This is my last week in South Carolina! I've been here longer than expected and I've really had a great time here. It's a small state, but some places have just pulled me in and kept me around for a while. I'm not complaining - it's been a wonderful stay - but it's definitely time for me to be moving on.
As stated when last we met, my week did indeed begin with a visit to Clemson. Clemson is a cool little college town, very purple and orange, but also a nice place for a quick visit. I caught up with some of my fraternity brothers there for dinner and then left them to their evenings while I went and checked out some of the bars around town. I particularly liked the massive Tiger Town Tavern and the Esso Club. Clemson was somewhat reminiscent of my own experience at Penn State, but on a much smaller scale. I enjoyed my short visit there, though I only stayed one night and headed out in the morning.
The next day I was up and on my way into the woods. I spent the next three days exploring Sumter National Forest and several great State Parks in search of some of the state's best waterfalls. I found some really beautiful ones and wrote a whole post about them which you can find HERE. I also really enjoyed camping out in the woods, building campfires, getting some hiking in and breathing some cool clean air. It was actually also the first time on this entire trip that I had my van plugged in to an outlet. I spent a long time trying to figure out how to make myself truly self-contained and it was only being out there that I realized I had succeeded. It was nice to know that my microwave and outlets and roof A/C work, though. It also made me think I had done a pretty good job of outfitting my van with what I needed because I don't feel like I've been doing without at all. Being in nice campgrounds with hook-ups is nice, but it's also expensive and there are other things I would rather be spending my money on most of the time.
After three beautiful days of chasing waterfalls, I headed back towards Greenville. I wanted to stop and rest in the wonderfully named town of Travelers Rest, but there was some kind of run going on there and it was busy, so I just passed on through. It looked like a nice place though. I headed on out to 13 Stripes Brewery in Taylor for a really great event. They were hosting a fundraiser for nearby NEXT Charter School headlined by truly legendary Piedmont blues singer Mac Arnold. As a former public school teacher and a blues lover with a fondness for craft beer, it was almost like someone reached inside my head and my heart to create this event. It was really wonderful. I got the chance to hang out with Mac for a while while I was there, and he is a truly wonderful person. He laughs a lot and was incredibly humble considering the career he's had and the people he's played with (Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Otis Spann and James Brown to name a few). Apparently the event was his idea and he was thrilled to be there and helping out this school. Their performance was awesome, and Mac even let me record some clips for my next podcast. This was one of the best nights I've had in South Carolina.
A great Saturday night can make Sunday a little rough though. I got up and headed to the gym and then headed out of town. I was looking for somewhere to eat and I stumbled across the amazing Lyman Cafe. The parking lot was packed and there was a line out the door which, in a small town, I consider a good sign. I got there with the after-church crowd so I waited in line to get in, waited in line at the buffet and waited in line to pay, but it was all worth it for the food. This "country cooking" buffet looked like the entire menu from a Cracker Barrel, and it was all really delicious. With the amazing $11 price tag, it was also hard to believe. If you're ever between Greenville and Spartanburg on a Sunday, you should definitely drop by for a great meal. You'll probably need a nap afterwards though, which I did and I took.
It was a rainy and crummy day out as I made my way on to Spartanburg. I had to get some work done on my podcast, so I tucked in at the Main Street Pub for the afternoon. Sunday is "Pint Day" there, so all pints of beer were $3 or less! I got a lot of work done and enjoyed a few pints and then grabbed a pretty tasty burger before calling it a day.
I've been here in Spartanburg for a couple of days now, mostly trying to get caught up at the wonderful public library here. I went for a visit to the Chamber of Commerce yesterday though, for a chat with the friendly and informative lady who worked there. It is definitely more of a Chamber than a Visitor Center, as it seems Spartanburg's tourism push is really in its infancy. She told me that the town had recently sent out a survey to the people who lived there and asked what they wanted in a city. The response was overwhelming and they've put a five year action plan in place to try and implement some real change. The biggest push, per the people's request, is to rejuvenate Main Street. They have apparently been opening up a lot of businesses downtown and trying to work on some public art displays and some community events. There is definitely a feel of a work in progress downtown, and the changes seem good.
Downtown Spartanburg is clean and walkable and I feel like it is moving in a good direction. I liked a lot of the places I visited, particularly the neighborhood miniature golf course which is an awesome idea. I also really enjoyed the FR8 Yard, a very cool outdoor beer garden with lots of really enjoyable features like fire pits, a huge projection TV for sports and movie nights and plenty of outdoor seating. I don't like their no-cash policy though, which, while I understand, just seems really out of place in such a small city. I see they have a blues club in town, but unfortunately they are only open closer to the weekend, but I'd love to check them out next time I'm in town. RJ Rockers Brewery is also right downtown and it is a nice place to visit as well. I preferred the grittier brewery side to the more refined restaurant side, but it was cool they had both in one place. I really loved the Spartanburg Music Trail, a series of markers around downtown which highlight the musicians who have come from Spartanburg. The downtown area is on an upswing, and while it's not quite there yet, it's getting there.
While I was at the Chamber of Commerce, I also got a map to the mills outside of town. I went out to drive around and check them out, take some photos and learn some of the history of the area. Cotton and textiles were the major industries through most of Spartanburg's history. Glendale Mills was a cool place to visit. Most of the mill was destroyed by fire in 2004, but there are some cool remnants around which make for some interesting industrial photo opportunities. Then I went down to Drayton Mill, which has been completely converted to loft apartments, a restaurant and a cafe. It was really cool and looked from the outside to be a really well done re purposing project. I also stopped into Ike's Korner Grille, an old burger joint which has been around for over 50 years and once served the mill workers of the area. It was awesome, a classic example of an American beer and burger joint.
And now I'm back in the library to write this. When I hit "publish", I'm on my way out to the Cowpens National Battlefield to learn a little more about the Revolutionary War battle which took place there. From there, I'm headed out of South Carolina. I plan on being in Henderson, North Carolina tonight for an old-time jam session. Over the next few days I need to finish up my latest podcast and wrap up some other things about my visit to South Carolina. I hope to do some hiking in the North Carolina mountains and visit the Cherokee Nation as well. Some time in the next week I plan to make my way into my next state: Tennessee. And that's my week and my plans, y'all. I hope you're having a great week wherever you are and as the weather gets nicer I hope you can get out and do some travel of your own. Have a great day and I'll catch you soon.