Friday, July 19, 2013

our trip to SC (2013)

Our two-week family vacation this year started in Grundy, VA with a five-day mission trip to help the Mountain Mission School. From there, we drove through NC, stopping a few times on the way to Wilmington. (We had seen a lot of NC three years ago.) From there, we saw a good bit of SC. (We didn’t go down the coast past Charleston. We hope to see the areas between there and Savannah some other time.)

This was our fourth big summer vacation trip. If you’re interested in my blog posts on the others, check out our trips to NC in 2010, NY in 2011; and SD and Eastern CO in 2012.

The Grundy part of the trip was rewarding. The Mountain Mission School is a residential school, mostly for kids living in poverty or dealing with other difficult family situations. Our former Sunday School class had been two other times, but we were unable to go because of my teaching schedule. It fit my schedule this year, so we were excited to join them.

Everyone in the family was able to help—Tonia helping to run a music camp and working with the little guys to clean the dorms; and the big boys moving stuff to another building and watching the little kids. I had fun tearing down walls (drywall and studs), removing door frames, and swinging a sledgehammer. But I also enjoyed balancing that with helping to build a walled vegetable and herb garden. An economist might call it “creative destruction”—or at least a nice combo of destruction and construction.

We also met with the folks at New HopeChristian Church who are using DC. They’ve finished a DC group or two—and have started a total of five groups for men and women in the community. Bill Neeley is the pastor there and we had not met yet, so that was a smile. Bill and his folks were gracious in hosting our DC’ers for a cook-out. It was really good to be with them! And then, providentially, I was able to meet with Harry Gill of the Virginia EvangelicalFellowship. His mission is to disciple church leaders—among other ways, through a dozen monthly reading groups across Virginia. He was in town for his monthly meeting with local church leaders. His vision is quite similar to DC, so I’m hoping we can partner with VEF in the years ahead.

Grundy itself was interesting, especially the economic development of sparse land in narrow mountain valleys. Usually, the land was about 150 yards across at the bottom. This typically included a small river, a railroad, a two-lane road, and a row of houses or businesses on one or both sides of the street. The multi-story movie theater and three-story WalMart were the most notable—and of course, you could see why a lot of people would live “in the hollers”.

From Grundy, we started our vacation proper with Mt. Airy, NC on Friday afternoon—the home of the Andy Griffith “museum”. It was probably the most disappointing part of the trip, since the museum is mostly a collection of memorabilia—photos and posters—with little explanation of his life and work. But within that site is a small museum devoted to Chang and Eng—the original “Siamese twins”. Born in Siam and brought to the U.S. as a sideshow, they settled in Mt. Airy, became profitable businessmen who owned slaves, and fathered 21 children with their wives. (The two were sisters and they have more than 1,500 descendants today.) We also drove around and saw the Andy Griffith buildings and the world’s largest quarry of some sort.

We got to Charlotte on Friday evening, in time for a solid dinner at the South-21 Drive-In (the first of three meals from recommendations on the Food Network) and a trip by the Metalmorphosis sculpture. We didn’t get to see it move; I wish I knew the schedule! On Saturday, we visited the Aviation Museum (really nice, especially for its exhibit on the plane that “Sully” landed in the Hudson River) and the Billy Graham Library (wonderfully descriptive and appropriately evangelistic).

From there, we drove to Wilmington, staying at the condo of a friend’s mom and step-dad. We enjoyed Ft. Fisher and its Aquarium (getting a discount from our membership with the Louisville Science/Zoo). We also spent good chunks of time at Wrightsville and Carolina Beach.

We had intended to see Alligator Adventure and maybe do putt-putt in Myrtle Beach (otherwise avoiding the tourist trap), but heavy rain moved us inside to a great place called WonderWorks. We stayed at a nice, older motel in Murrells Inlet (the Brookwood Inn) before heading to Brookgreen Gardens the next morning. Again, weather intervened and we weren’t sure how much the kids would like it anyway, so we just moved down the coast.

Charleston was great. A lot to do and see—with a nice mix of history, architecture and nature. We also hit some great restaurants: Early Bird Diner was one of the ten best meals I’ve ever had; and Santi’s was an excellent Mexican spot. We started with Ft. Moultrie (good stuff) and skipped Ft. Sumter (expensive and time-consuming, given the ferry). Patriots Point is a must-see with its three ships. For a nice little stop, we enjoyed the Dental Museum and Waring Historical Library. Cypress Gardens was gorgeous. We skipped the flat-bottom boat tour given the intense mosquitoes since we didn’t have bug spray. We also visited Folly Beach.

On Friday, we started to wind our way westward—with the first stop in Cottageville at Bee City. It was one of the highlights of the trip, including an amazing petting zoo where one can feed all sorts of monkeys and handle a number of amphibians and snakes (if Dennis is around; call ahead!). We stopped for lunch in Santee at LoneStar BBQ, which had great atmosphere and some great food (e.g., tomato pie), but ironically, the worst BBQ I’ve ever had (grisly and tepid with sauce that Tonia characterized as Catalina dressing). In Bishopville, we saw two amazing little sites: Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden and Dalton Stevens’ Button King Museum (call ahead to make sure he’ll be there).

On Saturday, we started in Greenville with the Shoeless Joe Museum (only open 10-2 on Saturdays) and their Fenway-park-replica ball field. We traveled to Seneca to see Duke Energy’s World of Energy (hydroelectric and nuclear power). Then, in Walhalla, we saw the Stumphouse Tunnel (the longest unfinished tunnel) and Isaqueena Falls (nothing special, but nice enough when you’re already at the tunnel).

We stopped in Knoxville for another DC-related visit. This time, we had dinner with John Waters and his family. John heads up the DC ministry at Laurel Church of Christ. And in addition, they plan to start the first DC group at a university this Fall (UT-Knoxville)! Again, they were remarkably hospitable and it was a pleasure to meet him and visit with him and his family.

A few notes on what we did not do. First, we skipped white-water rafting for the first time in four summers. The kids decided that a trip to Holiday World was a better use of money and vacation time.

Second, here’s a list of other things that looked good enough to make my list, but ultimately didn’t get done for a variety of reasons:

1.) Huntersville, NC’s Energy Explorium (we did Seneca SC instead);

2.) Rock Hill, SC’s York Co Museum (decided to spend more time at the beach);

3.) Hamer, SC’s Blenheim Ginger Ale factory tour (not open on weekends);

4.) Battleship NC (we saw the USS Yorktown in Charleston instead);

5.) Awendaw, SC’s rescued birds (only open certain days) and the See Wee restaurant;

6.) Charleston’s CSS Hunley submarine tours (only on weekends); a walk on Ravenel Bridge (too much given the weather and the younger kids); and a number of promising restaurants (Bowen Island Seafood, Glass Onion, and Breck’s);

7.) Orangeburg, SC’s Fish Hatchery and Duke’s BarBQ; and

8.) Belton, SC’s Grits & Groceries.

Third, we did not have time to range south of Charleston. At some point, we hope to do that, since there looks like a lot of interesting stuff to see/do: Edisto Island (including its Serpentarium); Parris Island (including the USMC museum and a graduation); Hunting Island State Park (beach and lighthouse); Bluffton (for a hotel instead of Hilton Head); Daufuskie (looked awesome but expensive for a family); Tybee Island and Savannah.

Fourth, from our experience in C’ton and my research on the rest of it, the entire Charleston-Savannah area looks like an excellent vacation area for adults. (It was really good for kids/families, but would be terrific for adults, given their greater interest in history, plantations, architecture, restaurants, etc.) I’d recommend a three-day weekend in Charleston or Savannah—or better yet, a week for the whole area.

Finally, a note on the weather: we had significant rain (if not big storms) every day. It was, on net, a big blessing. It helped the paler Schansbergs avoid the sun’s influence and kept the temperatures quite moderate. (I don’t think it got above 85 degrees the entire trip!)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home