Charleston to Cincinnati

Text: Robert Annetzberger • Photography: Robert Annetzberger, Sanja Blagojevic

Well mama said, "Son before you goThere's something I want you to doPromise me that you won't go wrongAs you travel down Highway 52."With a map spread across our table at a rooftop bar in Charleston, South Carolina, we began calculating the daily distances of the upcoming tour. More than 2,000 miles of fascinating terrain lay ahead of us along Highway 52, the historic route that will take us from the Carolina coast into the American heartland and the prairies of North Dakota.

Charleston, SC - Winston-Salem, NC
With temperature and humidity of equal measure, the oppressive heat in South Carolina's low country slows our pace to a languid Southern rhythm as we explore Old Charleston, regarded by many as the most beautiful city in the US.

Relaxing and surveying the scene from a porch swing at the Anchorage Inn, just a few steps away from Waterfront Park, we have a magnificent view of the Charleston Harbor. In the distance, there's Patriot's Point, where the giant WWII aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown, is berthed. Further south at Battery Park, the array of antique artillery pieces reminds us of Charleston's place in history. And although there's some controversy about it, many historians say the first shots fired in the Civil War came from Fort Sumter, visible from the park on an island in the harbor.

While others are enjoying the leisurely tempo of excursions in horse-drawn carriages, I decide it's time to hop on the Honda to soak up some low country atmosphere and more thoroughly familiarize myself with the burly bulk of the Gold Wing. The jaunt down narrow, cobblestone lanes quickly exhibits how easily the Honda handles. Later, we had a problem finding "our" highway when leaving downtown Charleston, but after a brisk run on I-26 to whip some cooler air under our thick riding clothes, we locate Highway 52 and roll through the Francis Marion National Forest.

There's almost no traffic on the two-lane highway as we drive through the woods and towns. A sign says this is "Where the living is easy" but that doesn't seem to be the case. Nowhere near the exclusive resorts along the coast, this is old lowland farm country where generations have toiled to scratch their living from cotton and tobacco fields.

A few miles beyond Cheraw, birthplace of jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, we pass into North Carolina, and further on in Salisbury, it's all four lanes to Winston-Salem. Now we can let it roll the day's last 35 miles. After 290 miles, we check in at the Village Inn in Clemmons, NC, only minutes from the RoadRUNNER office.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the January/February 2006 back issue.