Monday, January 11, 2016
Last October we had an opportunity to balance the scales with a five-day visit to Peaceful Quest Retreats in Gerton, North Carolina. That’s a small town in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains, seventeen miles or so southeast of Asheville. It’s a beautiful spot. I couldn’t find a website for Gerton, but here’s a link to Henderson County’s site. It’s full of useful information about the surrounding area. Have a look.
Here are some photos I took at Peaceful Quest. Just click this link. It’s a great place to stay when visiting the North Carolina mountains. And surprisingly inexpensive.
Driving up from Columbia, the scenery becomes – well, spectacular – after turning left onto Route Alt-74 West. North Carolina certainly has some beautiful mountains in the Western part of the State.
A word of caution. Don’t try to make up time on Alt-74 West. That 35 MPH speed limit may be frustrating after zipping along Interstates 77 and 26. But the local authorities know what they’re talking about. Sharp curves and switch-backs are more the rule than unusual.
A local resident said, “There’s only one traffic rule here. NEVER cross the double-yellow line.” Well, duh! Seems obvious. But it’s hard to do if you’re traveling much over 35 MPH. And on some of the more dramatic curves, even slower.
Not long before arriving at Peaceful Quest on Alt-74 keep an eye out for the Bear Wallow Baptist Church. It’s on the right. The name alone assures visitor interest. But this is a real church, beautifully maintained with pleasant surrounding grounds. Click here for a few photos of the church and grounds.
Oh, and since Peaceful Quest doesn’t have a dining room, be sure to drive down the mountain – across the Continental Divide! – for a visit to The “Hot Dog King” in Fairview. What a place! Only a few tables inside, but they do a booming business. Much of it local folks who know where to go for good food. Click here for a few photos taken inside the restaurant.
So there you have it. A great North Carolina adventure. No “regionist” bias here.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
Next time you’re driving on Interstate I-77 between Columbia and Charlotte, take an hour or so (at least) to turn off onto South Carolina Highway 97 toward Chester. In just a few miles you’ll see the sign below on the right-hand side of the road.
I’d noticed it at least a dozen times on trips to Chester State Park before looking up a reference. “Catholic Presbyterian Church”? What in the world? One would hardly expect to find such rampant ecumenicism in Chester, South Carolina. I mean! But there it was. In brown and white, so to speak. “Catholic Presbyterian Church.”
A few months back curiosity won out and I made the indicated turn to have a look. Just a mile or so down the road, I found a no-nonsense brick church building, sign, and a couple of enormous trees shading a good portion of an unpaved parking area.
I took a few photos. The sanctuary was locked with nobody around. But this is an active congregation. A quick Google search of “Catholic Presbyterian Church” confirms that and explains the origin of the unusual name. Formed in May of 1759, the original congregation included members from various Protestant sects and denominations, primarily Presbyterian. Hence the “Catholic” designation.
In addition to the 1842 brick sanctuary building, the third erected by this remarkable Congregation, the site includes a well maintained cemetery. Expanded and still active.
Beyond its unusual name, Catholic Presbyterian may be best known for the large number of soldiers it provided during the Revolutionary War. Pictured above is the honor role listing their names and date of death. If you click the photo for a larger view you’ll be able to read each name and date. Some survived the War; many didn’t.
This is an active cemetery and not a tourist attraction. With that in mind, walk carefully through the rows of graves. Many of the inscriptions remain legible. A history lesson in stone.
A remarkable place, easy to find and to access, well worth a visit.
Monday, October 12, 2015
Just two years ago Mr. Norio Saito agreed to do a short interview for CarolinaConsidered about his remarkable sushi restaurant in Columbia, South Carolina. If you missed it, here’s a link:
A glance through the interview videos with Mr. Saito will show he’s hardly a publicity-seeker. Indeed, I had quite a time getting him to agree to appear on camera. Mr. Saito pours all of his energy and effort into preparing the very best traditional sushi dishes he can. Our extended family and friends have enjoyed the result for nearly 30 years.
You’ve probably heard about the flood that raged through downtown Columbia, South Carolina, last week. Well, the shopping center in which Sakura is located was smack dab in the middle of the very worst flooding. Fast-moving water clear to the eaves! This Facebook page has photos of the damage:
The good news is that Mr. Saito hopes to rebuild. A recent Sakura employee, Mr. Jamie Altman, has established a “GoFundMe” site to support the rebuilding effort:
Click on the link and you’ll be able to contribute. Great idea. Thanks, Mr. Altman. Good luck as you undertake recovery of this important Columbia cultural asset.
Friday, July 31, 2015
Musgrove Mill State Historic Site near Clinton, South Carolina, commemorates one of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War. It was here that American Patriot forces proved they could defeat their better equipped and disciplined foe. And just how it might be done.
Here’s a link to a series of articles I did on the site and battle around four years ago. Click here. Plenty of photos and text.
Last Saturday, July 25th, Musgrove Mill was a more peaceful place. Hosting a colonial market and craft fair. Now, late July in South Carolina can be uncomfortably hot. The 25th was no exception. You can see fair exhibitors clustered in the shade of the site’s huge old trees, doing their best to avoid the sun. At least it didn’t rain, which would have been worse.
We arrived in the early afternoon, hoping to see an interpretation of life in South Carolina during the latter half of the eighteenth century and weren’t disappointed. All sorts of exhibits by some of the Carolina’s better known reenactors and artists specializing in the era.
Here Dennis Voelker of Dragonfly Traders demonstrates “Shut the Box,” a game popular during the Revolutionary War period. Click that photo for a closer view. The Voelkers handmade that and the other games here displayed. Remarkable work. Listening to Mr. Voelker’s explanation I accused him of being an academic. He denied the charge …. I still wonder …..
Ignoring the heat we moved along to the Early Family’s exhibit, where I failed to get a good photo, to the real reason we decided to attend the fair.
The remarkable work of potter Karmen James.
She runs KMJ Crafts and Pottery. What an artist. Be sure to click the photo above to get a better look at the work she displayed at the fair.
Ms. James works without a wheel. Much of her pottery is of the “pinch and coil” variety. The same technique used by early American Indian potters. Potters around the world, for that matter.
We were able to watch a few minutes of her “pinching and coiling” as you see in the photo above. Give the photo a click so you get a more detailed view. That pen-looking tube beside her board is a coil of clay she’d prepared.
In a weak moment Ms. James agreed to sit down for a CarolinaConsidered interview later in the year. She’s busy until then. Well … she’ll be busy then too, but I’ll try to pin her down. Should be a great one. Drop a note if you have suggestions for questions to ask her.
Mr. Robert Hall, the celebrated colonial reenactor, was set up down near the Historic Site office and museum building. Click on the link above to access his Facebook page. It’s well worth a visit. He described himself when I asked as just a “retired public defender,” or something like that. Well! Have a look at his background. He sure knows a lot about this period of American and South Carolina history. Must have been that good University of South Carolina undergraduate and law school education ….
By the time we finished at Mr. Hall’s exhibit we were ready for a good dose of air conditioning. So in the museum we went. Be sure to save time for a good long visit to this museum when you’re next at Musgrove Mill. They’ve done a lot in such a small space. Interpreter, Mr. Bobby James, will answer your questions and provide even more information about the battle and era if you ask.
Back outside we took another turn around the field and got to see some of the work of Greenwood, South Carolina artist, Mr. Eric Williams. Click on that photo for a better look at his display. Didn’t get a chance to chat. He was busy answering questions. I think, but am not sure, that Mr. Williams was the longtime head of the Ninety-Six Historic Site maintained by the National Park Service. If so, quite a background! His art reflects that sort of experience, anyway.
By this time we both were all sunned out, so to speak. Had to have big drinks of water and get back to the truck.
There’s even more to see on the other side of the river if you still have time. Better yet, come back for a second full day to walk the trails, see the battlefield proper, and enjoy the horseshoe falls you see above. Give that photo a click and cool off!
So there you have it. Musgrove Mill State Historic Site’s Colonial Craft Fair. I hope they make this an annual event. Maybe next year in the spring or fall when the weather will be a little more comfortable. But we’ll attend any time of year. Well worth the drive.
Sunday, May 31, 2015
We’ve all had the experience. A new restaurant opens nearby. We drop in for a meal. It’s Terrific! Nothing like it around. A welcome addition to the neighborhood. Great food; great service. Dining areas, parking lot, and even the restrooms all perfect. A new “great find.”
Months pass. Sometimes six. Sometimes as few as two. This “latest and greatest find” now isn’t quite what it used to be. Usually, the condition of the facility is the first to go. Not as neat and clean as it used to be. Then the service takes a hit. Finally, the once-legendary kitchen no longer produces those terrific dishes. Few survive.
Well, here’s one restaurant that’s only gotten better since the Allens, Carol, Kelly, and their dedicated crew, opened the doors in April 2008. Every month, it seems, brings a change. A new must-try dish on the menu; new blends of tea, perfectly brewed; a whole new look for the downstairs Café or upstairs Tea Room. That’s over seven years of improvement!
My wife and I have been enjoying lunch, tea, and even high tea, here since early 2009. We drive up from Columbia every chance we get, and we’ve yet to be disappointed.
After visiting for more than three years I mustered the courage to ask Carol Allen to sit for a CarolinaConsidered interview. She finally agreed. Click here for a listen and more photos. Carol explains the origins of the Tea Room and gives a few hints of her plans for its future.
Laura’s Tea Room has a new website. If you haven’t visited for a while go on over to www.LaurasTeaRoom.com for a look around. Julie Buffington has done a great job. Maybe I can persuade her to redo the CarolinaConsidered website one of these days.
Oh, and next time you visit the Tea Room be sure to add your e-mail to Carol’s list. Her posts are a great way to start your day. And, she provides up-to-the-minute news about Tea Room happenings. Including sales! There must be some way to sign up electronically, but I couldn’t find it.
So, there you have it. Finally, a restaurant that actually improves over time. In Ridgeway, South Carolina!
Walking back up Palmer Street to the truck during our last visit I snapped the photo above. That’s in front of Emma and Lillie’s Cottage Goods. One of Ridgeway’s newest businesses. What a place! You’ll have to stop.