We'll get to today's road trip journal momentarily, but first… some of Mary's work, many of her dearest friends, and all of her heart are in New Orleans and so even as we are enjoying the random acts of barbecue, wacky roadside attractions, and general Plucky fun, there is a part of us that would almost prefer to be sitting in front of the television watching updates on Hurricane Gustav while worrying prayer beads and whispering "go away, go away, go away."
Our thoughts, our prayers, and our deep hope for sunny skies go out to all of the residents of the Gulf Coast.
We've been lucky in so many ways on the Plucky Survivors road trips, and one of those ways, ironically considering that opening, is the cooperation of Mother Nature. We've had hurricane threats, we've had rain forecast, we've packed for Saharan heat, but for the most part we've experienced nothing but fine climate. Except for that one ridiculous rain storm in Alabama where the weather gods were trying to tell us we were headed in the wrong direction, but that's another story.
We mention this now because…wow it's really hot. Or is it just humid? No, no, it's both. Mid-nineties and ninety percent humidity, so we think, so says Plucky Mobile's dashboard, so the state of our sopping wet clothes affirms. Hot. Muggy. We try to think of it as sensual and sultry, all mint juleps and lace handkerchiefs clutched to bosoms, but then we remember Elizabeth Taylor's sweat in "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof" was totally done with makeup.
Damp but undaunted, we set out to explore Charleston on foot. We got, oh, several blocks, to the old City Market to be specific, before Mary pointed out all those nice horsy and carriage ride tours all around us, and wouldn't it be pleasant, or at least less effort to let someone else tell us what we are seeing while horse and carting us around?
Rick is always amenable, and so we caught a lift with Palmetto Tours, led by an excellent guide who has been in the buggy business 26 years. He had a lot of enthusiasm for architecture and history and occasional undisguised contempt for anything not Charleston. We learned there is a specific style of house that is unique to Charleston which is how you can identify the city from, say, New Orleans or Savannah.
By the way, if our Guide is reading this, we know we just committed an act of sacrilege by mentioning those two cities in the same sentence at. We promise we won't do it again.
We were joined for lunch by Mary's dear friend Xander who just started Monday at the College of harleston - THE college, according to our guide, who you will not be shocked to hear is an alum.
The three of us went to delightful Cru Café. Sitting in a blessedly nicely air conditioned old house, we had a sweet and tart cold cucumber soup, creamy four cheese mac n' cheese, a shrimp BLT with thick strips of bacon, chimichangas with two salsas and a Black Forest ham sandwich on a well dressed baguette. We were thoroughly pleased with all of it, and Xander, who was brought up in a family of serious cooks, intends to return and soon. We wish we would go with him.
We said goodbye to Xander, and to our hotel, which won our heart completely this morning with breakfast. We had easily over a dozen different options including today's hot dish of shrimp and grits. Both of us got the house made biscuit with excellent sherry-stewed fruit which is a good way to start a day. We are still bitter about missing afternoon tea, though. Will someone go stay there and report back, please? Thanks.
One last drive around Charleston, and we tore ourselves away from its many charms and turned once more toward Myrtle Beach.
Now, a lot of a Plucky Survivor road trip is timing-you've already seen our explanations for why we often can't spend a decent amount of time in an evening's location, because road trips are about the road, after all, but this means we have to make choices. And so because we chose to try to see some of Charleston through our sweaty eyes and spend a little time with a brand new freshman, we didn't get back to the Beach Boogie and BBQ until about 4pm.
Before we continue, we need to address a glaring discrepancy in the previous evening's write-up. No we cannot explain how a bacon-wrapped hot dog qualified for the "Anything But Pork" competition. We are equally at a loss to explain why we NO ONE at our table gave it a second thought. We are confident, however, that it was neither turkey bacon nor turkey hot dog because those are anathema to our palettes and our mouths would have rejected them as surely as a mismatched organ transplant. Let us just say that we were obviously so blinded by bacon love and the all-consuming power conferred upon us by judge-dom that we just missed the simplest thing.
Now,back to timing… we knew that the barbeque championship started at 8am, and we thought that participants would be handing out samples of their entries after that. We also knew that the event went until at least 11pm, and that it didn't start getting crowded on Friday until about 7:30pm. The math seemed to work in our favor.
Math was never our strongest subject at school, we were reminded when we got there and found the vast majority of the barbeque booths had been taken down and only a handful of contestants, none of whom were handing out samples any more, remained. One, one lone saintly individual let us try some of the final bits of his pork roast, and, well, actually, who cared if he was the only one because we didn't need any more, we may never need pork again, because it was that superlative. That tender, that flavorful, that, well, good. Really, really good. Then he slathered on some of his sauce, and sure it was a little heavy on the Jack Daniels, but it was really, really good, too.
Oh, who are we kidding, of course we will need pork again-- we had a sandwich and a plate of pulled pork minutes after this porcine revelation-- but it was good.
We were disappointed that we weren't going to be able to try out some of the barbeque assessments that we learned the evening before from our co-judges during the sauce tasting. They would dip their bread, take a bit, and announce "he's using molasses with a sugar base and a top note of apple vinegar." These people know their barbeque and we want to be just like them.
The previous evening we attempted to buy some "homemade" (as in, churned on the spot) ice cream, but they literally ran out of chocolate one person ahead of us, and who wants vanilla? Like, ever? Unless there is chocolate sauce to put on it and they didn't have any. We asked. Another booth was doing something similar, but their chocolate was old and icy and a total letdown. So we went back to the first booth today, and…they still didn't have chocolate. We made them check. And oddly, despite the fact that the trailer was oh, about two porta-potties wide, it took a really long time for them to determine that in fact there was no chocolate. We began positing about the possibility of some sort of ice cream portal hidden in the trailer, leading to a wondrous land of flowing cream and frothy fountains.
What were we talking about? Oh right. There was not chocolate. What is WRONG with these people? But they did have raspberry which was so creamy and intensively but not aggressively flavored that we were both satisfied and not because it only served to confirm that their chocolate would have been special. Darn it.
Our hotel is at the far end of a string of similar beach resorts, and the rooms are generously sized, bright and cheerful, with brand new appliances like fridges and microwaves. Best of all, they each have a view of the clean beach and the big wide ocean-we can hear the sound of the waves as we type.
Mary went for a swim in the Atlantic while Rick soaked in the view of the water from his balcony. Sometimes we actually relax on our vacation.
Myrtle Beach is just a big mix of Branson and spring break, but it's also the miniature golf capital of the world. Dozens of courses, each wildly themed and decorated (heavy on pirates it seems). We randomly choose one called Atlanticus Minotaur Goff-we hoped for a labyrinth and lots of mythology, but all we got were caves that were decidedly lacking in stalactites and stalagmites. The holes weren't elaborate but some were fiendishly designed, though that doesn't explain Rick's four holes in one (three of them in a row). We aren't going to write more about that now, but don't worry; Rick will be bringing it up a lot in the next few days. Especially if he keeps losing at Cow.
Speaking of which, the road between Charleston and Myrtle Beach is completely cowless. We still think they may be up to something.
Once again... lots of pictures... keep scrolling.