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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Rolling stones

Janet and I started our friendship in 1984 on the way to a library conference in Columbus, Ohio. We each had about ten years of library directorship at nearby libraries under our belts.  For some reason that I can't now remember, we decided to travel/room together at the annual state meeting. On the way, we discovered some common interests (Swedish ancestry, left-handedness, love of bland food (especially mashed potatoes) and shopping). We also uncovered some differences. Janet can sit still for hours without moving, and I .....fidget. She loves to be alone, and I ....don't. She loves the heat and is never warm enough, and I prefer shade, snow, and freezing temperatures-in the car, and in any room.
We agreed that the differences could be accommodated well enough and our common interests have cemented two decades of travel companionship. We also discovered that misadventure is our travel hallmark.
Visiting Sweden on our first of two trips

Our travels have contained amusing mishaps of adventure that travelers everywhere experience-getting lost, (we started traveling together years before the gps) bad weather (it rained for 21 straight days on our first trip to Sweden), language barriers, money troubles (Janet left her wallet in a phone booth ( remember, our travels started before cell phones) in Minneapolis), and so on.  We have been to Sweden twice, Key West, 10 times, Chicago 9 times, San Francisco 3 times.

An early Key West photo

 In recent years, we've gone our separate ways, Janet on another trip to Sweden and to  St. Croix, and I to Seattle and Spain. (I'm just kidding about Spain, but, it started with an 's')  It is with all of this history that I jumped at Janet's suggestion that we take a road trip together to assuage my apprehension about retiring. She proposed that I  could name the location, the date, and the itinerary. Wow!

Janet came up with the idea of  half of a road trip-we would fly to Charleston, S.C. and drive back to Ohio on whatever route I selected.

So, two Yankees headed south and encountered a lovely city that highlights history.

Um, so, ok, we're the damn Yankees. But, we were assured that the south thinks our tourist dollars are helping to pay back for our ancestors transgressions. Since we both have major Swedish heritage, we didn't feel too responsible anyway.

We enjoyed a day of walking around the historic district of Charleston on a warm ad sunny day.  I walked on the shady side of the street and Janet kept to the sunny side. Sounds like a song lyric in there somewhere.....

Having been to New Orleans several times together, we agreed that Charleston is a gentle version of the Big Easy.

There are many wonderful restaurants in Charleston. On our first night, we ate at 82 Queen Street, recommended by Lynda Murray. It was wonderful! We did think it was too bad that Charleston cuisine is wasted on two girls who love plain mashed potatoes, no seafood, and nothing spicy. We actually felt guilty that we were avoiding the best entrees that Charleston has to offer.

We visited two house museum and eavesdropped on the carriage tours as they passed us. The only time I took a carriage ride, it was in Chicago and I got motion sickness from the mild bouncing of the carriage, so, I was not tempted by this popular method of learning the history of Charleston.

Flowers in bloom in October was a recurring theme that we enjoyed-in the case above, we loved the pale blue wash on the masonry and the blue shutters with black ironwork as much as the flower boxes.

Janet suggested an excursion out to Fort Sumter, but, I reminded her of our trip to the Dry Tortugas to see  Fort Jefferson in which we roamed the compound after being left by a seaplane for the day and I remarked that when you've seen one fort, you've seen them all.

So, the next day, toured Middleton Place, a former plantation with gardens and enough history for Janet to enjoy as well! First granted in 1675, only five years after the first English colonists arrived in the Carolinas, the first four generations of the Middletons produced a President of the First Continental congress, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a Governor of South Carolina, and  a signer of the Ordinance of Secession.

The garden statue above was the only item not sacked by the Union troops that went on to burn Charleston. It was buried by the plantation family in a bog for later retrieval. Wealthy rice growers, with  19 plantations, the family designed this location to be their premier exhibit of success.

One of hundreds of live oak trees, so named because as one leaf dies, the next is already becoming unfurled.

Sea grass, still used to weave decorative baskets. It was interesting to learn about Carolina Gold, so named because the rice shipped to England was a huge money maker for the plantation farmers, as was Indigo, a plant reduced to small intense blue wafers used as dye. But, enough about that, we drove a bit further south to Beaufort, South Carolina before heading back north toward Ohio.

Arriving in time for a dinner at sunset, we enjoyed this small town on the coast-a movie location for Forest Gump, The Big Chill, The Great Santini, and many other Hollywood blockbusters.

As we headed toward Asheville, N.C. the next morning, we stopped to pick some cotton. It even came with a beetle of some sort! As a fiber artist, I know that cotton is overly processed and I always try to purchase organic cotton to knit with and I'd like to this this field contained the organic kind.

The last leg of our trip was a drive of 170 miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, driving north from Asheville (Mile 380) to Rt 77 (Mile 200) and taking 9 hours to do so.

The Park to Park Highway, as it was originally called, was to connect the Great Smokies and the Shenandoah National Park. Started in 1934, the parkway is 450 miles long and is a scenic road not to be missed.

The enforced speed limit is 35mph and honestly, that is perfect. We stopped at most of the scenic overlooks, took a hike to see Linwood Falls, and, stopped at two folk art visitor centers. Along the way, we also had a bit of an unplanned adventure.

According to his collar, his owner's name was Butch. We called him BJ. He was wandering alone in the middle of the parkway and seemed happy to be given a ride. We took him to the nearest park ranger (a 45 minute drive north) and thought we'd leave it to the ranger to get BJ back to Butch. In the meantime, I left a message for Butch from the number on BJ's collar to call me.

Arriving at the station, the park ranger peered in our car and said, "Oh, you shouldn't have picked up this dog. This is a black bear hunting dog and it is a felony to interfere with hunters by taking their dogs." We thought the ranger was teasing us, but, he was very serious, raising his hands up in the air when I tried to give BJ to him. "No way," he said, "it would be best if you just opened the car door right here and let him out. He has a gps unit on his collar and he'll be found by his owner and you had better not be found with him." When we explained we'd picked up BJ about 45 minutes south, he shook his head and recommended that we drive back and drop him off as near to where we found him as possible.  So we did.  Along the way, we spotted a hunter, walkie talkie in hand, and thought maybe this was Butch. No sir, it was Pervis, Jr., but he claimed to know "Butchie" and promised to get BJ back to him. So, with many apologies, we handed BJ over, who was then stuffed into the back of the truck with several other hunting dogs. Whew, back on the Parkway again we drove, when, not 5 minutes later, my phone rang. It was Butch. "You have my dog?, " he asked. "Where are you on the Parkway and I'll come pick him up."  "Not any more," I answered, regretfully, "I gave him to another hunter who said he'd return him to you." Once again, we turned around and tried to head off Pervis, Jr. before he sped away. Connecting Pervis, Jr. with Butchie, via my cell phone, the hunters made plans to meet and actually thanked us for rescuing BJ from getting run over.  As this seemed like the kind of silly adventure we used to have on our travels, we giggled all of the way back to the ranger's station where we again continued our trip.

We spent our last night in Charleston, West Virginia, and thought that added some symmetry to our road trip. Arriving in Ohio six days from the start of our getaway, we agreed to make an annual trip somewhere hence forth, hoping to add a few more memories for future reference!