Once a year or so, Ms. B. & I get together with our friends Terry & Beth and go somewhere for a long weekend of something akin to rest and rejuvenation. We've hit Asheville twice; we met in Savannah once a couple of years ago; and we just spent a couple of of sweltering but damn near jubilant days in Charleston, SC. And what do you mean, "Was there geocaching?" Ha-ha, you make funny.
Friday, ass-crack of dawn: Kimberly and I hit the road, bound first for Columbia, SC, where we stopped to hunt a few Civil War–themed caches along the Timmerman Trail, just south of the city. Based on a number of recent alligator sightings in the area, we wondered whether we might see some roaming about — the terrain here does scream "Gator!" — but no, we had to settle for caches instead. Afterward, we continued to the nearby Congaree National Park, where we joined up with Terry & Beth and had ourselves a kick-ass picnic.
Friday, in the ferocious midday heat: Our HQ in Charleston was an old — and very likely haunted — two-story rental house on a narrow lane within a mile of the French Quarter, convenient to just about all the amenities, loaded with character, and generally comfortable but for Terry & Beth's rather too-short bed. There was an intriguing little room beneath the stairwell — locked, of course — from which the faint sounds of movement and an occasional eerie groan would issue. The resident ghost, we rightly assumed, but sadly for us, as with the alligators, we never managed a meaningful tête-à-tête. As with most of the old houses in Charleston, there wasn't a right angle or horizontal surface to be found within or without, and the possibility of some Lovecraftian horror or another emerging from these caddywhompus physical planes lurked ever in our minds. Well, some of our minds, at least — those of us who recognize such uncanny things for the uncanny things they actually are.
It wasn't long before we commenced our obligatory research expedition, which led us to a couple of interesting wine bars and a little restaurant called Juliet, where we had some decent pizza and service so attentive it seemed almost bizarre, which we learned was likely due to a review in an influential local publication that gave the restaurant what-for over substandard service. I hope for them it's a good lesson learned, as we did enjoy ourselves there. For afters, we found ourselves a rooftop bar at a place called Stars, which clearly catered to a clientele of an age bracket that made us out as senior citizens, but we had a scenic view, and thus none of us complained. The sky was kind of pretty too.
|L) Our quarters on Rose Lane in Charleston; R) the ghostly presence under the stairs?
|Surely, the place where IT hides.
|View of the early evening sky from the rooftop at Stars
Then, while the rest of our expeditionary force checked out the local markets, I trekked a few blocks over to the Charleston Public Library, where I was able to snag a creative little geocache amid the stacks. It's a hide type I'm particularly fond of, and this was a textbook example of how to do it right (GC1Z9Y5). I rejoined the group, and off we went again, soon to find ourselves at what proved to be our happiest of happy places: another wine and tapas bar called O'Hara & Flynn, where we were treated to some superb wine and delicious vittles in a gorgeous setting. From the moment we entered, the proprietor struck me as a familiar-looking chap; eventually I determined he was a dead-ringer for my old, dead friend Harry. My stating of this fact sent Beth into a fit of hysterics. Why I cannot necessarily say, but as my late friend had a warped sense of humor, I am certain he would have approved.
One of our most intriguing discoveries was a place called 5Church, a large, ancient church that has been converted to a couple of fairly upscale restaurants and bars. On the ceiling of the "sanctuary," a significant amount of text of The Art of War has been partially transcribed. And in the next section of the church, we found an almost divine barbecue joint called Queology, where Terry and I satisfied our by-now irresistible cravings for smoked dead animal with a half-rack each of excellent baby back ribs.
|The ladies in front of the ornate bar at O'Hara & Flynn
|Cutting up in church
|A portion of the church's ceiling
|Blood on the pillow
And having walked many miles over the course of the day, in the heat of the furnaces of hell, we decided to Uber it back to our quarters, where there came a bit of new strangeness: when I went up to our bedroom and turned back the bed, I discovered a good-sized spot of fresh blood on my pillow. As near as we could tell, none of us were bleeding, so we found ourselves baffled. Now, at some point in our investigation of this phenomenon, Brugger noticed that I had a cut on my elbow and declared the mystery solved. Not even close, I would say, but when a prosaic answer presents itself, the conventional mind will latch onto it and stubbornly refuse to accept the less traditional yet more obvious alternative. Being that I had no recollection of getting cut at any time during our wanderings, I can with some confidence postulate that our ghostly presence, for its own nefarious purposes, drew some blood unbeknownst to me. This conclusion is, in fact, inevitable to the perceptive and focused mind of someone grounded in science and not given over to womanly imaginings.
Sunday, not-quite-the-ass-crack-of dawn: Another delicious if s-l-o-w breakfast at Sunrise Xpress, and then time to pack up, clean up, and head over to Magnolia Cemetery for some sightseeing and a virtual cache (H. L. Hunley, GC563E) of particular historical interest. In addition to the possibility of ghosts, we faced more potential encounters with gators but again, dammit, came up empty in that department. For hanging out with large, carnivorous reptiles of the marsh, this was not the trip. Instead, we found a serene, somber, picturesque setting with thousands of graves dating back to Civil War days; massive, Spanish moss–draped trees rising above worn gravestones and monuments; and acres of marshland teeming with herons, cranes, egrets, and other creatures of the wild. Truly one of the most impressive boneyards I've experienced, equal to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in New York and Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. It's the kind of graveyard that might take a little of the disappointment out of being buried.
|Obelisk-like mausoleum at Magnolia Cemetery
The moment of excitement came when Ms. B. began holler for help from some distance away. We thought perhaps she was being mauled by a gator, but as Terry and I sallied forth to investigate, we discovered she had blundered into a spiderweb, occupied by its colorful and quite sizable inhabitant — who, in the end, was almost certainly more put out than she was. Still, Ms. B. did give Terry and me a pretty good dressing-down for making insufficient haste in our rescue effort. My explanation that we were simply showing due respect to the deceased by not running through the cemetery fell upon at least marginally receptive ears, but I did indicate for future reference that if one is going to squall and thrash about as if one has caught fire, it's probably best not to do it in the resting place of the dead.
At last, it was time to depart, so we said our goodbyes to Terry & Beth — only to run into them again a hundred miles on, so we had a rather prolonged lunch at some Fatz restaurant along the interstate. And then... onward. A few more caches. And home.
Till the next outing with good friends.
|While alligators on this trip might have been scarce, our colorful, multi-legged friends were not.
|An interesting little sapling discovered in Magnolia Cemetery
|The Incredible Two-Headed Beth-Brugger rising from the grave
|Serenity in the shade