An Acorn Did That?


I finished my shower, toweled off then walked into the bedroom.  My wife’s eyes momentarily twinkled until she saw the baseball sized bruise on the left side of my chest, just above the third rib.

“What on earth happened to you?”

“Oh that? An acorn did that.”

She shook her head and frowned.  “You’re such a damn storyteller, you know that?”

Several hours earlier I had gone out for a 30 mile bike ride and the last few miles were my favorite; climbing up and over Paris Mountain via Altamont Road.  Altamont is 4.5 miles of twists and turns that crests at roughly 2,000 feet of elevation and offers stunning views of the county.  Back then I could go from one side to the other in a little more than half an hour.  This mid-October day was achingly beautiful; an oxygen-rich azure sky set against the brightly colored palettes of dying leaves.  On a big climb there’s plenty of time to take in the sights as the road slowly recedes and the views become more enticing.  When the road drops and starts to lose altitude, it’s time to focus. I gripped the bars of my Cannondale, breathed deep and danced on the pedals as I crested the mountain.  My speed gradually increased as I stole a glance of our city’s skyline through fluttering autumn colors.   The east side of Altamont drops, flattens out then arcs through wide sweeping turns before dropping again so I sat up and took a quick stretch before tucking in.  Head down, eyes up and hands on the outside of the bars.  I eased the chain into the big ring as my feet glided through continuous circles and now I’m looking as far ahead as possible, through the corners and down the road.  A quick peek at my speedometer as it flashes 35 then 37 miles an hour.  Eyes up.  The closer I get to a posted speed limit the more of the lane I’ll take and at this point I was in the middle of the lane.  The reason being is one of space.  If you bend into a tight corner at 30 miles an hour and you’re using the outside of the lane, a car may be tempted to pass you at an inopportune place in the road, leaving you with little space to maneuver.  When I’m at the posted limit, I’ll decide where the car will pass.

Now the road glides into a left hand turn.  I lower my center of gravity and arc through the corner on a quarter inch of Michelin rubber at maybe 40 miles an hour, the bike drifts a bit too close towards the guardrail so I drop my left knee about an inch, just enough to tighten my line.  The road straightens out; shift up and let the speed build; 43, 44, 45 miles an hour.  I lift my chest a bit, catch some air to slow down for the tight, right hand corner and that’s when I saw the acorn.  A big one, it’s from one of the many Bur oak trees on this road and this darn thing is almost as big as a ping pong ball and a lot heavier.  And though I was moving fast I saw the whole thing in slow-motion; the acorn landed in the road maybe 50 feet in front of me, took a high bounce then arced to the right just as our paths intersected and I caught it right in the chest.  A 45 mile an hour fast ball, thrown by the hand of God himself and it almost knocked me off the bike.


I gasped for air, stabbed the brakes then bent into the corner with the shakiest of lines and stars twinkling through my field of vision. I rode the brakes to the bottom of Altamont, parked in front of a church and lifted my jersey.

“Holy Crap!”

I grimaced, gently prodded my bruised ribs in search of a crack then glared at the cross of St. James as it reached into the October sky.

“Alright, you win. I’ll try to slow down.”

These days I usually pedal the Swamp Rabbit trail.

Swamp Rabbit 4

The Swamp Rabbit near Furman University


It’s a paved greenway that glides through the city and can take you from downtown to the northern reaches of the county, all on a carefully paved surface.  There’s a couple of busy roads to cross but the challenge of the Swamp Rabbit comes from the sheer number of users mingling with the wannabe racers as they zip down the path making like George Hincapie on the cobblestones of Roubaix.   It’s opened up cycling to so many folks that see it as a genteel afternoon recreation, just like in cycling’s early days.

swamp rabbit 5

An early look at a proposed cycling path


On a sunny afternoon the Swamp Rabbit is jammed with people of all ages and abilities and it’s created it’s own micro-economy of businesses along its path.  It’s one of the many things I love about this town.  Yet some of us on the Rabbit remember what it was like back in the day, when cycling was so dangerous, even the Good Lord had to remind you to stay focused.




  • Debbie Caton-Howard
    Posted at 09:01h, 01 May Reply

    Great share Chef. Hope you don’t mind but I posted this on my FB page! The Swamp Rabbit is more my speed these days too but I do dislike the clutter & traffic ; )

    • ChefJohn
      Posted at 16:08h, 01 May Reply

      Thanks Deb 😉

  • Cheryl
    Posted at 09:49h, 01 May Reply

    I love the Roubaix reference!

    • ChefJohn
      Posted at 22:41h, 01 May Reply

      Thank you Cheryl!

  • Galley
    Posted at 10:50h, 01 May Reply

    The cockleburs in Cleveland Park aren’t exactly friendly toward skinny bike tires, either!

  • KJ Waters
    Posted at 10:53h, 01 May Reply

    Love it John, I almost feel like I’m there with you wind in my hair, bright fall colors all around. You’re definitely making me want to put air in my tires and get that bike out. Of course I live in dirtville and there are no hills, or decent scenery so it wouldn’t be the same. Thankfully, no acorns on steroids either…

    I bet you’re itching to get on your bike as well after your surgery. Hope you’re at it soon enough, but not against docs orders. Love your posts, keep ’em going!

  • ChefJohn
    Posted at 16:09h, 01 May Reply

    Thanks KJ;)

  • Tom Stronach
    Posted at 17:23h, 01 May Reply

    Malik, you need to stick to the kitchen for goodness sake man you’ve just got over one serious injury – slow the hell down

  • Julia Rachel Barrett
    Posted at 15:01h, 03 May Reply

    So was this recent? If so your knee must be improving. Bad acorn! Bad bad acorn!

  • f x schofield
    Posted at 13:05h, 11 June Reply

    Woooh! I’m from Delaware. My son-in-law was Ranger of Paris Mountain State Park. Several years ago , I took my ’89 Cannondale out the front gate, turned left , turned right after the dam and kept turning left . I thought that I would do a 10 mile loop around the Park. Well, after lots of hills and a few dales, I hit a big four lane road. I was lost in Travelers Rest. Finally , a fellow in a gas station (BP?) told me to take the 2nd left and then stay right to go up the hill. I was on Altamont! I was a little tired – probably 15 miles into a tough ride with no idea how far or how tough the rest of my ride would be! I can’t believe that you were nuts enough to hit 40+ on that road! What a ride -especially so on a first trip down. Now, years later, I can still feel the tension in my cleats, the leans, and the views on the way down! I can still taste the Dr Pepper from the CVS near the fire house . Wow!
    Thanks for the memories and a great story.

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