Monday, May 20, 2019

Riding with the ROBOS -- Greenville

Back row: Lynden, Pat, Jeanne, Carol and Brideen
Front row: Gaye, Meike, Pam and me
A couple months back, I received an excited email from my friend Pam. "The ROBOS are coming to South Carolina!" it declared. The missive went on to ask if I wanted to join them for their U.S. cycling adventure. Needless to say, I was in. But a bit of background might be required....

Back when I was married, we had a home in Chester, Nova Scotia. It is an incredibly beautiful place on Mahone Bay filled with interesting and fun people living life to its fullest. The days were spent golfing and biking and -- gasp -- even doing some sailing.  No matter what the activity, there was always lots of great comaraderie.

Meike, Pam, Pat and Lynden at Swamp Rabbit Trail Café -
the Stecca bread was amazing!

In 2008, some of the more avid cyclists organized the ROBOS, or Ride on Buns of Steel.  (It never hurts to be aspirational, does it?)  Each year since then, the group has gathered for a cycling-oriented trip. Sometimes they've braved the elements and ridden from inn to inn with their gear in panniers. Other years they've done bike and barge tours or more urban adventures. I was finally going to experience a ROBOS adventure firsthand.

Our first day of cycling took us to Greenville. We rented bikes in Travelers Rest, a town whose name comes from the days when stage coaches would stop there to allow travelers time to rest and reprovision before heading over the mountains.

Pam on the Swamp Rabbit Trail
It's a straight shot on the Swamp Rabbit Trail from Travelers Rest to Greenville. Not surprisingly, there's a story behind the name of the trail. In 1887, the shortline Greenville and Northern Railroad was established to ferry goods (and perhaps people) the 11.3 mile run between the two towns. It didn't take long for the railroad to become known as the Swamp Rabbit due to its route through the wetlands of the Upper Reedy River. (That explanation doesn't totally clarify things for me, but that's how the story goes.) The multi-purpose trail follows the same path taken by the Swamp Rabbit and thus goes by the same name.

While the name Swamp Rabbit Trail doesn't exactly evoke visions of beauty, the trail is quite lovely. We pedaled under a canopy of trees for much of the ride. Who knew (or at least remembered) that there were so many colors of green?  And I loved the signage along the way, including the four signs that reminded us, "Don't worry/about your hairdo/it's better for you/to wear a helmet." Point taken.

Meike seems to be conversing with Nobel Prize winning
physicist -- and Furman graduate -- Charles Townes
It didn't take long for us to reach Greenville. The former mill town has been revitalized and is now a seriously up and coming city. It was fun to revisit the spots Pam had introduced me to last summer, including Falls Park on the Reedy and the awesome M. Judson Booksellers. The town is filled with sculptures and flowers, and the attentive pedestrian can contemplate the quotes engraved in sidewalk pavers on Main Street. My favorite, compliments of Joseph Joubert, read, "Never cut what you can untie." On my next visit, I'm hoping to do the self-guided public art tour.

All too soon, it was time to ride back to Travelers Rest. After all, there was happy hour to be had at the top of Glassy Mountain, elevation 1647 feet. (Yes, the views were incredible.)  Stay tuned for a recap of our adventures in Asheville and the Blue Ghost Fireflies Tour at Cradle of Forestry.

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