Southern Travels: Final Notes From The Road

I Only Want A Pic Of You - This Columbia, SC public art piece
pays tribute to hometown favorites Hootie and the Blowfish
At 2,000 miles on the road traveled on this vacation, you can imagine not everything makes it into a focused blog post. However, that doesn't mean that those particular places aren't worth a mention, so count this as our wrap up post of the other interesting places we encountered

Charleston Choosing (Part 4): Give Peace a Chance, and Sitting by the Dock of the Bay

The Charleston storefront of Columbus's very own Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
Not surprisingly, coast-hugging Charleston is considered a hot bed of seafood, with numerous restaurants sporting all manner of sea creature creations on their menu. With its seasonally warm temperatures (the city averages 60 degree high temperatures in every month except January), Charleston has its fair share of frozen confection shops, from familiar chains (Ben & Jerry's, Haagen Dazs, and Kilwins), new arrivals (Jeni's, a brand very familiar Central Ohioans and growing in prominence nationwide), and local shops their own versions of ice cream, gelato, custard, and even the currently very trendy rolled ice cream variation.

On our Charleston trip, we got to dive into both, with some very tasty results indeed.

Charleston Choosing (Part 3): An Angel at Low Tide, and That's How It Gose

George C. Brilant & Company, one of the higher end antique stores you'll
find dotting the lower reaches of King Street in downtown Charleston
In a way, one of our brewery destinations in South Carolina was determined four years prior during a stop in the more northern reaches of the state in Greenville. Popping by the quite well stocked Greenville Beer Exchange for some suggestion of local South Carolina brews to bring back with us, the clerk introduced us to our first Gose beer.

We knew from the first sampling that this wasn't going to be everyone's bag, including this Thrillist author who declared that craft beer was officially dead with his first samplings of this style which originated in Goslar, Germany in the middle of the 19th century. However, this crisp, lemony and salty brew sat right with our taste buds, and we brought home two six-packs for consumption.

Our second brewery destination was a happy accident, a chance spotting on the way to see one of the oldest and, as it turned out, most entrancing living things residing in the eastern part of the country.

Charleston Choosing (Part 2): Grits Are Good For You, and The Slice you Needa'

Walking on top the High Battery, the seawall and promenade which
was originally part of the town's coastal battery defenses
The fact that Charleston's culinary scene has risen on a national level cannot be denied, though if you take as de facto what this USA Today article states, this attention might be a bit much for the locals, as it has perhaps unsurprisingly brought in increased car traffic, raised rental rates, and created staffing shortages in the hospitality industry.

Even with these issues, I am certain the attention given to the local food scene by these national luminaries is deep down a point of pride for the residents of this city of just under 135,000 people, and we were obviously not about to deny ourselves our first sampling of this diverse food scene.

Charleston Choosing: Fort Nights and a Mart of Ill-Repute

Just a few of the houses that form Rainbow Row in Charleston, SC
"First light
just roll your window down
And smell the salty air
perfume of Charleston Town
I'm a stranger here, no one you would know
My ship has not come in but I keep hoping though
And I keep looking past, the sun that sets above
Saying to myself, goodnight America"
Mary Chapin Carpenter - "Goodnight America"

Just as my spouse and I passed the picturesque houses "Rainbow Row" in Charleston (the state's oldest city, being founded in 1670) I spied a sign outside what looked to be the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon with the bold claim that the structure was the most historic building in this harbor town.

We did not stop by the dungeon on this trip, so I have no way to verify whether or not this statement is remotely true. But there's plenty of history to be had in Charleston, and we decided to get a dose of the familiar and the not-quite-as-familiar, as well as a serious delving into at the grim reality which was largely responsible for the pretty exterior facade that typifies the downtown area.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Year 5): Be Aware of Greeks Bearing Sweets

Opened in 1851, the downtown Savannah located Marshall House served as one
of the city's destination hotels until its closure in 1957. An extensive restoration
in 1999 brought the building back to its glory and original purpose as a hotel.
Columbus Ohio area residents know full well what kind of sweet treats Greeks can create. Emigrating from Greece, the Barouxis family started Jolly Roger Donuts in 1969. Now known as Buckeye Donuts, current owner Jimmy Jr. and his staff conjure up breakfast sandwiches, gyros, and those trademark decadent dough rings for the public 24/7, and their gala 50th anniversary really isn't too far away now.

Columbus residents traveling down to Savannah should be aware of another Greek-owned institution selling delicious sweet treats.  In this case, this local gem, Leopold's Ice Cream, is less than one year removed from celebrating a century's worth of providing tasty frozen confections for local residents and visitors alike.

Headed Down Savannah Way

Girl Scouts all around the country make a pilgrimage to Savannah's Drayton Street,
which was home to the organization's first headquarters building
"To wake next to you in the morning
And good morning to you
How do you do?
Hey, good morning to you!
More covers for you
Sleep soundly dear, 'cause I have to go

And I'll love you always
When we leave this place
And drive back to Carolina
And down to Savannah and
Band of Horses - "Part One"

Two things struck us on our trip into Savannah, which holds the status as the state of Georgia's oldest city. Firstly, the city is highly geared towards the tourist, perhaps more so than most. The placards at the Visitors Information Center advertise numerous tours based on a variety of subjects (architecture, cemeteries and ghosts, and movies, to name a few) and all manner of transportation (trolleys, boats, Segway scooters, horse-drawn carriages, and good old foot power) at the ready.

Something Followed, Something New: Burial Beer (Asheville, NC)/Fonta Flora (Morganton, NC)

Stray Local, an Americana/Folk group based out of Wilmington, NC,
provided some toe-tapping music at Morganton's Fonta Flora Brewery
One thing that drew us to Asheville in the first place was their status as a craft beer mecca. Our first two visits, within one year of each other, introduced us to a nice swath of the area's craft brewers, including a very early visit to Wicked Weed Brewing, Green Man Brewing, Asheville Brewing, and the Brevard-located production facility of Colorado-based Oskar Blues.

You can expect a lot of changes with a four-year gap between the second and third visits, and sure enough, that turned out to be the case. Out of the big names, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada (as much as we tried, we couldn't make a companion trip to their Mills River location to pair up with our Chico trip a reality) have joined Oskar Blues as national breweries setting up shop in the area. Wicked Weed has also joined the big boys with their purchase by AB InBev in their so-called "High End" division, a move which shocked many in the craft beer world. And there are plenty of new breweries that have joined old guard members like Wedge, Highland, and French Broad.

With our time limited, we decided to drop by a brewery that impressed us greatly on our last visit and one brewery on the outskirts of town that has been impressing with their brews made from numerous locally-produced ingredients.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Year 5): Rising Up to the Challenge of Your Rival

Asheville's iconic Flat Iron sculpture, which was modeled by local artist
Reed Todd after the irons used at the historic Asheville Laundry.
"Love is a burning thing 
And it makes a fiery ring 
Bound by wild desire 
I fell into a ring of fire.
I fell into a burning ring of fire,
I went down, down, down and the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns,
The ring of fire, the ring of fire."
Johnny Cash - "Ring of Fire"

We freely acknowledge as a couple that our appetite for hot, spicy food skews our perceptions a bit.  With that said not even the most veteran, heat-tolerant spice seeker (we don't count ourselves in this select category) can't avoid being sent into facial contortions given enough capsaicin in their consumables. 

Add in a little lack of consistent, practical experience of late with the hot and spicy, and perhaps our recent experience with one of Asheville's hottest food purveyors was to be expected.  Thankfully, the outing, with an eatery appropriately starting with the name of Rocky only put us partially down for the count, and a little after dinner ice cream treat soothed our somewhat seared pride.

Saying Hello To An Old Friend: Return to Asheville

Mural of actress/comedienne/Asheville native Shirley Hemphill,
as painted by local artist Gus Cutty
"And we're supping on tears
and we're supping on wine 
We all get to heaven in our own sweet time 
So come all you Asheville boys
And turn up your old-time noise 
And kick 'til the dust comes up
From the cracks in the floor"
Gillian Welch - "Hard Times"

Our yearly road trip adventures this year found us in one of our favorite destinations in Asheville, NC. The time gap between our two visits (roughly four years) plus the scope of our trip (unlike other visits, this craft beer mecca would share the spotlight with other destinations) made blending old favorites and new explorations a little trickier.

When all was tallied in the end, we sneaked in a lot more than we figured we would in our less than 48 hours in this town of nearly 90,000 people, and ended with plenty of worthwhile things to write about.