For about three months, I've been planning on joining friends, some old and some new, for a trip to the mountains this past weekend. As a travel writer, I have a hard time taking a casual weekend away. This trip was no different. I had called the Chamber of Commerce in Blairsville, GA, where we were headed, long ago looking for suggestions on the best things to do in town. I had called apple orchids, scoped out hiking possibilities and state parks, and even toyed with the idea of going horseback riding on our weekend adventure. Then the last two weeks, life started to unravel a bit.
I found myself sitting in the Wardroom (the Officer's Galley) of the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point on the eve of its 40th Anniversary celebration talking with Rear Admiral James Flatley III, wondering how in the world I got lucky enough to get this interview, and hoping very sincerely I do it justice. Saturday, August 27th, 2016, the Patriot's Point Naval & Maritime Museum celebrated four decades in Charleston, by welcoming nearly 5,000 visitors to roam the decks of the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier, the USS Laffey Destroyer, the depths of the USS Clamagore Submarine, and the numerous exhibits on property. There were throngs of people there of all walks of life...everyone from young kids and families, to students, to military veterans in their eighties and nineties wearing their service hats.
The day beforehand the ship had been a bit quieter, hosting a Naval graduation ceremony and a somewhat smaller number of guests, including the Admiral and myself. In the paragraphs that follow I hope you'll get a sense of why I was so excited to be sitting with Rear Admiral (RADM) Flatley learning about his flying days and all about the servicemen who had made the Yorktown famous over the years.
When you come across a person who uses the words: “summertime in Charleston” and “bugs” in their conversation, you are quick to assume that they are talking about undesirable pests. Admittedly, there are lots of mosquitoes, no-see-ums, or, even worse, the dreaded Palmetto bugs here. Your first thought probably wasn't “ladybugs”… “Wait, ladybugs?” Yes, ladybugs (and to be fair to the ladybug population, there are male ladybugs too…man-bugs.) All bad jokes aside, you can find the biggest gathering of ladybugs that Charleston, SC has to offer on a hot, summer day at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, America’s Oldest Romantic Garden.
Have you ever wished you could just bike downhill?
Overhearing my friends discuss plans to bike the “Virginia Creeper Trail” while coaxing me to join them on this famous 17-mile ride made me question my sense of adventure. I’ll try anything that does not include running for long stretches: skydiving, petting baby gators, bobbing for apples, inverted roller coasters, climbing Machu Picchu, batting a piñata, sport fencing, even walking a half marathon…but this sounded intimidating. I hadn’t biked in months and probably never topped ten miles in one stretch. I had been informed most of the bike trip was a gradual downhill ride. Still, you hear 17 miles, and you wonder.
This blog could have easily been titled: "Have You Tasted the Tea?", "Stop Light Observations Triumphant Return", "Sheryl Crow Makes Us Happy", "Help Send a Kid to Camp", or even "The Tarlatans May Not Be the Tarlatans Anymore". There was so much hearty content wrapped into one Sunday at the 9th Annual First Flush Festival, it's hard not to hit everything, but I'll try to shine a light on some of the highlights.
When I moved to Charleston in 2003, my grandfather drove me all around town pointing out historic sites and areas of interest. When we made our way to James Island, he directed my attention to a row of white cabins just off Folly Road. It was McLeod Plantation. While a notable historical site, he wasn't sure what the status of the property was at the time. A number of years later, I moved to James Island. I passed those cabins on a regular basis, wondering about them often. This past Friday, years worth of curiosity were satisfied, when I got to tour the plantation a day before it officially opened to the public. I can't encourage locals to check this place out enough. It is a treasure trove of Charleston history.