Day One: Darien, Georgia to Baxley, Georgia - Deep South - CycleBlaze

April 19, 2021

Day One: Darien, Georgia to Baxley, Georgia

I'd decided I wouldn't start riding until at least 8:30, because I wanted to avoid the busiest commuter traffic on the first eight or nine miles of the route this morning. We were up early anyway, after the second night in a row of fitful sleep. I was in a slightly melancholic mood, triggered by, of all things, a sappy and sentimental song from the 70's by Helen Reddy on the radio on the drive down yesterday. How ridiculous.

After breakfast at the B&B, and conversation with another guest who was interested in bicycle touring, we walked outside so I could pose for the obligatory start-of-tour photo.  There was no large body of salty water in the immediate vicinity, so I just stood under a tree draped with Spanish moss instead. We don't have that where I'm from, and it seemed pretty exotic to me.

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I'd been a little concerned about the potentially busy, narrow roads out of Darien, but they weren't terrible. I wouldn't want to ride on them all day, though.

The last time I read about this route along the Atlantic Coast, it sounded way too trafficky for my taste. Sure enough, the route is on the busiest shoulder-less road I'd be on today.
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Soon enough, I turned off the state highway. Green Swamp Road and Old Jesup Road were pleasant and traffic-free. 

I encountered an elaborate roadside memorial on a long straight stretch of Old Jesup. It looked relatively new; the scarred, burned tree the driver crashed into had not yet been removed.

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This is not the first time I've seen one of these memorials decorated with bottles of alcohol. While of course I don't know if this crash was caused by drunk driving, these displays always seem inappropriate to me.

Not long after that I encountered a closed country store. I'd heard that a lot of these on the backroads in the South had gone out of business in recent years.

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I rode on the shoulder of a busy four lane highway for a while. Not terrible, since the shoulder was wide, and protected by a rumble strip. Still, I was happy to get back on some super-empty, paved backroads in less than an hour of the highway riding.

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Around this time the wind picked up, and would be in my face most of the rest of the day.

There were a couple of dog incidents, but nothing major. I didn't use my pepper spray; I'm trying to preserve it for Mississippi, where I suspect, based on another tour I did there a few years ago, I will need it.

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After 40-something miles, I entered Jesup  (population 10,124), where my slightly negative initial impression was strengthened fifteen minutes later when a panhandler annoyed me in the area near the courthouse.

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I made my way through Jesup on mostly empty streets until I passed a Dairy Queen, and went inside, the first time, I think, I've been in a DQ since the pandemic began. I wasn't that hungry, but bought french fries and a soda, mostly for the novelty of eating inside.

After that was a surprisingly high traffic section for a mile or so, where I actually rode on the sidewalk. Don't judge me, all of you "bicycles-are-vehicles!" purists!

The rest of the day, all the way to Baxley, would be on quiet roads.

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Poor Robin Road was smooth pavement that eventually turned to dirt for several miles.

It started off hard packed, but eventually became soft enough in places that I had to be careful not to fall down.

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I was relieved when the pavement resumed. I was getting tired now, and the wind had picked up.

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Five miles from my destination of Baxley, I was standing alongside the road looking at the map on my phone when a friendly old man in a pickup truck slowed down and asked me if I needed anything. I was down to one last swallow from my water bottles, but I was close enough to Baxley that I told him I could make it. "Glad that you're here!" he called out as he drove away.

I rode into Baxley, population 4,697, without difficulty and rode straight to the Sleep Inn and obtained a room. Even though I'd done "only" 83 miles (instead of the 100 miles I often ride on the first day of bike tours), I was very tired.

As I checked in, a local man in the lobby asked some of the Usual Questions about what I was doing, then told me that he was "Glad that you're in Baxley!"

I was too tired to investigate the presumably many charms of Baxley, and instead had a pizza from Domino's delivered to my room, and went to bed early.

Today's ride: 83 miles (134 km)
Total: 83 miles (134 km)

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Dale KingWishing you well on your trip Jeff! Great to witness your start from Darien. Thanks for sharing some of your touring experiences.
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1 year ago
Jeff LeeHi Dale,

Thanks! It was nice meeting you the other day.

Jeff
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1 year ago
Kurt SchnautzType your comment here
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1 year ago