Surf City - Charleston, South Carolina
Nov 26, 2007
|A new day has dawned, the sinus colds have improved overnight and we are off to South Carolina. Just past the state line, we stop at the info booth and a very nice lady with a southern drawl gives us all the info she has about Charleston and South Carolina.
South Carolina has an area of around 35,000 square miles and a population of about 4 million; the capital is Columbia.
South Carolina was first settled by English settlers coming here from Barbados and other Caribbean islands; they brought their African slaves with them to start up tobacco and rice plantations. The climate really lends itself for these crops and the slaves were brought over from Africa, because they were hard workers and knew how to grow the crops.
The Carolinas split up into North and South in 1712 and in 1729 South Carolina became a royal colony; it declared its independence from Britain in 1776 and set up its own government. In 1778, it became the 8th state in the Union; in 1860 it was the first state to secede from the Union. The reason they seceded was because President Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery, but agreed to not force the issue in the south. The southern settlers did not agree with this at all; without slaves they could not succeed in business. Most plantation owners had more money invested in slaves than anything else, and they wanted to fight the abolition movement.
The Civil War started in Charleston, with the shelling of Fort Sumter and an ugly battle ensued for the next couple of years. After the Civil War, South Carolina rejoined the Union. In the 20th century, textile was the largest industry, but today that has given way to other crops, manufacturing and large military bases.
Once we cross the state line, things look a bit more prosperous. The roads are wide, with green grass in the medians and homes look better kept.
We keep following Hwy 17, and pass by Myrtle Beach. We lost count of how many mini-golf theme parks lined the highway, but there were at least 9 in a 5 mile stretch! Large golf courses, shopping malls and big homes is what this area is made up of. It is advertised as the Grand Strand; this is the fun in the sun vacation mecca. The brochures claim there are 1800 restaurants in the 60 mile stretch that encompasses the Grand Strand.
The roads are very busy; the weather is very nice but muggy. The thermometer tells us it is about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity is probably around 80%!
But we are not complaining - it is November!
From Myrtle Beach we follow Hwy 17 along the coast; there are lots of plantations that are selling lots, minimum of 5 acres per home, where big homes are being built. The Plantations were either abandoned or sold after the soil was so exhausted from all the crops that were grown there year after year. The entrances into the plantation neighborhoods are very elegant looking with brick gates and fancy lightposts. We also see some enormous golf courses that used to be plantations. Some are using the large plantation home as the pro-shop.
There are still Plantations that are in use today; there is a tea plantation in Charleston, the only one in North America and several rice plantations.
We enter the Mount Pleasant area, on the outskirts of Charleston. Along the side of the road there are stands set up in different locations. They actually looked like an old bus stop at first, but then we can see they are little stands. Close to Charleston, some of these stands are manned by African Americans selling Sweetgrass Baskets.
The history and making of these basket was brought over from Africa by the early slaves. They brought the knowledge of the baskets to the Lowcountry, this area, because they are perfect for the production and processing of rice. The original baskets were made of bulrush, sweetgrass & split oak. Bulrush and palm are ancient plants mentioned in the Bible, prevalent in Africa and readily available in the Lowcountry. After the 1890's sweetgrass baskets were starting to get used as household items as well as agricultural implements. The baskets were now made of Bulrush,sweetgrass & longleaf pine needles; for binders palmetto was used. Palmetto is the type of palmtree that grows in this area.
After the first bridge in the area opened in 1929, connecting Charleston with Mount Pleasant and Hwy 17 was paved, basketmakers started selling their wares along the side of the road. Today this is one of the few places you can buy the baskets; there are 2 spots in downtown Charleston as well.
The baskets are waterproof, and only need to be washed in soapy water and air dried to clean them.
Charleston is made up of a series of islands; we cross over several bridges once we are on Hwy 526 to bypass the town. Our RV park is on the west side of town and we don't really want to drive through town in rush hour traffic. We will be spending several nights here to see all the sights and enjoy the nice warm weather.
We set up on our site, open every window to get some air going. It is very muggy, high humidity, but we have heard it could be snowing at home, so we are not complaining!
We decorate up our outside tree and get our Christmas decorations out; the inside of the motorhome looks very festive now!