour to reach it. The bike got chocked in mud in seconds despite the fact that it was only going down into the mud for about a quarter of an inch. I started to carry it which just meant that my shoes picked up all the tacky stuff, it was a nightmare and I wasn’t best pleased. By the time I got back to the gate it was dark, so having cleared enough mud and released both brakes so that the wheel could just about turn I went back a kilometre to a spot I had seen earlier and decided wasn’t suitable. How I wish I had taken that spot in the first place.

I spent an hour the following morning trying to clear the mud off the bike, but at least the wheels would turn smoothly with the brakes connected. It was a main road bash into Charleston, then my written notes to my couch surfing place failed me when I arrived at a freeway and couldn’t get across. A bottled of water was hurled at me and hit the back of the bike, I guess I looked thirsty! I spent the evening with my host Jessica and her two housemates Matt and Mike. When I arrived they made me a cup of tea with tea from a nearby Charleston plantation and the only commercially grown tea in the USA. The teabags were large, this is America, the cup had to be equally large. In fact it was so large that as we talked, each time I drank from the cup the all disappeared from view. They were all very sociable and had some great stories to tell about people that had stayed in the house. Charleston is known as the medical city due to its medical university and its hospital and funnily enough both Jessica and Matt had medical jobs. Mike and Matt were both soccer fans and took great pride in showing me an article titled “Why England will not win the World Cup”. I also found out that England and the USA are in the same group this summer.

It was about 8 miles and 2 buses into Charleston, but what a lovely city, I prefer it to Savannah, there is more variety in the architecture and little lanes just cry out to be explored. As the sun went down on a lovely warm day the streets were full of joggers in shorts out running, I felt a little embarrassed and idle to only be walking. It must have been all those medical students out doing what it they know is good for them. Charleston also provided me with my first chance to ring bells in the USA. The Grace Church had a detached bell tower with 10 bells, only built about 10 years ago and the most clinically clean ringing chamber I have ever seen. After ringing Wood kindly gave me a lift home saying “If you come and ring at the Cathedral tomorrow I will give you a lift home then as well”. I walked to the front door, politely knocked, then expecting it to be open anyway, opened the door and walked in. Sat on the sofa opposite was a man I hadn’t met before, but surprisingly the room was smaller and all the furniture was different. I quickly realised my mistake and with an “Oops! Sorry, wrong house” I made a hasty retreat. I did take up Wood’s offer and went ringing the following evening at the Cathedral, the only ringing chamber I have even been in with a dog sat in the corner, and true to his word Wood kindly gave me a lift home again, so much nicer an more relaxed than a bus and an hours walk in the dark, the lifts were really appreciated. Charleston has a lovely downtown area, I am really taken with it. It is built on small peninsula so you are never far from water, but at every junction the streets are so inviting and begging to be explored. Some of you might know that I like photographing doors and windows, well I thought I was in heaven!

In answer to your question Aoiffe, yes, that is the same buff as I left home with, in fact all my clothes are the same as I left home with. I have probably thrown some out but the only addiction has been the second hand socks. Now do you understand why I keep saying I look like a tramp? I haven’t been joking.


caff said...

You have surprised me in your latest blog entry. I thought you were addicted to white chocolate but it seems you have changed and now you are only addicted to second-hand socks....!:-)

kyle said...

John, I hope that all of your travels is doing well.and that the baggels that my wife and I gave you came in handy at some point, I guess that they did or you would have tried to clean off the mud on your wheels with one.Thank you for the pleasure to meet you at K&C's Oaktree Cafe Kyle and Cheryl Hicks

dad said...

Hi John,remember me? Lovely photographs of a beautiful city and an interesting narrative. I hope to be reading your postings from now on. love as always and take care

neil_machin said...


I have just found your blog recently and am reading it from both ends - i.e. reading your current posts and also started from the beginning and had read up to Bangkok, 1 year in.

Sounds like you are having a great trip. Do keep up the posts - they are being read and very interesting to follow along with your journey as it is happening.

aoiffe said...

Another question:
when you do all that walking do you still wear your cycling shoes with cleats? When I have seen others walking in them it seems to be a less than ideal footwear once off the bike. Also walking looks and sounds as though the cleats might be being damaged.

jac said...

Great post as ever. Glad it still seems to be warm for you. I haven't seen a runner in shorts for some time, and haven't been a runner in shorts for many, many months!

I can't guess Anav's answer. What was it?