Number Forty Eight: South Carolina

Mission Accomplished! Number 48 out of 48, more or less. We intend to revisit a couple states where we didn’t quite make it to 50 miles as we work our way home. South Carolina as number 48 wasn’t exactly an arbitrary choice but had to do with geography not politics, religion, or any other personal preference, pro or con.

I have been to South Carolina many times; seen the damage to the State Capitol from Union cannonballs during the “War of Northern Aggression”; have managed to get snowed in at the Charleston airport, know what a red dot store is and why; can use ‘might could’ correctly in conversation. I have many friends in and from SC. I have given seminars at the University (aka USC) to graduate students and faculty in measurement and research. I have had contracts with the State Department of Education, where the staff and their consultants were pretty much the same people, in somewhat reversed roles, that I saw at the University.

We came to Greenville to ride the Swamp Rabbit. As with many rails-to-trails trails, this one was named after the rail line, officially the Greenville and Northern Railway, but nicknamed “The Swamp Rabbit”, which most thought was its name.

Before the railroad, there was an animal called the swamp rabbit, formally Sylvilagus aquaticus, but no one outside the Zoology Department of USC knows it it by that name. It looks like, acts like, breeds like, and is a cottontail that swims well. One reportedly tried to escape from pursuing hounds by swimming into a lake and jumping into President Carter’s fishing boat. Because of the success of the trail, many things are now Swamp Rabbits: restaurants, breweries, bars, theme parks, hockey teams. (Living in the State of Hockey, my view on the Greenville Swamp Rabbits is that if you don’t have ice, you can’t have hockey.)

The “sculpture” is not the swamp rabbit; that looks nothing like a cottontail. We were riding on Valentine’s Day, which is a few days before South Carolina turns green and starts to bloom, but the black swans didn’t care. In spite of the visual, the bike shop was willing to tweak a cable on a tandem for old people for no charge. The Whistle Stop Café was an interesting lunch spot right on the trail.

The trail is advertised as 22-miles but some Reconstruction (dirty word in these parts) stopped us well short of Pumpkintown so we needed another trail to get our quota. The Doodle Trail, Easly to Pickens, almost did it; we still needed to ride around town a bit to get there. The miles were not exactly easy pickins on the Doodle. The mountains may not have begun yet but they were thinking about it.

While springtime in South Carolina is spectacularly green, it’s not all that green in the other sense. Parking things in the grove and dumping them in the crick seem to be acceptable forms of recycling.

State 48 seems an odd time to come to this conclusion but if I had thought this through better, restrooms that we visited would have been a regular feature of these musings. We once rode from home to parks to art festivals to hamburger joints to bike shops to home; now we ride restroom to restroom. These stops were often my only opportunity to stop and take photos. This repurposed box car was one of our favorites. In spite of the hint from the sign, women are right. While the Doodle Trail has a cute logo, heading straight into the setting sun is never my favorite part of any ride. (Straight into a rising sun has never been an issue for us.)

Chicago has big, decorated cows; Sioux Falls has bison; Minneapolis, characters from Peanuts. One might have thought Greenville would have had rabbits. It might could but doesn’t; it has brass mice about three inches long. There are, purportedly, nine of them peeking from nooks and crannies along Main Street. They aren’t the only reason to visit. There is much public art, mostly historical.

They also had shops, restaurants, and bars between art installations.

For history, the Upcountry History Museum, Furman University, was a good stop. A lot of interesting stuff. Shoeless Joe Jackson, for example, was born in Greenville and began his baseball career playing for the mill team (Greenville is big on mills.) Rightly or wrongly, he was banned from baseball and the Hall of Fame because of his alleged involvement in the Black Sox scandal. His shoelessness involved exactly one at bat, because a new pair of spikes hurt his feet and he hit a triple in his stocking feet. That’s why he isn’t “Barefoot Joe Jackson.”

Cotton was once a big deal in SC, and hence the mills and presumably spinsters, although that term is more associated with the mills of the northeast. We didn’t see any baled cotton here; when we did see some in the deeper South, they were big, round, and shrink-wrapped (usually pink) using stationary balers.

John Calhoun also hales from the Upcountry, but from Abbeville (which is the first county in the US alphabetically) not Greenville. I would describe the Museum’s treatment of Calhoun as nuanced. It does not extol him as a great patriot, which would certainly have been the case if the South had won the war. Nor does it ostracize him as is the case in Minneapolis (see Bde Maka Ska). He was a forceful advocate for “States Rights”, which for Calhoun meant protecting the Southern economy, slavery, and secession, if that’s what it took to preserve the White culture.

Ironically, his views on the legality of secession were shaped in the Northeast, at Yale University, in the early 19th century. At that time and place, the issue was still States Rights but the context was restrictive trade policies that were hurting the industrial Northeast. He died ten years before the war.

The Army and Navy recruiting posters use identical wording but manage to carry rather different messages. Only one of the visuals has become iconic.

“We’re still not where we’re going but we’re still not where we were.” Natasha Josefowitz.

5 thoughts on “Number Forty Eight: South Carolina

  1. Thank you for writing these posts, Ron. They are informative and always laced with humor and amusing observations. I’m sorry to see them end. The scope of your tandem b,one goal still blows my mind.

    Jane Lentz


    1. We have mixed emotions about having checked that box, but happy to be back in Minnesota for the bike trails and the climate (not talking about the weather.) We expect to travel in retirement. It’s in our life goals, don’t have a bucket list.


  2. Hi Ron and Dore,
    It’s so good to see you back riding again post Pandemic and thank you for sharing your wonderful and enlightening stores about what you have leaned! this weekend I read FL and GA, and soon South Carolina which seems to be chock full of information too. You two are unbelievable! Thank you again and please let me know if your travels take you back to CT again….
    Stay in touch, all the best!


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