Tourists in our own backyard


It was a beautiful October morning and we were going for a walk.

That’s what we call it when we want to go somewhere but don’t have a particular place in mind.

The “us” being my sister-in-law Lib and me.

From time to time my brother Martin comes to be our driver, although he can be a little sensitive to the idea of ​​having drivers in the back.

Today our friend Annie Mitchell and my darling niece Beth would be with us. Martin was staying at home.

Lib was at my house on point 10. Beth was already in the car, and we were going to pick up Annie, who lives on Goethe Road, on the way out. By the way, it’s pronounced “Go Tee”.

Sometimes we have a plan, most of the time we don’t. We go everywhere.

We went to Foote Point Plantation, where Annie was born and raised, and Mitchelville Freedom Park on Hilton Head, where we got completely lost driving around Fish Haul. “Lib, haven’t we been through this house?” I remember saying more than once.

We toured Beaufort, La Pointe with its wonderful oak trees and houses reeking of Creole skirts and mint juleps, remembering Conroy and “The Big Chill” and the trials of Forrest Gump. We strolled across the bridge to the Islands, Lady’s Island, Lost Island, St Helena Island, past Brick Church and Penn Center, which share the heritage of Gullah Geechee culture and the Martin Luther era King, Jr.

There are the tabby ruins of the Parish Chapel of St. Helena dating from 1740, and in Land’s End is Fort Fremont built during the Spanish-American War in 1899.

The road passes hundreds of acres of tomato fields now owned by companies, fields that reminded me of Annie Mulligan, a regular tomato farmer who fought for the post office in Sainte -Hélène keeps the name Frogmore.

Leaving Bluffton and heading east, we drove to Tybee Island in search of quirky beach cottages, had lunch at the Sundae Café, where a team from hip hop group Naughty by Nature sat next to us and I wondered if they knew Eminem, but was too intimidated to ask.

There was the Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah to investigate, the Confederate dead from the Battle of Gettysburg, the grave of James Pierpont, writer of “Jingle Bells” and the burial place of Juliet Gordon Low.

No one should miss the Old Sheldon Church near Yemassee, where Colonel William Bull is buried with his family.

We once took a stretch of SC Highway 462 and hiked all the back roads to see where it was going. An open door was seen as an invitation to visit, and we met lovely strangers and renewed some old friendships.

It doesn’t take long to become an expert not only to turn around locked gates and dead ends, but also to stay out of ditches.

Did I mention the smile to the security cameras?

Unlike the New Yorker who has never been to the top of the Empire State Building or taken the ferry to Ellis Island, we are tourists in our own backyards.

When we wander, we are only at the mercy of our gas tank capacity and our desire to “go and see”.

Most of the time it’s like the other morning after Annie got in the car and we were in her driveway and Lib said, “OK, do I have to turn left or right? ”

The left was good, we decided, and Lib turned west into the great unknown.

Horace Greeley would have been delighted.

“What about Ridgeland?” I said, and we set off, past Oldfield and over the canal that brings our water from the Savannah River, past Strawberry Hill and the Malphrus kiwifruit farm, past the burial place of Thomas Heyward, signatory of the Declaration of independence, and turned left at Cooler’s Corner.

We took a detour to Honey Hill, where the Third Battle of Sherman’s March to Sea took place on November 30, 1864, six months before they burned Bluffton.

There is a zigzag in the road just before Grahamville where the Holy Trinity Anglican Church stands proudly after centuries of use, and a few minutes later we were ready to turn onto Sycamore Street for lunch at the RV Center.

They had the best meat and three in town. Not. New owners. All smooth and glitzy now. I still sell boats and motorhomes, but no restaurant.

Time to head to the Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage and regroup.

Right in the heart of Ridgeland, the center is based in an old gas station that has grown steadily, adding multi-purpose rooms for their art exhibitions, conferences, receptions and meetings, with ample parking at the back.

Talented and knowledgeable Exhibitions and Program Director Kayleigh Vaughn, a veritable fireball who is always a pleasure to visit, was on leave, but Tamara Herring, the museum’s executive director, was there and very graciously showed us through the latest exhibitions.

Back in the car, Lib recalls: “In 1930, when they were 21, my mom and dad ran away and got married here on New Years Day. My grandma was so angry.

I laughed and said, “That’s what Ridgeland was known for. You can drive from Georgia any time of the day or night, find a justice of the peace, and get married without any paperwork. When George William and I planned our wedding, Papa Harrell said he would give us $ 50 if we went to Ridgeland and was done. ”

Now it was past time for lunch, but unfortunately all of our favorite restaurants were closed.

The Waffle House wowed Wendy’s and Burger King.

It’s time to meet Miss Chatter.

Masked, we sat in a booth closed by glass walls and handed our order to a waiter like no other.

“They call me Miss Chatter,” she said, “because in the church choir I was talking all the time and I still do. I was an ordinary chatterbox, ”she told us. “I love to sing, I love jazz,” she said.

“Can you make a little Etta James?” I asked, “maybe a few ‘At Last’ bars?”

“Of course,” she said. “Just let me order first.” ”

And she did. I went to the jukebox, put some music in the background, came back to our booth and serenaded us.

It wasn’t James, but then who cared. It was good.

I haven’t had a waffle in forever and mine was a delight. Just like coffee, the pot of fresh decaffeinated.

Gourmet lunch at the Ridgeland with entertainment by Miss Chatter.

It couldn’t be better than this.

So where are we going next time?

Annelore Harrell lives in Bluffton and can be contacted at [email protected]


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