When you're traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don't have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road."Blue Highways" by William Least Heat Moon
..."Amersham 2411. I still remember her phone number." His words come slowly, deliberately like gravel being poured onto the hot tar of a country road. Deep, chiseled lines mark his weathered face, each one a highway on the road map of his life, as he speaks of the English girl who stole his heart decades earlier. We sit back, relax, and go along for the ride. Outside in the warm, golden light of an early South Carolina morning, the second leg of our Shamrock Tour® waits. For now we enjoy the moment and the story.
Day One: Cameras Always Inspire Stories
As we leave Greenwood on a clear blue morning for the first leg of our four-day tour, there's expectation in the air. Or maybe Florian Neuhauser and I are just excited to ride together again after some time since our last adventure? Either way, within minutes we have cleared town, left the morning commuters to do their thing, and are spinning along a shady two-lane highway with tall trees and lush fields for companionship. We're both riding Triumphs, so our pace is quickly in sync as we work our way north on US 25. Right before the small town of Hodges, we turn west and meander along US 185, before the road swings north to the small college town of Due West. It's impossible to resist a name like this, so an early coffee stop it is. The locals are curious about a couple of strangely dressed European motorcyclists with camera gear. And we're in no hurry to get away. The pace of life here forces us to breath deeply, walk slower, and pay more attention to the flower baskets, curiosity shops, and the people going about their lives. It quickly becomes apparent this Shamrock Tour is going to be very relaxed as we finally make our way back onto the bikes.
We are solidly in the Bible Belt: messages on the many church billboards we pass provide inner guidance, while the GPS on Florian's handlebars provides outer direction. Neatly tended lawns, colorful flower beds, and large trees overhanging cozy houses seem inviting and storied, especially when interspersed with forests of new pine waiting to be harvested. Thick ground cover radiates deep hues of green in the morning sun, and shafts of light burst across the road as we ride. Twisting and turning from one highway to the next, we pass the occasional car with a wave, as we are almost alone on the sinuous highway.
An early lunch stop in the small, thriving town of Anderson finds us munching on homemade bagel sandwiches and sipping mugs of coffee, Highland Grog for me and Bavarian Strudel for Florian. Our cameras inspire what becomes the first of many life stories that people share, as the waitress tells us, in her sweet Southern drawl, about her youngest daughter who's studying to be a photographer. As she talks, we sit and listen, unconcerned by the passing of time, and before her story is over, a customer at the next table joins in as well. Aaron Arvia is an amateur photographer with a desire to travel, and he's convinced that it's no coincidence he should meet a couple of globe-trotting road warriors working on a magazine story this fine day.
Our afternoon is spent in the saddle, with a few breaks to shoot photographs and enjoy the scenery. Cloud cover moves in as we pass large, historic homes. Neatly tended farms with fertile fields of yellow weed fill our peripheral vision. Before we know it, metal bridges, horse farms, and good quality roads take us back to Greenwood and our first dinner at the English Pub, Orde's of England.