Travel Diary

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  • Oct 18, 2014 – Charleston Trip

  • Highlights (for those not really into a lot of reading)

    Friendly – Charleston (and probably the greater part of the state) is a friendly place. Strangers seem warm and welcoming and ready to buy drinks for others, which a few people actually did. Also, many of the folks that come out on a Sunday morning to downtown Charleston are quite the lookers. A lot of beautiful people live there apparently. I felt a little underdressed for just brunch.

    Great Weather – even though it was mid October, the weather was sunny and warm. Yes, it’s very hot and humid in summer (I’m told), but it’s great in other months. This was a very nice surprise. I guess I expected tons of rain. Seattle, it is not.

    Bugs – Oh yeah, they’re out there, watching and waiting. Proboscises at the ready.

    Beers – I dunno. I wasn’t impressed beer-wise, but there are more to try. I leave the jury out to allow more time to drink a few more pints until the whole court is out of order.

    Homes – the homes were cheap and some were very nice. Granted, we looked in North Charleston, but it’s not that far from where “it’s” at. It was very helpful to see them firsthand though. I’m learning a lot about buying them, but do hate to not see them in person before writing out $50,000 checks. I even had to decline one because I noticed the master bedroom had too little closet space. I know! Who is this guy?!?

    Funniest joke from the tour guide: “How many Charlestonians does it take to change a light bulb? Five. One to change it, and the others to sit around and discuss how much better the old light bulb was and how it should have never been changed.”

    Yeah, corny, but I laughed. Now on to our story…

    Friday

    This would be a late night flight, the typical red-eye–an all night flight in fact. No big deal. I’d done that many times before, and I knew that having a long day following, well, the weekend would not be easy. But it’d be doable. And doable has “do” in it. That’s my logic. It’s not much logic, but I’ll take what I can get.

    Hear me out. I support public transit. It’s great, and wonderful for any community. But sometimes the community and I are at odds. Since parking is not too expensive and the time is quicker, I had starting parking at Oakland Airport a few yeas ago. With SFO, I’d almost always have taken BART in flights past. I mean, I wouldn’t have to worry about parking fees or spaces with BART. But I would have to worry about getting to and from the BART station and the price isn’t great, and the time is crazy—about two hours each way. And sometimes the people aren’t terrible civil or well, some are just plain crazy. With a capital K.

    Thus, it was time to try out SFO parking. I found a garage nearby on the Internet (ParkSFO), and decided to give it a go. They even have coupons online for days off on parking rates. Got to love that. And I’m not even a coupon clipper. But at $15 a day…I’ll start clipping. Where are my metaphorical scissors?

    The flight was a late one, but I still wanted to allow enough time to get lost and what not, so I arrived at the garage in plenty of time and relaxed a bit—making a video blog or two. Then it was time to descend and find my shuttle to the airport. It arrived about 20 seconds after I reached the shuttle waiting point. They’re quick. I give them that.

    The shuttle ride was fast and I was soon once again making prime use of TSA PreCheck, skipping the long line and smiling mentally from ear to mental ear, tying to contain my near-bursting glee of missing those lines that used to make me almost panic thinking I’d miss my flight. Then it was the wait for the plane. I did have books and movies to watch, but I was a little buzzed so that did make it tough to do. I waited for boarding.

    Flying out, I would be on First Class. No long line and waiting to find a seat. No worrying that the overhead bags would be filled up by people putting their bag above seat 6D when they’re sitting in 26D.

    We got our seats fast and I had a good one. United fed us a bit and I got a beer. It was called 312, though I’ve no idea where that came from. After takeoff, I was soon asleep and missing out on being awake to actually enjoy the flight that I paid so much money to be on. Irony duly noted.

    We landed in Chicago around 3am, though it was now 5am. My layover was two hours long and the sun was soon starting to rise, reminding me that I should start getting very sleepy. I think my total sleep time to that point was 2.5 hours. I was starving and thirsty too, but didn’t want to worry about using a restroom when cramped into a tiny seat near a window. Finally, I gave in and had a half a bagel. Yeah, I did have to buy a whole one. I won’t mention where the other half went. It would seem wasteful.

    Saturday

    And I guess it’s now Saturday. The next flight to Charleston was a small one. It had been years since I was on a small little jet like this. I think it had just three seats across and I was lucky and had the solo one near a window. On this flight, I slept some but not much. In short time, we were landing in South Carolina. It’s a pretty green state. That much I could tell from the air. Plus, I had been to North Carolina before and I remembered how it seemed like nothing but forests with a city or two sprinkled here and there for effect.

    Before long, my friend Lauren picked me up. It was nice to see her again, though I was dead tired. She asked if I wanted to nap, but nope. There was just too little time to see the sights. Sleep could wait. I’d done it before. I could do it again.

    We did return to her house to drop my things off and get me a cup of hot coffee. Coffee would help. Coffee always helps.

    Visit number one would be to the beach. We drove to Folly, where a big street festival was taking place. This made parking quite tough. It took a good deal of time to find a spot. Also, they aren’t much into sidewalks out there, so not getting hit by cars was also on the agenda.

    We succeeded on both counts.

    The beach was divine. It was a bright sunny day and the beach had soft light sand. I guess I hadn’t pictured South Carolina like that. Florida, sure, but not SC. It also had a nice long pier that we walked out on. People were fishing from it, though I didn’t see many fish being caught. Out in the water, people were surfing, or attempting to at least. The waves aren’t too great out there. The rides looked about 2-3 seconds long. Still, they were getting great exercise, so there was always that.

    After the pier, we strolled along the beach a bit. I marveled at all the colorful shells. I picked up quite a number of them, eventually tossing back the similar ones. But when you’re not accusomted to seashells by the seashore, it’s hard not to stop at each one and exclaim, “Ooh! A colorful shell! I shall take it!”

    A restaurant was along the beach so we ate lunch there. The sandwiches were tasty and I had a Blue Moon beer. I also noticed the effects of the nearby ocean on the toilets in the restroom. Luckily, my business included few risks, but I witnessed the water in the commode come gushing up with the backflow when the ocean came in. it wasn’t something someone wanted to sit down on. I doubt many ever made that mistake twice. I was thankful to have not made it even once.

    And yet no signs warned people of that. Must be east coast ocean humor.

    When lunch was done, we headed out to a path that would lead to a lighthouse on the water. On the sides of the path was a forest. Since I had to take a leak, I left the path at a good spot and entered into the forest foolishly (foreshadowing?). Once I had begun my business, I noticed I was being attacked by mosquitoes. Not just one or two, but dozens. They were pretty fierce, and I couldn’t exactly dart out of the forest at that point. No, I was committed to the task in hand, trying to bat them away as best possible. Once done, I did race back out, but I had received many bites. Lesson learned: never leave the path. They ought to post a sign about that.

    The path ended at the ocean and sure enough a lighthouse could be seen in the distance. Lauren said at low tide, one could wade through the water and reach it, but the tide was not low and I only had one pair of shoes anyway. We took photos instead of getting pulled out to sea, and then returned back.

    The next stop was a Beer Pub where Lauren dropped me off as she needed to allow a friend to pick up some fish from her freezer. Apparently, it was urgent. I did have to leave my phone in her car to charge, as my iPhone is just almost useless now since the battery drains way too fast.

    So I was alone with no phone. It was murder.

    Well, there were a lot of other people in the bar, so I was able to talk with some of them. And football was playing. That helped.

    But still, no phone!

    Soon, Lauren’s friend Alex arrived and we drank some beer. Lauren then arrived and more beer was drunk. The place was also a large dog park and many brought their dogs. People played beanbag games and shuffleboard. The sun was setting to the west across a small lake. It was a spectacular sight. Alas, the bugs were also invading. Lauren had some bug repellent and that helped. I guess they even make it with DEET still. I thought that was outlawed by the Lorax or something along those lines. However, a little genetic mutation could be accepted for one evening, since without it, the bugs may have devoured our flesh anyway.

    After the park, we headed over to Smokey Oaks, a bar and grill where there’s a lot of BBQ and drinks. Oh yeah, but before that, Lauren had to stop and buy some vodka. It was a time crunch since the liquor stores close at 7pm and are not allowed to be open on Sundays. Yeah, fun laws out there.

    You can still talk on a cell phone and drive there though, for whatever that’s worth.

    I had some ribs, though with the beer already in me, I didn’t eat very much at all. It’s just hard to drink AND eat. I mean choices do have to be made.

    Also, the beer out there isn’t great. It just tastes different and the IPAs are completely awkward. I think the west coast may have the edge on that one. I like them hearty, dark, and hoppy, but that was tough to find in Charleston.

    That said, the east coast is pretty big so I’ll reserve final judgment until I’ve tried them all.

    Back home, we lit up a fire pit. It took some time to really get the fire going. The kindling wood wasn’t much and the logs were huge. I did my best Paul Bunyan imitation with the axe on hand, but the wood wasn’t fully cured so the axe got stuck with every swing. It was almost comical. Workout achieved though.

    Luckily, Alex came by with a great deal of wood, so the fire was roaring in no time.

    Try as I might, I was out of “just-tough-it-out” awake time. The lack of sleep was finally overwhelming me so I headed inside and zonked out fast. I had no trouble sleeping that night.

    Sunday

    On Sunday, we slept in a little and then decided to head into downtown Charleston for brunch. Being Sunday, parking was easier to find, and free! We parked and walked along the clean, modern streets. The people I saw were all dressed nice in Sunday summer dresses and the ladies were mostly all dolled up and in good shape. I guess it’s like that with many key cities. I tried not to stare.

    We found a placed called Leaf and had brunch there. The weather was perfect again so we ate outside. I had a croissant with egg, apple, bacon, and cheese. It was good, but I filled up fast. My stomach isn’t big enough for east coast eating (or any other coast—or anywhere inland.)

    When we finished eating, we walked around more and visited some fun shops. One sold a great deal of honey in many flavors. I thought about buying some, but found that honey pretty much just tastes like honey no matter what else is added.

    Heading to the water, we entered a pub that had once been a naval base or part of it. Heck, it could have been a naval pub.

    But it’s everyone’s pub now.

    Inside they had people dining, but also a bar with NFL games playing. Ah, I could get to love this town. I had a shot of scotch and Lauren had a mimosa. Life was good. And the people were friendly.

    Leaving the bar, we headed over to get tickets to take a horse carriage ride through old Charleston. The price wasn’t bad ($25) and we had an hour to kill, so we found a nice little pub and watched the Green Bay NFL game. There weren’t many seats, but a nice couple let us join them at a table for four (have I mentioned how nice the people are?) I had a Sierra Nevada IPA, though they didn’t have Torpedo Extra IPA. Disappointing, but c’est la vie.

    Then we returned to take our carriage ride. The coaches held 12 people but only nine were present so we got the back to ourselves. Sweet. Only one horse pulled the coach, yet he looked pretty strong. His name was Picasso. At one point in the ride, we passed by his brother (Dante) pulling another carriage the opposite way, but the horses ddin’t seem to say much to each other. Guess it happens all the time, so even “’Sup?” in horse-speak gets old after a while.

    It’s a fun thing to do. The driver takes the horse and carriage throughout the city explaining the history of different places and buildings. It’s a little like going back in time and exploring what the old city was like.

    We then returned back to the bar for more football. Once those games were done, we headed out for pizza. The pizza was pretty good and I think football was playing there too. Like in many places, the games are all on monitors in each booth. Yes, it’s mainly college football they love, but they do love football nonetheless.

    After dinner, we headed to an Irish pub to have drinks and watch the 49er/Broncos game. We sat at the bar and the game was fun to watch (if you’re okay watching the Niners get trounced). One drunken fellow stumbled in and bought us all shots. Shortly after, he stumbled out. Probably an interesting story there.

    After the game, we went back home. I was dead tired once again and crashed fast on the couch.

    Monday

    Around 8am, I said goodbye to Lauren as she headed to work. My final wakeup time would be more around 8:30am as the real estate agent was picking me up at 9:30am. I woke then and got packed and ready and waited on the sidewalk, er street side. Again, not many sidewalks.

    The agent, Paige, picked me up and we were soon seeing homes. She had a list of 12 homes to view so there was no time to waste. Each home had a lot of character and most had been fixed up a bit for resell. The ages of the homes were mainly 50-100 years with a few news ones as well.

    Around noon, we had lunch. I was actually able to finish my meal this time. Skipping breakfast probably accounted for that anomaly. Afterwards, we returned to view more homes. I must say that the most impressive and desirable home was the last one (coincidence?) It was a brand new large one with a showing agent inside. It was well beyond what I had wanted to spend, but it made the idea tempting. Everything looked great, and while it was about $330,000 there, the same home would be about $990,000 in Pleasanton.

    Location, times three—as well as the price.

    Paige dropped me off back at the airport and I enjoyed my long wait for my flight. The Internet helped at least. And I had movies on my tablet too.

    Back on the small plane we went. The sunset was outstanding, but I was on the wrong side of the plane so I got very few shots. I was tempted to just hand my camera to a passenger on the other side and say, “Would you mind just snapping 80 or so shots of that glorious sunset?”
    Not sure people are THAT nice there.

    There wasn’t much time to sleep and we were soon back in Chicago O’Hare. I had a slight scare as the side door to the luggage loading ramp closed and my bag had not yet been delivered. I expressed adequate panic to the lady working there and she found that yes, one more bag was still down there. Oops. Let’s just go get that bag, shall we?

    Happy was I to have my bag again.

    It was another long wait at the airport. My concourse was a long ways away and I found a line for a shuttle to reach it. But the sign said 15 minutes. I wondered if it was walkable and looked for more signs. Yup! Sure enough, the concourse could be reaching by walking. No reason to wait and avoid exercise.

    It wasn’t even a 15-minute walk. The shuttle idea just seemed ludicrous to me, but perhaps some people truly need it. I truly do not.

    It didn’t take too much time until boarding and I was soon on the plane, but in coach this time. No big deal. I’d be sleeping a lot.

    One thing they had was NFL football on the entertainment system. That was a nice touch. Or so I thought…

    The display then changed to have ads about buying entertainment services for the flight and finally, the display was all commercials. I guess nothing is free anymore on flights. But I had movies to watch, so it mattered little.

    I did sleep some and finally we were landing in San Francisco. It was about midnight now. It took some doing, but I managed to find the shuttle stop for the ParkSFO bus and it came quickly again. In about five minutes, I was at the parking garage and then back into my car.

    The drive home only took about 50 minutes—much faster than BART.

    I had been lucky. After the night, I woke up with a completely flat tire. The tire had finally just worn too thin and was done with this life. Had it happened on the drive to the airport, well, that would have been bad.

    I would also note that I was feeling fine despite almost two days of no coffee. And this was interesting to me as I thought that prior headaches were from lack of coffee. But now I’m not so sure. Nevertheless, it wasn’t something I needed to explore. I had plenty of coffee come Tuesday morning.

    In conclusion, I will say this: Charleston is well worth a visit.

     

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