Friday, October 18, 2013

Whirlwind tour

What is it that's so alluring about horse-and-carriage rides?

Is it the throwback to a bygone era? The romance? The aroma? (It's

Kim and I just got back from an extended four-day weekend where we toured the length of the South Carolina coast, starting in Beaufort and ending in Cherry Grove, covering about 700 miles in perhaps 96 hours. As hectic as that sounds, it was actually quite refreshing.

At any rate, the primary focus of the tour was our 18 hours or so in Beaufort. This was perhaps the sixth trip to this quaint little town for Kim and me. We occasionally make this pilgrimage primarily for the horse-drawn carriage ghost tour, held every October through the town's historic district.

And it's not just any ghost tour. The evening ride takes about 45 minutes and makes various stops along the way, where actors dressed as pirates, belles, beaus, trolls, spirits or Civil War soldiers dramatically tell their tales. Sometimes they'll leap out unexpectedly from behind bushes or trees or bridge culverts, with just enough actor's flourish to scare the bejeezus out of you. (See here for a brief slideshow from last year's event).

The whole thing is embedded in the backdrop of wonderful 200-year-old houses framed by stately old trees ladened with Spanish moss. On this particular night, our spooky little tour was lit by a half-moon hanging high in the clear night sky.

It's really quite well done. This year, we took another couple — Jay and Melissa — with us to enjoy the experience. I think they did.

 The best thing is that all proceeds benefit the Child Abuse Prevention Association of Beaufort.

A view of the cramped crew space (and propeller hand crank) of the Hunley.
 The next day, we were off to North Charleston to take a gander at the H.L. Hunley, a Con- federate Civil War submarine raised from the bottom of Charleston harbor in 2000. The Hunley is currently available for weekend viewing (preserved, as it is, in a fresh-water tank) by an oragnization called the Friends of the Hunley, a volunteer organization.

The Hunley was the first submarine in naval military history to attack and sink a foe, in this case the U.S.S. Housatonic in February 1864. However, the Hunley and its eight-man crew were also lost in the attack.

Even if you have little interest in the Civil War, this is a nice little stop. Because it's considered to be a working laboratory, it's unusual, if nothing else.

As we made our way to Cherry Grove, we took a lunch stop in Georgetown. Jay and Melissa had never been. As we tried to find a place to park, we were astounded by the debris on a block of Front Street. It turns out that eight businesses were destroyed by a fire that swept through the common attic shared by the buildings involved. (See here).

This happened maybe three weeks ago. It's a nod to Georgetown's civic pride and sensibility that reconstruction, true to historic guidelines, is already underway.

It was a heckuva trip.

Now I need a vacation.

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