Edisto Island in South Carolina is situated in between Charleston and Savannah. It takes a nearly twenty-mile drive off of Rt. 17 on Hwy. 173, a two-lane road that winds over marshlands and the Intracoastal Waterway. The nearest stoplight is about half an hour away in Hollywood (the polar opposite of the more famous one 4,000 miles away), and you’d have to travel for nearly an hour to eat a Big Mac.
The island remains unincorporated and, as such, there are no high-rise resorts, neon lights, amusement parks or shopping malls. There is a bustling Piggly Wiggly, a Citgo gas station with a Subway inside, many vacation rental homes, an excellent golf course, and some really good seafood from locally owned restaurants like the Sea Cow Eatery, McConkey’s and Whaley’s among others.
The island is small, flat and only about three miles long as you travel down Palmetto Blvd. from where you enter the island, mostly behind one row of beach homes and Beach Access areas.
Many people elect to get around the island via golf carts and bicycles, electing to leave their automobiles parked at their, mostly, temporary domiciles.
Off of Dockside Rd. is the entrance to the Wyndham Ocean Ridge Resort. It sits across from two nondescript white buildings that house Edisto Seafood, the Dockside Restaurant and Edisto Watersports and Tackle. The entrance itself splits two ponds that border two separate holes on the Plantation Course Golf Club. Beside the main road is a sidewalk that has more bike riders than actual people walking. Between the sidewalk and the pond areas is a strip of grass no more than a few yards wide.
During this first full week of June, the roads, sidewalks and walking trails are busy. If you happened to pass near the entrance to Ocean Ridge on Tuesday morning between 10:30 and 11 am. you may have seen an interesting site.
Within a ten-minute span, a fully-grown, six foot, two inch man wiped out on a bicycle, nearly plunging into the pond in the process, not once, but twice.
Sure, it’s Edisto, and for some on the island, beer is as likely to accompany breakfast as is coffee. This man had not been drinking. He had two cups of coffee and a bowl of Cinnamon Life cereal for breakfast. He then went to the Activities Center of the resort and rented a bike for an hour. He returned it less than fourty-five minutes into the time paid.
That man was me.
People use the phrase “like riding a bike” to indicate that a skill that once learned, is never forgotten. Taken literally, this applies to probably 99.9% of people who learn to ride a bike. Many can go years without hopping on one and still take off with no problem.
Before this particular Tuesday, I had gone more than thirteen years without riding. I am of that 0.1%.
In March of 2000, I was in a car accident where, among several injuries, I had a severe brain injury that affected my short-term memory and motor skills. I had to, literally, re-learn how to walk, talk and write my own name. I still have a poor sense of balance. During this time, my leg muscles atrophied. Since then, I spent little time trying to regain strength in my legs.
I have from time to time, tried to ride a bike usually at the urging of my wife. The results have always been quick. I either couldn’t go more than ten feet or couldn’t maintain my balance at all.
We have vacationed in Edisto for over seven years, and her dream every time is that I could rent a bike and we could explore the island side-by-side on two wheels. A few months ago, I got some advice from a personal trainer that perhaps the best and quickest way for me to get strength back in my legs would be to ride a stationary bike.
I purchased one from a local sports equipment store and rode it as much as I could leading up to this vacation. I wanted, very much, to fulfill her dream and in the process have a big breakthrough in my life.
When we went to the bike rental shop, I explained my situation to the college student on summer vacation. I asked if he’d let me try to ride a bike across the parking lot. He picked one out for me and told me to give that one a shot.
With my wife cheering me on, after a few failed attempts, I did it. I was so proud of myself. But, I wasn’t going to take this huge personal victory and leave it be. I wasn’t satisfied with just pedaling across a twenty-yard parking lot. I told the guy that I’d rent the bike for an hour. We paid the guy $5 a piece and made our way, slowly, very slowly, around the resort.
My wife kept encouraging me. She rode behind me and said she’d follow me wherever I went. It was quiet inside the resort. There was one landscaper running a leaf blower and several squirrels chittering at each other. As we made our way to the entrance, leading to the rest of the island, traffic picked up.
As thrilled as I was to shakily ride a bike around a shaded resort, I was scared to death to face oncoming traffic, walkers, other bikers. I feared for my safety and theirs.
We made our way, slowly, to the resort entrance. I decided to go left, which would take us toward the bottom of the island. Almost as soon as I chose this path, and saw all of the traffic, I wiped out, almost going into the pond. I got back up and saw hat I had a pretty nasty gash on my ankle from where the bike chain scraped against it during the fall.
After some words of encouragement from my wife, I took off again, this time doubling back in the other direction. I don’t know why I decided to give up on my first route. The second ended as disastrously as the first, and I almost went in the water again, wiping out for the second time.
A little discouraged at this point, I told my wife I was ready to head back to the bike rental area. Along the way, I did much better. No accidents. I made it back safely and returned the bike battered and bruised.
For me, that bike ride is something that I will always remember. I overcame a physical barrier that for years I never thought I would, or could, do. Brain injuries are nothing to take lightly. I live and deal with it everyday.
So for those that saw me crash those two times, just know that I’m trying. We will be back in Edisto in September where I’ll try again. Look out.
- Touring South Carolina’s Coast Pt. 1 (oregonmike98.wordpress.com)
- Smithsonian to preserve Edisto slave cabin (thestate.com)