State 30: South Carolina - February 20, 2018
We woke up at Lori’s Cousin’s house in Summerville well rested and ready for a brand new day. Yesterday, we toured America’s only tea plantation, and could not wait to see what adventures lie ahead today. After saying goodbye to Glenn and Michael, we departed for a 101 mile drive West to the Cross Country Couple's “Can’t Miss Attraction” for South Carolina; Myrtle Beach. Consisting of a 60-mile stretch of beach known as the Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach is the area’s largest town, and a major tourist destination attracting over 14 million visitors each season! The beaches busy season goes from March through October attracting college students and families, and in the winter months, snowbirds take up residence on the South Carolina shore. Myrtle Beach is home to: the state’s largest shopping complex, over 190 restaurants, over 460 hotels, the largest waterpark on the East coast, 95 golf courses, an amusement park featuring the 2nd largest ferris wheel in the US called Sky Wheel, and has been recognized by Travel & Leisure magazine as the “Best Boardwalk in the US”!
Be forewarned, if you are planning a visit to Myrtle Beach, you better leave your speedo and micro bikini in the hotel, because Myrtle Beach has a “Thong Ordinance” in effect. Any swimwear revealing any portion of the buttock in public is strictly prohibited, and you can be assured law enforcement will not turn the other cheek! Violators of the “Thong Ordinance” will be arrested, jailed, and fined! Darn, I was so looking forward to sporting my new speedo, but did not want to have Lori bail me out of jail!
We were fortunate to be visiting Myrtle Beach mid-week during the off season, so there were not many people around. While Lori and I love the ocean, we do not like commercialism, and knew in advance we were walking into a gigantic tourist trap. However, neither Lori nor I had been to Myrtle Beach, and were looking forward to exploring the area together. In addition, our visit to Myrtle Beach marks the last time we will see the Atlantic Ocean until the path of our cross country journey takes us to the North Carolina coast in two months time. Today, the only item on the agenda was to feel the cool ocean breeze blowing through our hair, listen to the waves crash upon the sandy shore, and feel the sunshine upon our face. Please see the pictures below of our walk along Myrtle Beach.
Next, we decided to stroll along the boardwalk on our way back to Rosie, and along the way, we passed the Sky Wheel; the 2nd largest Ferris Wheel in the US. We flirted with the idea of taking a ride, but with a ticket price of $14.00 per person, we felt as if we were the ones being taken for a ride! Myrtle Beach’s boardwalk features a weathered wooden walkway with a separate path for bikers and pedestrians. Souvenir shops, specialty stores, hotels, ice cream parlor’s, and restaurants lined the boardwalk facing the vast Atlantic Ocean! Some of the names of the businesses were hilarious, and the most memorable one we encountered was “Dirty Don’s Oyster Bar & Grill”. Seriously! Dirty Don’s Oyster Bar & Grill? What’s next? Salmonella Sammy's Fried Chicken? E.coli Eddie’s Steakhouse? After my initial shock, I began to ponder how the restaurant got it's name and exactly how dirty is it? Was Don dirty? Was the grill dirty? Were the oysters dirty? Perhaps the name “Dirty Don’s” is actually a disclaimer, so if you eat there and get sick, you can’t say they didn’t warn you. Bottom line; No restaurant should ever have the word dirty in their name. lol Please see the pictures below of our walk on Myrtle Beach’s Boardwalk.
After departing Myrtle Beach, we drove 153 miles Northwest to Columbia to tour the South Carolina Statehouse. Construction of the current Statehouse began in 1855, and was not completed until 1907! Progress on the capitol's construction was halted numerous times due to fraud by the building's Architect, the outbreak of the Civil War, and the state's severe economic depression following the wars aftermath. The South Carolina Statehouse still bares scars indicative of the building's tumultuous past. On February 16, 1865, artillery under the command of Union General Sherman opened fire on Columbia. Since South Carolina was the first state to secede, The Union Army had arrived at the state’s capitol city on a mission of vengeance, and burned Columbia to the ground. At the time of the siege, the South Carolina capitol building was still under construction, and only the external granite facade of the building was complete. The unfinished building was hit 6 times by Union cannon fire, and the resulting damage has been preserved to this very day. Each of the 6 cannonballs points of impact on the external walls of the capitol building are denoted by the presence of a large bronze star. Please see the pictures below.
Similar to other statehouses, the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol feature a wide assortment of monuments commemorating significant people, places and events in the state’s history, and I found one such tribute of particular interest; The African American Monument. Dedicated on March 19, 2001, the African American Monument stands 2 stories high, spans 25 feet in length and tells the story of African American’s in South Carolina from their arrival during the slave trade through modern times. Slavery began in the region we now know as South Carolina in 1670, so why did it take 331 years to erect a monument honoring the state's African Americans citizens? Even more disturbing, the African American monument is a mere 100 feet away from the state's Confederate monument where up until 2015, a Confederate flag flew! This is just another example demonstrating how social change in South Carolina occurs at a painfully slow rate.
We next made our way to the capitol's external grand staircase leading up to 14 massive granite columns, which are the largest of any US capitol building! At the foot of the staircase was a bronze statue of George Washington holding a broken cane. Initially, I assumed the statue was an artist’s symbolization of South Carolina’s secession from the Union. After reading the description engraved beneath the statue, I discovered the reason for Washington’s broken cane had great historical significance. Similar to the cannonball damage to the capitol building, the walking cane on Washington’s statue was also damaged during Union General Sherman’s siege of Columbia.
Next, we made our way to the Statehouse's main entrance, passed through security, and entered into the ground floor of the capitol building. We arrived at the guides office, and discovered we were 30 minutes early for the next tour. Since we clearly had some time to kill, we decided to engage in some freestyle exploration. Since I embrace a belief of anti-consumerism, I typically bypass the capitol building gift shop, but something for sale on the inside caught my eye as I walked by. I saw the gift shop was selling boxes of tea from the Charleston Tea Plantation, which we had previously visited a day prior! What a clever idea, and great marketing!
Upon exiting the gift shop, we meandered around the ground floor of the statehouse. A series of large granite columns supported a concave brick ceiling painted white, and two large black metal staircases mirrored each other on opposing sides of the room. After General Sherman’s siege, the design of the Statehouse was changed to ensure the building was made with materials which would not burn. Solid one-piece granite pillars support the structures weight, the internal staircases and balconies are made of metal, and the flooring featured a two tone marble checkered floor in diamond pattern throughout. To this very day, you would be hard pressed to find significant flammable materials inside the South Carolina Capitol Building. Burn me once shame on you, burn me twice shame on me! Please see the pictures below.
The ground floor main space had an East and West wing, and one of which housed the Lieutenant Governor’s office, and the other wing was home to the Governor’s office. Unfortunately, both wings were not accessible as they were blocked off by security. Clearly the South Carolina Governor does not have an open door policy. Perhaps the Governor's door is always open, it’s just the entire wing leading to his office which is sealed off from the public. We have visited many state capitols where we just walked right into the Governor’s office, and received a warm and welcoming reception, which you can read about by clicking here.
Shortly thereafter, we met up with our tour guide, and watched a brief 15-minute movie providing a general overview of the statehouse and capitol grounds. After touring 32 statehouses, this is the first time we have been shown a movie prior to the tour, and it was quite refreshing to have an additional perspective of the capitol building. Upon the conclusion of the movie, were lead into the Senate and then into the House. Both chambers featured a two story open space with a wraparound metal balcony, and paintings of prominent people from South Carolina's past adorning the walls overseeing and inspiring the state's governing officials of today. Please see the pictures below of the South Carolina House and Senate Chambers.
Both the legislative chambers mirror each other almost identically with one fascinating exception. In the House, a locked case displays a ceremonial mace, and in the Senate, a second locked case displays a ceremonial sword. In front of each chambers speaker’s podium are 2 separate metal hooks. When the ceremonial sword or mace is placed on the hooks of its respective chamber, two large antique lights illuminate on the Speaker’s podium signifying to all present the South Carolina legislature in now is session. How fun is that??? Unfortunately, neither the House or the Senate were in session during my visit, and I could not get close enough to get a good picture of the ceremonial sword or the mace. Please see the pictures below.
Unfortunately, the sword and mace both have something in common; they were both stolen! Thankfully, the mace was recovered in the Caribbean after the thief attempted to sell it on the black market. Unfortunately, the sword is still missing, and it was replaced with a reproduction of the original in the 1960’s. Both the mace and sword are Colonial Period relics, invaluable, irreplaceable and possess great significance to the state of South Carolina. If you happen to come across South Carolina’s stolen ceremonial sword there is a $10,000 reward! Keep an eye out on the Antique Road Show, and at garage sales as South Carolina would really would like their sword returned!
Our tour concluded in the capitol's central room, which proved to be the most open and inviting we have encountered on our cross country trip. Massive windows flooded the area with natural light, carpet runner’s crossed the space softening the rooms cold marble floors, paintings depicting the state's prominent battles adorned the walls, and overstuffed sofas were placed strategically throughout. Most statehouse central rooms feel like a museum, but the central space in South Carolina’s Capitol felt warm, welcoming and reminiscent of a large living room. I was so tempted to double back to the gift shop to purchase a book about South Carolina, buy a box of their Charleston Plantation Tea, and spend the rest of the afternoon curled up on one of those comfy couches. Please see the pictures below.
After departing the South Carolina Statehouse, we drove to a Walmart in Columbia, SC where we found a Walmart to spend the night.