Saturday, November 30, 2013

A New Disc Golf Course at Chester State Park, South Carolina

The Course

Yes, I know. Yet another article about Chester State Park. Well, it can’t be helped. This remarkable State Park, only an hour’s drive from Columbia, SC, just opened the South Carolina State Park System’s first disc golf course. Click the photo above for a larger view of the picture of the course taken from the new brochure.

 Click here if your browser doesn’t play nicely with the video embedded above.

Last year Park Manager John Wells told me he planned to build this course. I was polite, but skeptical. The area he’d selected for the course was beautiful. Right next to the lake. But it was dense forest. Difficult to hike through, let alone play disc golf. Further, golf courses, disc or otherwise, require a lot of funding and person-hours to build. Both funds and personnel are quite limited at Chester State Park. They’ve got enough to do already, and little enough to do it with.

20131111_143239Well, it’s happened. Trees, brush, brambles, and vines have been cleared. Fairways have been smoothed; concrete pads installed at each tee. And most important, disc golf targets erected. True to the design of Innova’s champion course designer, Russell Schwarz.

If you don’t see the video, click here for the YouTube iteration.

Have a look at the video above if you’re new to disc golf. Park Manager Wells introduces the game.

Chester State Park  now actually has two courses. One a professional-level eighteen-hole course; the other a nine-hole beginner’s course. So aspiring players of any skill level or age can play comfortably.

If you don’t see the video, click here for the YouTube iteration.

Little in the way of equipment or clothing is required. Just pay the $2.00 Park entrance fee (cheaper for seniors!), rent three discs at the office for $5.00, and you’re in business. You can play all day! No tee times to worry about. No fancy equipment or clothing.

Again, if your browser has difficulty with the embedded video above, click here for direct access to the YouTube site.

In this final video Park Manager Wells describes the new course and its relationship to Chester State Park in more detail. This is some accomplishment. Congratulations John and Brandon.

You’ll find more information about disc golf at the website of the Professional Disc Golf Association here. And at the Innova Disc Golf corporate website here.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sakura: Genuine Sushi in Columbia, South Carolina

01 At His Post
Any U.S. resident readers longing for real sushi, the kind you ate while living in Japan, can visit Columbia, South Carolina for a plate or two of the real thing. Yes, that’s “Columbia, South Carolina”!
01 Sushi C Luncheon 
Our family found a few such restaurants when we lived in Washington, D.C. But the good ones were enormously expensive, and usually packed to the eaves with the expense account crowd. So, most of our sushi eating was done during frequent trips to Japan.

01 Sakura Kanji

When we moved to Columbia in 1986 we didn’t even think about finding a sushi restaurant. Who could imagine going to Columbia, South Carolina for real sushi? I mean!

02 Window Display

Well, we were wrong. Not long after our arrival, a USC colleague invited me to a newly opened Japanese restaurant he said was the real thing. He was right. Sakura served sushi every bit as good as that served by the best restaurants in Washington, D.C., or in Tokyo, for that matter. And at a fraction of the price. What a deal! Tokyo sushi at Columbia, South Carolina prices. Now, you can’t beat that with a stick.


Sakura is centrally located, right across from the Forest Acres shopping center, with its Starbucks, Fresh Market, Chipotle, and so on. But not so easy to find since it’s back behind the First Citizens Bank and Coplon’s. Here’s a short video that may help.

And here’s a link to the YouTube iteration if the embedded video above doesn’t display properly in your browser. Click here.

03 Maneki Neko

Once inside, you’ll find a relatively small and inviting restaurant. In fact, here’s a “maneki neko,” or beckoning cat, welcoming you from the counter.


Seating is either at the counter or at one of the dozen or so tables.

05 Awaiting Dinner

The quality of sushi at any Japanese restaurant depends on the skill and dedication of the master chef. Genuine sushi chefs, traditionally trained, are increasingly scarce even in Japan, let alone in the United States. So we’re fortunate here in Columbia to have Mr. Norio Saito. Here’s a short video that introduces him.

Again, click here if your browser doesn’t properly display the embedded video.

As he explains in the video, Mr. Saito has unusual training. He began making sushi at a “kaiten zushi” restaurant in the early 1980s. “Kaiten” here means literally “conveyor belt.” And that’s how sushi is served in such restaurants. Servings are prepared quickly, put on individual plates, and sent to customers along a constantly moving conveyor belt. Customers select what they want and pay according to the number of plates stacked beside them at the end of their meal. You can imagine the pressure to produce acceptable servings quickly.

04 Types of Sushi

After several years’ training at “kaiten zushi,” Mr. Saito moved to New York to study under a traditional master sushi chef for two years. There he learned to make what he calls “more serious” sushi before coming to Columbia in 1986.

The YouTube link if you need it.

The benefit of this intensive training and more than thirty years’ experience is what we get when we order sushi today at Sakura. It’s incredible!

During the interview I asked Mr. Saito how many kinds of fish he offers as sushi. He thought a moment, said it all depends on the season and freshness, and then replied that there are so many he couldn’t tell. Keep in mind, each kind of fish has its own selection criteria and preparation method. No wonder it takes so long to become a real sushi chef!

So there you have it. The Sakura Restaurant in Columbia, South Carolina. Open every day of the week but Sunday for lunch and dinner. You can’t do better than this without traveling to Japan!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Segway Tours at Huntington Beach State Park, SC


Last week at Huntington Beach State Park I saw a gaggle of senior citizens following a tour guide through our campground, about to go out onto the boardwalk leading to the beach.

Nothing surprising about that except they all were riding Segways. I mean! Most of the group appeared to be older than me. Some a good bit older. And all having fun.

I was in the Aliner writing and didn’t get any video. But the following day I saw the tour guide and Segway instructor waiting for a subsequent tour group to return. He was from Seattle, Washington, where Segways aren’t all that uncommon. A retired federal officer who knew how to teach, and how to make folks feel comfortable on those interesting machines. Here’s a short video.

If the embedded video doesn’t behave properly in your browser, click this link to view it directly on YouTube.

I’ve got to give a Segway a try at least once before it’s too late. Combining a tour of Huntington Beach State Park seems the ideal opportunity.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina

Flying Bird

Huntington Beach is one of South Carolina’s most popular State Parks. I don’t have the visitation figures at hand, but it has to be right up there near the top. And with good reason. Lots to do here.

I come to RV camp and write when I can get a site for five days. But that’s only the beginning. Punch “Huntington Beach” into the search window over at the right and you’ll find plenty of articles. Including an interview with Naturalist Mike Walker. Also a tour of the Atalaya mansion with then-curator, Elizabeth Moses.

But for me, the long curving wooden boardwalk out over the marsh takes the cake. It’s a must-visit feature of this Park. I’ll put in a short video below to give those of you who haven’t visited some of idea of what’s in store. But the marsh on either side of this boardwalk has been different every time I’ve visited. Indeed, it’s different at high and low tide on the same day.

If your browser has difficulty with the embedded video above, click this link.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The 2013 South Carolina State Fair: Part 2

01 Fair Part 2

Back at the South Carolina State Fair. Click here for Part 1 of this visit to the Fair if you missed it first time around.

I’m using a new program to create short YouTube videos from video clips and photos. Sound too! PhotoStage Slideshow Pro. These shareware programs get better every year. However, they also become more complex. So it takes some time to become proficient. Bear with me, please …. The clips this program produces will play full-screen on your desktop if you view them on the YouTube website.

There was so much to see this year at the State Fair I had to go back for a second day. And then only got to see a fraction of the exhibits.

Farmer Bob came by, driving “Johnny,” his beloved 1949 John Deere Model MT tractor. At least one faithful reader of this blog collects antique tractors. So, click here for everything you ever wanted to know about this ‘49 John Deere.

Farmer Bob and Johnny

Video doesn’t display properly? Click here.

The Cantey Building, not far from the rear entrance on the right, houses many of the exhibits related to agriculture. It’s another must-see. Air conditioned too! Here’s a link to the Fair’s on-line history that describes the importance of agriculture in developing state and county fairs. Wouldn’t have happened without agriculture! At least, not in this form.

The Cantey Building

Video doesn’t display properly? Click here.

The Ellison Building, just across the way from Cantey, has air conditioning too. Here you’ll find many of the more spectacular exhibits of flowers. And an enormous sand sculpture. These folks take their flowers seriously. I’ve never seen such an impressive display of orchids. Kids will find plenty to amuse them here as well. Have a look.

The Ellison Building Displays

Video doesn’t display properly? Click here.

So there you have it. Or a glimpse of it, anyway. The 2013 South Carolina State Fair. Something for everyone to enjoy. I recommend it for folks of all ages.

Stay tuned to this channel because next time we’ll visit a Japanese restaurant that’s become an institution here in Columbia, South Carolina.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The 2013 South Carolina State Fair: Part 1

01 State Fair Sign

Last week for the first time in years I was able to attend the South Carolina State Fair. For two days, in fact. What a treat! Somehow, the organizers manage to provide a comfortable environment for all ages, from little ones in strollers to old geezers like me. Below are some photos and videos from the visit.

Arrival in the Free Parking Area

Click here to view the video on YouTube if your browser doesn’t display it properly

There were so many photo and video opportunities I’ve had to combine them into YouTube videos. Click on the arrow in the photo above to watch and listen. You can play the video full-screen by clicking the icon in the lower right-hand corner, just to the right of the YouTube logo. Seniors get in for $7.00. Not a bad price for a day’s entertainment.

But this Fair isn’t all about seniors. Kids of all ages seemed to be having the most fun. Here are a few of the rides intended for the stroller set and a bit older.

Rides for the Stroller Set and a bit older

Video doesn’t display properly? Click here.

Rides of the spinning slingshot variety, intended for older children and young adults, were in another section altogether. I didn’t make it over there.

If you don’t have time to see anything else, be sure to visit the barns where cattle and smaller animals are displayed. 4H and FFA are active in high schools throughout the State. Great training for young people. Here are some scenes.

Some animals exhibited at the South Carolina State Fair

Video doesn’t display properly? Click here.

Stay tuned for some more scenes from the South Carolina State Fair. I enjoyed the visits. Great way to procrastinate from writing the second novel in the Dr. Ray Raether and Samantha RV travel mystery series. Better get back at it!

Click here for the second post on the 2013 South Carolina State Fair.

"Death, Lonely and Peculiar," 

A Dr. Ray Raether South Carolina Travel Mystery.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Interview with Leo Redmond, Director of the Cayce Historical Museum

09 LeoPhotoFromMuseumLast Friday I was able to persuade Mr. Leo Redmond, Director of the Cayce Historical Museum, to sit still long enough to do an audio interview. Here is the result.


Mr. Redmond is a remarkable man. He was born and raised right in Cayce, and has lived there all his life. Click that button above to hear Mr. Redmond describe his origins.

Leo became interested in the history of his part of South Carolina not as a student, but as an adult. A busy adult. Never a man to do things by halves, he studied that history from the earliest period of human habitation down through the 19th and even 20th centuries.

He began with artifacts he found hunting with a metal detector. Those discoveries led him to library and archival research. That is, Leo began with the artifacts and then turned to written interpretation and analysis. Not the other way around, as is more common with academic careers. That, I believe, has made him a more interesting guide to the Cayce region.

12 museum today


I asked Leo to describe the origins of the museum in which we were recording this interview, beginning with the building. Above you see two views. On the left is the original building in its later days, and on the right the replica built by John Ellisor and his Committee, including Leo Redmond. Click the button to hear Leo tell this interesting story.

ClickToListenI asked Mr. Redmond what made the Cayce area so special. True to form, he began, James Michener style, with flora and fauna.


ClickToListenI then asked about early European settlers, expecting Mr. Redmond to describe the Town of Granby. That, however, would have short-circuited the story. Click here to learn about much earlier Spanish visitors to the area.

ClickToListenLeo proceeded from the Spanish to the Saxe Gotha settlement effort. An impressive idea, ideally located. But for reasons Leo gives here it never flourished. Click here for a more detailed description of the Saxe Gotha experiment. It’s from an excellent source, the “Carolana” website. No, that’s not a typo. Click the link above to find out why.

ClickToListenAt last, Leo reached the Town of Granby in his narrative of this region’s history. Even allowing for a certain amount of personal bias, Granby had to be a flourishing town by the mid-eighteenth century. I mean! Two hotels? And even a toy shop? This was a community prosperous and well established.

ClickToListenWhich brought up an important historical question. Once South Carolina developed inland to the point early settlers began to think about a more central location for their capital, why wasn’t Granby, a thriving town in the graphical center of the state, selected rather than Columbia? Leo explains here. Again, click the button to listen.

03 LeoLong-time readers of this blog may recall posts I’ve done on early Southeast American Indian archeological sites. Especially a tour of American Indian mounds in the Southeast in early 2010. I’m certainly no expert in this area. Just an interested observer. But none of the museums I visited during that trip have exhibits that compare with what you’ll find upstairs at the Cayce Historical Museum.

04 Leo

ClickToListenHere, Mr. Redmond explains the origins of pieces in that exhibit. Cayce was fortunate to receive the Watson family’s collection. But Leo himself contributed a significant amount of his own collection to complete the display. This single room of the museum alone is a must-see next time your travels take you near Cayce, South Carolina.

05 Leo and EmilyClickToListenIf that’s not enough to bring you to Cayce and this museum, have a look at the photo above. That’s a full-sized image of Emily Geiger, an important Patriot heroine of the Revolutionary War. Click the button to hear Leo describe this local event. Remarkable. Only eighteen years old at the time, Emily Geiger’s courage influenced the course of the Revolutionary War. It’s an inspiring story.

07 Geiger Monument

In the report on my first visit to this museum back in early September I mentioned a mystery table, and promised to describe it in a subsequent post.

06 Leo and TableClickToListenWell, here it is. And we have Museum Director Leo Redmond to describe it to us. A card table owned by General Cornwallis that he was forced to abandon.

Thanks to Museum Director Leo Redmond for his time and expertise. The Cayce Historical Museum is well worth a trip to Columbia – ‘er, Cayce – South Carolina.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

North Wilkesboro, NC, Talia Espresso


How many times have you been told, “If you want a good, really good, cup of coffee go to North Wilkesboro, North Carolina? Not often, I’ll bet. Well, I’m telling you now!


North Wilkesboro is the home of Talia Espresso. Has been for the past eight years. Click here to see their website. But you’ll have to visit to be sure that I’m not exaggerating here. They serve really good coffee. Best I’ve ever had, in fact. Even including the remarkable brews served in Japan’s coffee shops during the early 1960s.

front sign

jim and kathy

Jim and Kathy Kozak have created a remarkable institution here. They’re both originally from Detroit, Michigan. Long-time North Wilkesboro residents now. By choice, not by accident of birth.

ClickToListenClick this button to hear them explain why they chose North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, to site their bistro. The sound is terrible. All my fault. But Jim and Kathy spend all day, every day except Sunday, working in their shop. So, if you want to interview them you’ll have to do it there. (That has to be the Detroit Sound you hear in the background.)

ClickToListenListen to Kathy and Jim again as they explain their philosophy of business development, the ideas that created this remarkable institution on Main Street, North Wilkesboro, North Carolina.


20130910_165523Their effort shows. Here are a couple photos of the dining area. Comfortable, roomy, and inviting. It’s the sort of place where parents can walk by, see their teenage children sitting inside at a table, and be pleased to have them there.


My photos never come out the way they should. But click on each one and you should get the general idea. Talia is a comfortable place. It feels like a living room with room service! Oh, and with WiFi.

Another interesting point is the diversity of clientele. Teenagers, parents with small children, professional adults, and even folks older than me. In their 70s and 80s. All appeared to be comfortable and enjoying their coffee and sandwiches.


Did I mention food? Most of the high-end coffee shops I’ve visited offer sweet rolls and cookies with their coffee. That sort of thing. At eye-popping prices, usually. At Talia Kathy and Jim – mainly Kathy’s cooking, I suspect – have full breakfast and lunch menus. Prices too were surprisingly low.

ClickToListenIf after reading about Talia you’re inspired to rush out and open your own coffee shop, you’d better listen to Jim describe what it takes to succeed. Pay special attention to the number of hours he and Kathy have to work each week to maintain the quality and environment. Success doesn’t just happen.

ClickToListenA final point. Both times I visited Talia two teen-agers were working beside Kathy and Jim behind the counter. Preparing and serving coffee and food. One boy and one girl. Both were the sorts of youngsters you’d be pleased to have your child bring home for a visit. So I asked Jim and Kathy where they found their employees. Give a listen here.

drive thru

So there you have it. The Talia Espresso bistro in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Best coffee I’ve ever had, and an inspiration to visit. It’s worth the trip. Though don’t go on Sundays. Jim and Kathy have more important things to do on that day. If you’re in a hurry you could stop at the drive-through out on 421. Jim assures me the coffee there’s the same quality as that served on Main Street. I’ll stick to the Main Street location, though. It’s a great place to visit.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bandit’s Roost Corps of Engineers Campground NC

01 main gate

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains some of the nicest campgrounds in the country, for my money. And speaking of money, with a Senior Pass you get a 50 percent discount from already reasonable rates. Click on the photo above and you’ll see prices here run from $18 to $25 per night. Divide than by two, if you’re old enough, and have had the good sense to get a Senior Pass!

Now, Bandit’s Roost is in the Other Carolina, a fairly long drive from Columbia. But last week it was hot as the dickens at home, and a trip North sounded like a good idea. I don’t recall the mileage, but it was about three hours of uneventful highway driving. Not much to report about I-77.

02 Aliner on site

Campsites at Bandit’s Roost are convenient. Here you see Site # 27, a pull-through near the water on all sides. It had a 50-amp hookup for those of you with the enormous rigs. The Aliner gets along with 30-amp, but it’s nice to have it available. This site was almost perfectly flat. No BAL Leveler required. And it had a solid stone/dirt surface. We didn’t have rain last week, but I doubt that it would get the least bit muddy. The only disadvantage of this site, and of many sites at Bandit’s Roost, was the lack of shade. The sun was hot, so the Aliner’s air conditioner got a workout. Cool enough at night, though, to keep the windows open.

03 beach across water

This wading/swimming beach area was just across the water from my campsite. Beautifully maintained sand.

05 swimming area

And here’s a similar, if a bit smaller, swimming area just a short walk from my campsite. Click on the photo to take a closer look. You’ll see that it is well maintained. Beautiful sand. No trash. Plenty of safety equipment. No life guard, of course. But you can’t have everything.

04 campground general

This is another view of the campground to give you a better idea of how things are arranged here. Quite different from the South Carolina State Parks I usually visit. Not better or worse, necessarily. Just different. It’s obvious the Corps of Engineers has more money to spend than the South Carolina Parks System. Roads are in better shape, for example. Campsites too. Still …. Oh well, comparisons are bound to mislead. Let’s look around some more.

07 mountain victory trail

Here, just to the right of the Campground entrance, you’ll find the Overmountain Victory Trail. Click here for more detailed information about this interesting feature. Now, this is worth some attention.

08 trail sign

This trail is some undertaking. I’ve visited King’s Mountain State Park in the past, and the adjacent national park at the site of the Battle of King’s Mountain. (Click here to access those posts.) One of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War. The beginning of the Patriot victory. This trail commemorates the “Overmountain Men” who achieved that remarkable victory in October of 1780. They came from Tennessee, Virginia, and the two Carolinas. Here we have the opportunity to follow their progress. A lot more comfortably than the Overmountain Men traveled in 1780!

09 boat ramp

I spent much of my time at Bandit’s Roost working on the second novel in the Ray Raether South Carolina RV Travel Mystery series, so didn’t get out and around much. This Park, though, is a boating enthusiast’s dream. Kerr Lake, or Kerr Reservoir, is ideal for boats of any size, including kayaks. I’d hoped to dip a paddle while here, but it was just too darn hot. The photo above is of the boat ramp at the campground. Everything you need here. Wikipedia has a good article devoted to the Lake, or Reservoir. Click here to read more about it.

10 lake map

Here’s a large map on the wall of the Headquarters Building. I’ve added a yellow arrow to indicate the location of the campground. I hope to return with my kayak when the weather cools down a bit. Though they’re open only through October 30th. Better hurry.


Stay tuned for a trip to a remarkable coffee shop in nearby North Wilkesboro. Talia Espresso is what we all hope for when we enter an up-scale coffee shop. Owners Jim and Kathy Kozak even agreed to sit for a short interview!