During a phone call with Mom, I found myself agreeing with her suggestion that a drive to Brooklyn would be a good thing.
Prior to that, I had been trying to get my sister in Staten Island to FedEx me a beautiful mid-century modern coffee table that had been in our family since our uncle bought it in the late 1940s; now it languished in Gina’s basement, waiting for my slumbering sensibilities to awaken and decide that I NEEDED that table in my OWN house, displayed proudly and prominently.
“You can pick up that table if you drive,” Mom said. “And I have a painting by your father that you like, and then there’s that mirror-framed flamingo print that your grandmother had that you wanted…”
Soon I was haunting the people at AAA for maps and Travel Guides and Trip Tiks. I mean, I knew how to get up to Brooklyn (go to I-95 and make a left), but I wanted to know if there were any road hazards and perennial snarls to avoid. They printed me out a massive Trip Tik in booklet form that I could refer to while driving, thereby precluding any mishaps like jumps off clips, crashes through median barriers, or unplanned detours through abandoned car washes.
After a full-point inspection at the auto shop, I got myself a new car CD player / radio, because I was unwilling to drive 1100 miles without being serenaded by Enya, Sarah Brightman, the Crystals, Darlene Love, Tracey Ullmann, and the soundtrack to Blue Velvet. Would you be?
People’s eyes grew wide when I told them I was driving solo, but those that know me better were unsurprised: I am still the little boy who gets on his bicycle and disappears into distant neighborhoods and down unfamiliar alleyways. I see things that way, and I smell things; my brain is constantly taking indelible snapshots of what I see, and having an actual camera along is like relying on a backup device.
And so I was ready: books, CDs, maps, clothes, cosmetics were loaded neatly into the Ford and I was off. I left on a quiet Sunday morning and headed along I-4 to I-95 as planned, thinking that I had been this way many times in order to get to the beach, but now I was going beyond. My goal was Dillon, South Carolina, where I’d hoped to overnight. I’d driven as far north as the Altamaha River in Georgia before, so this would be all new to me. I loved the idea of crossing state lines and seeing how the surface of the road changed!
Well, I-95 through Florida is great; it’s even been improved in most of Georgia, though the highway features THE shortest exit roads you ever saw, by the way. And Georgia was short; I was tempted to detour to Savannah, but I wanted to hit Dillon by suppertime, so on I continued.
I-95, after a tiny bump at the state line, sort of becomes rudimentary in South Carolina. It’s like they said “oh yeah, we need to build the interstate through here, don’t we?” It’s two lanes in both directions, and north and south are divided most of the way by forest. Thick green, encroaching forests. There’s not much to see in South Carolina along the interstate, and you feel like you’re driving through the Guatemalan jungle. Interesting! And a bit unsettling.
Billboard for The Old House Cafe: COUNTRY COOKIN’ MAKES YOU GOOD LOOKIN’
Dillon, as everyone knows, is where you find the infamous South of the Border resort complex, where I stayed with an aunt and uncle in 1970. It’s basically an amusement park with motel rooms, and you have to do it once– we did it twice, back and forth– and so I didn’t need to do it again. Instead, I stayed at a very quiet little Hampton Inn in Dillon, close to a Huddle House restaurant. And, after all that driving– nine hours– I jumped into the car again to do some exploring.
After touring downtown Dillon on that bright Sunday evening, I drove west until I arrived in tiny, sleepy Little Rock, where I came across St. Paul Methodist church… right next to a corn field:
Church architecture fascinates me. Often, churches are the most significant buildings in a lot of small towns, and out comes the camera. Sometimes doors are open and I go inside, but that’s rare.
Nighttime in South Carolina: sultry, humid, and VERY dark. It conjures up all sorts of associations from reading Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor, but I fell into a deep sleep and didn’t even dream.
Next installment: Northward to Delaware!