It's been a pretty quiet but fun week out here in western South Carolina. I've been trying to catch up on some things, so that has taken a lot of my time, but I'm almost there. A lot of the week has been spent here in Greenville, one of my new favorite towns, but it's been great to be here. This next week will probably be my last in South Carolina.
I started the week by finishing my latest podcast. The stories are from the eastern part of the state and this one came out pretty well. It tells the story of Vanna White, from Conway, South Carolina and her rise to fame on Wheel of Fortune. I talk about the Revolutionary War history of the state and how it led to the symbolism on the state flag. It may look like there's a crescent moon on the flag, but there isn't. Then I talk about Francis Marion, the legendary Swamp Fox and how his bad ankles may have saved the Patriot cause in the Revolution. Next was the story of Robert Smalls. Born a slave, he made a daring escape and dash to freedom during the Civil War and went on to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. We hear about the S.S. Central America and how, when it sunk off the coast of South Carolina in a hurricane, it took millions of dollars in gold down with it. South Carolinian Mamie "Peanut" Johnson was the only woman to ever pitch in professional baseball, and hers is the last story in this episode. With music by Charleston based rock band Saluda Shoals, the whole thing came out really well. You can listen to it HERE (it'll work better if you download it first), or you can find it on iTunes, Stitcher, Apple Music, Google Play or most podcasting apps by searching "American Anthology". Give it a listen and let me know what you think. Many thanks to the great people at the Aiken Public Library for their assistance in getting this done.
Researching, writing, producing, recording, editing and publishing a podcast turns out to be a lot of work! It is a relief to get an episode done and I try and treat myself to a night of no screens, no cell phone, no camera or computer. So after a delicious lowcountry boil (shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn) at JC's in Aiken, I hit the road and headed out to the shores of Strom Thurmond Lake at beautiful Hamilton Branch State Park. I got a lovely campsite right on the water and enjoyed some great views, listened to some cool tunes and had some cooler beers and just relaxed in the crisp, cool air. The sunset was beautiful and I got a good, solid night's sleep with no alarm in the morning (I was still up before 8!).
Friday I headed out to Ninety-Six National Historic Site near the curiously named town of Ninety-Six. Apparently nobody really knows how the town got its name, although I heard at least three different stories about it in the brief time I was there. The National Park site, which commemorates the Revolutionary War battle that was fought there, was really interesting to visit. They had a really good short film in the Visitors Center and then a nice walk through the woods to the site of the old Star Fort which once stood there and which you can still make out in the earthworks. This battle, through a modern lens, seems preposterous. The British and Loyalists were defending this tiny town at a crossroads in the wilderness of the South Carolina backcountry, and the Rebel Patriots just had to have it. The amount of work and toil put in by both armies, quite literally digging in to shore up their defenses, was way too much for what little was there to be won or lost. It was fascinating to learn about and I simply cannot imagine what they went through during this battle. The British and Loyalists managed to hold off the attack and then afterwards burnt the town they had fought so hard to defend and marched with their local supporters back to Charleston.
After my visit to this site, I headed on through Greenwood and Honea Path to the lovely small town of Anderson. This town really had a good vibe to it, so I got out and took a long walk around. It was a really nice place to wander around and because it was Friday after work, jazz music was playing downtown making it feel even cooler. I didn't do much there other than browse in the art gallery and have a quick beer at the Bauernhouse Brewery, but I really enjoyed a pleasant evening stroll.
My hope for the night was to go to the races at the Anderson Speedway. It was opening night of the race season, so I headed on out there. The whole place was really cool - it was a short, oval track which you could see all of from the bleachers. Apparently you can BYOB to a lot of events here in South Carolina, something I really need to keep in mind as everyone had big coolers full of food and drink. I settled on some stadium nachos and a corn dog and found a seat and waited for the green flag to drop. I was excited as I've never been to a live car race before. Unfortunately, the rain just wouldn't let up long enough for the track to dry and the races to start. After about an hour and a half, they called it and we all went home. It was really disappointing, but since it was a safety concern, I understand.
Disappointed, I headed towards my backup plan which was live music at the Radio Room in Greenville, a tiny, independent venue that supports some great local acts. It was a fun night of some pretty heavy rock bands. It's been a while since I was at a loud rock club and I enjoyed it. By midnight though, I was pretty tired so I headed off to bed.
Saturday was a day of catching up on some things. I needed some new flip-flops for the summer which is coming fast here in the south. I also needed an oil change and a few other bits and bobs. I saw what looked to be a pretty authentic Vietnamese place called Mekong, and it turned out to be a great lunch stop. I enjoyed a steaming bowl of pho and a delicious banh mi pork sandwich. After lunch, I needed a nap, which I took since it was Saturday, and then headed into downtown Greenville.
Greenville has blown me away from the start. It is an absolutely fantastic city to visit, and I hope to do a longer post on it later this week. The downtown area is clean, well planned and laid out, and has a lot to offer. There is plenty to do in other parts of the city as well. That first night, I just really had a wander and got my bearings. I stopped in for a coffee at Coffee Underground, one of the coolest cafes I've been in. It had a hip vibe and a lot of space to relax in. It seemed like a pretty central meeting point for a mostly younger crowd and they even had a small theater in the back which hosts a lot of comedy and open mic type events.
Saturday night, I headed to church at about 11:15 p.m. This last weekend was Easter for me and others of us who celebrate the Eastern Orthodox traditions. I had a wonderful time at the midnight service at St. John of the Ladder Orthodox Church down in Piedmont. The service lasts several hours, finishing up around 3 a.m. Afterwards, they invited me to a potluck meal in the kitchen, which was really amazing. I wrote a whole post about the night and why we celebrate Easter on a different day which you can read HERE. As I'm sure you can imagine, I was pretty tired when my head hit the pillow around 5:30 a.m. I am definitely not used to staying up all night anymore, but it was well worth it in the end.
Sunday was a pretty lazy day. I got up late and went for lunch and wandered around downtown again. I did make it out to spend a few hours at the Confederate History Museum, something I really wanted to see while here. Seeing as I was the only person there on a Sunday afternoon, the gentleman who was there, dressed in a full Confederate uniform, gave me a tour of the whole museum. It was pretty small, but packed with an amazing array of artifacts from the Civil War and Reconstruction. I really want to listen to people here and hear their perspectives and opinions and then think on it, and formulate my own. I went into this museum with as open a mind as I could, and learned some really interesting things. I came away with a pretty good understanding of one person's ideas on all of the things leading up to the Civil War, how the war proceeded, and the aftermath, and how they were influenced by and how they affected South Carolina. I'm grateful for this insight and I can add it to my thought process while I try to make sense of the whole thing in my mind. After all that war talk, I needed a drink so I went for a few beers at some of the local breweries which I wrote about HERE, and had a pretty good meal at Mac's Speed Shop, a cool beer and barbecue joint just outside of downtown. They had some pretty good sandwiches and a great beer special, so that took me right up to an early bedtime.
Monday I was still dragging a bit from the weekend, and I admit I didn't do a whole heck of a lot. I spent most of the day in the library trying to catch up on some writing and photo editing, and then spent some time downtown reading my book. I had an early dinner at the classic Clock Drive-In, a Greenville institution, and had another early night.
Feeling a bit guilty about two lazy days in a row, but refreshed from a good night's sleep, I was up early on Tuesday. I spent the morning at the gym and the library, finishing up some work. Then I went to the really great Upcountry History Museum, a Smithsonian affiliated museum here in Greenville. It was awesome - very informative and just big enough to be thorough without being overkill. It is a modern museum, so it's fairly interactive, and I thought it presented things in a very well-balanced way in exhibits on issues like secession and school integration etc. I was impressed. After the museum, I went out and took photos around town in the afternoon. I hit up a couple more breweries around Happy Hour and then had a funnel cake at Funneldelicious - you know you've had that idea at the fair before, but they are doing it here in Greenville. Then I headed back to try and take some nice evening shots around the river area and heard some great live music both at Blues Boulevard Jazz (so great to be back in Blues Country) and at Smiley's Acoustic Cafe.
Today, I'm finishing this week in review up and then I'm headed off to Clemson to catch up with some friends out there. Over the next few days I'm going to try and get out and enjoy this great weather and see some of the beautiful waterfalls of the Upcountry, do some hiking and take some photos. Then my plan is to loop back through Greenville for a show this weekend and then on to Spartanburg and out of the state. I have another podcast to work on, and hopefully a few more posts too, before I leave South Carolina. I hope you are all having a wonderful week wherever you are and are getting out and having some adventures of your own. Until next week then, be safe out there, but not too safe!