7/2 Charleston, SC 1684 miles

Woke up in Savannah and I could still smell the ocean all around me. I fought the urge to cancel the rest of the trip and just stay there by the inviting shore. The thing most attractive about Tybee Island is how empty it was. Later I will be in Virginia Beach, and I know that will just be mobbed with hormone-crazed college boys, harassed mothers and vapid girlies with poor bikini choices.
But I pressed on.
At this point, I was getting pretty damned tired of getting out of the car in various southern spots and trying not to scream “what is that SMELL?”. I am reminded that the eastern US is built on a green O-Cello sponge, warm and moist, without a winter to inhibit the growth of things that smell.
First stop in the morning (after coffee, which shouldn’t have to be mentioned, as it is as functional as washing my face), was the Savannah historical museum and visitors center. It smelled funny and there was a movie that I did not watch. I spent much time in the gift shop and purchased a book of pirate stickers that now adorn the postcards being sent. If you want a postcard, send me your address. If I get it while I am still on the road, I will send you one.
A walking tour of Savannah was next and we hit most of the major historical houses and squares. We drove by the Factor’s Walk on the river front, but the humidity had beaten us down sufficiently and we let it go.
Our next stop was Hilton Head. The place was mobbed, but we just drove through to get an idea of what it is like. Stopped at a deli on the mainland, Vino and Vitto, and picked up a sandwich as big as my forearm. Damned tasty sandwich. Hilton Head was not anything to write home about, so I didn’t.
We swung through Beaufort, SC, and took pictures of historical things and read about wars and defiance and pondered again the amazing smells borne of the unbelievable humidity.
We got lost trying to get out of Beaufort and ended up by Parris Island. We had been island-hopping all day, and decided to check this one out, too. We followed the signs to Parris Island and whipped off the highway and into a giant military base. Something in my head clicked and I sort of remembered something about military and Parris Island (or was it an insane asylum?), but I just couldn’t make the connection. Because of the holiday, all military bases were on Alert: Bravo. This meant that they checked all ID’s coming in and had absolutely no sense of humor about tourists accidentally showing up on base. Rodriguez was polite but humorless about the whole thing and directed me back to the highway.
Finally, we arrived in Charleston, exhausted and sweaty. Our hotel room smelled of urine and had a sticky quality hard to come by in your own home. We rested for a minute, gathered our thoughts and headed out downtown for a walking tour of the historic houses.The AAA guide for Charleston warned us against driving in this city because its roads are a clusterfuck maze of narrow one-way streets that inexplicably end in the middle of a block. You will find one direction repeated multiple times before you get a chance to go the other way. We got lost and cursed all who designed this city. Then we found parking and started our little tour. Each of the historic houses, though a private residence, is clearly labelled with the name of the house and the history attached to it. We walked down to the waterfront to watch seagulls and pelicans and the coast guard do their things. White Point Park was full of pigeons quietly waiting for me to feed them, but they never got the chance as a family erroneously decided the best activity for the evening was to run around with the pigeons and pretend to fly like them, scaring them half out of their wits. First it’s two pleasant Minnesotans crumbling Keebler Club Crackers on the ground, then a swarm of giant avi-humans swoop in with the sole purpose of making them go away. Pigeons have it tough.
Back to the car and off to dinner. Too tired and hungry to really try to think about dinner, we ended up at a chain rib place that fed us well and kept me supplied with beer.
Tomorrow Georgetown, SC, South of the Border and Morehead City.

7/1 Savannah, GA 1492 miles

If there are days better than today, I just don’t know if I can handle them. The morning started out with us driving around Atlanta. Sightseeing and basically taking advantage of our out-of-state plates and blocking traffic, stopping where we shouldn’t and being foolish. Atlanta is a beautiful city, so very mush to see. Nothing more exciting than the fight we saw between Wolf Blitzer and Larry King outside CNN this morning. Okay, we didn’t see the fight, but we saw CNN and it was pretty nifty.
Atlanta is a charming city with pleasant, accomodating people. However, I have one request: Atlanta needs to clearly label its streets so I don’t get so damned lost. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t have a map, but if I can’t match the picture to the streets, then the whole system falls apart.
After downtown Atlanta, we visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. It’s a very beautiful, peaceful place, and in visiting it you are reminded that there are so very few of us that actually do anything that makes a difference.
The next stop was Juliette, GA, home of the Whistle Stop Cafe, made famous by the movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes”. This town is pretty much one block and its entire industry is the tourists that stop by to see the cafe. I could sit for hours and listen to them talk and talk. A special thanks to the gentleman that offered to take our picture together.
Macon was much bigger than I remembered, and certainly less redneck. Lunch at Len Berg’s in the alley behind the courthouse. Highly recommended. The food was great, the service was a bit slow but charming and the whole place was just weird enough to a northerner like myself to keep me amused. Now I don’t mean that this is recommended in that sort of “I recommend pants with legs” sort of way, but in an “Oxygen is good for your brain” way. When you are in Macon, you will be tempted to stop at one of those crap-filled chain restaurants like Chili’s or Cracker Barrel, but don’t. Make a little effort, drive into town. You’ll find the courthouse, go down the back alley and there it is. Now don’t think “eeeuw, back alley”, think “distinctively charming”. This is one of the best places you will ever eat.
One point to keep in mind: I ordered iced tea and she asked me “Sweetened or unsweetened?” in her perfectly-timed drawl. I chose sweetened, thinking that it would save me the 32 seconds it takes to pour sugar in the glass, and assuming that sweetened meant that it was as sweet as iced tea purchased in a bottle at a humid gas station just off the interstate. One sip of the iced tea and I learned differently. This beverage pretty much peels the enamel off your teeth and makes a Caramello taste like vinegar. I had to squeeze many lemons into it to make it drinkable. After 3 glasses, though, I found it to be highly addictive and it’s really all I want now.
The meal itself came with the softest, sweetest biscuits and little deep-fried cornbread sticks. Heaven. The meals themselves were simple and tasty, without pretense.
Beyond Macon, down to Savannah, you drive down an incredibly lush, verdant corridor. Pretty much solid trees on both sides of the freeway, and the scent is intoxicating. Slowly, the land dipped lower and lower until we reached marshland and Savannah. The car gave us quite a scare by chugging and flipping on the ‘Check Engine’ light, but that was quickly resolved by getting some gas and caressing the hood slowly, telling her she was really a good car, the only car for us, yeah baby, none of the other cars got what you have…
Quickly check into the hotel and pop over to Tybee Island and the ocean. THE OCEAN! I live in Minnesota, we don’t have the ocean. It was warm and gentle and inviting and the first thing I did was call everyone on my cell phone to brag about my oceanic adventure. After 90 minutes of jumping around in the surf, I went and sat in the sand with the sun setting on my back and the ocean beating the beach in front of me. Dinner at a restaurant right on the beach. Jerk pork, too many beers and the salt drying on my face. Highway 80 back into Savannah with the sunroof open and the cool breeze on me.
More perfect than anything.
Tomorrow, Downtown Savannah, Hilton Head, Beaufort, and Charleston.