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|Cruisin' to Charleston, South Carolina|
|Written by Debi Lander|
|Monday, 13 April 2009 09:55|
Spring break to college students means the beach or snow skiing. But, for high school juniors (and their parents) spring break becomes college visitation time. Such was the case as my husband, our daughter, and I drove off in the Bimmer for Charleston, South Carolina.
We left hometown Jacksonville, Florida cruising straight up Route 95. My requirement--the radio stays tuned to my station. Therefore, Laura festoons herself with earbuds attached to her iPod.
The pavement narrows to a two-lane road, directly through what is called the lowcountry. I feel like we are air-boating in the Okefenokee Swamp. The view is pristine: amber colored marsh grass ebbing into cypress swamps.
I am intrigued by a bill board emblazoned "Lowcountry/Nocountry: Global Warming Means Rising Seas and Less South Carolina. Truly this road would be completely underwater if the ocean rose even a foot.
GPS directs us to the Mills House Hotel, our four hour jaunt complete. We order lunch from a menu offering southern specialties: Shrimp and Grits, She-crab soup, Okra gumbo and Hoppin' John. Laura chooses a burger.
We must scurry down brick sidewalks to the College of Charleston in time for an orientation. Somehow this school of 10,000 snuggles into the historic downtown, retaining a small college feel.
The campus tour elicits comments such as, "the dorm rooms are too small; what? No cars for freshmen; this school is too small, too rural, etc." Fairy godmother wand needed for testy teen.
Laura prefers shopping on King Street, everything from high end Gucci to local boutiques and the Gap.
Next day, we're up early for morning meetings, then venture down to the water's edge to visit Fort Sumter. However, we literally miss the boat and have to settle for reading the information in the National Park Visitor Center. "Huh, no introductory movie," asks you know who?
Frustrated, I decide to take a break and explore a plantation and swamp garden. Neither husband nor daughter wants to join me, which is fine. I drive about 20-30 minutes out of Charleston to Ashley River Road, stopping at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
I whiz through the 30-minute house tour and stroll down to the landing amidst flowering azalea's and lilac blooms. Live oaks hang heavy with Spanish moss, dipping into the river and creating a genteel feel of the Old South.
Afterward, I move my car to the 60- acre Audubon Swamp Garden. A wooden boardwalk muffles my footsteps as I traverse over green-slime topped water. Later, I learn this floating botanic is duck weed.
To my surprise, I come upon a sign that reads, "Cell Phone Tour: Dial 843 303-9665." Now I've taken many audio tours, but never one via my cell phone. And...of all places, in an eerie swamp? I dial up.
A woman with a distinct southern dr--awlll welcomes me and begins speaking about the wildlife. I must admit the experience is much like listening to an in-person guide, but frankly, a little too woo-woo for the marsh. Wouldn't a few signs provide the same information? Wasn't this encouraging phone interruptions and obnoxious ringtones?
Fortunately, no distracting telephones annoy me, in fact, I am seduced by the calmness and tranquility of bird calls. Back and forth I hear twitters and tweets- the real kind from the ornithological species. I hear frogs croaking and crickets; but Mother Nature holds her breath, not a ripple on the water or rustle of leaves.
I hurry along, passing an alligator sunning himself on a man-made ramp in the blackwater. He wears a pea green duckweed coat resembling a monster from the deep. "The Swamp Thing," starring Louis Jourdan and Adrienne Barbeau was filmed here.
I prefer, however, to think of John J. Audubon, who came here to paint. Across the way, Snowy Egrets nest in gum trees and tangled vines. This spot attracts photographers and I happen to catch a few decent shots myself.
As daylight fades, I meander back, but allow myself time to stop and smell a few camellias, enjoy the water lilies and let my imagination run. I was happy I surrendered to the swamp and it revived my spirit, freed my frustrations and let me return to teen tensions in a better mood.
Next morning we were off to Columbia and the University of South Carolina. We arrive in two hours and a cold misty rain. Laura looks around as we hasten through the campus to the admissions office.
"This place is huge, I don't like it here," she claims and I have to agree. With that, we pile back into the BMW and drive five hours home. Another day; another college, and enough spring break fun for me.