Charleston 2007

DAY ONE
Robbinsville NC to Sumter SC
345 miles

We left Robbinsville about 11 am getting the usual late start. We wanted to have lunch at the Bantam Chef in Chesnee, South Carolina, but it would be a late lunch with a good three hours of riding to cover some 192 miles.

As we approached Asheville on I-40 the informational warning signs said that I-26 was blocked at exit 33. Sure enough, as we passed the interchange we could see the traffic at a complete stop on the overpass. Quickly we checked the GPS on the fly and decided to retrace part of our South Carolina Loop trip of 2006 passing by Chimney Rock and Lake Lure before heading south into South Carolina and Chesnee.

Here is another example of the GPS saving us. Just for your information if you travel I-40 or I-26 in the Asheville area, these two Interstates are famous for coming to a complete halt for even a minor accident. We have waited for hours to get moving again. Try to have an alternative route planned ahead of time to bypass these problem areas.

Racing down US-74A we almost forgot that this long straightaway suddenly turns into a series of swithbacks climbing to Hickory Nut Gap. There are no warning signs at all as you come into the first corner from the 55 mph straight. WATCH FOR THIS TRANSITION !!

As usual we got behind a slow moving car in the fun twistie section most of the way through Bat Cave and into Chimney Rock. It at least gave Nancy a chance to snap a few digitals.

If you haven’t been to Chimney Rock you are missing a great attraction. SEE OUR LAST TRIP THERE

The last minute detour probably cost us a half hour or so, but it did get us off the Interstate which we hate and onto some good back roads most of the way into Chesnee. It was 3 pm when we arrived famished at the Bantam Chef. This backroads restaurant is another must visit at least once if you can. Just to see the memorbilia on the walls is worth the stop.

I had an Eagle Burger all the way with fries and Nancy had the more nutritional Turkey Burger with vegetable soup. As hungry as I was I still left most of the fries on the plate. We sat in our special Tail of the Dragon booth under the roadsign we gave to the Chef on our last visit. After a few photos we took off for Columbia, our first “hainted” stop.

We were in no particular rush so I decided to put the GPS on shortest distance rather than fastest time setting. We were off through some real goat trails as we headed more or less south.

We skirted Gaffney, passed through the historic downtown of Cowpens, and then hit Clifton and Glendale. This backroad took us through some rather blighted areas which made us wonder why anyone would even live there. Crossing the Pacolet River we noted a 10-foot tall horse mounted on a crumbling piling of a long gone bridge. It was within a toss of a rock or other missle of ill-intent, so a wire fence had been constructed to ward off such attacks. It looked extremely shabby to say the least.

We decided to put the GPS back on fastest route, but still stay off the Interstate as long as possible. We darted down US 176 making good time through Sumter National Forest. We finally jumped on I-26 near Ballentine and were surprised by the minimal traffic into downtown Columbia.

My great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War is buried in the Elmwood Cemetery which stretches over rolling hills for many acres. One of the few haunting experiences that I have ever had occurred here in 1991. Nancy and I went to visit the city where some five generations of my ancestors dating back to the times of George Washington had lived.

Nancy and I had taken an early morning walk into the cemetery not knowing where my ancestors graves were located. Elmwood is huge, one of the largest cemeteries I have ever seen. We walked around for about ten-minutes and suddenly Nancy stopped and said that she had a funny feeling. I looked down and there was my great-grandfather’s burial site. We both still get chills thinking about that morning.

On this trip we took a few photos of the grave sites and then headed for the State Capital. My father was actually raised in a home that is now part of the State Capital grounds. We took a memorial circle of the grounds which are quite beautiful and noted that the Confederate flag was still flying.

Heading out of town on US 76 we were planning a stop for the night in Sumter, yet another place named for the Revolutionary rebel hero Thomas Sumter also known as “the Fighting Gamecock”. The only reason we went this way was to hit all the places named Sumter. We had passed through Sumter National Forest, ridden down Sumter Street in Columbia, now we were in the City of Sumter, and we are heading for Fort Sumter in Charleston.

We pulled into the Hampton Inn at Sumter a little after dark. We were both ready for a couple of beers and some sleep.

DAY TWO
Sumter SC to Charleston SC
An Easy 104 miles

After a good night’s sleep at our usual choice of motels, the Hampton Inn, we headed out in the fog on US 521 south which skirts Lakes Marion and Moultrie. The fog persisted for a long time in this low-lying lake country.

We stayed off the Interstate all the way into Charleston, at times passing through industrial sections associated with the many port functions of this seaside city. We finally arrived in the old town via East Bay Street which passed through some of the oldest sections of town. At times we were dodging pedestrians, horse drawn carriages, buses, and even rickshaws carrying two passengers being pedaled by young men in tremendous shape.

The streets of Charleston are as old as the City itself, so beware of brick and even cobblestone. The main streets are in pretty good shape, but even then you had to watch for ruts and large metal sheets covering larger holes.

We had reservations to stay right on Battery Park at the very southern tip of Charleston in one of the haunted rooms of the 1845 Battery Carriage House Inn. The ghost is said to be a well-dressed lonely gentleman who jumped from the fifth floor to his death. Today he sometimes tries to get in bed with the ladies who stay in Room 10. When they scream he politely gets up and walks through the wall.

After checking-in we took off to get some sightseeing done. We crossed the inspiring Ravenel Bridge, the largest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere. The bridge not only allows easy flow of high volumes on traffic, but the wide sidewalks act as an exercise platform for walkers and runners. It is also the centerpiece of the annual Cooper River Bridge Run which attracts some 50,000 – 10K runners. Nancy actually took part in this race in the 1990s when the old bridges were still in place.

As you cross the bridge you get a magnificent view of Charleston Harbor and the USS Yorktown aircraft acrrier moored at Patriots Point. This was our first stop and we spent several hours touring this 1943 carrier named for the original Yorktown lost in the battle of Midway, the WW II USS Clamagore Submarine, the WW II USS Laffey Destroyer, and the 1930s USCGC Ingraham Coast Guard Cutter.

These ships offer a glimpse at what today appears as primative engineering and construction. The submarine makes you wonder how anyone could be confined to such small quarters for any length of time.

We were getting hungry as we passed through Mount Pleasant and headed out SC 703 to Sullivan’s Island. As we arrived at the small coastal village we spied several local eateries, but one was packed with patrons on the deck and front yard. One way we select places to eat is by the crowd, so we pulled-into Poe’s Tavern, grabbing the last seats at the deck-bar.

The burgers were excellent (mine was beef, Nancy’s chicken) and they had a good selection of beer including my choice of Stella on tap. We had an interesting view of the busy main street and other patrons in the patio below as we devoured the burgers.

About a mile to the west of Poe’s was our next stop, the historical Fort Moultrie. This Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War Two fort has much to offer for the modern tourist.

The original palmetto log fort was still under construction in 1776 when British warships began hurling cannon balls at the walls. The cannon balls did little harm, but the return fire killed many on the ships and the City of Charleston was saved. The fort was named for the commander at he time, William Moultrie who would later become Governor of the State.

The fort was taken by the British in 1780 after being surrounded by ships and land forces. But the tide of the Revolution had turned in favor of the Americans and this last gasp did little to help the British.

The fort deteriorated with no garrison assigned to it, but it underwent some renovations in the last years of the 1700s. Another construction in 1808-09 saw 15-foot enclosed brick walls completed. The fort was garrisoned by Federal Troops more-or-less from this period into 1860.

It was used as a holding place for the Seminole Indian leader Osceola in 1838. Osceola died while there and is buried near the front entrance to the fort.

After decades of bad feelings between the north and the south over many issues, not just slavery, tensions ran high in 1860. Southerners vowed to secede from the Union if the Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln was elected in November. Emergency upgrades to Fort Moultrie were ordered as the election drew near. Lincoln was elected on November 6 and Captain Abner Doubleday, who would later invent the game of baseball, began the occasional firing of the 8-inch cannon into the ocean to intimidate anyone contemplating attack.

The older commander at Moultrie was replaced in mid-November by the younger Major Robert Anderson, a fateful replacement made by Washington. Fearing a land assault from southerners at this indefensible fort, Anderson secreted his troops across the bay to the unfinished Fort Sumter in the dead of night. This infuriated southerners who laid claim to Sumter. A few months later they fired on Sumter which is said to be the beginning of the Civil War.

Confederates moved into the empty Fort Moultrie and along with Fort Johnson and Morris Island Battery, began shelling Sumter. Anderson surrendered in a few days.

There are no reports of ghosts in the fort. For the most part this fortification was not heavily involved in fighting as were others in the area.

We planned to visit Fort Sumter on the next day, so more about that Fort on DAY THREE.

Fort Moultrie was used continuously to protect the harbor in various conflicts through World War II. The last troops departed in 1947. Because of its historic value, the Fort was transfered to the National Park Service in 1960.

After touring the fort we headed back into Charleston crossing the Ravenel Bridge once again. Nancy took a great photo of the arches and cables as we dodged the traffic.

We relaxed a while in our haunted room before walking into the downtown district, just a little over a mile distant. The sun was setting and the weather unusually warm for mid-march. This town is packed with history. Many of the houses and businesses are in structures dating to the 1700s. Bring your walking shoes and explore the back streets and alleyways of Charleston. Many of the buildings have plaques that date and tell a brief history of its origins.

You can even join a walking Ghost Tour which will guide you to the most haunted places in Charleston including a midnight visit to one of the oldest cemeteries. We aren’t much for the slowness of such guided tours, so we just made our own. We strolled though several of the oldest graveyards. The dates in these were mostly in the 1700s. They also had something that I haven’t seen before, graves with large concrete covers, some standing vertical and others laying flat over the site, that detailed the lives of those buried there. We didn’t see asny ghosts, but then we weren’t going to wait there until midnight either.

As darkness fell we made our way back to Poogan’s Porch, 72 Queen Street, one of Charleston’s oldest and most recommended restaurants. It is also touted as America’s most haunted restaurant. As we approached two of the Ghost Tours were outside with guides detailing the various sightings and oddities that occurred there. Supposedly on numerous occasions people have spotted an old woman Zoe St. Amand in the second floor window waving at them after closing hours. When police arrive nothing can be found. Zoe has also been seen by employees at Poogans and supposedly thrown pots and pans in the kitchen.

There is another ghost that haunts the front porch. A scruffy neighborhood porch dog named Poogan that begged food from house to house moved onto the porch as the restaurant was undergoing renovations in the mid 70s. He took-up residence and lived there until his death in 1979. He is buried in the front yard and some say they have felt Poogan brush up against their leg as they enter the restaurant. The restaurant was named for this much loved neighborhood mutt.

Poogan’s is noted for its Southern cooking and celebrity diners who frequent the place. Scenes from the 1989 movie Champagne Charlie starring Hugh Grant were filmed here. We had the Carolina Gator with honey-jalapeno dipping sauce for an appetizer. Nancy ordered the stuffed tomato while I had the fried oysters which came with collards and hoppin’ Johns. The local Palmetto Lager Beer was excellent.

We didn’t see or feel any ghosts, but it was worth the stop at this famous eatery.

We walked off some of the dinner on the 3/4 mile stroll back to the Battery Carriage House and our haunted room. Nancy fell asleep in the bed as I sipped on a nightcap watching for anything that might be suspicious. Nothing happened. I finally laid down and fell into a deep sleep. At about 2 am I was startled awake by something hitting the side of the bed. It was no dream and really didn’t spook me too much other than really wondering if the lonely gentleman was upset because I was in his spot. Nancy, a very sound sleeper, never budged.

Nancy and I are not really ghost believers, but we have experienced some unusual and unexplanable things. This would certainly rate as one of those.

DAY THREE
Touring Fort Sumter.
Charleston and Folly Island
44 miles Riding

We were up early with breakfast being delivered to the room at 7:30. We had cereal, juice and coffee not wanting to get bogged down with a heavy feast at IHOP. We had a big day ahead which started early with a tour of Fort Sumter.

We rode down to the Charleston Aquarium without our helmets …. really odd for us, but we didn’t get over 15 mph so Nancy didn’t complain too much. There is plenty of parking in the parking garage, at least on a weekday at this time of year. We had to pay $5.00 for a little over 3 hours parking.

The only way to tour Fort Sumter is by taking the ferry from either the Fort Sumter Visitor Center next to the Charleston Aquarium, or at Patriot’s Point. There is free parking and access for RVs at the Patriot’s Point access. The ticket for the ferry and tour is $14 for adults. We suggest you get there early, especially during busy vacation times. It was fairly crowded on our 9 am visit on a weekday in winter.

The boat ride gives you some good views of both Charleston and Patriots Point. Dolphin dance around the boat as you motor out. A narrative plays over the speakers telling you some of the history of Charleston and the forts. You can get-up and walk around to take pictures or get a better view.

Arriving at Fort Sumter you can opt for the 15 minute history lesson given by one of the Rangers, or you can head-out and explore on your own. We have studied up so we wandered around just imagining those men who braved battle here during the Civil War.

What is left of the original 1860 fort is only part of the original structure. Most of the fort was decimated in that conflict, first by bombardment by Confederates and then by attack from the US Navy after the Southerners had taken control.

There is a newer battery that was constructed for the Spanish American War in 1898. It is located inside the old fort walls and painted black to prevent glare.

The construction of Fort Sumter began circa 1828. Little had been done by 1834 when ownership of the island came into question. The Federal Government obtained clear title in 1841 and the arduous construction resumed. By 1860 the fort appeared nearly finished, but in reality it was not even close. There were large holes in some of the walls, only 15 of the 135 guns had been mounted, and most of the quarters were still unfinished.

Fort Sumter was first occupied by soldiers on the night of December 26, 1860. Eighty-five Union soldiers at Fort Moultrie, located just across the main channel, under the command of Major Robert Anderson secretly took possession. After determining that Confederates were ready to attack the indefensible Fort Moultrie, Maj. Anderson planned this retreat to a more formidable defensive position.

The North was exultant while the Southerners were irate. Being low on supplies the Star of the West, a merchant ship, was sent with provisions. The South learned of this and actually fired the first shots of the Civil War as the ship approached the fort. Anderson held his fire as the ship turned and departed.

For the next several months efforts were made to have Anderson surrender. A final ultimatum was given April 11.At 4:30 am on April 12 a mortar was fired from Fort Johnson with a resulting burst directly over the fort. All of the Southern batteries then began to shell Fort Sumter. Anderson withheld firing until about 7:30 am when he gave the honor of firing the first shot in retaliation to Captain Abner Doubleday.

All of Charleston watched. The Battery, steeples, and rooftops were packed with gawkers. The shelling continued all day and into the night.

On April 13 Anderson surrendered. No deaths had resulted from the more than 3,000 shells hurled at the fort. Part of the surrender was allowing the Union soldiers a 100-gun salute before leaving the island. As the salute was being fired an cannon misfired killing two Union soldiers. The salute was cut to 50.

Fort Sumter was then occupied by Confederate troops. In April of 1863 the North returned with a vengence sending nine Federal ironclads to attack the forts at Charleston. As they moved in they met a large volly of fire from Fort Sumter, Fort Mountrie, and Battery Gregg at Cummings Point. The ships quickly retreated.

In the next few months Union land forces captured Folly Island and moved in close enough to establish positions to fire on Sumter some 2 miles distant. This lasted for several months and destroyed most of the fort, but the Confederates held-on, even repelling a landing by Union marines.

Another barrage was mounted against Sumter in July 1864 with some 350 rounds a day hurled into the island. This continued for 61-days, but still no surrender. It was not until February of 1865 after Sherman’s devastating attack in the south that Fort Sumter was abandoned by the Confederates. On Febraury 18 the United States flag was raised once more over Sumter. Total Confederate losses were 52 killed and 267 wounded.

A celebration was held at Sumter on April 14, 1865. Anderson brought back the flag he took when he left the island and raised it once again. Lincoln had been invited to the festivities but declined as he had tickets to Ford’s Theatre that fateful night.

Fort Sumter today is more or less what remained after the heavy bombardment of the Civil War. It is a great place to visit and reflect on the hardships faced during trying times. There is always hope for the future.

We heard no rumors of ghosts in this fort, but it is a place where you would expect to find one or two. No tours are allowed at night when one might meet such apparitions.

Returning to the mainland we jumped on the bike, fetched our helmets, and headed for yet another fort, Fort Johnson on James Island where the first shot of the Civil War was fired.

Fort Johnson Road dead-ends at the site of this historic place in history, yet what remains has been assimilated into the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources that now occupies the site. If you search around a little you’ll find a powder magazine which had been buried during the Civil War to protect it from shelling. It was lost until dug-up during construction more than a hundred years later. There is also a memorial to mark the site of the first shot fired in the Civl War. The only other things that remain are the two fresh water cisterns.

Leaving Fort Johnson we headed for a tour of Folly Island. This is a unique place with at least half of the residents denoted as “vacation Rentals”. It has a bohemian atmosphere with high roller prices. Our favorite Truth in Advertising is a great white shark mounted on the front of a building identified with the sign LAW OFFICE.

It was time for lunch, but the places on Folly didn’t make Nancy slaivat, so we headed back to Charleston and decided on Sticky Fingers Memphis Style BBQ. We normally don’t care for chains, but this place came highly recommended and had been packed the times we passed it in the evenings. I had the hot ribs and pulled pork while Nancy chose the chicken. The habanero hot sauces were not hot. We used more than half a bottle to get some heat. The food was above average.

When we got back on the Caponorde it wouldn’t start. We tried everything for about a minute before calling our chief mechanic Ken Wheeler. There is no one like this guy for fixing bikes, even by telephone. He had us jumping the solenoid with a wrench and running in 5 minutes.

We stopped and picked-up some beer for the evening and returned to our haunted room. We decided the trip home would be an Interstate jaunt because of the mechanical problems. We really hate getting on the big roads with the big rigs, but we had 390 miles to navigate with a sick bike.

Thankfully the gentleman ghost let us have a good night sleep.

DAY FOUR
Charleston SC to Robbinsville NC
390 hard miles

We had another light breakfast delivered to the room as we packed to the long hard journey home. We like doing about 200 miles a day on back roads with stops here and there to relieve on backs and legs.

The back roads allow you to relax to some extent when the traffic is light. When I’m on an Interstate is is total concentration. My head bobs about like a guinea hen taking in and processing information like a super computer.

I am watching both mirrors, the road ahead of the vehicles in front on me, and even the shoulders of the road for deer or debris. One of my main fears is hitting road debris that comes up suddenly from under the vehicle ahead. A 4×4 can be a death dirge at 75 mph with traffic on your arse.

Rule number one is don’t follow too close. Two is always have a view of the road ahead of the vehicle ahead while also watching the lane next to you …. be ready to swerve. Three is keep a safety distance between all other vehicles … they are out to get you! Four is adjust your speed to the traffic, not the speed limit. Five is always have good tires and make sure the bike is in first class mechanical condition. Six is pay attention to the way the bike handles …. it will usually tell you if something is not right.

From Charleston we took I-26 all the way to I-40 and then US 19/74, NC 28, and then NC 143 back into Robbinsville. Total travel time six hours on the money. Average speed for the entire run including stops, 65 mph. Not too shabby.

Other than the solenoid problem the 2002 Caponorde performed flawlessly. With some 1000 pounds total weight it was responsive, had excellent acceleration, and was comfortable.

On arrival I hurt all over and Nancy was ready to sell the two-up bike, vowing never again. But after a couple of beers and some stretching all was well again. We were glad that our trip was cut short when the next day it rained and the temps dropped into the 20s.

I think Nancy has even reconsidered selling the bike.