After we visited Alaska this year, we decided to do a road trip to the South. I honestly cannot believe how beautiful our country is and how easy it would be to just disappear. There are so many small towns, you blink and you’re through them.
My best friend, Adele, moved to Kentucky with her husband. They purchased a beautiful home on a golf course. They wanted out of California because her hubby is retired and they both wanted to be closer to their roots. Since her hubby isn’t a handyman, she asked if we could come out and help her put some of the missing items that new homes don’t necessarily have in them. For the life of me, after working in construction for over 25 years, how did this builder get away with not putting in towel racks or toilet paper holders? Maybe only in Kentucky? This isn’t the only reason we went out, we wanted to spend some time with them and see their new home.
After working, we did some sight seeing. Kentucky is a beautiful state. Very green with lush rolling hills, sprinkled with horses. Not just any horses; Kentucky Derby horses. Amazing creatures. Kentucky is also the birth place of the Woodford Reserve Bourbon distillery, the Buffalo Trace distillery, and we passed a place on our way to our bourbon tastings, the Old Crow distillery, which was in shambles and Jim Beam, as well as Maker’s Mark. We did a tour at Buffalo Trace and saw how they not only age the Bourbon but how humans, not machines, bottle the bourbon for distribution. It was really fascinating. We learned that during Prohibition, Buffalo Trace got away with continuing to sell bourbon because they re-labeled it as medicine. Kinda reminded me of what is happening in the Marijuana industry. Although, Marijuana really does have medicinal properties, I’m not too sure about Bourbon. However, I did ask them if they used non-GMO corn and they said yes! They purchased property across the river from them and they plan on building more distillery holding places like you see in the first picture below. Four stories tall, barrels are snuggled into iron racks, which are stacked three high. On the top floor, which would be the hottest floor, the bourbon doesn’t take long to mature. The bottom floor holds your 15-30 year bourbon’s as it is cooler and it will take longer to mature. To be honest, I wasn’t crazy about their bourbon’s but I did like their vodka (they make that as well) and didn’t like their swill, too harsh for me, I prefer smoother swill, bourbon, and moonshine. (Don’t get me started on the apple pie moonshine we got to taste which my friend’s husband got from someone he knows in Kentucky!)
We had brunch one Sunday at a famous old house which was made into a restaurant. Holly Hill, reviewed as one of the best places to dine in for brunch or dinner. The setting was historic and the food was to die for. I highly recommend if you are ever in the that area, make reservations, it’s a popular place with locals and tourists alike.
There is also an old castle, believe it or not, in the middle of Frankfort, which was just opened to the public. We purchased tickets for a mystery dinner. As you drive up, this castle is enormous. It has two turrets on either end, they have a fountain in the entry way, and as you walk through the gigantic doors, there is a restaurant setting and a bar. We gathered in the ballroom for our dinner. It was buffet style but I must say the marinated tri-tip was soaked for 16 hours in red wine and then slowly cooked in a 160 degree oven for 8 hours. It was so tender, you could cut it with your fork. It was a fun evening.
We met some fabulous people in Kentucky. My friend Adele’s neighbors were just the sweetest, Donny and Sandra. They had us over for dinner on their beautiful outdoor patio and they also came to the mystery dinner. Sandra has her house decorated to the nines. Audacious furniture, breathtaking art work on the walls, and shiny hardwood floors. She is an amazing cook and hostess, which she loves to do since they are both retired.
We even attended a high school football game (been awhile since we have attended any type of high school function) as Adele’s two grandson’s play football for their high school and they kicked butt!
The weather is another story. The torrential rain falls are blinding especially if your driving. We had to pull over under an overpass because the hail and rain drops were so big, we couldn’t see out the windshield. We did not have to live through a tornado, thank God, I don’t do tornadoes. For the most part, the weather was beautiful, not too hot, in the 80s, and the humidity was tolerable.
After a week in Kentucky, we left the laughter and love of my friends home to travel to Georgia to visit an old friend of my husband’s. They both still work so we arrived at their home on Saturday afternoon. Did I mention we took our two dogs with us? Betty and Nacho were excellent travel companions. I was a little worried they wouldn’t get along with Adele’s cat but they ended up all being best buddies. At Mark and Cindy’s house, they have a dog that doesn’t like other animals or kids. So we shifted the dogs schedules that weekend so ours would spend a couple hours out of the guest room and they would let their dog out and then vice versa. It actually worked out great.
Our first night at Mark and Cindy’s they took us to a restaurant called Chop Shop. Wow! I had the best chopped salad I have ever eaten there and the lamb chops were so tender. The service was excellent and so was the company. The next day we just hung out after Cindy made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. We decided to eat in that night so we all piled into Marks new 3500 Dodge Ram pickup and headed to the store. We made hamburgers, corn on the cob, and macaroni salad for dinner. I did the barbecuing and got a kick out of Mark, because he normally does the bbq’g but as any of you who know me and how I cook, the grill is always on high heat. He looked a little worried but I assured him he would love his burger. I timed each one and as I predicted, they came out perfect and juicy. We watched a movie and because they had to leave for work so early Monday morning, we hit the hay around 11. I swear my husband and his friend could be brothers, not only do they think alike, but they kind of look alike.
The next morning we all got up at 5 am, had coffee and loaded our truck back up. We then headed to Hilton Head, South Carolina which was only about 3 hours away. One thing I love about the east coast is every state is just hours away. Before I go into our stay at Hilton Head I did want to mention all the small towns our GPS routed us through as we were headed from Kentucky to Georgia. Hence, my comment above about “you could disappear.” We didn’t stop in any of them but I was able to take some pictures of some of the houses, which some were old and run down but others had manicured, acres long front yards with plantation like mansions sitting on them. The landscape of the South is definitely different from the north or southwest states. And even though they continue to get a bad rap due to the Civil War, it’s about time we all get over that crap. They still grow cotton, corn, soybeans, and other crops however, today, we have machines that do a better job at picking cotton than any human could ever do.
The drive to my brother and sister-in-laws place was uneventful. We got there around 9 am and she made us breakfast. My brother was playing golf, so we sat outside in their screened in porch and ate breakfast and caught up with family news. My brother and my husband got along very well as they have lots in common. It’s nice to see how receptive my family is to my husband. Everyone in my family who has spent anytime with my hubby absolutely adores him. And it’s not because he’s my husband, he is genuinely a nice person.
We stayed at the Westin on Hilton Head so at 4 pm we were allowed to check in. We got an awesome deal for our room even though we had pets (military discount). They didn’t stick us in a smelly room for people with pets, (like the Holiday Inn Express we stayed in Kansas), they put us among the general population. Our room was big and spacious with a balcony that faced the ocean. This resort has 3 pools and ocean access. After unpacking and getting the dogs situated, we met my brother and his wife at a seaside restaurant. The menu was extensive and the drinks were good. We had an ocean view table and we took our time eating and chatting.
The next day, we went over to my brother’s and Kathy took us to Savannah GA which was about 30 minutes away. We crossed over a massive, beautiful bridge and we took a tour throughout Savannah. I loved listening to the stories our tour guide entertained us with. The old folk lores, the places where Forrest Gump was filmed, the bench he was sitting at when he said, “Life is like a box of chocolates” and then we went to the chocolate shop where he got those chocolates! There is much superstition among the southern people. So much so that many people will paint the underside of their house eaves a certain color blue to ward off evil spirits. In one of the squares (there is 24 altogether) there is a huge oak tree where they would hang criminals. It is the only place where the Spanish moss (air moss to some Californian’s) will not grow. All the times they tried to place it on the trees, it refuses to grow and yet all around this one area, there are tons of it growing on all the trees. They say it’s because there were so many people hanged there, it is haunted and the spirits will not allow it to grow.
We had lunch at Paula Deen’s restaurant (delish) and then purchased some cool kitchen gadgets at her store. We toured the Prohibition museum where I learned the true meaning behind the Klan (and it wasn’t to harass black people) it was to keep EVERYONE in line to follow the law, which included white people and bootleggers. The reasoning behind Prohibition, believe it or not, was because men were spending their hard earned money in Speakeasies rather than bringing it home to their wife and kids. The women got together and protested and were they surprised when it was voted in! And, women didn’t have the right to vote yet….
The following day we drove into Beaufort. The history of this area is what fascinated me the most. It was first inhabited by the native Indians who were living here seasonally as early as 4000 BC. Evidence of early settlement remains today in the form of a 3400 year old “Indian shell ring” located in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve which is on Hilton Head. Beaufort County was the site of the second landing on the North American continent by Europeans, in 1514. The first landing –Ponce de Leon at St. Augustine– was only a year earlier. The seaport of Beaufort is located at the head of one of the largest natural harbors on the Atlantic coast, which explains the early interest of the Spanish and French explorers that followed . When they sailed up the sound in the 1520’s, they found a land inhabited by many small tribes of Native Americans, the largest of which were the Cherokees and the Catawbas. Abandoned by the French, the Spaniards built Fort San Felipe and the settlement was called Santa Elena. However, always under heavy attack by the Indians, the Spaniards decided to leave the settlement and concentrate their efforts in St. Augustine in Florida. Once again, leaving the Carolina’s to the Indians.
Within a few years, the English had established the first permanent European settlement of South Carolina at Albemarle Point, near present-day Charleston, on the Ashley River in 1670. The proprietors’ first settlers included many Barbadians, and South Carolina came to resemble more closely the plantation economy of the West Indies than did the other mainland colonies. The first trade was with the Indians for deer skins, a valuable commodity back in England, but indigo became the first cash crop. The climate and soil on the Sea Islands were favorable for its growth, and England was a great market for indigo.
The Settlement of Savannah and the colony of Georgia was set up as a buffer from the Indians –in particular the area around Beaufort where indigo was thriving. Indians last significantly threatened the colony’s existence in the Yemassee War of 1715.
Settlers from the British Isles, France, and other parts of Europe built plantations throughout the coastal lowcountry. Beaufort, the second oldest town in South Carolina, was founded in 1711. Both Beaufort County and its county seat of Beaufort were named for Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort (1684-1714), one of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina.
African slaves were brought into the colony in large numbers to provide labor for the plantations, and by 1720 they formed the majority of the population. The ports of Georgetown, Charleston, and Beaufort became important centers of commerce and culture. In the years before the Civil War, rice, indigo, and sea island cotton plantations brought great wealth to the entire lowcountry region.
During the War of 1812 the British again invaded Hilton Head Island and burned most of the houses located near navigable waters.
As the Civil War approached, Beaufort County was a focal point of secessionist sentiment, and the original Ordinance of Secession was drawn up in Beaufort.
Only seven months after the firing on Fort Sumter, a massive Federal armada steamed into Port Royal Sound and occupied the sea islands and port communities for the rest of the war. Because of this, much of Beaufort escaped the destruction of property –but the economy collapsed.
Besides freedom for the plantation slaves, the Civil War in Beaufort provided an opportunity for their Gullah culture to flourish and saw the establishment of Penn Center, then Penn Normal School, the first school for freed slaves in the South.
The Gullah Geechee people are the descendants of Central and West Africans who came from different ethnic and social groups. They were enslaved together on the isolated sea and barrier islands. The result was an intense interaction among Africans from different language groups in settings where enslaved Africans and their descendants formed the majority. Over time, they developed the creole Gullah Geechee language as a means of communicating with each other and they were also able to preserve many African practices in their language, arts, crafts and cuisine.
Gullah is a unique creole language spoken along the Sea Islands and adjacent coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia. The residents in Georgia are typically referred to as “Geechee.” Gullah language began as a simplified form of communication among people of different languages including European slave traders, slave owners and diverse African ethnic groups. The vocabulary and grammatical roots come from European and African languages. Gullah Geechee language is the only distinctly African creole language in the United States and has influenced traditional Southern vocabulary and speech patterns.
African textile traditions that included sewing strips of cloth into larger patterns were combined with European quilting methods and a creole art form emerged. Quilts with bright colors and designs were originally made for necessity. These traditions also allowed women a time for social interaction. African songs are the foundation for what may be referred to as Gullah music. Deeply rooted in music traditions brought to the Americas by enslaved Africans, the music evolved out of the conditions of slavery that characterized their lives. The influence and evolution of musical forms that arose out of Gullah music can be heard in many musical genres such as spirituals and gospel music, ragtime, rhythm and blues, soul, hip hop and jazz. (https://www.gullahgeecheecorridor.org/thegullahgeechee/
I first learned about the Gullah community in a college literature class. A story called “The Quilt” has always stayed with me because the meaning behind it was so spiritual. This trip and hearing their history once again only solidified that spiritual feeling. I also heard after the Civil War, many Gullah took boats to a nearby island where they stayed and remained self sufficient for decades, without ever stepping foot on the main land until well into the 1900’s.
After a nice lowcountry boil dinner which my brother and sister in law made, we sat outside on their screened in patio until about midnight, we had a pleasant visit and really enjoyed ourselves. We were having such a good time, we decided to stay an extra 2 days. We sat at the pool the next day, had drinks, and just enjoyed a relaxing day and lunch together. It sure was the life. So different from our mountain retreat. We shopped at the outlet malls where I purchased some clothing as did my hubby and I got a pair of Maui Joe’s sunglasses, which make me look “almost famous.”
I must say the food is fantastic here and I do miss it. I was not looking forward to coming home. We drove back to Kentucky, where we hit another torrential downpour on the highway and ended up in Louisville. We stayed at a Residence Inn as we were meeting my uncle Charlie and cousins from my mom’s side of the family. We met them for dinner at an outdoor fish place. Again, food was great. Nine years ago I had made a trip back to the east coast to visit family and friends and this was the last time I had seen my cousin’s and Uncle Charlie. We really had a nice visit and again, all my family loved my hubby. I keep saying this because this is not how I was greeted by my husband’s family who really never gave me a chance. They just decided they didn’t like me without trying to get to know me and then took it out on my husband. I really do love my family because of how accepting and friendly they are. You never have to guess what their thinking because they will tell you to your face.
We headed for home, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and we decided to do it in one day. We switched off driving every 3-4 hours, leaving Louisville at 6:30 am and getting home at 10:30 pm (we lost 2 hours). It was good to get home and sleep in our own bed and I think the dogs were happy too. Though I must say, Ms. Betty loves grass. She would roll on her back and just roll and roll, I had to laugh watching her. She doesn’t get that here.
I wish we had time to visit everyone we wanted to, unfortunately, I wanted to see my good friend Jeannie in Ohio but we just ran out of time. I’m hoping she’ll come visit us in Colorado. We did love the south very much and will be going back, hopefully soon. South Carolina was my favorite place so I’m sure there will be another visit in our future. The people were so friendly and receptive. I could actually see myself living there, guess I better get to work on my hubby!
Y’all come back now, ya hear!