Friends and the Carolinas
We’re currently on the Atlantic coast of north Florida; the events covered in this post (Nov 16-22) occurred before the recent snow storms hit the Carolinas.
We left Gaffney, South Carolina soaking wet, but happy that Betsy had come out of the Freightliner shop in good shape. We camped at Carowinds Campground, just south of Charlotte, NC as our home base during our long-awaited visit with dear friends Joe and Judy.
We had forged a friendship with these good folks after meeting in Alaska in 2012. We’ve since camped together in Florida, North Carolina and Iowa, and we were excited to hop in the car and drive up to their lovely home in Gibsonville, NC.
We were also excited when they suggested we initially meet up at Lexington Barbeque for supper on the way to their house. This highly-awarded restaurant had some excellent food to get us into “Q” mode quickly. Isn’t it great to have friends in the right places?
We’ve tried barbeque all over the U.S., but the vinegar-based sauce here was new to us and got this long-established restaurant a ranking as the #1 BBQ spot in North Carolina:
The four of us toured a classically North Carolina destination – the Old Salem Museums and Gardens – an historic district near the city of Winston-Salem. We strolled along the living history museum that interpreted the culture of the Moravian community, with buildings from the 1700’s standing on their original sites.
We learned that the Moravians who settled Salem were persecuted Protestants who arrived in the middle of the 18th century, settling a 99,000-acre tract of land they called “Wachovia”. They continue to thrive in the area today. We didn’t know about the history of these people, and it was interesting to learn about it while standing right there where it happened!
Members of Moravian communities were organized into spiritual support groups called “choir”, based upon age, gender, and marital status. They met daily and worshipped together, sharing various responsibilities. This centuries-old “choir system” was carried on when they died, as they were laid to rest with other members of their group, rather than in a family plot.
We saw the choir system manifested at their historic graveyard known as God’s Acre. There were no family plots or looming headstones; instead the graveyard consisted of row upon row of simple, flat white markers of marble – each one 20″ by 24″ – laying 4″ high and pointing east.
A highlight of our tour was lunch at the Salem Tavern, where George Washington spent two nights in 1791. It served meals inspired by Moravian families living in Salem in the 19th century, and the waitstaff wore historic Moravian attire. We all ordered something different, and it was the most excellent meal we’d had in quite a while!
Next we headed over to Mrs. Hanes’, known for hand-made, hand-rolled Moravian cookies. We spent over $40 on cookies that have been purchased by many celebrities over the years, and yeah, they are really good!
We posed at a covered bridge adorned with Moravian stars – thank you Joe and Judy, for showing us around such a lovely part of the country that we would have missed without you!
One of the least visited and most underrated national parks, Congaree N.P. is home to one of the tallest deciduous forest canopies on earth. Its 27,000 acres of floodplain (the polite word for “swamp”) were set aside to preserve the largest remaining tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States. There is a lot of history under these ancient trees, dating back some 10,000 years.
The park is an area of land elevated a few feet above the Congaree River, and due to recent heavy rains the river had overflowed its natural banks and inundated the floodplain during our visit. But we were surprised to learn that it normally happens about 10 times a year! Our big plans to hike and take a ranger-led canoe trip were a fail, so we followed the boardwalk trail to areas that weren’t flooded. The day after Thanksgiving was busy, with several screaming kids (and their clueless parents) running around and disturbing the peace, but we enjoyed the limited time we had to visit our 38th National Park.
Lastly, since we were near the capital of South Carolina, we wanted to visit our 8th capitol building. This one was not ostentatious nor opulent in appearance, and actually exuded southern charm throughout its interior. We loved it!
We explored the building on our own, after watching a well-made video of its history. We were wowed by the gorgeous interior and the color palette that had such a warmth to it. To us it looked as much like a luxurious hotel as a government building. This is really a must-see if you’re in the area!
Historically, Charleston was South Carolina’s first capital. Then in 1786 it was moved to Columbia – closer to the center of the state.
We also toured the grounds surrounding the 18-acre State House complex, which was beautifully landscaped and gave even more historical information:
Although there was much more to see, yet another brewing storm urged us to move on to the coast of Georgia.