After we updated last night we took a short walk on the long pier just outside our hotel, which even late at night was crowded with fisherpeople.
“What can you catch out here?” we asked one, who shrugged “I don’t know. I just started fishing.” He seemed surprised to find a fishing pole in his hand.
Another gentleman told us he’s gotten flounder and small fish, and even the occasional shark, which by law they have to throw back. Sure enough, minutes later, at the end of the pier, a man pulled in a foot long shark. Another, more competent fisherguy took the hook off the thing and then displayed it to fascinated kids and equally enthralled us; it was a sand shark, just a perfect little miniature of the ferocious beasts who dominate Animal Planet during Shark Week. We stroked its sides and belly for a little luck before the guy dropped it back into the water. Mary was bummed we didn’t have the camera, and Rick was too, but mostly so he could have put the caption “We’re going to need a... really, tiny boat” under it.
Mary took another walk in the morning and overhead one man yelp that right after he dropped his own teeny shark back in the water, another, much, much larger shark appeared—possibly to the long term detriment of the fish he had just saved. Whoops. Circle of life.
Last night we also tried a place called Donut Man, because they had a drive through and Krispy Kreme didn’t, but Mary’s donut was stale so she insisted on a rematch. Rick, as always, was amenable to anything involving donuts. So we stopped on the way out of Myrtle Beach and hers still wasn’t very good and Rick’s was just fine. Since Krispy Kreme was founded in North Carolina (Winston-Salem to be exact) we intend to stop at one if we get the chance, purely for homage’s sake.
Our one major stop of the day was at a glorified truck stop with a quasi-Mexican theme called South of the Border, which proved to be equal parts amusing and horrifying. The rambling facility included fireworks stores, gift shops, a concrete statuary store, rides, a campground, miniature golf, and so much more.
Why it was there eluded us until we left and discovered that it was feet from the border of North Carolina, where of course fireworks are illegal. So we theorized that nearby locals would cut across state lines to load up on colorful explosives and that’s how it all started, but we were wrong – at least according to Wikipedia. Here’s what they have to say about the place:
South of the Border was developed by Al Schafer (1914-2001), who founded a beer stand at the location in 1950 and steadily expanded it with Mexican trinkets and numerous kitsch items. He had a great deal of success because of his location, which was immediately across the border from a dry North Carolina county, and grew his small business into what was, by local standards, an economic empire. South of the Border grew to over a square mile, required its own infrastructure, and had its own fire and police departments. Schafer became reclusive, building a large compound of interconnected houses outside the Dillon city limits. At South of the Border, he kept secret apartments hidden in the backs of restaurants and shops.
We were agog at all of; the dinosaur in a sombrero (pictured), the gorilla in a t shirt (pictured), the fireworks store that sold mortar rounds (ditto), and the complete lack of Mexican food (see picture of large concrete weiner dog). But hey, at least the Mexican serapes were actually made in Mexico, so there’s that. We just kept staring at it, unable to quite take it all in, unable to choose between the aforementioned amused and horrified. Look at the pictures and decide for yourself.
As we continue on our route, now is a good time to mention Rick’s mad driving skills (as the kids say) because that turn he pulled when Mary shouted “HOMEMADE PEACH ICE CREAM” was really an impressive display. He not only didn’t tip the car, or cause a crash behind us, he got us safely into Pee Dee’s Peaches, where the peach and strawberry homemade ice cream were worth the risk just taken.
Rick figures this is NASCAR territory so that’s just the way you are supposed to drive.
A long road trip means the occasional need for a rest stop, and we found a very nice forest-y one on our route to Asheville. We mention this because of the photo you will see over at the left somewhere; what is going on with this trash can that it needs to have caution tape around it? If there’s a dead body inside, shouldn’t there be an active crime scene investigation going on? If it is hazardous waste, shouldn’t those people be actively working on it, holiday weekend or no? And if it’s just a useless trash can, why not just remove the thing?
These are the kinds of things that catch our interest when there are no cows to count.
So after ruminating on the contents of the trash can, we started counting cemeteries, of which there were enough for a final score of 7-2 Mary. “Woo-hoo!” she said, claiming victory. “No,’’ said Rick, “Cemeteries are bad. So you lost.” “No,” Mary said, “we are counting cemeteries. I won.” “But they are bad in Cow!” said Rick, “But we are playing Cemetery,” said Mary. And there the matter lies, as it were.
We more or less reached an agreement; henceforth, if playing Cemetery, the one who has the fewest wins. As we were having the debate, a single small pasture with a single countable cow whizzed by on the passenger side of the car, so Mary managed to eke out a 1-0 victory. Rick reminds everyone he won at miniature golf last night.
Our stopping point for the night is in Asheville, a quaint cute town, very pleasing to the eye, and nicely bustling even on a Sunday of a holiday weekend. We had dinner the Old Europe Bistro, which is owned by Hungarians (which is why we choose it; Mary feels genealogical loyalty), and it was a pleasant surprise.
A mini crab cake, some bruschetta, a pressed French dip sandwich with melted cheese and caramelized onions and a flatly terrific salad of field greens, wild blueberries, gorgonzola and raspberry vinaigrette, plus two Euro-style pastries made for one of the most satisfying meals of the trip.
Our digs tonight are on the grounds of the famous Biltmore estate, which we will tour tomorrow, but which we drive a bit already, and it’s 47 different kinds of beautiful. Rolling fields, forest, Smokey Mountains, creeks, river, and more.
The Inn itself is built to more or less reflect the shape of the manor house and is very gracious. We were amused that the piano player in the lobby was tinkling out “Space Oddity” by David Bowie. Was he trying to be subversive or are we just old enough that Bowie qualifies as a standard?
The rooms are full of likable touches; fresh rose in a bud vase in the bathroom, big bottles of water, high quality chocolates on the pillows—there are the things that make experiences like this special. Add to that a view from our windows of the aforementioned fields, mountains et al, and we are most well set up for the night.
Mary took what was supposed to be a nice little walk down by the river, during which she a) Got lost twice, including once in an increasingly dark wooded area, b) discovered that sheep like their butts scratched as much as your average furry dog, c) saw a rabbit and two groundhogs (we think), d) saw the rosy pink sunset, and e) pretended that all this was hers.
We’re just having so much fun.