November 5, 2011
The temperature was no warmer today than yesterday and the winds were stronger, but the sun shone bright and the ride was scenic, which made a world of difference. Bike Club friends Lucille and Arte rode thirty miles with us today, while other Bike Club members did longer rides.
Our first destination was Cypress Gardens, where the butterfly pavilion-- heated to a tropical temperature and filled with colorful flowers, birds, and butterflies—was the most popular attraction for our cold and windswept riders.
Then it was on to lunch in the Old Santee Canal Park, on the site of America’s first canal, which began operating in 1800. Jimmy Buffet songs blaring from the sound system in our picnic shelter inspired us to think of tropical locales, and our lunch menu was inspired by his song “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”
We didn’t have time to stop in the Museum or Interpretive Center, but took a moment to learn about this interesting vessel. It is a full size model of “Little David,” a semisubmersible torpedo boat built in Charleston in 1863 which earned fame during the Civil War as the first submarine to make a successful torpedo attack on a warship.
We rode from the rest stop back to our starting point, changed from our bike gear into warm dry clothes, then headed by car to the next stop on the 70-100 mile rides—Mepkin Abbey. The Abbey has been home to a colony of Trappist monks since 1949, but the property dates back to 1681, when it was a 3,000 acre land grant plantation. The plantation grew to 10,000 acres in the early 1900s, and was purchased in 1936 by Henry R. Luce--publisher of Time, Fortune and Life magazines, and his wife Clare Boothe Luce—playwright, author, congresswoman and ambassador. Clare found religion and joined the Roman Catholic Church after her daughter died in a car accident in 1944, and she donated most of the plantation property to the Catholic Church for the use of the monks in 1949.
We visited the Abbey gift shop and wandered the tranquil garden and grounds, but did not see any monks out and about. The woman at the shop told us that this time of day was when they were in their rooms meditating or taking naps, since they get up at 3 a.m..
This is a sculpture that the monks made using wood from trees downed here by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The hurricane was devastating to the area, downing 12,000 trees in Cypress Gardens as well. We never missed the extra trees at either the Abbey or Cypress Gardens—the monks could probably find in that a meditation on time’s power to heal, or resilience (or maybe they would just shake their heads and tell us that we are not very observant).
From the Abbey we headed south to Charleston, where we stayed overnight in an unremarkable Best Western Inn near the starting point of our Sunday ride—a bike tour of Charleston’s historic district.