My first stop after leaving home from the holidays was a night visiting relatives in Farmville, NC. I got to have a lovely visit with Larry and Joyce in their gorgeous home, shared a special southern New Year’s Day meal (now I’ll be extra lucky), and have great Jeopardy watching company, not to mention a tour of town and the crazy holiday lights! As always, I’m reminded how glad I am to have this time to reconnect with friends and family and make new acquaintances as I go. The gift of time and freedom to roam is one of the best anyone could ask for. What a special start to the new year.

Not long after hitting the road from their place, I saw my first billboard for the rest stop mecca and home of all things tacky: South of the Border. This place is legendary in large part due the barrage of ads you see for it for probably a hundred miles in any direction. I’ve been before, and of course stopped again. It’s just over the border from NC to SC and spans two exits with its multiple buildings and attractions ranging from a reptile world, amusement park, restaurants, gift shops, and maybe even a hotel. It was hard to distinguish what was actually functional since I was there in the off season but it all looks run down and dirty. A memorable rest stop though for sure. Those were a 15 minutes well spent.

I stayed one night outside Charleston in the Francis Macon forest at a nice free campground, had a little camp fire, and was well positioned to eat some good breakfast in the Charleston suburb of Mt. Pleasant. I’d been to Charleston before with and seen the downtown, waterfront, and markets, so passed that up and instead visited a historical plantation in the neighborhood. Boone Hall Plantation has beautiful grounds which, according to the tour guide, have been used at the setting in a number of films and shows… I don’t remember any except the Notebook, which I’ve never seen, so who knows. Their drive lined by Spanish moss covered live oaks was the image used to create the 12 Oaks scenery in Gone with the Wind, so that was more in my wheelhouse. It was a beautiful property, and while I was a little hesitant at first to pay to see the plantation slavery era preserved in time, they did have a series of exhibits on the enslaved people and the institution overall which was good to see. There was a Gullah storyteller, as well, which was pretty cool.

Also in Mt. Pleasant I hit the jackpot on another school visit and got to spend the morning with a class at a forest school operating on an educational farm property. Of all my visits so far, this school was the most pure forest school in that there was no indoor component aside from a small storage area and bathroom facilities, at least that I was aware of. It seems like whether it’s cold, raining, whatever, as long as there isn’t catastrophic weather they’re out there. The benefits of the locale where frigid temps are a rarity. Anyway, it was wonderful to watch the children there so totally engaged in their imaginative outdoor play, confidently and competently exploring their environment, and making informed observations. Plus, goats and chickens! The director, in a wonderful stroke of luck for me, is super well connected in the outdoor school movement AND had lived and traveled with her family in an RV and gave me a boatload of tips. Thanks Danielle!

Further south around my trip to Hunting Island I went through the coastal areas of Bluffton, Hilton Head, and Beaufort, SC. The coastal views are beautiful, but definitely aimed at the trifecta of summer tourists, retirees, and military folks from the nearby base. I definitely had some Great Santini connections in my mind near Beaufort. Let me say that Hilton Head grossed me out at the number of ads for viagra, porn, etc. aimed at the golfers and retired dudes. I get it, this is your version of spring break or whatever, but a little too in your face. In Bluffton I did stumble across the (so labeled) world’s largest boiled peanut (statue). The shop and cafe it’s adjacent to was surrounded by other funky things and I was sad they were closed when I got there.

Onward to Georgia!

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