If the weekend arrives and I only have time for a ride of a few hours instead of days, there’s a good chance I’ll aim my Honda Magna VF750 south for a brief getaway into a portion of South Carolina’s National Heritage Corridor, a 17-county area designated by the federal government in 1996 to interpret the Palmetto State’s history and promote tourism.
The corridor extends from the Appalachian Mountains in the state’s northwest corner to Charleston on the Atlantic coast. Traveling in the region can provide insights into the state’s European settlement, along with African- and Native-American history, agriculture, early trade routes, the American Revolution and the Civil War.
The part of the Heritage Corridor I like to ride is about 50 miles south of Columbia in the state’s Coastal Plain, a fertile area of rolling and occasionally flat countryside that millions of years ago was covered by the Atlantic Ocean. The ride includes a stop for lunch in the small historic railroad town of Blackville.
This is a part of South Carolina that is well off the beaten path, but is still accessible from any corner of the state and border areas of North Carolina and Georgia. The secondary roads that constitute most of the ride (after a few minutes on the Interstate) are well maintained with minimal rural traffic.
The scenery is therapeutic, with lots of bucolic farm homesteads, pastures and grazing livestock. Near dawn and dusk, be on the lookout for wildlife (especially deer) and mind posted speed limits, particularly when going through small towns and crossroad communities.
To start the ride, I roll out of Columbia on Interstate 26 eastbound toward Charleston, and then take Exit 113 at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. At the bottom of the ramp, a right turn onto State Route 302 takes me past the airport and through South Congaree and Edmund. Just beyond Edmund, bear left on State Route 6 to Swansea, then bear east on U.S. Route 321 for about a mile.
Then it’s another right turn south on State Route 3, a fun half-hour stretch of rural easy-going two-lane blacktop that leads directly into Blackville, which, in 1833, was the first overnight stop on the railroad from Charleston to the present-day North Augusta. At the time, it was the longest railroad in the world.
Two and a half miles north of Blackville’s town center on State Route 3, a well marked turn west leads to God’s Acre Healing Springs. These historic artesian springs, known for their pure water and healthy minerals, got their name during the Revolutionary War when four wounded Tories miraculously recovered from their injuries after native Indians led them to the water.
A historical marker at the springs notes that ownership of the land passed from Native American tribes to a trader named Nathaniel Walker, and then to other owners, before L.P. Boylston deeded the property to God for the public’s use in 1944. The springs are still open to the public, and visitors can fill as many containers with the water as they want, free of charge.
After pausing at the springs, my appetite is growing, so I saddle back up for a few more minutes of riding time on Route 3 to Miller’s Bread Basket in Blackville, an Amish country restaurant and favorite lunch ride destination for motorcycle enthusiasts from throughout South Carolina.
To get to the restaurant, which owners Ray and Susie Miller opened in 1986, continue following State Route 3 from the springs into Blackville, then make a left turn onto Main Street. The cafeteria-style eatery is well known for its fresh South Carolina vegetables, sumptuous desserts, and a variety of fresh-baked breads jams and jellies available from the adjacent “mini mall.”
After lunch, I continue southwest on Route 3 for a few miles before turning right to cruise through Barnwell State Park, a popular spot for those seeking a respite from urban life. This is a good place to get off the bike, rest and digest lunch while taking in the park’s peace and quiet.
Leaving the park, I ride back to Blackville on Route 3 and turn east onto State Route 78, which leads to Denmark, South Carolina, and the gallery (at the intersection of Route 78 and U.S. 321) of Jim Harrison, a renowned South Carolina artist whose nostalgic paintings and prints depict the Palmetto State’s rural bygone era. Visitors are free to browse the gallery at will.
From Denmark, I return to Columbia by heading north on two-lane and minimally trafficked U.S. 321, and then in North, I turn west onto State Route 178 to Pelion. After another 20 minutes on Route 178, I bear right onto Interstate 20 eastbound for a few minutes of super slab time before arriving home in mid- to late-afternoon.
A ride into the southern portion of South Carolina’s National Heritage Corridor isn’t a long day in the saddle. But it’s enough to blow out the cobwebs from the daily grind and learn about South Carolina’s long and storied
history while enjoying some good country cooking.
(This Favorite Ride article South Carolina Secrets: Throttle Therapy in the Palmetto State’s National Heritage Corridor was published in the March 2015 issue of Rider magazine.)