Route 17 Road Trip
When we set out from Oriental, North Carolina Friday morning, the first real stop on Route 17 was the USS North Carolina Battleship, across the water from downtown Wilmington.
In the little park outside the battleship, a monument was dedicated to “sailors on eternal patrol.” It was here a goose
hissed at me and we were warned not to feed the alligators.
In the small town of Southport, we ate salads and happened upon a vegan bath and body shop. That’s where I got the lemongrass lotion, whipped from shea butter and other organic materials. I’ve been lathering it on my body ever since.
After dark, the Great Hotel Search commenced. Every person along the eastern seaboard was apparently stopping the night in Savannah. I believe we literally got the last room in the city. The pillows were bizarrely small, about half the size of regular pillows, but the bed had twice as many, so you really got the standard number of pillows.
In the room that night, we read what the internet had to offer about the crime in Savannah and were convinced we’d be murdered the minute we left the hotel. Whose stupid idea was it to come here?
We managed not to get mugged as we walked historical Savannah, along with a bunch of other tourists and seemingly lovely people.
From the water, we walked down Bull Street to the fountain at Forsyth Park and back up Abercorn, stopping along each square to admire the houses and greenery.
At the beautiful Cathedral of John the Baptist, my mother remarked that the Catholics know what they’re doing as that was the most popular church in town.
It was fitting that our next stop was a cemetery because en route my mother committed vehicular birdslaughter. Birds were picking at something in the middle of the road and, as the car approached, all but one flew away. At this point, my mom gunned it to the bird and ran right over it. It hit the undercarriage of the car with several loud thuds.
“Oh my god. Oh my god.” My mom was really upset about the bird.
I was worried about the car.
“The car is fine!”
“Why did you run over it?”
“I thought it would move out of the way! Then I thought it would go between the tires.”
In the side mirror, I saw the bird bouncing around on the concrete. Later, she insisted, “There’s no proof it was dead! It was flapping!”
It was dead.
Just outside of the downtown area, Bonaventure Cemetery is hauntingly compelling. The best monument is to Gracie, who, if her statue is any indication, was a really creepy kid.
Apparently Bovaventure really does have a crime problem because, while we were there, a car from Ohio was broken into. Signs were posted everywhere about not leaving valuables in the car and staying alert. I can’t really understand how so much theft could happen there unless the thieves are lurking behind trees and tombstones waiting to strike, which gives me the shivers.
From there we went to Tybee Island and the first lighthouse of the trip, which I don’t really remember at all because all of the lighthouses were, frankly, a little underwhelming. I was more exercised about the lemongrass shea butter lotion.
Ft. Pulaski is surrounded by a moat, and inside we could climb up a small dark corner to the top of the fort and walk around.
By this point, the day was pretty gloomy, which seemed fitting for a place where many died.
The next morning we visited Hilton Head’s Sea Pines lighthouse, which was surrounded by touristy shops and overpriced boutiques but was at least pretty and had a Christmas wreath.
Parris Island is where my grandfather went through basic training in the Marine Corps. He describes it as a flea-ravaged hell.
I found it quite lovely – a warm 75 degrees. We toured the museum and outside saw several groups of recruits marching and chanting their cadences. That night, we told him we didn’t know what he was talking about — “This place is beautiful!” “Well it may be beautiful to you, but it wasn’t to me!”
From there, we drove to Hunting Island, for our third and final lighthouse, and the only currently operable one on our trip. Set just off the beach in a clearing of woods, this was my favorite. On the sand, kids in swimsuits were in and out of the water even though I think it was only about 60 degrees by the time we got there.
That night, we discussed visiting Fort Sumter when we get to Charlestown. My mother said, “I’ll go if you want, but you’ve seen one fort you’ve seen them all.”
The next morning was brisk as we walked around Charleston. I loved the City Market, with its vendors swathed in sweatshirts and scarves and gripping steaming to-go coffee cups with fingerless gloves.
As the day warmed, we walked the Museum Mile, where I first saw the Charleston single homes, with the front door opening on to the porch. Ideal for keeping your visiting company outside your house proper, these were my favorite houses – even more so than the stately mansions of Savannah.
In White Point Garden, the monument to the Confederate Defenders of Charleston showed one of the mighty defenders naked except for a maple leaf and bronze shield. I’m not sure why he was defending the city bare-assed, but of course, loved this.
North of Charleston, we ate in Georgetown, where a beautiful-ugly paper mill loomed in the distance of this quaint historic town.
By the time we drove through Myrtle Beach, it was too late and too dark to see much of Wilmington, so the city we saw from the Battleship North Carolina will have to wait for another trip.