Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Georgolina Part I

Nice Southern city on the west side of the Savannah River.

Nice Aiken County SC suburb on the east side of the Savannah River.

Augusta is such a special place that it takes two states to put it in. 

And BikerBuck's story starts here in 1957, at the Richmond Hotel shown in the above photo, taken today.

When BB was 14 years old, his father was sent to run a heavy minerals mining operation in the Horse Creek Valley area of South Carolina, close to the Savannah River. The family lived for two weeks in downtown Augusta GA, at the Richmond Hotel on Broad Street. That hotel building is still in use, for Section 8 housing. 

The family settled in nearby Aiken, SC where BB attended Aiken Senior High, played in the band, and threw the Augusta Chronicle seven days a week from his bicycle.  He took a summer job in Bath SC with a survey crew that worked for his Dad's company.  He and his girlfriend occasionally broke curfew and drove the 17 miles to August to hang out at the Varsity Drive-In burger joint, where the hot local DJ did his show from a studio-on-stilts hovering above the Varsity's parking lot. He could also be found with his buddies at the traveling carnival's tents beside the Savannah where in one particular venue the most amazing acts were performed by ladies dancing to the hit tune, Honeycomb.

BB got his driver's license at 14 and bought his first car in Aiken, a '51 Nash Rambler Country Club model 4302, the first "hard top convertible" model in the U.S. That was after he wrecked the family car while racing around with a school pal. 

He was in the band, played drums. The AHS band went to most of the away games and never missed the grudge matches with North Augusta, where one year we watch in agony as our star half-back Mike Lanning got his collarbone broken on a fierce tackle. 

American History was taught in grade 11 by an elegant lady who happened to be the wife of the Superintendent of Schools. When it was time for the unit on the period of 1860-64 the teacher advised her students that their text books would not be necessary for the next two weeks as she would teach them all they needed to know about the War of Northern Aggression and they could simply take their own notes to prepare for her exam.

In total, BB went to four different schools from grades 9 through 12 eventually graduating from Oak Park & River Forest (IL) High in 1960.  But the only high school reunions he has attended have been in Aiken SC. He remains a close friend of one Aiken classmate who also lives in Honolulu, and he will have reconnected with several others during the course of Southern Comfort.

So let's just say that the time spent in Georgia and South Carolina - collectively "Georgolina" for statistical use in the 50-50 mileage record - is of the hallowed ground variety.  Save room in a couple of days for one more high school story set in Georgia.

This day's story is all about the treasures of the Augusta Canal trail and the North Augusta Greenway. Let's get to that now.

My companion and knowledgeable  Augustian today is Steve Neely, brother of Honolulu colleague and Southern Comfort host, Claudia Schmid.  Steve is telling the history of the Sibley Mill and the Confederate Powder Works that occupied this facility. The complex will remind movie buffs of The Shawshank Redemption.

This 20th century damn along with the preceding Native American technology transforms the Savannah River's power to economic development and environmental impact along its race to the Atlantic.

Bridges such as this one remind us of the symbiotic relationship between rail and canal.

Lake Olmstead is fed by the canal and anchors a lovely residential area.

Jai is a home town lady who returned from more than a decade in Portland to open Broad Street's hippest restaurant, Casa Blanca, where her friend Steve (my canal guide) and his wife Diane teach classic Tango on Thursday nights. I can tell you there was NOTHING like this going down in 1957.

The bridge almost too far. 

At 33 miles this was Steve's longest ride, though he routinely rides 45 minutes before morning coffee.  Congratulations! 
The Canal Trail on the GA side and the Greenway on the SC side of the Savannah River combine to provide the Augusta community and visitors with an outstanding historical, esthetic and community experience. 

Next stops: Charleston and Savannah with some more Georgolina miles in mind. 


  1. I lived in Augusta 7 years and rode the canal trail to work at MCG/GHSU/GRU College of Dentistry 2-3x/wk. Now I am traversing America on bicycle trails ONLY, hoping to ride every second of latitude on trails from the Canadian Border to the Mexican border. My Blog is similar to BikerBucks. Follow me at Thx for sharing info about various trails Buck! I will be doing the Cardinal Grnwy Muncie IN and the Swamp Fox Trail in SC next month. Your trail discriptions are very helpful!

    1. Aloha, Mazer and thanks for your 22 Oct '13 post on my blog. I now live on Quadra Island, B.C. and have been asked to do a "lecture" next month for our U. of Q. group. I invite you to share a few thoughts/observations about your cycling pursuit that I can add to my presentation. I'm looking for a bit of philosophical content to mix in with the facts, figures and antidotes that we soloists experience on the roads and trails of American. All the best, BikerBuck