John had been doing his usual research during the week, and we'd both been asking his cousins about what was worthwhile seeing and eating. *laughs* So we decided to head further South, thinking about both Charleston and maybe even touching base somewhere in Georgia just to complete our continental US map. We've set foot in every state other than Georgia on the continental US, even taking an extra 20 minute trip from a building site in Mississippi in order to stop at a rest stop in Alabama. So it and Alaska are the only states we haven't visited, yet. It's only a matter of time.
We got there early in the boarding process, and the fascinating thing was that Highway Patrol officer took down our license plate and asked for John's ID! That's the very first place I've ever seen where the ferry records that information for every vehicle going on board. Someone was speaking of a pretty active drug trafficking that runs up and down the islands. Partially because boats and ships aren't monitored nearly as closely as cars and trucks, but I guess the ferry traffic is monitored pretty tightly on the legal pathways islands, now.
The ride was a lot longer than we'd originally anticipated, too, and someone later told us that there wasn't enough money to dredge the channel between the islands enough to be safe for the ferries. So they had to go the long way around to make sure they didn't run aground, again.
So I asked John to pull into one of the beach access parking lots, and we walked along the stairway that was built over the dunes, to get out onto this gorgeous sand beach. There were dozens of surfers out on the gradual, smooth waves, and it was obvious even at a glance that this beach was a lot more gradual than the ones at Salvo. The longer, smoother sand underneath the waves gave them a longer, smoother ride in to shore. None of the banging around that was happening at Salvo, and I half envied all the people who were here. *laughs* But we couldn't stay as we had a reservation for the 3 o'clock ferry from Ocracoke to the mainland.
We spent a little time wandering about the tourist shops and John and I bought some locally made art cards while Jet found a ball that was made to bounce across the surface of any body of water. The ferry ride was long, and since our car was under the shading of the upper deck, we just opened all the windows and I napped in the passenger seat while Jet read in the back seat and John wandered the boat and got all the pictures.
There was a tiny road through it, that the GPS directed us down, and then there was supposed to be a road right to the water. But the "road" it had us on was someone's private driveway, leading to a several story house. The GPS had us going right around the house and out onto the water!
Something had gone whonky with the GPS and it was obvious at that point. We turned back, and found out that it was taking us to some random coordinates, and somehow thought that there was either a road or a ferry or a bridge that no longer existed...
So we redirected it and were more wary from that point on. Beauford turned out to be a quant little waterside town without a lot of hotels, we crossed the water and went into Morehead City and found the Morehead Motor Inn, a little strip hotel with a pool in the center. We decided to check in there, put all our stuff in the room, and go back to Beauford to find some dinner.
There's the Core Sound just a few miles north of Beauford. The chowder that bears its name is more brothy than New England style. It has potatoes and celery and the necessary clams, and it was lighter. I really enjoyed it along with the other Core Sound specialty, which was this lemon pie. It seems like a normal lemon meringue pie, sorta, with Ritz crackers stuck on the sides. But when I tasted it, I thought it was more related to a Key Lime pie. The lemon custard had evaporated milk in it, instead of being a clear gel. The bottom crust was Ritz cracker based instead of graham cracker or normal pie crust, and there's one version of Key Lime that's topped with a soft meringue rather than just whipped cream.
It was tasty, too.
On the way out, we saw the man in the last picture feeding ton of seagulls with the garbage/scraps from the restaurant. They were in a huge cloud all around him and he was expounding happily to all those who had stopped to watch the spectacle that he didn't call them, all he did was bring the food and they all came to him. That was fun to see. We went back to the hotel, swam, and played with Jet's ball.
It was supposed to bounce on the surface of the water, so when I walked up to the pool with it, I threw it as hard as I could at the surface of the water, and it was "plop" and went right in. It turns out that the ball is supposed to be skimmed across the water like a skipping stone, not thrown right in. So we spent most of the swim time learning how to throw the ball across the water, and it was amazingly effective at bouncing when thrown correctly. *laughs*
So we drove through and determined that, sure enough, it wasn't a place for us to stop. *laughs* There were more tourist attractions, traps, and shops per city block than I'd seen anywhere in my life. There were four beachwear stores on all four corners of one intersection. There was a giant volcano spewing pink water as "lava" in one of at least a dozen huge mini golf "resorts". There was a Pirate themed resort by Dolly Parton, and there were at least three big gated resorts with guards, gardens, and graceful sweeps of white buildings on green lawns.
It was pretty scary how much money there was right there. So we kept going... all the way to Charleston, NC.
Another unique thing that we found along the way were these permanently built "Sweet Grass Basket" booths on both sides of the big streets. They were obviously built to be reused frequently, but only a few had vendors with wares in them. Later on, in the city itself, we saw a lot more people selling things made of the grass, including countless roses made by teenagers on the street.
It was really good. We had the "lighter" meals, and I had a small pulled pork sandwich with a small cut of ribs, and it came with coleslaw and beans, but I asked for a substitution of the Brunswick Stew. It cost a little more, but it was well worth it. It's a "stew" of tomatoes, BBQ's ends, potatoes, corn, and onions, and it came super hot and extra tasty. I loved it, and I was pretty amazed by how huge the lighter meal actually was. *laughs* They had five kinds of sauces on the table, Carolina Sweet, Carolina Classic (mustard based), a Memphis style tomato, and a Habanero Hot that John didn't find hot at all. I liked the mustard style sauce and the coleslaw on my sandwich. *laughs* It was good.
Given that I also had three and a half pints of honey I'd just harvested at home, it seemed a very foolish thing to buy, but I contemplated it. *laughs*
We made it all the way down to the waterfront, and found a nice park. It was hot and humid and in the sun it was just blistering, but these kids were having a blast in the very chlorinated fountain at the entrance. The sprays were steady, so one could just walk in and walk out without getting too wet, but what was the point of that? There were rails where one could see out into the bay really well, and then a walk under an avenue of trees next to countless apartments of brick, and it was a beautiful spot to just walk and observe.
Given that taste, we decided to stay for another night and explore for the whole of the next day. We went back to the hotel and went swimming and ball throwing in the pool, got the reservations we needed to go to Fort Suumter National Monument in the morning, and slept quite well.
We got there in plenty of time, and got to wander around the museum and see some of the history that involved Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Basically, the Confederation had just formed with a US officer decided that the fort he was assigned to in the Charleston bay was indefensible, rightly so according to the records of the time. So he moved to Fort Sumter, and Charleston was afraid of the bulk of the brand new Fort Sumter having Federal troops in it. So they asked him to leave, and he refused, but he didn't have that many supplies. The North sent down supplies, and when that ship arrived at the mouth of the harbor, the Confederates attacked the fort with all the fire power they could muster from the surrounding forts. There were a bunch of them all designed to protect Charleston's port, and they all surrounded Fort Sumter, which pretty much was on an island in the middle of the bay.
Originally, just before the civil war, the walls were three times higher. There are paintings and drawings of the time period of the original fort. It was built on a sand bar out in the water and it commands a clear shot at nearly everything in the bay.
It was interesting, looking back at Charleston, to see that it doesn't really have a city skyline, or at least what I would associate with a big city. There aren't any modern high rises, at all. It's just a city that's kept to its old time story, I guess, other than for the ultra-modern bridge.
It was a fascinating place to wander through. During the WW I usage, they filled in half the place with sand, just because sand could take all kinds of bombardment. And when the Parks division took it over, they started digging out the sand to take it away, and they found these cannon that were probably put there during the Spanish-American war. They're all rifled barrels, as you can see in the picture I took right down the throat of one of these old beauties.
There were dozens of cannon placements. The portals for the guns were blocked off, but you could see how it had originally been designed. Above were the flags, and they were on top of the new battlements. The observation platform is what you see on the right, behind the camera is the gift shop and the World War I gun placements.
There was one broken open pillar, and we could see that the center had been filled with a concrete that included a lot of broken oyster shells. That was an intriguing thing to see. The brick also kept the underground areas much cooler than the steel-supported battlements. It was possible to think of the cannoniers with the smoke and heat of their work really being grateful for the brick and these open galleyways laid next to them. There was a constant circulation of air through these, and it was quite pleasant.
I was really happy with the tour and seeing and learning all the things we learned.
We wandered about for a little bit, realized that the shopping district really didn't interest us, and so we made our way back to Market Street and decided to go on one of the carriage tours. We've done similar historical tours around Key West, Philadelphia, and other places, and it's always a good way to figure out what else we might be interested in exploring further and get a good sense of the history associated with the city.
It was a nice ride through the old parts of the city, and the guide was fun and informative in all kinds of things, but all I remember of the company was the red sash that everyone wore. It was the thing that they advertised, look for the red sash.
And on another point of the spectrum of churches, we also went by the First Baptist Church of Charleston, and it was actually the very first Southern Baptist church in the nation. So it all began here.
But Charleston is filled with churches of all kinds, though Catholics were only allowed in late in the game because it was a Protestant town until the Constitution was signed and the whole nation declared complete freedom of religion. The oldest synagogue in the US is also in Charleston.
It was also surrounded by a lot of the exquisite wrought iron gates that characterized much of the city.
Phillip Simons was a black iron monger, who specialized in these gorgeous wrought iron gates and fences, and he was known to say that all the gatework in Charleston was either 200 years old or something he'd made. There were beautiful examples of his graceful work all over the tour, and the guide was happy to point them out in all directions. He used to do iron work, and really respected the wrought iron more than the cast iron work, and liked to point it out when he saw it.
The only problem was that if the house burned, the cupola would act as a chimney, drawing air up and basically making the fire in the house burn all the faster. Half the buildings that had these cupolas were destroyed in one way or another, and all but one of them burned down in fires. It amuses me that my brain wondered what percentage of all the homes that were destroyed in the city were burned down, and if it was pretty much the same.
Much of the architecture and buildings that now stand in Charleston were built after the Civil War. The bombings and the fight to retake Fort Sumter left vast portions of the city destroyed, so far as we could tell, since the dates on nearly everything start at that time.
We decided then that we were hungry. So we ate at the Lowland Kitchen right there. It wasn't super expensive, and it was good when we were pretty hungry. John got the Lowland Cioppino, Jet got the pecan waffles and chicken, and I got the shrimp and grits and a cup of the she-crab soup which was rich beyond compare. All the seafood was fresh, Jet loved his waffles and the chicken. Mine was a little confusing to me, as it had the grits circles on the bottom, then layered a slice of fried green tomato on it, on that they put some kind of tomato sauce, and then the shrimp on top of that. Pretty, but all the liquids made the fried green tomato kind of soggy and blah. It was an example of a chef taking a local favorite and trying to dress it up too much.
Anyway. It was a nice enough dinner, and we were good and full. John said that he'd seen boxes of the single Moon Pies at the store, not just the big boxes of the double decker ones. I can get double deckers in Longmont, but I can't get Minis or single layer sandwich Moon Pies here. So we went back to the store, and I traded in my Minis for a box of the singles and I was very happy indeed.
It had been a beautifully busy day, and when we swam that night, we saw a good dozen bats zooming around over the pool. They were tiny, quick creatures that were hunting night bugs, and I lay in the water watching them for a while, until I even climbed out of the pool to get my glasses so that I could see their flitting shapes better. It was so cool to just see them up there doing their work of ridding the world of more mosquitoes. They were so fast, darting through the air sometimes mere feet over the surface of the water.
We loved that. John and I also talked over where we wanted to be by when and how far South we really wanted to go. Thursday and Friday, the Fourth of July, would be spent with Brenda and Tim, and we'd fly out on Saturday afternoong. We decided that rather than head down to Georgia, we'd go back north to the Raleigh/Durham area and meet up with Rodney, his mother, and his daughters while they were still there. His mother was taking his daughters for a small trip the next day, so we would only have the possibility of Wednesday evening with them. Since Rodney was hosting his mom, we'd just set up camp at a hotel near there.
So we did. John got all the reservations ready, told Rodney to expect us the next evening, and we went to sleep knowing we'd have to hit the road again in the morning.