The drive to Charleston turned out to be relatively easy, almost all of it on the interstate as we crossed back over Roanoke Island and traveled west on Highway 64 until it intersected with I-95, taking it south to below Columbia in South Carolina, where you pick up I-26 to head due east to James Island, just outside of Charleston.
It’s a nearly eight-hour drive though and it was later afternoon by the time we arrived at James Island County Park, a large nicely appointed park that includes a campground, two types of water parks, rental cabins and a plethora of summer activities. We set up camp at our site, which came with water and electricity making it easy to take care of charging devices, much like we’d found at the campground in Austin.
We decided not to cook that night and took off for Folly Beach, about seven miles away, to have dinner at Taco Boy, yet another recommended spot by Carolyn. It’s just a half block from the beach and even this early in the season, parking was difficult to find; after a few circles of a couple of blocks though we snagged a spot within easy walking distance. The wait to sit down wasn’t too long, not even enough to order a round of drinks, which we took care of once seated, getting a house margarita apiece (on the rocks with Sauza Giro Silver tequila, Triple Sec & a house-made sweet & sour mix).
To eat we split a Carnitas combo plate and one grilled fish taco. The margaritas were refreshing and went down easy, reasonably priced at just $6 per drink. Our food arrived not long after and we made short work of it, the Carnitas moist and flavorful with a hint of cinnamon, the fish fresh enough to want more. We paid the tab, a shade under $43 (I had a beer as well) including the tip and went outside to walk around the area a bit, take in the water front and check out some of the shops. The place has a funky vibe I like, reminding me of Venice Beach, our old stomping ground, not as gentrified as some parts of the Outer Banks are.
Up fairly early the next day we got on the bikes for a ride before the heat set in; around the park and then a quick round trip down to Folly Beach. It was an easy effort, flat all the way without much wind and once we arrived at the beach, we stopped at a combination ice cream and sandwich shop to split an iced coffee, washing down a Cliff Bar with it we’d brought along.
Taking advantage of the nice facilities at camp, we showered, changed into clean clothes and based on the recommendation of the camp office, drove a couple of miles to the recently opened McLeod Plantation. Occupied by the McLeod family until 1990, it has been owned off and on by the Historic Charleston Foundation until 2011 when it was sold to the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission. Now restored it opened to the public on April 25, 2015, just a few months before our visit.
Our first visit to a plantation, this was a good one to start with, its focus on that period after the war when plantation owners and former slaves had to adjust a changing social order and new economic model. We’d arrived just in time for a guided tour that proved to be informative and well worth the $10 per person admission fee. First stop was the cotton gin house where the primary crop of the plantation, Sea Island cotton, was processed; then on to the cookhouse, the row of slave cabins (some occupied by rent paying tenants up to the late 1940’s) and then the main house.
At the completion of the tour we walked down to and across Country Club Drive (it bisects the property) to check out the cemetery and Wappoo Creek, once used to transport crops and cotton to the Charleston’s port. We couldn’t locate the cemetery, long hidden by dense foliage but did enjoy a few peaceful moments standing riverside, watching a drawbridge raise and lower.
Done with sightseeing for the day we drove back to camp, stopping at a Publix market on the way to pick up supplies for dinner; packaged salad, a can of tuna, some dressing and a fresh baguette. With a threat of impending rain and weak Wi-Fi throughout camp, we decided to make a run out towards Folly Beach to check a couple of places we’d passed by on our bike ride, Bohemian Bull and the Barrel. We’d actually taken a quick look inside the first of the two while riding; they had a nice looking pub menu and decent selection of beer. Some searching on the web though had convinced me that the Barrel might be the better place as it was just about the beer.
As we parked in the gravel lot adjacent to the building the rain started coming down and we were glad we’d made the decision to do some exploring. The entrance is constructed of large barrels; solid and heavy but relatively easy to open. We walked in and sat at the bar, ordered a couple of beers and began a conversation with the bartender, who turned out to be the manager as well, that would last the entire evening. It turns out that one of the more interesting things about the fellow is that he makes and plays the Didgeridoo, the wind instrument developed by indigenous Australians fifteen centuries ago.
He had one behind the bar and gave us a brief demonstration, explaining that studies have shown that learning and practicing the didgeridoo can help reduce snoring and obstructive sleep apnea by strengthening muscles in the upper airway, thus reducing their tendency to collapse during sleep. As I worked away on the laptop, some more folks dropped in, the rain let up a bit, and we had another round of beers, thoroughly enjoying this random encounter that seems to happen to us when we travel.
We could have stayed much longer but knowing we had a full day of sightseeing ahead of us the next morning, and not wanting to risk the drive back to camp while intoxicated, we departed knowing that we’ll return to James Island some day in the not to distant future and the Barrel will on the list of places to warrant a visit.
James Island County Park: https://www.ccprc.com/68/James-Island-County-Park
Taco Boy: http://tacoboy.net/
McLeod Plantation: http://www.ccprc.com/1447/McLeod-Plantation-Historic-Site
Bohemian Bull: http://www.bohemianbull.com/
The Barrel: http://thebarrelcharleston.com/
Didgeridoo Health Benefits: Puhan MA, Suarez A, Lo Cascio C et al. (2005). “Didgeridoo playing as alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnea syndrome: randomised controlled trial”. BMJ 332 (7536): 266–70.doi:10.1136/bmj.38705.470590.55. PMC 1360393. PMID 16377643.