November 4, 2011
A cold front with a hard rain blew through late last night, and although it was mostly gone by this morning, it left behind grey skies, a temperature of 52 degrees and 15-20 mile per hour winds—conditions just barely within our riding tolerance range.
On today’s thirty mile ride chain link fences and modular trailer style homes replaced the white picket fences and gracious Victorian homes of yesterday. Our destination was St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, built in 1767. There was supposed to be a docent there to give us a tour, but he or she was a no-show (no surprise), so all we know is what we read on the historical marker out front, and the grave stones all around the church, many of them marking the final resting places of Confederate soldiers.
There was also supposed to be a tour of a fish lift (whatever that is) just down the street from the church, but the drive to it was gated closed and there were no trespassing signs all over the property. The ride organizers also made a spontaneous unannounced decision to move the scheduled lunch break from the rest stop in front of the church to a rest stop that was only on the 60 and 100 mile ride routes, so we had the unexpected, but really fortunate, opportunity to find lunch on our own.
After long hot showers back at our hotel, we headed to Summerville by car for lunch at Ladles, a cozy restaurant offering a dozen different soups daily. Soup was the perfect lunch on this chilly day.
Then we went to the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site nearby. Congregationalist descendents of Puritans who settled in Massachusetts to find religious freedom from the tyranny of the Anglican Church of England traveled south to make their fortune here in 1697. Ironically, just nine years after they settled in this area they called Dorchester, Anglicanism was declared South Carolina’s official religion. In 1720, St. George’s Anglican Church was built in Dorchester, and although the Congregationalists worshipped two miles away, they were taxed to support St. George’s. All that remains of the church is the bell tower, because the British (Anglicans all, no doubt) burned the church (and most of the town) during the Revolutionary War.
We also wandered around the town fort, heralded as the “best preserved tabby fortification in North America,” surprisingly intact in light of the success of the British in destroying the rest of the town. Even more surprising to us was that in 1726, less than 30 years after the founding of Dorchester, slaves made up 70% of the population of the town.
Back to FestiVELO—dinner was a “Seafood Extravaganza,” which started out dismally (a bony catfish fillet was the only seafood served, with a promise of crabs and clams to come “later”), but unfolded over the course of the next couple hours to eventually include all the seafood we could eat (as long as we could figure out how to eat whole crabs using only our hands and plastic utensils—no crackers, mallets or other tools one normally uses to crack the shell and claws were available). Clams, shrimp, and low country boil all made an appearance for those who waited, and probably oysters showed up as well after we stopped checking back in the seafood tent.
The Charleston Hot Shots string band made another appearance tonight, with Lucille back on the spoons, and the rest of us providing back-up on our complimentary kazoos.