Country Roads

Trip Start Dec 01, 2010
1
31
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Trip End Mar 01, 2011


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Flag of United States  , South Carolina
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Since Gail and I have been in South Carolina we have traveled some 1800 plus miles. We set out just about every day to explore the area of our new winter quarters. We have been up and down every major highway or interstate within a 50 mile radius more times then I care to remember. We have discovered every shopping mall, thrift store, flea market and grocery store known to man. These travels are just an everyday drive and a sort of time passing adventure.

As with most things we do, I need more. My love of history and food needs to be satisfied. I want to learn about the true history of the state we now call home. What better way to do this than to turn off the highway and just drive down a country road. Since we have no real time schedule or place to be, we are open to any direction. We know nothing of where we are going, but we always end up somewhere.

Driving down these country roads is a history lesson without the books. As we drive, I look out the window and see what used to be an old farm. The house is aged and falling down. Fields that once produced cotton or tobacco are overgrown. If you look closely you can see towards the back of the field, old barns that once housed the drying tobacco. Every once in a while, back by the barns, one can see the quarters of folks that worked the fields. Folks that were considered property, not people. Folks that were part of one of the darkest days of our countries history, but history none the less. As I slow down for a closer look I can see in my minds eye a thriving family farm. Crops in the fields, livestock in pens and children playing under the trees in the front yard. Every farm house has a huge front porch with rocking chairs and a hanging swing on the side. I can almost taste the smell of frying chicken and lemonade.

Country road history lessons are full of all sorts of information if you look for it. Take the house in the middle of nowhere that has what seems like every piece of junk in the county on its property. If you look closely at this junk you may find that it is mostly old farm vehicles, tractors, and iron working paraphernalia. Was this the guy who everyone took their farm equipment to back in the day to get fixed? Could this guy fix anything? How many plow discs did he reshape and sharpen over the years? This is what I see, not just junk.

Further down the road we pass an old General Store. True to its name, this store was the life’s blood of those living close by. Old faded painted signs of anything from soft drinks to chewing tobacco are barely visible on the sides of the building. Old storage sheds that once housed grains and feed for livestock are in the back, some still with product in them. These stores all have a porch with wooden floors that have not seen repair in many a year. There are old hitch posts and water troughs still in front. I imagine myself pulling up 100 years ago and playing a game of checkers on the porch while enjoying a cool soft drink or maybe a swig from the jug behind the counter. It was a gathering place for local folks to exchange news and gather supplies. A place where a man’s name was as good as cash. A place of real meaning in this small town.

Once entering what was once the county seat, I see many red brick buildings, most shuttered up tight. Old signs of the businesses that once produced goods and provided employment for many in this town are peaking through layers of paint. Vacant are they now but if you stop and listen hard you can hear the machinery working away producing materials made from the cotton that was brought in from the fields that day. You can hear the old mill grinding corn and grains, which were sent north to feed the big cities. Take a walk, look at the old store fronts. Businesses of all types once prospered here. Bakeries, butchers and shoe stores. Maybe a Doctor and Dentist. The old Pharmacy where medicines were mixed by hand and a soda fountain was in the front. They were all here, once. Central to this town was the rail station. Used by both freight and commuter trains. This transportation link was vital to this southern town’s survival. Moving people from place to place and sending cotton and tobacco north. As the railroads stopped running, these towns slowly died, a little at a time.

During our rides, Gail is my co-pilot. She keeps me from going into a ditch and off the road as my mind wanders away. She also applies the brakes that have somehow been installed on her side of the truck every 5 minutes or so. Gail has also become an excellent scout for unique shops and auction houses. She can spot a "junk store" 2 miles away going 50 mile an hour. We have found some very nice people in these shops and all have welcomed us to the south and its traditions. I guess they can sense that we are not here to change their ways, but to understand and abide by them.

As with all the adventures we take, the final prize will always be finding somewhere to dine and fill our tanks. We have eaten in some of the most backwoods, dumpy looking places you could imagine. Thank God that the people of the south care more about their food tasting good then that of the appearance of the building. I have not had a bad meal yet. I have eaten plain old everyday food, cooked many different ways and styles, making it new and exciting again. Have you ever tasted a perfectly fried pork chop with a corn meal coating? Or a plate of perfectly cooked fish and a pile of red slaw? BBQ here is PORK, period. Pulled, sliced or chunks. Ribs are juicy and fall off the bone good. No heavy sauces to cover the flavor but a mild vinegar and hot pepper flake sauce to dip into. Good BBQ needs no sauce; just ask any of the old time “BBQ Chefs” down here.

Our journeys have brought us down interstate highways and unpaved country backwoods roads. We have spent a small fortune on fuel and will need to change the oil soon. With the help of GPS we always make our way home, safe and sound. Once home and ready for a night rest, I sometimes find it hard to fall asleep. I keep reflecting to myself the history that was learned and seen today. As I finally fall asleep I dream of our next adventure down a country road.

Be well.        
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