Austin and I pulled into Savannah at 11:30 AM. After managing to sweet talk our way into an early check-in, we showered up and checked our location against a map of downtown attractions that the hotel had generously provided us. Having little desire to experience Savannah for the first time under the direction of a glossy, full color cartoon map, we decided to ditch it and set out on foot.
Savannah is located on the banks of the aptly named Savannah River, and it’s historic downtown area is easily accessible by foot. I took an immediate liking to its old buildings and layout– every couple of blocks featured a park lined with ancient oak trees and monuments to the cities more prominent historical figures. Pubs and restaurants rest along the river front, and while the area is geared towards tourists, it manages to maintain a certain level of dignity that most touristy areas usually abandon in favor of nicknacky stores and national chains. The city is famous for its huge Saint Patrick’s Day celebration, and I thought the cobblestone streets and steep staircases that lead to the waterfront, while charming, had surely been the undoing of more than a few drunken revelers. Then again, such formidable obstacles were obviously a device implemented to weed out the true Irish from the want-to-be St. Patty’s Day celebrators, so I was ok with the challenge that such antiquated features presented.
We settled on Moon River (a local brewery) as our luncheon spot of choice, and happily sampled some of its delicious wares. After a full plate of mussels, we ordered a beer to go (you can legally walk the downtown area with a disposable cup filled with the beer or liquor of your choice… yet another reason to love Savannah) and spent the next hour walking around the city. A 30 minute downpour chased us into another local bar. After the rain had passed, we decided to head back to the hotel to relax for a few hours. No longer able to resist the calling of a nearby Irish Pub, we opted for a dinner of Shepherds Pie and Guinness, and after eating our fill we called it an early night.
The morning sun burned off the last remaining remnants of the previous nights misty thumbprint, and for a few minutes it felt as if I was looking out over London rather than an American city. The fog quickly lifted, and we set off for the short drive to Charleston.
The last time I had visited Charleston, South Carolina I was probably 15 or 16 years old. The city looked just as I had remembered– like a less humid version of New Orleans minus the signature wrought iron balconies that adorn the narrow streets of the French Quarter. We walked along the market, bustling with out of town visitors milling over sweetgrass baskets and handmade jewelry, each in search of the perfect relic to remind them of their visit to this picturesque southern destination. We were playing a private party later that night on Isle of Palms, and after idling away the hours, we set off on the 20 minute drive to Wild Dunes, the resort where our show would take place.
The resort itself was sleepy. In the summer, the beaches would be teeming with sunbathers and swimmers, but the chilly coastal winds of December had left the sands all but deserted. I spent a quiet half hour picking up shells and enjoying the salty taste of the breeze coming off of the Atlantic.
Dressed to impress our high-toned guests, we settled into the now familiar routine of trading songs as the sun disappeared to the west, leaving streaks of pink and Carolina blue to slowly fade into darkness. After the show, we packed up our gear and drove an hour and a half north to Myrtle Beach for the night.
My cousin lives a few minutes away from Myrtle Beach, so we met her for breakfast the next morning. The temperature had slipped downward overnight, and I could see my breath as we headed to a diner to meet her. I am definitely a fan of warm weather, but there is something unmistakably right about a chilly morning this time of year. It does for the soul what a strong cup of coffee does for the body. We spent the next hour catching up on family news, said our goodbyes and headed north towards Raleigh.
As we jumped onto I-95, I realized that we would be passing by South Of The Border, a remarkable monument of kitsch (a theme park of a rest stop, really) that advertises its location with tacky billboards up and down the interstate at a range of 200 miles in either direction. I described the place to Austin, and when he told me that he had never even heard of it, let alone stopped there, I told him that I would be more than happy to accompany him on his first visit to this haven of distinctly off-color tourism. The place was nearly vacant, so we took the opportunity to break out Austin’s Flip Video camera and film our experience.
For the sake of posterity, I present to you our video tour of South Of The Border: