Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Sunny South Plays Us For Suckers

It seemed like a great idea—hop on a plane, soar above the rain and clouds of the Pacific Northwest, touch down in the South, and spend time with friends in Greenville, South Carolina (https://www.greenvillesc.gov/) where we’d soak up the sun in our shirtsleeves. We looked forward to getting acquainted with this beautiful small city and with our friends Steve and Susan Skipwith

Unfortunately, the weather had other plans. And for the first several days, our shirtsleeves were buried beneath fleeces, jackets, scarves, hats, and gloves. But chilly temps were the perfect excuse for indulging in buttered biscuits and heading for the grits bar at The Nose Dive Bistro.

(https://thenosedive.com/) Who knew there were so many different tasty toppings for a bowl of stone-ground grits? We spooned on cheeses, sauces, sausage, fried chicken nuggets, veggies, and more.

When the cold front moved on, we scurried up the road to the King’s Mountain Battlefield (https://www.nps.gov/kimo/index.htm) to bone up on some Revolutionary War history and enjoy a hike in the woods. On the way home we hit the battlefield at Cowpens and did more trekking, thus having another reason to ask for seconds on the biscuits.

A few days later we drove to Asheville, North Carolina, so Carolyn could see the home of her literary idol, Thomas Wolfe, author of Look Homeward, Angel. (http://wolfememorial.com/

A chilly rain turned our plans for a stroll into more of a hoods-up, heads-down scamper, but after a stop for pizza, we got there and returned with the T-shirt to prove it.

Before the next storm system moved through, it was on to Myrtle Beach (https://www.visitmyrtlebeach.com/) to visit Sal and Nancy Farina. Despite brisk temperatures and a frost delay, Mike got in two games of golf and we worked in a couple of strolls on the beach and boardwalk. The long sprawl of MB along the ocean caters to tourism with hotels, strip malls, and beachwear shops. But January isn’t tourist season, so we had stretches of sand all to ourselves.

The next storm system slipped by us in the night, but North Carolina got slammed and on the way to Roanoke Island we saw plenty of snow piled up by the side of the roads. Fort Raleigh and the Lost Colony site were covered by about six inches, so we limited our exploring to the presentation in the visitors’ center. (https://www.nps.gov/fora/index.htm) Naturally, we speculated about what became of little Virginia Dare and the other colonists and spent the next few hours shooting down each other’s theories. Mike still insists they were sucked into a space ship by aliens from the planet Nowhar. 

That night we stayed in Washington, North Carolina. The historic city is delightful but we made a poor lodging choice—a motel that shall remain nameless in a room with a heating and cooling unit that was noisy enough to make artillery practice seem restful. Too tired to arrange for another room and lug our suitcases to it, we toughed it out. The good thing about a bad experience is that it makes the next good experience seem even better. And that next experience was the Estuarium. (https://www.littlewashingtonnc.com/venue/north-carolina-estuarium/) This museum sits on the banks of Pamlico Sound and features wonderful exhibits and a beautiful video. For $5 it was a heck of a good deal. 

From there it was on to the Outer Banks and a raw deal thanks to political back-biting and the government shutdown. Mike had longed to walk where the Wright Brothers had at Kitty Hawk (https://www.nps.gov/wrbr/index.htm) but the gates were locked and we got only a distant glimpse of the monument from a side road.

So it was northward to the Currituck Lighthouse, a beautiful brick and wrought-iron structure. It was shut down for the winter, but we were able to walk around the grounds and admire it. 

We were also able to walk around the lighthouses on Bodie Island and on Cape Hatteras. Both were closed for the season so we couldn’t climb. Neither could we make use of the facilities. All doors were locked due to the Federal tantrum, oops we mean shutdown. 

After a time, annoyance turned to amusement. “What next?” we asked. “Plague of locust? Rain of frogs? Giant lizard stomping on our hotel?” (That hotel was one of the few open in Nag’s head in January and was right on the beach so it would be in line for a stomping if a creature emerged.)


We consoled ourselves with adult beverages and a great dinner and the next day headed on to Beaufort. (http://www.beaufortnc.org/) This was Blackbeard’s stomping ground and artifacts from his flagship are in the maritime museum and worth checking out. 


So is the waterfront and the historic homes. Here’s a view from the front side of our hotel, the Beaufort Inn. 
After a drive back to Charlotte through hills, farmland, and a series of what could best be called swamps, (our little rental car was in imminent danger of being snapped up by a passing alligator) we reached the airport and took off for home just ahead of—you guessed it—yet another storm and cold snap.

Still, it's good to be home with our memories of visits with old friends, new sights, sounds, smells and tastes. (Anybody know where there's a good grits bar in Vancouver?)