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Charleston, SC, United States
"Fear is a stranger to the ways of love. Identify with fear, and you will be a stranger to yourself." -ACIM

Thursday, June 27, 2013

From 0 to 3,124

Another week and another exciting adventure. I may be setting too high of expectations for myself dear reader. I’ve been on quite the pace these last few weeks filling my time with all kinds of exciting things. This week Christina and I decided we were going to hike one of the highest mountains in South Carolina. Now, I will admit that’s not that high, but seeing as right now I’m sitting only one foot above sea level, any mountain is a long way up.

We took the three hour plus drive up to Table Rock State Park in Pickens County, SC on Sunday and started off our adventure in the wild with a road-side diner called Aunt Sue’s Kitchen. Good ol’ country food to be sure, but we opted for “western burgers” which were pretty darn good themselves. Being as it was Sunday, we got to see plenty of mountain folk in their Sunday best and the place was doing a pretty good business. It was fine and we strolled around after having some milkshakes for dessert and looked at the ‘country store’ aspects of the place. It’s not nearly as hot in the mountains so sitting on their porch in some rocking chairs sipping milkshakes was nice after a ‘long’ drive. One sure sign that you're in the country is when you check out and the lady at the counter asks you if you went to church that mornin'. I felt bad saying no, but I quickly let her know that I had spent my morning driving up from Charleston to visit her establishment. I think she would have 'rathered' I'd gone to church.

Anyway, we got to the State Park and set up our tent and headed off to the ‘swimmin hole’ since it was closed on Mondays and we wanted to take advantage of some mountain lake swimming while we were there. It was real fun and it also seemed like a local attraction as well since there were a good number of people there on a Sunday afternoon. After wading out into the ice cold water we sat up on the ‘beach’ and grabbed a few rays and watched the kids jumping off the diving boards they had set up in the lake.

It was during this time that we witnessed what soon became known as “THE belly flop.” One young lad decided to tempt the highest board and hit the water pretty much in the worst way possible; flat out. Lifeguards were called and people gathered as the boy struggled to shore and lay there as his mother knelt beside him and his younger sister looked on with concern; hopping she would soon live down the shame of her brother’s embarrassment. With every labored breath the lad took word spread around the park that indeed a massive belly flop had taken place. ‘THE belly flop’ they were calling it. Children ran to their parents in horror, afraid that one day they too would fail at such a dive. In the end, from the shore of the lake to the highest peak, word of THE belly flop was heard. And, with some divine intervention, the boy made a full recovery and lived to dive another day.  (All of that was to say that some young kid bit it off the diving board and we all had a good chuckle at his expense).

After that fun, we drove out to a short quarter mile hike up to Twin Falls, which we found out, thanks to all the rain was more like Four Falls. Awesome! We also found out that an awesome waterfall will cause Christina to get misty eyed. They were a pretty cool sight. We spent a good bit of time up there climbing around on the falls and having some fun then went back to the campsite to get showered and set up for dinner and smores!

Our first night in the tent was not a great one since it rained pretty hard and the rain caused us to cut short our smores cookin’. We made it into the tent just as the lightning and thunder started and the heavy rain followed that pretty quickly. Also, Christina’s tent is rain resistant, not rain proof so after a few hours we got a little damp. But our spirits were not dampened and we woke up the next morning ready to tackle one of the park’s hardest hikes: the Table Rock Trail.

Since we were in such a chipper mood on Monday morning we decided to take a 1.5 mile hike around Carrick Creek’s Trail before starting on the Table Rock Trail. Probably not the best idea since the climb up to the summit consists of 2,500 actual step ups that ranged from 6 inches to 2 feet. (Keep in mind that we also had to pound our legs into all of those 2,500 steps on the way down too.) This was also complimented with some steep inclines and twists and turns. It was a pretty tough task. Once we got up to Governor’s Rock we took a break since we had just about had enough. It was pretty there and we wanted to stay, but there was another half an hour climb to the summit which we were determined to reach. The air felt really thin and we were exhausted but we made it to the top and back down to the rock in good time and stopped for a while for our picnic lunch.

The climb down was not a whole lot easier. By the time we reached the bottom it had taken us about 6 and a half full hours. All we wanted was a shower and some food. Luckily we were able to get both. After our showers we drove out of the park to Pickens where we found a “quaint” place called Tony’s that served pizza that was good enough and had a banana split that only cost $2.50!

Dear reader there is so much I want to tell you about all the cool things we saw and all the fun we had, but I’m short on time and only 12 hours away from starting my next adventure. In closing, I'm pretty damned lucky to have such a cool girlfriend who let's me drag her around the woods and up rocks.
See you next week when I update you on yet another road trip.


Friday, June 21, 2013

A Couple of Milestones -or- I Touch a Lemur

So this past week I’ve crossed a few milestones that I’ve got to say made me smile. One, I’ve now been a non-smoker for over 6 months! I took my last puff of a cigarette on December 12th of last year and haven’t so much as touched a cigarette since. It was a tough road and one that I hope I will never have to travel again. I was a smoker for the better part of 15 years. 15 years! Now, 6 months out, I feel a lot better about walking away from it and it seriously feels like another lifetime that I was a smoker. Some days are better than others, and I’d be lying if I said I never have cravings, but they are so few and far between now that they are fairly easy to manage. So, yeah!

Second, this past week marked one year since my return from The Republic of Georgia. One whole year. Speaking of another lifetime… Georgia seems like it was so long ago but this past year seems like it’s flown by. Tons of my friends and family have gone through so much since I’ve been home that it feels like I’ve been here forever but at the same time this past year seems to have flown by too.  It was a good year though with a whole lot more ups than downs and I do believe that I’ve settled back into life in America (at least my version of it). I’ve managed to avoid a lot of the things I like to avoid and utilized the advantages of America as much as I can.
Speaking of; this past week, Christina and I went to Bee City in Cottageville, SC. Now Bee City I thought was more about the bees and honey but surprisingly there was a petting zoo that was tons of fun and I had a blast. There were monkeys that would catch cheerios, lamas, goats, emus, gophers, all kinds of birds, ponies, bunnies (Christina’s favorites) and lemurs. There were also snakes, turtles, and frogs but those were not a big favorite of anybody in our group. The nice people that ran it had a gift shop and cafĂ© where we had some burgers and fries and browsed the honey selections.

There was a bee exhibit and it was kind of fun watching them go in and out of the hive, but for me, the lemurs were the highlight of the trip. They were so cool looking and they would just gently reach out and take a cheerio out of your hand. They would even sit there and wait patiently on their turn to get a treat. It was too cute and way more fun that I thought it would be. I ended up just walking around and smiling the whole time and if you can find a place that’ll make you do that, then you know you’ve found a good way to spend and afternoon.

After Bee City, we took a short drive over to Givhans Ferry State Park. There we took a walk on one of their nature trails and had an enjoyable stroll through the woods. State parks are one of the joys of South Carolina and we’ve had a great time at several of them in the Charleston area. In fact, this weekend we’re going to take the drive up to Table Rock State Park and do some camping up there. (pics and post to come)

This goat's hair was Faaaaaabulous 

Derpy looking Lama

Anyway dear reader, I only wanted to update you on the goings on this week and wish you the best. Bee Good!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ramblin’ down the Road

So one of the major advantages to living in Charleston, SC is all the cool stuff that’s close enough to reach by car and get back again in the same day. Recently Christina and I decided (thanks to a great issue of Charleston Magazine) to embark on a few day trips and see what we could find. After our success on Memorial Day weekend and Edisto Island, we thought: what the heck?

The first was a BBQ place (duh!) in Santee, SC called Lone Star BBQ and Mercantile. Awesome little step back in time. It consists of 4 wood shacks more or less and has a buffet style lunch and dinner. 

The food is nothing that’ll blow you away (although it was really really good, no BBQ connoisseur would recommend it. Think Country Buffett and there is some pork involved) and their ‘gift shop’ looks like the leftovers from a Cracker Barrel. But! The atmosphere was awesome! Wood floors, old old stuff everywhere, newspaper articles, typewriters, flags, even an old Post Office that remained in service until just a few years ago. Too cool. The grounds were nice to walk around; there were rocking chairs and two cats on the porch. After a full meal and way too much dessert, nothing is better than a rocking chair and a cat or a dog to pet. Big smiles all around.

Now Christina and I, since we met, have both had a love/hate relationship with banana pudding. Any “real” barbecue place will serve banana pudding as a dessert. It’s as important as their sweet tea in order to be considered authentic. It just is! Now, a couple of things here… One, banana pudding is kinda gross. Two, after you stuff yourself with pork and all the ‘fixins’ the last thing you want is a thick pudding with bananas and wafers and whipped cream on top of all that food. And, three, it’s nothing special. Banana pudding is just that; nothing special. So why then is it mandatory? Why do I love it so much? Why!!!??? I would never eat that normally so why do I feel like I have to after barbecue? And why oh why does it taste so good? We Southerners must have known something when we paired banana pudding with barbecues back in the day because it most certainly a tradition that I feel the need to uphold. Christina does not share that opinion.
I do look a little guilty with my pudding. But Happy!

After that trip we decided to stay a little closer to home and check out Wadmalaw Island for our next adventure. On the way we had to drive across Johns Island, SC which houses the Angel Oak. The Angel Oak is a 1400 year old (yes 1,400 years old) oak tree. It is a sight to see but it was also a little sad. There has been talk of cutting it down or letting it fall down since it is supported by wood beams and metal cables these days. Now that I’ve seen it I hope that one day soon they do let the old thing go. It just felt tired and old and ready to move on. But it was a sight to see and beautiful.

On Wadmalaw Island there are three great things to see (aside from the gorgeous drive out there). One is America’s only Tea Plantation. Bet you didn’t know that was near Charleston did you? They have a very interesting and beautiful place with tons of different teas to try (and buy). I had a very nice Peach Tea and more time spent in a rocking chair.

From there it was on to the Firefly Distillery and the local winery as well. Firefly, while they have a wide range of products, became famous for their Sweet Tea Vodka. Awesome! Mixed with some lemonade, it’s what’s called a John Daily. But, at the distillery, you can do a tasting of six of their products for a mere $6. Vodkas, moonshine, bourbons, liqueurs… oh yeah. Luckily, the winery (and its tasting room) are only a few steps away. Christina and I had decided not to do a tasting there but after talking with the woman behind the counter and asking a few questions, she gave us what amounted to twice the tasting they offered for free! Double awesome!

So in the past week we’ve managed to check off a few to-dos and we have a few more slated for the summer. Of course, I’ll be taking my annual trip to Atlanta to see some Braves games at the end of the month as Dave and I will be in attendance for the Larry “Chipper” Jones retirement game.

Stay posted dear reader there will be more tales of excitement and entertainment to come I’m sure. For now… Peace!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

We are where the wild things aren't

"Real freedom lies in wildness, not in civilization." -Charles Lindbergh

I really couldn't come up with a good topic this week so I went around and looked for quotations that would inspire some kind of thought chain in my head. When I came across that Lindbergh quote, I knew he was referring more to camping and nature much like Emerson, but it struck me on two different levels. One, the obvious, was the natural element of the quote and the other was the rebellious.

Over Memorial Day weekend Christina and I took a drive out of town to Edisto Beach. Our local beaches around Charleston were so packed that you couldn’t even get out there on the Sunday. Rumor has it that it took people till well after dark to even get off the beach there was so much traffic. Yuck! Thankfully, Christina talked me off the ledge and we got in the car and headed off for a drive through the country to a very remote Edisto about an hour and a half or so out of town. Just driving through the country and passing ‘nothing’ was calming. Two lane roads, huge oak trees, country chapels, vegetable stands, and sunshine were all we needed. Truly a Sunday Drive like I’ve never really experienced. After about half an hour I honestly felt a release from all the stresses of ‘The City’ and life in ‘Civilization.’ Just the simple act of driving out of town was all the relaxation I needed. I felt released from stress, thoughts of work, thoughts of bills and money and time and everything that consumes our daily lives. It was just me and the road and the sun. I was free to relax in my own head and just be for a few hours in that car, on that beach and on the side of the road with Christina and wherever it was we felt like stopping.

When I was in High School my Dad and Elaine moved to an ostrich farm in the middle of nowhere. I HATED IT! Let me repeat in all caps HATED it. I was young and wanted to be in a city where the action was and things actually happened. This was before the days of the Internet and instant connection to anything anywhere in the world from anywhere in the world. I felt alone out there. I was always counting down the days till I could pack up, leave and never go back. It made the four long years of High School seem all the longer out there in the country. I vowed that I would never live out like that ever again. Of course those were the promises of a 16 year old boy who couldn’t appreciate the simplicity of it all. Now, if I could find a home outside of the city and a place that I could afford there, I’d probably snap it up in a heartbeat. If my two Peace Corps experiences taught me anything it’s that some of the world’s happiest people are the ones who have never experienced the stresses of ‘Civilization.’ I never will forget my first host-mom stressing out in near panic attack mode when we made our trip to the capital city of Almaty for the first time. She spent two days after our return picking raspberries, planting cabbage and getting dirty in the back yard with nothing but the chickens and cat to keep her company.

Now I’m not saying I want to live hours away from the nearest grocery store or I want to have to take my baths in a lake or anything; I’m just saying being isolated from the hustle and bustle has its advantages. Being a little more ‘wild’ and a little less involved in ‘civilization’ defiantly has its appeal especially these days.

It’s been raining a lot here this past week and so more and more people at work have been hanging out in the lobby and I’ve had occasion to overhear some of their conversations. The things that we occupy ourselves with in society these days are kind of pointless. How’s the stock market doing today? Who cares? It’ll change tomorrow. Why do we care about a lady who killed her boyfriend or if (surprise) one of Michael Jackson’s kids is a little nutty? When did celebrity gossip become required reading? Is that a subject in school now? Even those who involve themselves with politics sound like they are discussing an overly complicated Soap Opera. And, dear reader, don’t think that I exempt myself here. My pointless subject of course is sports; which, is probably the most useless but at least for me most entertaining waste of time.

What I’m getting at here dear reader, and you’ll have to excuse my ramblings, is that there is something to be said for a wilder side of life. Simple as it may be, it may just be the one you’re looking for. It is a more natural take on our human lives even if ‘civilization’ has told us otherwise.

The other half of the idea that the quote put in my head was much more internal. What if freedom lies in ideas that are not accepted in civilized society? What if Alexander Supertramp had it right all along? Wouldn’t you love to take it that far? Wouldn’t you love to get to a mental place where you’re part Gandhi, part Jesus, part Supertramp and part Benjamin Franklin? What if I told you that you already were?

If we are to (truly) believe that we are all part of one wild, ever expanding, loving source and we are all part of one another past, present and future all at once; then aren’t we already there? What is keeping us from seeing that source of pure loving light inside of us? What ‘wild’ things could we do if we could just get over ourselves and get to it?

I’d like to put the blame here on civilization but I cannot. I cannot hold a grievance against the ‘civilization’ that I live in because it does not control me. I am free. I am wild. I am the only thing that holds me back. Only when I accept my true function will I be able to be what I was meant to be. Time and again this ‘holding back’ this ‘being civilized’ ‘being normal’ will keep me from following my true intent.

This week dear reader, don’t stand in your own way. Go be wild. Be free.