Although our time on Hilton Head Island and our trip to the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force had been fun, we were anxious to move on to Charleston. My youngest son Mickey is in the US Army. After several years serving as an Army Engineer based at Ft. Hood Texas, he has switched to become an army recruiter. In his new role he was assigned to Charleston, South Carolina. Or to be more precise, to Summerville, which is a town about twenty miles from Charleston. He and his family just moved there around Thanksgiving of last year.
Pretty much their whole clan moved there. Besides Mickey, his wife Sara, and her three (almost four) year old daughter Ava, Sara's mom came along from Texas. So did Sara's brother Ethan, who we hadn't met before. He finished high school some time ago and is thinking about joining the army (Mickey - make sure you get credit for that signup!). We were especially excited to see Ava since the last time we had seen her had been two years ago and kids change fast. And last but not least I can't forget their dog Daisy. I am a dog person after all and she's a great dog.
We knew that Ava liked anything to do with My Little Pony, so we picked up a puzzle for her the day we visited the outlet mall near Hilton Head. As soon as we got there we gave it to Ava and it was a hit. She started right in on it. Sandy pitched in to help her and pretty soon Ava got the idea of how to build the puzzle. As they worked on it we learned that Ava had a name for Sandy, which was "Gramma Idaho". I guess that distinguished her from Sara's mom. She didn't have a unique name for me, although there are a lot of people who do, especially at work.
They have a nice house but for me the coolest thing about where Mickey and his family live is that their yard backs up on a stream which has a nice walking path. We all took a walk in the evening. The stream was very pretty but Mickey suggested that it was a good idea to stay away from the water. Alligators are common in the US Southeast. Daisy, you better stick with us.
After our walk we decided to treat everyone to pizza. We needed two cars get everyone to Famulari's, which was great. I can attest that South Carolina has good pizza.
The next day we went into Charleston, a city with a lot of history. We parked near the waterfront and spent some time walking around. I was interested in seeing Ft. Sumter, the place where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, which is on an island in Charleston Harbor. What our tour guide Mickey pointed out to us as Ft. Sumter actually turned out later to be Castle Pickney, another Civil War era fortification. Ft. Sumter is actually quite a bit further out and hard to see from where we were.
We walked through the restored Charleston City Market, a four block long building which is over two hundred years old. Originally it was a farmers market but now sells mainly souvenirs, crafts and specialty items. At a booth operated by the Charleston Historical Society I did buy a book, Gate of Hell, which is about the Civil War campaign for Charleston Harbor. It is famous for the assault on Fort Wagner, which was led by regiment of African-American troops, the 54th Massachussettes Volunteers. The movie Glory was based on this battle. Although I bought a book I did manage to resist buying a Charleston SC tshirt, even though I had a lot of opportunities. There were some good ones but I have to admit that I liked the ones we saw on Hilton Head Island better. We did find an awesome fudge store where the help not only made delicious fudge, but sang great rhythm and blues while they served you. Best of all, I got a picture of Mickey in the market with a Christmas tree growing out of his head. That was about it though. Although Charleston was an interesting city with a lot of historical buildings, the overcast sky meant that I didn't get any good outside pictures.
When we finally got home Sandy and I went for a walk. Everyone else thought we were nuts since we had been walking all afternoon, but we do like to walk and the weather was nice. At least Daisy was excited about going along with us. Afterwards Sandy made dinner for everyone - baked ziti. It was a big hit.
Suddenly we heard a loud bang and the entire house shook. At first we thought there had been a car crash nearby or maybe an explosion. Turns out that there had been a magnitude 3.0 quake with the epicenter very close by. Definitely some excitement.
The next day was sunny so it was time to go to the beach. Everyone came along and somehow we all managed to fit in one vehicle (all seven of us). Mickey drove and I got to ride in the front. I'm not sure how everyone else fit. It took a little less than an hour to drive to Folly Beach but I think everyone was glad to get out of the car. It was a nice day. The beach was beautiful. It was similar to Hilton Head Island in that it was a long, flat beach that went out of sight in both directions. We parked right at the Folly Beach Fishing Pier, which is 24 feet wide and extends over a thousand feet out from shore. We walked out to the end of the pier to enjoy the view looking back to the beach. We walked up the beach about a quarter of a mile and then back to the pier. Sandy and I walked the other way up the beach while everyone else found a place to sit so Ava could play in the sand. Since it was a nice sunny day I took lots of pictures.
Eventually we all started to get hungry so we went across the street to have lunch on the patio at Rita's Seaside Grill. Sandy was happy since they had the Wisconsin Badger game on (NCAA tournament). As I was taking a group photo of all of us having lunch, I discovered that I had left my SD card in my laptop PC when I was downloading pictures the night before. I had been happily snapping pictures all afternoon - all for naught. Oh well. The only pictures are from Sandy's iPhone. You will just have to take my word for it that Folly Beach was cool.
At least we had a good lunch and the Badgers won their basketball game. Afterwards we did a quick walk through town. Well, everyone else did a slow walk through town while I darted into all the souvenir shops as fast as I could to check out the tshirts. Once again I didn't really find any that I cared for though. Probably just as well.
We took a slight detour on the way home to visit the Charleston Tea Plantation, which claims to be the only working tea plantation in North America. The grounds are very pretty and we got there in time to take the tour of their tea factory. They make American Classic Tea, which we were able to sample in many different flavors and varieties in the gift shop. The shop was very nice and Sandy bought some tea, some gourmet cookies and a tea cup to take home. More stuff to fit in our luggage!
We had one more full day to visit and we decided to stay close to home and check out Summerville itself. Mickey had taken the day off so he came with us. Sandy had found what looked like an interesting trolley tour called Good Eats on the Sweet Tea Trail. The tour started at the local Historical Museum in (Historic) Downtown Summerville. It was an hour and a half long and drove around to provide a tour of Summerville. Duh. The name comes from the fact that Summerville claims to be the home of Sweet Tea. Sandy doesn't care much for sweet tea and I don't drink much tea, but it certainly seems to be a big thing everywhere in the South.
Besides the history, the tour sampled food at about a dozen different businesses in Summerville. I didn't know how this could possibly work without taking all day but they did it very well. The trolley would drive somewhere and stop. Then the people at the business would get on with big trays of samples of whatever their specialty was. None of the passengers had to get off and back on again. There was just about every thing you could possibly imagine to eat: salads, chili, ice cream, candy, etc. By the time the tour was finished there was no need to go for lunch. We were full! It was a pretty clever theme for the tour.
Besides driving around, seeing the town, and getting everything we could possibly imagine to eat, the tour was narrated by a guy named Tim Lowry who bills himself as a Master Storyteller. I have to admit that he was very entertaining. He mixed humor with stories of the history of the area. All in all, the tour was a lot of fun.
Besides the usual tourists on the tour, we had a reporter from a local tv station. She was filming the various stops and getting shots of all the people on the tour. Afterwards she asked people where they were from. When it turned out that Sandy and I had come the farthest to Summerville, she asked if one of us would agree to be interviewed. I was a wimp but Sandy volunteered to do it. Must have been all that media training she had as a VP at Hewlett Packard. She did quite well I thought so that night all of us gathered around to watch the local news. They did have a segment on the tour but it was only about sixty seconds. Instead of Sandy's interview they had an interview with one of the ladies at the historical museum who talked about how the tour would really stimulate local businesses and tourism. Ok. Fine. Poor choice in my opinion but at least we knew where they were coming from.
After the Good Eats Tour we didn't need to go out for lunch. We decided to do some serious shopping. Our first stop was the local game store. Turned out that they had very few games but it wasn't a total bust since it was a used book store as well. I found a David Baladacci novel that was the prequel to the book Sandy and I had read on our trip to Antigua. For a couple of bucks it was a good score. We both read the book on the trip home.
I check out game stores - Sandy checks out quilt stores. So the next stop was People, Places and Quilts. I'm used to hanging around while Sandy shops for fabric but Mickey looked bored in the photos. He didn't complain though. A few weeks later I was talking to a lady at work who is a quilter. When I mentioned that Sandy likes to check out quilt stores whenever we travel, she said that she does the same. In fact, she said she had just been to a really nice quilt shop in Summerville, South Carolina. Turns out we had been there just a few days apart. Quite a coincidence.
After that Mickey was ready to be dropped off at his house. Sandy and I went to take a walking tour of historic houses in Summerville. We had a nice brochure from the historical museum that showed a walking route and gave a brief history of about a dozen homes. Summerville has quite a bit of history for an American city. It dates back to the eighteenth century when plantation owners in Charleston would have summer homes in Summerville. Because it is a bit higher, cooler and in pine forest, it was where the rich land owners of Charleston would go to escape the heat of summer, and more importantly, the mosquitoes that carried numerous diseases. Residents claim that it is still more pleasant in the summer than the surrounding South Carolina low country.
After our walking tour we picked up Mickey again and headed back to downtown Summerville. We went to Accent on Wine, a wine bar and shop. They had some tables outside, the weather was perfect, and it was happy hour. We ordered a meat, cheese and cracker plate and Sandy and I had wine while Mickey had a Son of a Peach beer. It was a nice place to relax and talk about all of the stuff that we had done on our visit.
Afterwards we went back to Mickey's place. Everyone was tired so we just took it easy and watched the movie Blackfish on Netflix. It's a controversial movie that is highly critical of the way Sea World treats its captive orcas. While it might have exaggerated somewhat, I have to admit that it made me feel like I didn't want to patronize Sea World anymore and perpetuate the way that it treats some very intelligent sea mammals.
And that was about it for our trip. That evening we said our goodbyes so that we could leave early the next morning. It was good to see everyone again. We got to catch up with Mickey and everyone else. We got to spend time with Ava. She is really a smart and well behaved little girl and she is growing up fast. And we got to see a new part of the country for us. A good trip.