BY: PETER CONWAY
South Carolina, where are you?
You were once lost, now are found
The war is over, the battle’s through
Take it down down down
Take it down
The Wailin Jennys
Or, as Dorothy opined, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…”
It has rained all summer in South Carolina, while we have ridden on the gusts of a hot, dry heat wave for 3000 miles. In 50 days of riding, we have had two mornings of light showers, period. With this in mind, we were unsurprised when we summitted Cedar Mountain, dry on the North Carolina side, to be rained on as soon as we hit the South Carolina border. This rather ruined a six-mile-long downhill that Scotty and Steve had been looking forward to the entire trip. With downhill grades reaching 12% and with tight switchbacks, we had practiced on this course last year and were itching to fly down it. However, with slick roads caution prevailed and Steve led us down the mountain at a sedate 15 mph instead of the 35 Scotty had been hoping for. With less than 300 miles to go on our 3300-mile saga, the last thing we wanted was a bike wreck so close to home.
South Carolina reached out to embrace her native sons and daughters, both natural born and transplanted. Awaiting us in Greenville were two North Charleston police officers, provided by Mayor Summey to escort us through the entire state! Jeff and Giovanni are motorcycle cops, but for this detail they were in squad cars. They let us know that they had volunteered for this assignment, lest we think that in usual police fashion they have been “voluntold’ by their captain. They knew all about Scotty and his mission. They were all in.
One can quickly get used to a police escort. With blue lights flashing both fore and aft, we enjoyed riding in double file and not worrying about the traffic, which as usual in South Carolina overwhelms the roadways. Over the next several days we enjoyed cars pulling over in both directions to allow us to pass, usually with waves and gestures of a decidedly friendly nature. They might not have known who we were, but assumed we MUST be important to warrant a police escort!
Another neat thing about returning to South Carolina was that we were joined for the last five days by other cyclists who had taken time off work to accompany us. Some we knew, like the Parkers’ Pastor, Rodney Richard. Others were strangers who had learned about us via social media. All were delightful additions. Personally, I was blessed to have my brother in law, John Minton, drive Vanna for the last two days as well as being joined by three members of the Lombardo family, Sam, Lisa and Jake.
When he was 10, Scotty rode across South Carolina and raised over $73,000 for Water Mission. We recreated this route, which brought back many fond memories and provided a sense of completeness to our last week. Plus – 60-mile days instead of 75 and NO mountains!
Tuesday August 1st is a day we will all remember as one of the best ever. We had 18 miles left – from Northwood church in Summerville to Water Mission Headquarters in North Charleston. Our personal cops showed up on their Harleys with about 6 more of their friends. A dozen other police cars from several jurisdictions joined in to block traffic at all intersections so we could sail through. A fire truck was there for good measure and an ambulance in case we fainted from pure joy. Best of all, our peloton swelled to about 100 riders.
Around noon, we rolled into Water Mission headquarters where about 300 well-wishers greeted us with cheers, high fives, a banquet and speeches. We heard from both Mayor Summey of North Charleston and Mayor Tecklenburg of Charleston. Congressman Mark Sanford was also there briefly. Scotty had two great grandmothers and three grandparents in attendance as well as his aunts and uncles. Water Mission Founders George and Molly Green welcomed us and broke the news that Scotty had not raised $500,000 as he had hoped. The total was over $576,000! More cheers erupted.
Several hours later when the speeches and TV interviews were done and the crowd dispersed, there was no one left except the core group. We had one last ride to make. Having started by dipping our rear tires in the Pacific at Santa Monica, our journey was incomplete until we dipped our front tries in the Atlantic.
Our route was familiar and beloved as we had used it for training many times. Taking Spruill Avenue downtown, we turned onto the Ravenel Bridge, crossed over Shem Creek in Old Mount Pleasant, then across the Ben Sawyer Bridge to Sullivans Island. At Breech Inlet, the channel between Sullivans and Isle of Palms, we did the deed. Scottys Ride was complete and so were we.
Our guiding verse for the entire ride has been Scotty’s life verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13 We may have pedaled the bikes, but each of us was reminded in numerous places and numerous challenges that our own strength was insufficient. Thanks be to God who provided His strength and sent us help in times of distress. Thanks be to those who prayed for our safety and success. Thanks be to those who responded both with their hearts and their pocketbooks. The Greens estimate that over 10,000 people without safe water will soon get it because of this ride. That is thousands of folks saved from disease and possible death. Thousands of folks who will ask:” Why?” And,” How is this possible?” Then they will hear about this Jesus who can give them strength. Thanks be to God.