Upon arrival in Charleston, South Carolina, we checked into our campsite at James Island and set up our shelter in the blistering heat. I was still carrying around a little of the cold I’d picked up in Savannah and the heat made the task miserable. I don’t think Slinky was having much more fun dealing with me than I was having being me. Eventually we got all set up and headed into town, vowing to return to camp to cook this pork tenderloin we’d picked up at the store on the way in.
We caught a distant glimpse of Fort Sumter, site of the start of the Civil War, and walked around the beautiful city for a while before stopping in for a drink at Blind Tiger, a little pub that we had read about. Once inside and sipping cocktails, we were sucked in by the reasonably priced and tasty looking dinner options. We decided to cook that tenderloin tomorrow. After all we had the campsite reserved for 4 nights. Dinner did not disappoint and we had a lovely evening decompressing and soaking up all of Charleston’s southern charm.
We both slept fitfully that night, woken up by thunder and kept up by heat. As we worked from the campsite the next morning, we started planning our getaway. By midmorning it was getting too hot to be productive from a picnic table so we headed into town to work from the library. Libraries have been our salvation on many an occasion and Charleston proved no different. We set up in the air conditioning, finished work for the morning and randomly selected a nearby deli for lunch. It was crowded with, if the name badges were any indicator, mostly local office workers. The sandwiches were delicious. We had no idea that, at that moment just down the street in another popular lunch spot, a deranged man was declaring himself “the new king of Charleston” and holding hostages at gunpoint. Blissfully unaware, we discussed what to do about the upcoming thunderstorms. It wasn’t until we were driving from lunch to the Holiday Inn Express that we’d identified as potential replacement lodging that we had any clue something was happening. Several city blocks were ringed with police cars and people were being moved off of the sidewalk. Slinky found the news about the active shooter situation on her phone as I worked my way around unfamiliar backstreets trying to reroute us.
As we checked in to the hotel, the lobby television played CNN’s coverage of the situation. One person had been shot and dozens more were held hostage. Thankfully they got the man into custody without anybody else getting hurt. We stood glued to the coverage for a while then realized weather was more pressing than news in our current situation. We rushed back to the campsite to try to get everything packed up before the rain started. We almost made it. We did manage to get the shelter packed up before it got wet, which we’ve found to be the difference maker in how our packups go. As soon as it was in the van, the drops started, at first just spitting then a little heavier. We scurried around to get the van packed up. The tenderloin was hastily chucked into the cooler.
Back at the hotel, we jammed all of the food in the tiny refrigerator, and hatched tenderloin plan c: we’d go to a park with a charcoal grill. Too tired to enact that plan immediately, we opted for a little bistro that had a fondue special on. It was an interesting little hallway of a restaurant with bar seating and a few tables in the back. A card on the bar informed us that this was a no-tipping restaurant. I have to say that one of the things I really miss about Australia is the lack of tipping. Things cost more but people make a living wage and I don’t have to do math at the end of a nice meal. Win, win. So, I was really happy to be eating fondue and not tipping. And as the clouds gathered, I was exceptionally happy about going back to sleep in a bed under a roof.
We spent Friday and Saturday strolling around Battery Park and a neighbourhood of multi-colored houses known as Rainbow Row. After taking in some of the beauty of modern day Charleston, we checked out some of the ugliness of its past. We toured the Aiken Rhett house, a faithfully preserved nineteenth century plantation. It was confronting to see the slave quarters and artefacts of that barbaric institution. Seeing the furniture and personal affects throughout the house drove home just how recently these atrocities were committed. I was glad that we went but was also happy to leave.
By the weekend, although we still had the best of intentions to cook our tenderloin, we’d submitted completely to the Charleston foodie culture. We ate bahn mi rolls at a downtown art and food market and fried pigs ears at a local brewery. Over half-price Vietnamese tacos, we discussed what to do after Charleston. We were supposed to meet up with Slinky’s dad and brother in a few days. They were headed to Memphis and we had planned to visit Alabama before meeting up in Nashville. The plan made sense at first but as we discussed it, it seemed crazy to be so close (relative to Australia anyway) and not to spend a few more days with them. So, we hatched a scheme to drive the 10 hours from Charleston to Memphis on Sunday to surprise them.
Our last night in Charleston was spent strolling through the night market and listening to the local musicians. It was a beautiful night and while we were both excited about the new plan, we were sad to be leaving. We agreed that Charleston was one of our favorite cities so far. All the same, we called it an early night so we could hit the road early the next morning. The nearest route from our hotel room to the van was through the pool area. It was there that I finally admitted defeat and, with a glance over my shoulder, deposited that well travelled, still uncooked tenderloin into the swimming pool trash can. We tried. Just not that hard.