I wake up early, read, and wait for the continental breakfast to open in the lobby. At 7 I call and ask about it. By 7:30 it’s open and there’s coffee. When I ask about food the guy makes me a bowl of Raisin Bran. Ha! But I take it back to my room and make oatmeal to go with it. It’s after 8 when I hit the road.
To my amazement, 56, the road I want, begins right at my motel. Off I go. It seems like a different world from yesterday. The sky opens way up, the landscape seems built for speed with long, gentle slopes. The horizon seems to hide a bluish haze, like the world dissapates into mist just beyond what is visible. The air smells like mildew.
Across from an airfield I see a bunch of smokestacks billowing a few miles distant. Later I pass them – a paper factory. The mildew smell gives way to the corpse-rot odor of a papermill that lingers for miles. I pass my first armadillo roadkill. Comparing the smell with the papermill, I decide I prefer roadkill.
I enjoy speeding along among cotton fields, tree farms, and scattered residences. In Waynesboro there are hordes of tiny black flies. A small bald man in a sheriff’s uniform makes fun of my bike, calling it a clown’s bike. I force myself to be goodnatured about it, letting him know how far I’ve come on my clown’s bike. Everyone around gazes with curiosity.
More speed down 25 to Millen, where I decide to try a longer route on smaller roads. I ride down 17, then turn onto 301. I see some inviting woods and decide to call it a day. I duck into the trees with my bike. It gets stuck on a thorny vine which somehow pulls the chain off the front ring. Wrestling with it, my foot falls through the pine needle duff into a hole. When I’m free again I probe further into the woods. Just as I find a promising spot, I feel a bite on my ankle. Instinctively I swat at it, missing a bee. I feel a sting on the other ankle. They’re painful! Suddenly the air is full of bees. I feel more stings. I completely panic and start to flee. After a few steps I regain control of myself, run back to the bike, grab it, and get back to the road as fast as I can. My urge is to jump right on the bike and ride away, but I whack my elbow trying to get the chain back on and my hand and forearm become a blaze of pain. I fall back in utter defeat.
After sitting on the roadside for a minute with my head in my hands, I carefully put the chain on and ride on down the road. Never have I felt so ejected from a place. I think back to Moby Dick and all the symbolic occurrences that Ahab sees and ignores. I console myself with some tacos in Stateboro, then find a nice, secure-feeling spot to camp on an old maintenance trail near the golf course on Country Club road. I find I have only three stings, many fewer than I thought. They still burn.