The Roads of North America, Part Four
From DC to Georgia and Home
By: Astrid Hiemer - 09/14/2013
This final report of our three weeks long trip south highlights days in two places in South Carolina and three locations in Georgia. Then a long drive home taking two days:
Wednesday, February 20 - We left Rocky Mount after breakfast at the hotel, via Rt. 95 S to 40 E to Wilmington – to 140 S to 17 S to Myrtle Beach Central, arriving by 4 pm at the Sheraton /Convention Center. Two blocks off the beach’s high rise row on Ocean Boulevard.
We were given a 7th floor room with stunning views onto Wells Fargo Park and the tall buildings along the beach, one hotel next to another. We could actually see the ocean and an endless sky from our panoramic window. Soon we drove around the area and after 15 miles of ocean drive from Myrtle Beach North, we remained in the central area.
Thursday, February 21 - After a generous and expensive breakfast at the hotel we hit the beach. It was a glorious day! We parked again near the tall, Ferris wheel, yet we did not take a ride, what a pity. We collected unusual shell and rock pieces, almost lava like. I had discovered one of these porous and unique rocks. Soon enough, we were both collecting them. It’s great material, raw material for photography and other ‘work related’ uses.
The concierge recommended breakfast or lunch at the Captain’s House, where we had a delicious lunch, looking out onto the sea. Then we were off to another walk on the beach, where we met an older couple. The woman was pushing a beach wheel-chair with balloon wheels. Something we had never seen before. The man was a fit 80-something, who had just run a ½-marathon, all of 13 miles in Myrtle Beach. She has had a heart attack and several stents inserted in her legs and near the heart. So, she was pushing the balloon chair to giver her support. We had a delightful conversation on the beach: The couple was from upstate New York, staying at the Beachcomber for the month of February.
Back to the hotel for a short rest, before we set out for dinner. Charles saw the Calabash Restaurant as we were driving toward Ocean Boulevard and suggested to check it out. For $25/each we had a seafood feast: Any amount of Alaska King Crab legs among 100 items on the buffet. We asked whether we could have fresh oysters and indeed – all one had to do is ask. Steamed oysters were laid out on the buffet and it appeared that we were the only guests, who had asked for fresh oysters. Cold, fresh oysters – in total 2½ dozens. What a fest and almost too much. And a glorious day on the beach!
Friday, February 22 - We left the most luxurious hotel so far early, to have breakfast at the Captain’s House for only $ 8.95. The extensive buffet was helpful for me, because I could choose items to avoid wheat. I have been eating a lot of grits, this morning again, with a fresh made veggie-omelet.
The distance from Myrtle Beach to Mt. Pleasant on the opposite side of Charleston, South Carolina, was only 100 miles. We drove along Ocean Side Boulevard to the very end, then Rt. 17 all the way to Mt. Pleasant’s Red Roof Inn. It was the least comfortable hotel so far, not the cheapest. The inn’s location was at the last exit, left, before entering the bridge to Charleston. We missed out, because the Red Roof Inn had workers that week to upgrade the quality of the rooms with new furniture and paint, ready for the following week. A crew of Hispanic workers was hard at work.
We drove to Charleston to find the center of town and discovered Market Street and its neighborhood and returned home in the dark.
Saturday, February 23 - Well, we woke up with back pain. I exercised, stretched every part of my body and recovered. It was a rainy day, so we drove around and photographed Charleston’s quaint and beautiful homes and neighborhoods from the car. Finally, we found a parking spot near North Market Street and paid for two hours.
We went to the Visitor’s Center for information and got roped into a session of: Destination Travel/Vacation Inspirations. My goodness! But that’s another story!
Lunch was at the most famous fish restaurant, Hyman & Co, where I ordered a king fish dish, Charles had a haddock plate, Cajun style. During dinner I played with a sweet little girl at the next table, even gave her a milk bottle. Her mom and friend were also delightful.
We walked through the Market Halls, essentially looking for a Sweet-Grass-Basket. The ones I was interested to own were $ 200-300, too expensive for me. Finally, we came to Vicky’s stand, while she was packing up. We talked to her about her craft; she had been making baskets since she was 10 years old. Grandmas train grand-daughters and she will do the same eventually. She sold us a basket at a reasonable rate. Vicky confirmed that February is the best month to buy sweet-grass-baskets and that she usually sells hers cheaper at the end of the day. We came just in time. (Who does not like a bargain?) And, we will remember the basket maker. What a day! Then there was a $14 ticket awaiting us, we did not return to our car within two hours.
Sunday, February 24 - Off to our next destination: Savannah, Georgia. We continued on the Coastal Route 17, then a short while on Rt. 95S, and again to Rt. 17. Our motel, The Thunderbird Inn, was situated on the cuff of old Savannah directly on 17. It had personality, just a 2** motel. The beds were comfortable and the Inn’s retro look was fun. Since our room was not ready, we went sightseeing and stopped at the first four squares. The weather report predicted heavy rain for the next day.
The Thunderbird Motel, on West Oglethorp Avenue, can be found opposite the currently under construction bus terminal. We started out on East Charleston Street, parked, and walked around. We photographed Troup Square, Lafayette Square, Madison Square and Pulaski Square. As we learned from John Behrendt’s ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,’ downtown had fallen onto hard times. Many of the houses were in disrepair, when a group of citizens started to rebuild and renovate square after square, some 60 years ago. In that respect, Savannah is unique.
Old Savannah is built as a rectangle, where the streets and avenues are straight and intersect perfectly with one another. At Pulaski Square (or Puluski, as we learned at the Fort later) we had seen enough so late in the day, and returned to the inn. I finally unpacked, since we were staying four nights. By chance we discovered Ranchero Allegre, a Cuban restaurant, where we had dinner: A fine dinner of black beans, yellow rice, King Fish with plantains and a thin steak for Charles. We would return again – and again.
That night we watched the Oscars on television. 'Lincoln' did not win as best picture, the film 'Argo' did instead. (The subject deals with a rescue mission and success of a group of American Embassy employees from Iran soon after the Iranian Revolution in 1969.) I was astonished, then Stephen Spielberg did not win as best director, Aing Lee won for 'Pie,' a fantastic tale about a young boy and a tiger surviving for weeks on the ocean after a ship wreck. Jennifer Lawrence won for her role in 'Silver Lining.' 100 Million men in America are in-love (or whatever) with her, including Charles. She is delightful! When she fell up the stairs in a most voluminous dress, the entire audience stood up for her, applauding. One of those moments.
Monday, February 25 - It rained hard all day and caused some water flooding in the area. Up north, there has been snow again, and again. We are not complaining. Charles ate Krispy Kream doughnuts at the Thunderbird Hotel, oh so retro. Yes, the Inn has style and there is actually an organization for retro-hotels: www.travelretro.com. I had my usual almonds and carrots and any amount of green or Lemon Lift tea to drink. Our steel tea and coffee travel containers are coming in handy.
After lunch at Ranchero Allegre we headed off to Spin City, four miles away; it’s a laundry mat. We were encircling the city and found it. It was worth the trip; Charles did not want to leave. Memories for us both: We had not been to a laundry mat in more than 20 years. As we arrived, a man was handing in two clothes baskets with a few pounds of laundry for $ 44 – we were astonished. My, the prices have gone up! Including Tide washing powder, we spent nearly $20, for one large and one small washer, then dryers. It was a slice of life we enjoyed revisiting on a rainy day. Charles was reading 'The Ladies of the Blues' and I continued with my diary entries.
The Distillery nearby had been recommended to us. Charles liked the beer, there were 22 on tap. He ordered grits and shrimp and was disappointed. My grits+shrimps dish in Myrtle Beach was delicious. I ate a large salad with sweet potato fries, which were cut into the salad: Old, soft and cold and only a few pieces. What a bad idea! So I ordered ‘small sweet fries’ and was not charged for them. Then we returned to the hotel for a bit of TV and as much computer work as possible. "The connection here is very spotty."
Tuesday, February 26 - Off to Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House at the corner of West Harris and Bull streets. Sarah had emailed again and Linda also emphasized to enjoy the experience. We arrived at 11 am without a line of guests waiting to get in. It was still raining lightly. We were seated with a nice group of visitors from Florida and Wisconsin, formerly from Needham, Massachusetts. What a meal ! There were 10 different vegetable or potato dishes, fresh and great small pieces of Southern Fried Chicken (I did not eat the crust.), pulled pork and beef. A feast - a Southern Feast! Our group had lively conversations about first time flying adventures, time shares – one woman owned 5 time shares – our new travel organization and more.
Then we headed to Tybee Island - we already knew the way – a 16 mile drive. Tybee is probably the best known island in this area, there are several others along the coast. The drive up to the ocean side is quite honky-tonk. We stopped at the Post Office and gave Linda and Opie a call, to tell her that we were visiting her old haunts. The beach was smooth, no shells, hard and wet sand – just glorious! It was warm, 73 degrees that day, the warmest day in Savannah and possibly during the entire trip.
A Horse-Shoe-Crab had washed ashore, lying on its back, still alive, if barely. Another photographer and I were trying to turn it over. We were continually jumping away from the rushing waves. I must have taken more than 20 photos. On the return drive we stopped at Fort Pulaski. Charles actually produced his Federal Parks card, which is a $ 10 life-long valid investment that he made at the Grand Canyon a few years ago.
What a Fort, what a place, what a view! It took 18 years to build it, was breached during the Civil War by Union cannons, one mile away from Tybee Island, and changed command from Confederate to the Union Army. We walked from room to room: For the commander, officers, enlisted men, Mess Hall, Infirmary, Chapel, ammunition room, etc. On top of the wall, several cannons remained in position. The Fort was built with two rings of moats. The day was beautiful! The history is bloody!
We had dinner at Carleone’s, well of course, an Italian restaurant with good food! We’ll recommend it. My small spinach salad was really big and cost only $6.
Wednesday, February 27 - The Telfair Museum, Jepson Center, was on our schedule for today. The new museum, built by Moshe Safdie and Associates, is a tall, sleek, nearly white, $ 26 Million contemporary box with relatively small exhibition spaces on the 2nd floor. It has a spacious entry and a gigantic open staircase leading to the exhibition floor. Currently showing: 'Offering of the Angels: Paintings and Tapestries from the Uffizi Gallery.' Traveling was clearly not the best work from the Uffizi, mostly paintings, and here it was on its third destination in America.
However, the contemporary exhibition by Hye Yeon Nam – Unfamiliar Behavior was delightful. Mechanical and computerized wooden hands greeted the visitor when smiling, and a long row of small people bowed, while we were moved about. The artist bowed continually on a video loop. There were two other video installations: Experiments with kissing couples. And most confounding was a film, where every person in The City moved across the screen backwards, the female artist, however, walked very slowly forward. The magic of filmmaking!
The Telfair Academy, close by, is housed in the original home of Mary Telfair, who went to Europe with her sister to experience Europe and, once there, they went on an art shopping spree. Unfortunately, they did not have excellent advisors. In the sculpture garden were several interesting works by modern painters.
That late afternoon, we criss-crossed the town on the Old Savannah Trolley. Chris, the driver, was fun and knowledgeable. By now, we’ve probably passed, stopped and/or photographed all 22 squares.
Dinner at the Pirate House was great. Good food, really good food: Charles had a shrimp carbonara dish; my pecan crusted trout was wonderful and the calamari appetizer with an Asian-chili dipping sauce, hey just the best!
Thursday, February 28 - It was a traveling day again and a sunny, beautiful, warm day. We were heading towards colder weather to Atlanta and it was our first stop north again, slightly north. What a pity!
A stop for a final brunch at the Cuban restaurant, where we had a conversation with the owner, a native of Venezuela. Of course, we talked about the Chavez – Castro connection. The owner was convinced that Chavez had already died. The inauguration for his current and new term had been postponed, due to cancer related illness. The patron speculated that Chavez had already died and the party was attempting to control the future of Venezuela. The world will eventually know! (President Chavez’ death occurred soon after that day.)
Rt. 16 W was close by and so we started our trip to Atlanta via Augusta, GA, where we picked up Rt. 75 N. Atlanta’s skyscrapers appeared on the horizon long before we exited at 274c to the Mariott Hotel, downtown. We ended up on Peach Street, our pin-drop iphone directions were helpful, but eventually the hotel staff (and a passer-by) helped us find the hotel. A gentleman at the registration set us up in a small suite at Price Line prices.
It was dinner time when we arrived. I pulled out my winter coat and Charles his leather jacket again. We just walked a block to Ted’s Montana Steakhouse, where we both had dishes with bison: Charles a burger and I tried the bison meat loaf. Meat loaf is not my thing, bison or otherwise. (Ted’s as in Ted Turner, just to be sure.)
We enjoyed the rest of the evening watching TV in the suit: 'Scandal' and Sherlock Holmes’, 'Elementary.' Sherlock Holmes American style, where Watson, a woman, is his medical supervisor and associate. We follow both series. My goodness, we slept until 10 am, Friday morning, under very light down covers.
Friday, February ~ no March 1st - Breakfast at the hotel: Charles had the buffet and I ordered hot cereal and a wonderfully tasty tea. The bell boy recommended that we leave the car in the garage, because the High Museum on Peach Street would not be far and taxis do not charge for the first 10 blocks, which was wrong on both accounts.
We paid a total $ 30 for two taxi rides. “Just the cost of doing business” was Charles’ response. The museum is comprised of three buildings, with great, tall open rooms, many galleries and enormous spaces to show contemporary art.
The stairs to three floors are actually walkways along one side, inside the open galleries, which takes up much less room than normal stairs. I found that to be a terrific solution; Charles was less impressed. Later we learned that it is, however, more complicated to install exhibitions with the lack of wide stair-ways. All buildings are connected via glass walk-ways.
On the lower floors of all three buildings, 2nd and 3rd floors, their collection of European and American art is installed. I enjoyed seeing an exhibition of American marble sculptures in the tradition of Greco-Roman-Style. These were 18th to early 20th Century works.
Then we went in search of Frida & Diego; Passion, Politics and Painting on the 4th Floor. It was an extensive, wonderful, insightful exhibition, with many of Frida Kahlo’s major works on display. There were several color-photo-reproductions in the size of Diego Rivera’s murals; one must surely see the real thing to experience its full impact! (Will we plan a trip to Mexico City?) This major exhibition covered in text and photos and their many works Frida & Diego’s lives spanning decades.
What an unexpected opportunity to have seen this show – it was the only American venue - a collaboration between the High Museum and A.G.O., the Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada.
By 9:30 the following morning we were already on our way and drove Route 85 N to Charlotte, NC, to 77 N, at Wytheville we entered 81 N, all the way to Harrisburg, VA. Then following 78N/E we were driving sharp east. From 78E to 287 N through New Jersey and at Mahwah, the most northern town in NJ, we drove into New York State’s 87N, direction to Albany. We exited at Rt. 41, then onto Rt. 20 to Pittsfield and Rt. 8 N- home-turf now. We arrived late in North Adams the next day. We had concluded our return drive from Atlanta, GA, with an overnight stay along the way. Home again – home and a perfect sleep in our own bed.