COLUMBIA - Exercise is a way of life for Gov. Mark Sanford, but he laughs with a touch of apprehension as he talks about the gears on the new, high-tech bicycle he borrowed for his three-day, nearly 170-mile ride across the state.
The governor, who is just a few weeks shy of his 44th birthday, will hit the Upstate's dusty and hilly back roads on the Trek bike Saturday with throngs of cycling enthusiasts taking up Mr. Sanford's challenge to be more active.
He will kick off the ride at Croft State Park near Spartanburg, traveling through Jonesville, Union and Whitmire before stopping at Little Mountain near Columbia.
Mr. Sanford will pick up the second leg of the trip by traveling from Columbia to Elloree on May 15 and complete his journey May 16 when he arrives in North Charleston.
Though the governor has been troubled by a sore knee recently and lingering pain in his lower back, he wants to set a good example by showing people how important exercise is to staying healthy.
Mr. Sanford said his bike ride is a simple approach to the larger task of cutting health care costs.
South Carolina ranks in the top 10 nationally for obesity, heart disease and diabetes, and obesity alone is responsible for more than $1 billion in health-related expenditures each year, he said.
Bike tour organizers from the governor's office said they have been flooded with calls from bicycling groups and individuals for details on how to join Mr. Sanford on his tour.
"I think it's going to be a little bit of everybody. The people I've talked to, it's everybody from the shaved-leg racer guys to the, 'Hey, that sounds like a great idea, I think I'll go buy a $300 bike and go do it,' " said Brian Curran, who owns Columbia bicycle shop.
Families are encouraged to bring their children on designated 2- and 3-mile fun routes instead of tackling the stretch of road between towns.
First lady Jenny Sanford and their four sons will join the governor during portions of his trip.
The governor's Web site, www.scgovernor.com, includes details and maps about his bike route, as well as historical information about towns, cities and points of interest along the route.