The Ravenel Bridge — the longest cable stay span in North America — has quickly become a must-see Charleston attraction. Since it opened in the summer of 2005, tens of thousands of walkers, runners and cyclists have traversed the 2.7- mile span from Patriots Point Road to East Bay Street.
Why climb this concrete and steel behemoth boasting a three-tenth of a mile long section with a 5.6 percent slope? Because it’s there, of course.
And the view from the top isn’t too shabby either.
I recently had the chance to ride the Ravenel for the third or fourth time in as many years. My husband and I were staying at the Charleston Resort Harbor & Marina at the end of Patriots Point Road in Mount Pleasant (It was great. See my blog item about the experience.) We could have taken a water taxi or trolley to Charleston and avoided the grueling ride up the bridge. But then we would have missed the exhilarating ride down.
From the walkway leading up to the Mount Pleasant side of the span, the bridge doesn’t seem all that steep. Wrong! I had barely entered the 12-foot wide pedestrian and bicycle lane before I was rapidly downshifting. But you pay a price for pedaling the gears of least resistance. The uphill trek seemed to take forever.
When you’ve had just about enough of the ascent, you’re finally there—the crest of the bridge. The view from the top gives you a great excuse to stop and catch your breath.
If you linger long enough, you’re bound to catch a freighter or container ship passing underneath the bridge, giving you a bird’s eye view of its topside.
But it’s the rollercoaster ride down the bridge that gets my heart racing. I can’t tell you the top speed you’d hit if you didn’t use your brakes because I’ve never managed to do it. At about 25 miles an hour, I sprout chicken feathers.
The rest of our ride through Charleston was a breeze. If you’re going to bike through the Historic District, the best time to do it is Sunday mornings when traffic is light and church bells are ringing all over the Holy City. It’s an experience I can only describe as glorious.
Even at a leisurely seven miles an hour, you can pretty much cover the entire peninsula in about an hour. But take your time and poke around the cobblestone alleys South of Broad. Peek through wrought iron gates at the beautiful sculpted gardens. Admire the antebellum architecture of the grand old homes.
After all, this is the South where things move at a slower pace. Embrace it!