Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Coast to Coast: Day 21: Beaufort, SC. Wednesday, May 28, 2014

     This day was a lazy day. Macon, Georgia was a true test to my spirit and love for the trip. Although that spirit never faded, I felt I needed to recharge before coming home.

     I was up late in the morning at about 10 am. I headed straight to the beach; shoes and helmet off again. This time at the beach, I fully submerged myself in the Atlantic. I was deep enough that I was able to pick up sand dollars off the ocean floor. I threw them like frisbees further from the beach.

     I also climbed the lighthouse. I am deathly afraid of heights, but I think this may have been the only time I made it to the top without being stunned by the height. My trip put me through so much; and I wasn’t afraid of anything anymore.

The view of the beach from the lighthouse 

The Hunting Island Lighthouse 

     I went back to the hotel, piled up my laundry, and went to the vending machine room. There were no washing machines, so I went down the elevator and checked the first floor. Still no washing machines. I asked the concierge where the laundry room was, and she said the hotel didn’t have any. There was a laundromat within walking distance from the rear of the hotel, and told me to follow a path that would take me straight there.

     The laundromat was very close, and it only took a five minute walk to get there. I didn’t bring all my quarters, so I thought I could stuff one of the smaller machines with all my clothes. I could barely shut the washing machine door, and my clothes didn’t completely soak until it was already on the rinse cycle.

     The washing machine next to mine was running, and I saw the owner enter the laundromat after I had just started the wash cycle. Since both of us were just standing in front of the machines, I started a conversation with him.

     He had just moved to Beaufort, and he was in the process of building a house, so he didn’t have a way to do laundry. His wife wasn’t with him because she was still a few states away packing their stuff. Our conversation moved to his sons, who were in the military, and then he told me that he was also once in the military. He shared with me some of his experiences.

     He spent six months stationed in a town in northern Kazakhstan in the early 90s, and told me all the joys of the socialist government. The town was held together by mining, but no one was paid for any type of work. Instead, at the end of every year, the government would send the town equipment based on the amount of coal they mined. Actual currency was not involved, and was apparently only used by peasants.

     Then the country decided to form its own currency, the “Tenge”. Citizens were told to take all of their Russian rubles to a state bank, and they would be given in return exactly one hundred tenge. It didn’t matter how many rubles a citizen had: ten, one hundred, one hundred thousand. He would only be given one hundred tenge.

     The climate in northern Kazakhstan was very cold, so there was a coal burning plant seated in the middle of the town that heated and delivered steam to the nearby buildings. After the economy collapsed, there was no heat, no supplies, and no production. In fact, the only thing the town gift shop had for sale was a broken light switch, and it was kept in a locked container.

     I dropped my clean laundry off at the hotel, and went out for dinner. I had a particular place in mind. Almost every time my family and I went to Beaufort, we stopped at 11th Street Dockside. The restaurant was right on the water, and neighbored a shrimp boat dock.

11th Street Dockside seen from the dock 

     Like my father, I go to seafood restaurants to order a steak. I’m that guy. I don’t generally eat fish unless I catch it and gut it myself. It’s not that I don’t trust the way restaurants prepare fish, it’s just fish always tastes better when it’s my catch. The sirloin was delicious, and it was starting to get dark. I headed back to the hotel.

     I was in the middle of packing up my gear for the next day so I could save time on my leave. I noticed something sticking out of the back pocket of my wallet, and pulled it out. It was the business card of the adventure motorcyclist I met before passing into Albuquerque.

     His name was Andrew Pain, and his occupation was a journalist. There were five different ways to contact him listed on the card, and I checked his website. He wrote a lot of adventure touring books and had an active blog. As far as adventure tourers go, this guy was king.

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