Month: April 2014

S. Carolina: Hilton Head Island, alligators, and Beaufort

March 24, 2014

Our plan for today was to spend the day in Savannah and take the Old Town Trolley historical tour. However, after meeting the resort’s concierge, Carl, we put it off for one day to save money! Carl told us that if we attended a presentation the next morning, about a new resort that has just been built on the island, we could get free tickets for the trolley tour. I normally hate attending such presentations because they always pressure you to buy into something you regret later, but Carl assured us that there was no pressure, it was strictly “soft sell”. Since the tickets would cost us $28 each, we decided it was worth it.

Hilton Head Island

Map of Hilton Head Island
Map of Hilton Head Island

We went to The Diner for breakfast because it was the first place we came to while driving toward the “toe” of the island and since it was after 10 by this time, we were very hungry. It was rather kitschy and the food mediocre. All the waitresses had black hair pinned up and wore Hawaiian shirts – meant to look Polynesian, I guess. There must have been a hiring requirement to have dark skin and black hair, and to have the body type (somewhat plump) of Polynesian women, because every single waitress looked like that! I had a spinach and feta omelet with hash brown potatoes and toast. Tam, who doesn’t normally eat breakfast, had yoghurt with granola, and of course, her requisite caffeine of choice, Diet Coke. Dale had pancakes and eggs, and he ordered coffee which was weak American style. I ordered a small orange juice and understood that I would probably have to forgo coffee today.

Afterward, we headed to Harbour Town on the “toe” of the island, because there is a well-known golf course there, where they often hold tournaments. We had to pay $5.00 at a security gate for the ‘privilege’ of entering that somewhat exclusive part of the island, consisting of Harbour Town and Sea Pines Plantation. It was hard to find a parking space in the area near the lighthouse, but Dale managed to squeeze into a tight angled spot between two other cars that weren’t parked very carefully.

The lighthouse had seemed really interesting, but it in fact turned out to be rather small compared to the ones we were used to and imagined, the large lighthouses that dot the Northeast and the Great Lakes. There was a museum inside, which you could see as you ascended the 100 stairs to the top of the lighthouse, but it cost money to get in, and a lighthouse ‘historical’ museum didn’t attract me, seeing as it was built in 1969. (That was during my lifetime – that’s not history!!)

View of lighthouse and circular marina, Harbor Town, HHI
View of lighthouse and circular marina, Harbor Town, HHI

Instead we went out onto the marina, a semi-circular walkway flanked by restaurants and shops. On the marina were several yachts, but it is still early in the year and it’s been rather cool, so there were still many empty spaces.

yachts in Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island
yachts in Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island

There was one huge yacht with a heliport on top, as well as a  motorboat stored on the upper deck and a pair of Jetskis.

This yacht is fully equipped with water sports equipment: a small motor/fishing boat, Jetskis, also a heliport!
This yacht is fully equipped with water sports equipment: a small motor/fishing boat, Jetskis, also a heliport!
This sculpture of a boy was very lifelike.
This sculpture of a boy was very lifelike.

We walked all the way around the marina until we reached the golf course. Harbour Town Golf Course is preparing for a professional golf tournament in late April. They had already erected bleachers for spectators. A golf cart was sitting there, and Dale saw that there were several score cards stashed in it, so he took a couple as souvenirs.

We walked onto the 18th green, where Dale posed for pictures next to the hole. There was a scenic marshy beach bordering the golf course.

Dale at the 18th hole!
Dale at the 18th hole!

?????????????????????????????We were told by a group of men who were talking about the tournament, how to get to the Pro Shop, temporarily housed in a trailer. So we wandered into the Sea Pines resort area, where we saw something quite unexpected: an African-American Gullah cemetery!

Braddock's Point African-American Cemetery is located among the condo buildings at Sea Pines resort!
Braddock’s Point African-American Cemetery is located among the condo buildings at Sea Pines resort!

We walked among the graves of the small cemetery and read some of the gravestones. Many had been lettered by hand.

Some of the gravestones were hand carved like this one.I'm not sure why the plate was inset in this gravestone.

Gullah cemetery

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Finally we found the pro shop where Dale bought a cap with the golf course’s name on it. He frequently does this when we visit golf courses. From there, we circled around until we found the road into the resort again, and our car.

Alligators!

On our way to Beaufort, as we were driving past swamps and marshes, our daughter said, “I just saw an alligator!”

“Where?” I asked.

“Right along the bank,” she said.

I craned my neck but it was too late.

A few minutes later she announced that she saw another one. I whined in frustration for having missed it. She contended that it was because she was looking out the window, instead of having her head buried in a book, as I was. Perhaps, but I’m notoriously bad at observing things quickly anyway, so I doubt if I would have seen them. However, after that, I stopped reading and looked out the window, scanning dry land for alligators as the scenery whizzed by us.

View from car window as we drove across intracoastal waters.
View from car window as we drove across intracoastal waters.

Alligators, our daughter told us, are very different from their cousins, the crocodiles. While crocodiles can be aggressive and dangerous, alligators are actually rather mellow creatures who would much rather sun themselves on an outcrop of their marshland home than to wrestle with humans – which is why it is possible to see people wrestling with alligators! Have you ever seen crocodile wrestling? The point is that alligators pose little or no threat to humans.

Beaufort, SC

Beaufort is the second oldest city in South Carolina, located in the “Lowcountry” along the Intracoastal Waterway north of Hilton Head Island. The official visitors’ guide we received includes in their description, “Antebellum mansions stand proudly like the wealthy cotton barons who once called them home.” There is also evidence of Gullah culture, if you are looking for it. (The Gullah people were escaped or freed slaves who made their way onto the islands off the South Carolina coast, where they established their own communities. Being fairly isolated, they developed their own culture, still alive today, including cuisine and crafts that common to find in this area.)

Using the map in the center of our guidebook, we mostly looked at several of the beautiful historic homes. None of them offer tours – at least none that I knew of – but are interesting nonetheless.

The first home we saw was on Bay Street which runs along the waterfront. It was the Maxcy-Rhett house, or the “Secession House,” for it was here that pro-secession talks were held in the late 1850s.DSCN8430

Also along Bay Street, we looked at:

John A. Cuthbert House, c. 1810; Victorian elements added later. Now a Bed & Breakfast, Cuthbert House Inn.
John A. Cuthbert House, c. 1810; Victorian elements added later. Now a Bed & Breakfast, Cuthbert House Inn.
Thomas Fuller House (c. 1805)
Thomas Fuller House (c. 1805) “Tabby Manse” used as a boarding house for more than 100 years.
Thomas Fuller House (c. 1805) "Tabby Manse" used as a boarding house for more than 100 years.
Thomas Fuller House (c. 1805) “Tabby Manse” used as a boarding house for more than 100 years.

I looked up “Tabby” on an online dictionary, because the only definition I knew for tabby is a type of cat! The online dictionary gave a more fitting definition: a southeastern term “referring to a building material composed of ground oyster shells, lime, and sand, mixed with salt water.”

We walked along Waterfront Park’s shore, away from the parking lot and crowds, and admired the view of marshy waters and trees draped with Spanish moss. The ground was covered with little fallen leaves. I wondered about that. We would see that everywhere we went.DSCN8438

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????As I was staring out onto the water, looking for any outcrop or solid ground where alligators might be, Dale called out, “Look!”
He was pointing upward.

Was it an eagle? No, probably a hawk. It landed in a nearby tree; Dale and I soon had our camera lenses pointing up into the tree.

There's a hawk in this tree, almost camouflaged by the Spanish moss! He's sitting on the branch halfway up on the right.
There’s a hawk in this tree, almost camouflaged by the Spanish moss! He’s sitting on the branch halfway up on the right.

Looking at the map, the other houses of interest to us were a few blocks away – a great walk, for me, but Tam didn’t want to walk it in the shoes she was wearing. So we drove to one of the locations in order to park on the street.
We stopped at the First African Baptist Church and parked across the street. I tried the door, but it was locked and I could barely see anything when I peeked in a side window. The church was built by local Baptists for its African American members and has been in continuous use since 1865. Its most prominent member was Robert Smalls, Civil War hero, statesman and U.S. Congressman. He was born, in 1839, into slavery, but as a young man, learned the skills to pilot a ship and became a sea captain. In 1862 he commandeered the Confederate ship Planter to freedom beyond Federal lines north of Ft. Sumter, freeing himself, his family and the families of three other slaves who worked on the ship, during the night when the white crew was ashore asleep.

First African Baptist Church (c. 1865). Built by the Baptists of Beautfort for its African American members and in continuous use since the 1860s.
First African Baptist Church (c. 1865). Built by the Baptists of Beautfort for its African American members and in continuous use since the 1860s.

From there we walked east on King Street. Just down the street from the church was the William Wigg Barnwell House, which was moved to its current location in 1963. It was restored by Jim Williams, whose story is told in the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. This was of interest to both Tam and me because we had read the book. In fact, she’d given me the book to read about a month before, because it is about Savannah and some of the interesting and eccentric people that live there.

DSCN8446

On the lawn of one of the houses, we saw a calico cat and called to her. She came right over, jumped onto a low brick wall, and enjoyed us petting her. We saw her again later on our way back, and she purred as we petted her some more!

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Other historical houses of interest:

The Berners Barnwell Sams House (c. 1852), with only remaining slave dependencies (second picture), which are now apartments.

Berners Barnwell Sams House (c. 1852)

Elixabeth Hext House (c. 1805-1825) "Riverview" boasts varied flower gardens and a large kumquat tree (at left)
Elixabeth Hext House (c. 1805-1825) “Riverview” boasts varied flower gardens and a large kumquat tree (at left)

Our guidebook said that this was the James Robert Verdier House (c. 1814) on Pinckney Street.

(1850) Dr. John Johnson and his wife, Claudia Talbird, are thought to have built this three-story house in the 1850s. The house was still owned by Dr. Johnson at the opening of the Civil War and was used during the war as a part of Union Hospital #3.
(1850) Dr. John Johnson and his wife, Claudia Talbird, are thought to have built this three-story house in the 1850s. The house was still owned by Dr. Johnson at the opening of the Civil War and was used during the war as a part of Union Hospital #3.

However, my picture is a perfect match for another house that I looked up via Google. According to the web site it is the John Archibald Johnson House at 804 Pinckney St., and says that Dr. John Johnson and his wife, Claudia Talbird, are thought to have built this three-story house in the 1850s. The house was still owned by Dr. Johnson at the opening of the Civil War and was used during the war as a part of Union Hospital #3.

However, when I took the picture above, I thought it was “Tidalholm” – The Edgar Fripp House (c. 1853), which was featured in the movies The Big Chill and The Great Santini. It doesn’t really matter though – I never saw Santini and I saw The Big Chill so long ago that I don’t remember much about it.

After leaving Beaufort, we headed to Savannah for the evening, continued in another post.

Trip Journal Mar. 2014: Smoky Mountains Nat’l Park and Cherokee, NC

Here I go again! This is the first in a series of travel journals for our recent driving trip to South Carolina and Georgia. On March 22, 2014 Dale (my husband) and I left our home near Chicago and drove as far as Knoxville, TN. Although we didn’t have much time, as we were meeting our daughter in Charleston, SC the next day, we were able to at least drive through Smoky Mountains National Park, a place I would love to return to someday (in better weather)!

 

We got up fairly early and went to breakfast at our hotel, The Clarion Hotel in Knoxville. Both of us decided to make waffles in the waffle maker, a common fixture in hotel breakfast rooms. The coffee wasn’t too good, so we found a Starbucks for our coffee fix shortly after hitting the road!
Knoxville is located just north of the Smoky Mountains National Park, which I very much wanted to at least drive through. The weather was terrible – cold and rainy, and I thought we could bypass the park and go through it on our way home. However, Dale vetoed that idea and we drove through it anyway.
As we approached the park, we went through little towns with garish billboards advertising various attractions, including country music venues. Dolly Parton’s musical venue is in one of these towns. The town which borders the park, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, is Gatlinburg, TN, known for the country music festivals held there. We didn’t drive through it – we bypassed it – but once we entered the park, we saw it nestled in the valley below the peaks, at an overlook near the visitor center.

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Sign at look-out point, showing Mount Le Conte, with the town of Gatlinburg in the valley below. (Downloaded from Google search). Compare with the view I took on a foggy, rainy day.
Sign at look-out point, showing Mount Le Conte, with the town of Gatlinburg in the valley below.  Compare with the view I took on a foggy, rainy day.
Look out point near Sugarlands Visitor Center
Look out point near Sugarlands Visitor Center
Solar panels!  Sugarlands Visitor Center
Solar panels! Sugarlands Visitor Center
Some people just can't resist...
Some people just can’t resist…

The weather was what it was… It was actually kind of cool – there was a lot of fog and I took many pictures as we drove, showing stark black, leafless trees which looked ghostly against the foggy background. Occasionally we could catch a glimpse through the trees of the Little Pigeon River as we drove through the park along the main road, the Newfound Gap Road.

Trees of early spring (the colors of early flowering makes it look like late fall!). Little Pigeon River is below, Mount Le Conte hidden in clouds above. The river is barely visible through the trees on the right.
Trees of early spring (the colors of early flowering makes it look like late fall!). Little Pigeon River is below, Mount Le Conte hidden in clouds above. The river is barely visible through the trees on the right.
West Prong Little Pigeon River can be seen through the trees.
West Prong Little Pigeon River can be seen through the trees.
View through windshield on the road.
View through windshield on the road.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8350I could tell by the way my ears were plugging up and I held my breath to pop them, that we were going up in elevation. The highest point we reached was at Newfound Gap, at 5,046 feet, on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina.

Newfound Gap: state line
Newfound Gap: state line – another new state that I visit!

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Diversity of life in the Smokies. I found it interesting that more than 30 salamander species live here!
Diversity of life in the Smokies. I found it interesting that more than 30 salamander species live here!

DSCN8361 Newfound Gap is also a stop along the Appalachian Trail, which I insisted we walk on a little way!

Dale at the Appalachian Trail marker
Dale at the Appalachian Trail marker

???????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8366After that, we began to gradually descend. The road conditions were somewhat treacherous – windy mountain roads, slick with the rain and sometimes fog so thick we could barely see a few feet in front of us! ??????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8369Even so, we saw some beautiful views. At the next scenic viewing place we stopped after Newfound Gap, the fog was showing signs of lifting, and I took some interesting pictures of foggy wisps rising over a series of ridges. By the time we left the park, there were patches of blue sky above!

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8371DSCN8372DSCN8374DSCN8376Sky is lightening somewhat in the distance!

Sky is lightening somewhat in the distance!

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8382??????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8384I also wanted to spend some time in Cherokee, at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. I could have spent more time there, but a little more than halfway through, Dale rushed me the rest of the way, concerned about getting to Charleston in time to meet Tam’s flight. I’d seen most of what I wanted to see, though.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????I was fascinated by the Cherokee language. It was due to one man who had the idea of creating a system of writing for the Cherokee language. The alphabet is based on syllables rather than individual sounds. Most syllables in Cherokee have the CV pattern, making it efficient to create symbols based on these syllables. The inventor of the written language was at first mocked by his family who felt he should be doing something more worthwhile with his life. However, there are now many books translated into the Cherokee language, including the Bible, of course, and the street signs in the town of Cherokee are all bilingual.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This display shows the different symbols of the Cherokee alphabet. Each lights up as a recorded voice recites its sound.

This display shows the different symbols of the Cherokee alphabet. Each lights up as a recorded voice recites its sound.

A Bible written in Cherokee
A Bible written in Cherokee
The official seal of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation
The official seal of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation

After picking up our daughter, Tam, in Charleston, we headed south. The drive to our resort on Hilton Head Island was dark, as we traveled over many back roads, using our GPS to guide us. The name of our resort was Island Links, in the Port Royal Plantation section of the island. HHI is shaped like a shoe, with Port Royal being on the heel of the shoe.

Image downloaded from Google, but we got a map just like this one.
Image downloaded from Google, but we got a map just like this one.

Island Links is not on the beach, but there is a golf course nearby; too bad – we found out that we were each entitled to one free round of golf each day of our stay there! Dale didn’t have his clubs and didn’t intend to rent – his policy is when he’s on a family vacation, he leaves the clubs at home.

We arrived at around 10:00 p.m., and per instructions, we found an envelope with our building and unit number and instructions in a drop box outside the club house office.  Our unit was on the second floor, so we hauled our suitcases up the staircase (Tam had brought just a backpack – she travels light; we travel heavy, especially when we travel by car!), leaving whatever wasn’t necessary for that night in our car.
The unit didn’t have a key to get in; instead it was a combination lock. It was easy to memorize and when the keys were pressed on the keypad, the door opened easily.

21 Things I Irrationally (?) Dislike*

*Feeling “hate” was too strong a word, I changed it to dislike!

This blog post was inspired by a similar one written by Rarasaur.

Here’s my list:

1. The taste of peanut butter when combined with sugar or chocolate. I like peanut butter inside pretzels or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. However, I hate peanut butter cookies, Reese’s pieces, or any other “sweet thing” contaminated with the taste of peanut butter (which doesn’t taste like “real” peanut butter anyway)!  reeses-peanut-butter-cup-cookies

 

 
2. Certain grammar mistakes, especially: misplaced apostrophes (NEVER is an apostrophe to be used to make a plural!!); lack of commas when talking to someone, e.g. “Let’s eat Grandma!” instead of “Let’s eat, Grandma!” They mean totally different things!; misspellings on official documents, company publicity, letters sent to parents from school (what kind of example does this set for our students?? Parents must think we’re morons!); using it’s when you mean its, or whose when you mean who’s, or not knowing the difference between there, their and they’re or between to and too.

 

 
3. Bad translations: seriously, if you need to do a decent translation, ask someone who really has a good command of that language instead of using Babelfish or someone who learned the language in their family’s kitchen but never studied it in school. It’s embarrassing to see that the ‘bilingual’ individuals teaching our children are being misrepresented as unschooled idiots!

 

 
4. Pride in having less than a college education and not knowing anything about the world outside your country’s borders. (I don’t mean to imply that not having a college education makes anyone inferior or less intelligent – it’s that some people flaunt this and look down on intellectualism.)

 

 
5. Having to press a series of digits on one’s phone to reach this department or that employee, only to be connected with someone phone-dial-padwho isn’t there and having to leave a voice mail or start all over!

 

6. The NRA (this isn’t “irrational” – it’s sensible!). The NRA is so beholden to gun manufacturers that they will tell any lie, such as that people’s 2nd amendment rights are being violated if they aren’t allowed to buy semi-automatic weapons so they can go shoot a lot of people in a public place, or that the bystanders with guns in a violent situation will be able to somehow protect people from a crazed madman with an AK-47, or that guns are needed for “self-defense” in the home – if a burglar enters your house and confronts you by pointing a gun at you, can you really tell him to wait while you fetch and load your gun? If an assailant grabs you on the street and sticks a loaded gun into your back, will you really be able to get out your ‘concealed’ gun to defend yourself? No! Even in the “Wild West” guns were left at the edge of towns. At that time, people knew the power of weapons and that whoever was first to point a weapon at someone else had the advantage. Guns are offensive weapons, very rarely defensive. The only individuals who need to have guns are the police and the military (the “militia” mentioned in the 2nd amendment), and hunters could have rifles although they ought to use bow and arrow to give the animal an equal chance. That’s all. Period! In fact, the 2nd amendment ought to be repealed – it’s no longer necessary today and it’s caused a lot of violence and sorrow as children are killed every single day in the inner cities across America. no-guns-icon
7. Spell check in MS Excel that doesn’t allow me to enter the Chinese name of my doctor. No matter what I do, it changes “Hsi” to “His.” In MS Word I can get around it, but not in Excel.

8. Spell check on my phone that assumes I mean “toe” instead of “tow”, or substitutes what it considers a more ‘likely’ word than the one I’m typing. I know how to spell! Leave me alone!

9. People who take someone else’s expressed opinion as a personal insult. Example: If I am at a potluck or buffet and I choose not to select a particular dessert by saying, “I’m not fond of peanut butter desserts” they think I am criticizing them personally for liking peanut butter in desserts.

10. People who have no manners and delight in being rude or using words they know are offensive to their audience. In fact, I really hate deliberately rude people. This includes people who can’t find an intelligent way of criticizing someone or their opinion; their vocabulary apparently isn’t expansive enough to say something more edifying than, “Fuck you! You are an asshole!” etc.

11. Institutions or individuals who think their “religious rights” allow them to restrict my rights to certain goods or services. Your rights end where mine begin!

12. Those who think it is a matter of opinion to reject scientific theories. Evolution really did happen! The Earth is over 4 billion years old. Human-induced climate change is real and will become a serious threat to our lifestyle in the very near future if we don’t stop polluting in the name of the almighty dollar! We all live on this planet – let’s respect it and all those who call it home. I don’t care what the Bible says about God creating the Earth in 6 days – what was a “day” back then? Why not accept this as being just another creation story, or at most a story with a moral lesson, not historical fact? Get over it!!

CarlSagan-ItIsUpToUs
13. Cold showers

14. Winter (I do appreciate the changing of seasons and recognize winter as part of the cycle of life, but there’s just too much of it – cold, snow, ice…I need to move somewhere warm!). It is a lot easier to cool off in the summer than get warm and cozy in the winter. IMAG1319-deck-dark
IMAG1335
15. Dog lovers who hate cats for irrational reasons. I am a cat person, but I don’t dislike dogs. I don’t go around spouting misinformation about dog habits. If you don’t like cats, fine, but don’t try to justify it by saying something like “cats aren’t friendly” that has no basis in fact. Why does there have to be a rivalry between dog lovers and cat lovers anyway? Why not appreciate all animals for what they are?

cute friends
16. Pop up ads, especially those that flash repeatedly to get your attention.

17. In fact, ads in general. I listen to public radio most of the time because I can’t stand all the commercial breaks other radio stations have. When a commercial break is on TV, I either leave the room or do something else while the commercials are on. Or I record the show on my DVR so that when I watch it later, I can skip all the ads! They are especially annoying during movies.

18. Mosquito bites.

19. Dry skin, especially when it gets so bad that it cracks and bleeds.

20. Lying in the sun for prolonged periods, sunscreen or not. With sunscreen on, the sand sticks to my skin all over, which itches and drives me crazy. Without it, I get terribly sunburned. Suntans are not all they’re promoted to be – in fact, they’re unhealthy. I love the beach, but only for short periods if it’s a hot day.

21. Auto-flush toilets. They always seem to flush when I’m adjusting my position or leaning forward. Then when I get up from the toilet, half the time, it doesn’t flush again!

autotoilet

Note: All photos downloaded from Google, except two: the photos of winter are my own.

Next: Things I (irrationally??) Love