You know how it goes. There are times when things go as planned…times when things go better than you could ever have imagined…and then…there are times when things start out grand and then turn into one of your worst experiences ever…today, on this trip, is that day for me.
Morning comes bringing with it a gorgeous sunny day. So after breakfast and packing the car we set off. We have decided to head toward the Eastern coast and head up the Ocean Parkway. Why…because why not…and its a beautiful drive.
We head back out the way we came in until a little past Ridgeway, where we turn onto a back roads highway towards Charleston. My oh my…what a beautiful route to travel. Its lush and green and just a treat to ride, especially in the convertible with the roof down.
Out of Georgia and now in South Carolina, Charleston is our first stop and what a great choice this city is if you are looking for things to see, ocean views and great food.
Charleston was first settled by the English in 1670 and was originally named Charles Town, after King Charles ll of England. This was a port city that placed a major role, sadly, in the slave trade. This was a city that was dominated by plantation owners and slave traders, and they ruled with a hard tact, thinking only of the monetary gains they could achieve through the use (and abuse) and trade of slaves. In the 1670’s it was also a hotspot for pirates because it was known for its weak government and the high levels of corruption within it. In 1718, the city was besieged by Blackbeard, the famous nasty pirate, who, for several days, stole all the goods and crews from merchant ships entering the port, as well as held all passengers hostage. He eventually released the passengers in exchange for a chest of medicine and he left the port…with all of his stolen goods and crew on board.
Charleston, now, is a beautiful historic city to walk through. It was the place where the Civil War started and there are many markers and historic sites that share that history here. One of my first stops was at the Old Slave Market and Museum. In 1856, this building was the place where the slave auctions took place. It also was where you could purchase property or livestock. In 1939 it became a museum, which was opened and closed sporadically for years until, in the late 1990’s, it was purchased by the city of Charleston and the South Carolina African American Heritage Community. The museum is open today as is the market, which is housed in the area where the auctions were held. Craftsman, painters, artists and food producers all bring their wares here and they sell them to the public. I purchased a beautiful butterfly piece of art here…its one of my treasures hanging on my travel wall.
Next, I took a stroll down towards the Harbour Walkway….right on the Atlantic Ocean. Spectacular is all I have to say. I saw dolphins playing by the dock…yep dolphins, an old warship now turned museum, historic homes and a Carnival cruise ship…moored at a dock. This is a wonderful spot to sit and spend a few moments just appreciating the views and how vast that ocean is.
Walking back towards the car, I stop to watch a talented man play his banjo and interact with the children passing by…my but he could play that banjo. He played from his soul, not noticing who was around until he stopped for a moment. He genuinely wanted to play to make your day just a little bit brighter…that he did for me…I wanted to stay and dance.
I also spoke to a couple who were out walking their pet…a pet racoon on a leash. I couldn’t resist and had to pet him and get all of the details. This little guy was named Charlie and they had rescued him after his mom had been killed. He was adorable, and he has such a great home. Sending my love to little Charlie.
Walking down some of the streets back to the car, there was house after house that had been restored and were just meticulous. One that stuck out was a home that had lovely gardens and…had a stockade in the front yard…along with a marker that explained the history of it. An interesting garden piece to say the least, but a reminder of what punishment looked like a few decades ago. Oh, and I believe this was the place where you could see a cannon ball lodged into one of the exterior walls.
Figuring that it was a good time for lunch we head over to T-Bonz restaurant and brewery. While there, I start researching at what route we could take and where we could possibly end up for the night. I wanted a room on the ocean, and my partner, easily persuaded on this one, quickly agreed. So we decide that we will head towards Myrtle Beach and look for a place to check in early, to enjoy some time on the beach. As a note…keep reading where you will see how happy I was that we ate now (12 noon) and did not wait for Myrtle Beach.
Leaving Charleston, we follow the Ocean Parkway towards Mount Pleasant. The Parkway takes you to the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge, which spans the Cooper River from Charleston to Mount Pleasant. This is no ordinary structure…it is massive and hugely impressive. Built in 2005, it is the longest cable splayed bridge in the USA. It has 8 lanes and a twelve foot pedestrian and biking lane. Crossing it is something else…it feels like it will never end…but you don’t mind because the views are breathtaking.
Once we get through Mount Pleasant, we continue our drive ocean side drive towards Myrtle Beach and we pass through several small towns. The first is Awendaw, SC, home to 1294 people and to the blue crab, which has a festival dedicated to to just them.
The small fishing village of McClellanville, SC is not far down the road. This poor place was absolutely devastted by Hurricane Hugo, which tossed the heavy shrimp boats from the docks onto the houses and buildings on the streets several blocks back. These resilient folks are still making this place home again, and keeping their fishing, shrimp and seafood industry alive and well. Good for them.
A quick drive through Georgetown and then we are close to Myrtle Beach. Georgetown, SC is the home of the grandfather of Michelle Obama, and many of her relatives live here now.
At last we arrive at Myrtle Beach….all I can say is wow…like Pigeon Forge this is not what I had pictured at all.
Myrtle Beach is a 60 mile long stretch of beach known as the Grand Stand. Over 20 million visitors come here each year. A fun fact…it got its name from a contest that was run in the early 1900’s. A lady won the contest by suggesting that it be named after the abundant shrub found in the area called the myrtle shrub…hence Myrtle Beach. There are over 425 hotels here, 157 private homes offering accommodation and over 100 golf courses. In 2011, a sky wheel was built on the ocean front boardwalk. This ferris wheel like structure is 187 feet tall and has 47 glass enclosed gondolas. Each gondola is temperature controlled and can seat up to 6 people. In the event of an on coming hurricane or high wind warning, the gondolas are all removed, taking over 10 hours to do so. This is the perfect place to get an incredible view of Myrtle Beach, the coastline and the Atlantic Ocean…so I am told. I did not have the opportunity to take a spin on it.
I see here for the first time ever in my apparently sheltered existence…houses on stilts by the water…I am determined that we will stay in one tonight. And so the hunt begins…and ends just as quickly. It is summer vacation time for many families in the USA and little did we know that this was a hot destination for them to come. So, after much searching, there was nothing to be rented, no rooms, no houses on stilts…nothing. And the crowds and packed lineups for restaurants was growing less appealing by the minute. So we decided to head further up the coast to find another place to spend the night.
We try North Myrtle Beach…also booked…no surprises there. We head towards Wilmington (yes we are now in North Carolina), as its getting late in the afternoon and we just want to relax. Here’s were the day takes a horrible turn. Our GPS fails us…miserably.
We head towards Wilmington just fine, when the GPS gives us directions, for an “easier” route…not true. This we follow and it takes us to Kure Beach, which is 68 miles south east of Wilmington…meaning 68 miles past our destination. Now this Kure Beach is right on the Atlantic….so we figure it would be a nice place to stay so we try to get a room. No luck…again, everything is booked with vacationers. I am all for being spontaneous…but I am getting tired, and hungry. A nice man tells us that things will be booked all up the coast and that we are wise to head to inland to find a spot for the night. He suggests we head to Lumberton, which is only an hour away and gives us directions…I am happy to not rely on that nasty GPS…but I won’t be happy for long.
We drive the 68 miles back towards Wilmington and then head down the road we were told to take…Lumberton here we come. Well, this turned out to be a dirt road…we are in a sports car…and on a dirt road we are going a little slower than usual to avoid rock chips and ruts. There are no turn offs now…we are committed to following this road to see where it goes Soon it starts to get dark…not what we needed. We have been on this road for over 2 hours…remember it was supposed to be only 1 hour to Lumberton? We almost ran over an opossum who was scurrying across the road. And shortly thereafter…a deer jumps out in front of the car, and we have to swerve to miss it. It is now pitch black except for our headlights….the darkness is beginning to match our moods….we are lost, tired, hungry and frankly, really grumpy. This is the stuff that builds character with travel buddies, right?
Just when we think we are coming to Lumberton…bam…there was a detour due to washed out roads ahead… and we are now sent on even more dirt roads for over an hour and a half. We aren’t even talking to each other at this point.
We finally come out on a paved road with a sign that says Lumberton is 60 miles away…please let this be true…we are hungry, tired and almost out of gas. At every little town we came to we looked for restaurant or a room or a gas station. There were either none around or they had long closed for the night…its now 10:00 pm. Finally we see the lights of a gas station with a Subway restaurant in it…is it a mirage or real? I am delusional at this point. As we pull in, we see they are about to close, so I run into the Subway and place an order while my partner pumps some gas before the pumps are shut off. The folks here were so kind, and made us some great subs and they told us that Lumberton was just down the road not too far….we thank them…we eat in the car and keep driving.
Finally we reach Lumberton. Phew…Nope…There are no rooms in Lumberton…what the _____(insert nasty word here), thanks to a big baseball tournament in town. I am convinced that I will have to sleep in the car.
After trying at 3 different hotels, we finally find one room at the dingy, rundown Quality Inn on the edge of town with a lovely view of nothing… We take it. I have enough liquid courage (aka wine) to make me numb enough to sleep in this room. (as a note: this hotel has since been renovated and is beautiful).
I go to sleep…dreaming that I am in a stilted beach house, listening to the sound of the waves against the shore and feeling the ocean breeze on my face….or was that a cockroach…nope, I am going with ocean breeze.
This is a day I remember fondly …now. Not everything in life is perfect, or goes as you would like it to. You learn to adapt, adjust and just go with the flow. I also learned that I will not ever just go with that damn GPS.
Tomorrow is another unexpected stop…but this one is remarkable. Stay tuned to find out about the quirky little town I stayed in and the amazing friends that I made.
Live Your Life…Jan